If your idea of costume-clad superheroes is the likes of musclebound Christian Bale, Henry Cavill, Chris Evans, and so on, the fact that Alan Arkin has also played a super-powered hero might come as a surprise. But he did just that in 1981’s The Return of Captain Invincible, an absurd and purposely daft comedy that is released here by Umbrella Entertainment. Made during the prolific Ozploitation period, it was at the time apparently the most expensive Aussie film made.
Captain Invincible was the all-American hero some 30 years ago. Regularly called upon by the government to solve problems and save lives, Invincible was good at it. Eventually, that same government betrayed the Cap, and he went into a self-imposed alcoholic isolation thousands of miles away, drinking himself into a stupor. When a villain from the past Mr Midnight (Christopher Lee), returns with a pretty silly but also pretty distasteful idea to use the government’s latest secret weapon hypno-ray to purge ‘ethnics’ from New York, the reluctant Invincible is brought back into action.
A very broad mix of silly slapstick and musical numbers, this film is one of those bizarre ideas that you’re surprised in retrospect ever got off the drawing board. It’s not especially funny, but it’s hard to hate a film where a bad guy tries to kill Invincible with a machine gun hidden in a plastic fish, a confrontation which eventually descends into a food fight. There’s some flourishes of wit here too and you get the overall sensation everyone involved was trying to make exactly the film that is presented here.
Arkin makes for a great lead, not that this is a surprise. The songs rarely outstay their welcome too. The main reason for this film being pretty okay is, of course, Christopher Lee. If anyone ever tries to tell you Lee was humourless this film proves them wrong. Playing exactly to type and yet at the same time taking the absolute piss out of his reputation, he’s a joy. The final confrontation between Invincible and Midnight involves Lee singing about variations of booze and it’s the highlight.
This release is the now-expected extras-free release from Umbrella (unless you count a trailer, which we don’t). Whilst it’s great they’re releasing obscure classics from the vaults, it’s a shame there seems to be no room in the budget for extras or getting the best print. The picture here is fine but hasn’t been touched.
So, points on for being not that bad and featuring great performances by Arkin, Lee and co. Points off for the picture quality and lack of extras. Only for fans who need to own the film.
THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE (1993) / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: PHILIPPE MORA / SCREENPLAY: STEVEN E. DE SOUZA / ANDREW GATY / STARRING: ALAN ARKIN, CHRISTOPHER LEE, KATE FITZPATRICK, BILL HUNTER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (AUSTRALIA)