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"Captain America" Film Series

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Captain America (1979 TV Movie)
Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979 TV Movie)

About These Movies:  Critics tear these movies up, but I think they're great.  Put these next to any superhero TV show or movie from the 70s and 80s and they're just as good, if not better, than most.  Reb Brown made an awesome Captain America, and the show was filmed and acted well.  These "Captain America" movies draw most of their criticism from the fact that they are such loose adaptations of the comic book character.  I think the general concept of Captain America was adhered to well enough to make these shows work.  Captain America is still named Steve Rogers and has his indestructible shield.  He's still big, blond and muscular.  His costume is still red, white and blue.  And he still has super strength.  Besides these things, Captain America is pretty different from the comics.

    Captain America wears a motorcycle helmet as part of his costume!  He's almost always seen riding a high-tech, patriotic motorcycle.  His civilian identity is that of an artist, traveling around the country in his van.  When Cap is needed, he pops out of the back of the van on his motorcycle.  His shield is mounted on the front, acting as a windshield when he's not carrying it.  Instead of metal, the shield is clearly made of a plastic material.  The first movie explains this as being an extremely durable "Jet-Age" plastic.  Cap's cast of friends and enemies is completely different from that of other Cap media.  There is no Red Skull, and no Avengers team.  Cap's supporting cast is really quite ordinary, but the challenges are very big.

    Watching these movies, you can see they were done on healthy budgets.  Special effects were limited at the time, but I think the shows do great with what they had to work with.  Both movies had professional actors; the second film had big names like Christopher Lee and Lana Wood.  There is a certain amount of goofiness to these movies.  ALL superhero movies are goofy.  Even the best ones.  Don't let anyone tell you different.  That's what makes them fun.  I like that, just as long as it's not too over-the-top.  There has to be some speck of reality.  Reb Brown's "Captain America" films are real enough to be good stories, and wacky enough to be really fun to watch.

    These two TV movies were made as pilots for a TV series that never materialized.  They were aired on the CBS network.  Just two years earlier CBS might have approved a "Captain America" series.  But in 1979, CBS was on a "superhero purge".  They didn't want to be known as the superhero network, so they gave the axe to all their major superhero shows except for "The Incredible Hulk".  "Captain America" was simply squashed before it started.  Superhero shows were also expensive to produce due to stunts and the limits of special effects.  As a theatrically-released feature film, "Captain America" might have fared better.

    What's interesting is that these two TV movies were released on VHS in the 1980s.  They've been available on the DVD bootleg circuit for years.  Thanks to the 2011 major film release, "Captain America: The First Avenger", curiosity has been raised about these earlier CA attempts.  A new generation is discovering Reb Brown's movies and many people are starting to realize they're not so bad after all.  Brown, himself, has been given more media attention in recent years due to his "Captain America" work, and they aren't even his best-known movies!

Captain America (1979):  This was actually made in 1978, but aired on January 19, 1979 on the CBS network.  It was the first of two movie-length pilot films for a "Captain America" TV series that never materialized.  This is unfortunate, because the movies are done much better than you'd think despite the harsh critical reviews.  These movies are extremely loose adaptations of the Captain America character from comics.  However, the general idea of Captain America, his looks and powers, is the same.  This version of Cap has a good origin story.  Reb Brown was a good choice to play Cap.  He could have even played Cap in a true-to-the-comic version.  This pilot, and the next, wasn't given enough of a chance.  Just two years earlier, a "Captain America" TV series would have been approved.  A few years later, in the early 1980s, a TV series would have been approved because of the incredible popularity of quirky action shows like "A-Team", "Knight Rider", and the like.  In 1979, CBS was on a mission to wipe out their many superhero series.  This movie didn't even get much press.  Only "The Incredible Hulk" survived, and then only to 1981.  Timing is everything, and apparently "Captain America" 1 & 2 came out at the wrong time.  Not necessarily to us TV watchers, but to network politics.