Saturday, February 6, 2010

When Good Comic Books Make Bad TV

I've written here several times before about various bad cartoon adaptations of great comic books.  But there have also been several equally risible live action TV adaptations as well.  

Perhaps because both The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982) and Wonder Woman  (1976-1979) TV shows were so successful in their time, an attempt was made in 1979 to bring Captain America to the screen as well.  The result was two made-for-TV movies, which were really just pilots for a proposed ongoing series. (The Incredible Hulk had also begun with two TV movies in 1977, and Wonder Woman had started with a TV movie in 1975.  So the same was clearly hoped for with these.)

But they didn't work.  Much of the character's background was changed. Instead of being a sickly WWII soldier named Steve Rogers who volunteered to receive an experimental 'super solder serum' during the War to become Captain America, in this version the hero is the son of that man.  And, reflective of the era perhaps, before he became a super hero he was an artist, not a soldier.  He has developed super powers himself only after an accidental injection of a "super steroid."  And as you can see from the photo above, his costume in this TV show is more motorcyle daredevil than super hero.  (And where's his shield when he needs it?  He could have used it to hide his 'shame,' at least until the full side effects of the steroids kicked in.) Embedded below is a 1 minute trailer for the second TV movie, perhaps inaccurately titled Captain America II: Death Too Soon.  

Notably, the villain is played by the legendary Christopher Lee.  Yes, "the" Christopher Lee who so famously played Count Dracula in many successful Hammer horror films of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the villain Scaramanga in the 1974 James Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun. In recent years, he's also played Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the villainous Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels.

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