With all the current hype and interest surrounding Captain America:The First Avenger, there's been a renewed interest in the 1990 Captain America movie, that well, stunk. You remember that movie right, with the horrible costumes and acting? Well recently, the director of that movie, Albert Pyun sat down with Las Vegas Weekly to discuss his movies budgetary problems, the upcoming director's cut, and the new Captain America movie hitting theaters, July 22nd.
How did you first get involved with the Captain America movie?
I was ready to leave Cannon [Films] at the same time Menahem Golan was leaving to form his own company, 21st Century Films. I told Menahem to make sure he took Captain America with him, as it could really be a valuable project. He did, but obviously it was a struggle for him financially to get 21st Century up and running. So he couldn’t afford a rights payment that was coming due. His rights to Captain America would revert back to Marvel if he missed the payment. I asked to read the most recent and Marvel-approved draft of Captain America and loved writer Stephen Tolkin’s take on the character, because it was really about Steve Rogers and our hero culture in the United States. I found it to dovetail into my own feelings about the character. I went right to Menahem and proposed a way to make the film on a budget and before the rights expiration date. Menahem gave me the green light, and off I went.
How did you go about creating a superhero epic on a small budget?
Well, we started with what I thought was a good budget, around $6 million—in 1989 dollars. But it became quickly apparent that Menahem was not able to close his bank financing for the project, and the cash flow just vanished. My producer, Tom Karnowski, literally was told to travel to different countries with a suitcase to pick up cash. It was a miracle the production didn’t shut down and fall apart. So we just shot as fast as possible and used that momentum to finish the shoot.
Were you disappointed in the way the movie’s release was handled?
I was disappointed in the version they released, because [the studio] had no interest in the movie I made or the character of Steve Rogers. They wanted it to be strictly a costumed-hero action-fest with no depth or pathos. The movie I made had a melancholy feel to it. There was sadness at its heart for what can happen to our lives when a government steps in and uses individuals for their own questionable purposes. My Captain America was more about the loss and lies these “heroes” experience, similar in a way to what the U.S. government recently did to Pat Tillman and his family.
What do you think of the new Captain America? How do you think it will compare to your version?
Well, it seems like they had a good budget! Much bigger than what I had. I think it’s probably the movie people wanted back in 1989. It’s interesting to see how the availability of CG really solves a lot of the challenges I had, like the shield and the transformation. I also think Marvel is savvier now about movies. I petitioned them over and over to let me adjust the Captain America costume, but back in 1989 they were adamant it had to be the one in the comic. Now I see they adjusted it for movies. I just hope Steve Rogers didn’t get lost in the big tent-pole movie conceptualizing.
Do you think that the renewed attention on your film might help vindicate your approach?
I think for people seeing my director’s cut, I think it will be. I think now that people are seeing what I had in mind, I think that it will gain more acceptance. I also think audiences have grown since the late ’80s. I think they’re much more knowledgeable and much more open-minded than they were back then. I think they have the ability to want something more unique and different than something that’s run-of-the-mill.
I remember watching this movie as a kid [along with Dolph Lundgren's Punisher] and these were really my first taste of comicbook movies before Tim Burton's Batman changed the game. It's nice to look back at these type of movies and see how far CBM's have come. I'm almost curious enough to buy the director's cut to see if this improves the movie. Here's a trailer of that epic B-movie for your enjoyment.
The Pyun film features Steve Rogers becoming Captain America during World War II to battle the Red Skull, being frozen in ice, and subsequently being revived to save the President of the United States from a crime family that dislikes his environmentalist polices.Produced by 21st Century Film Corporation, filming began in 1989 and was completed in 1990, but after test marketing the film to a preview audience more stunts were added at the end. The film was intended for release in the summer of 1990, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Captain America. Posters appeared in movie theaters displaying the superhero's iconic shield, and teaser trailers were created. Several release dates were announced between fall 1990 and winter 1991,but the film went unreleased for two years before debuting direct to video and on cable television in the United States in the summer of 1992.