Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Return Of Captain Invincible (DVD)

The early and mid-'80s witnessed the release of countless oddball action-hero movies that aimed to exploit the success of the Superman, James Bond, and Indiana Jones films while satirizing the genre. The best of the bunch, The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension and Big Trouble In Little China, became deserved cult favorites, even as they failed to spawn profitable franchises, while also-rans Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and Hero At Large were quickly forgotten. A would-be cult classic recently released on a no-frills DVD, 1983's The Return Of Captain Invincible falls somewhere between the categories. Hyperbolically billed as the "mother of all cult movies" on its DVD case, Invincible doesn't seem to have acquired much of a following, though with a cast that includes Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee, and songs by The Rocky Horror Picture Show's Richard O'Brien, its pedigree is impressive. Directed by Philippe Mora (who would later re-team with Lee for Howling II and direct Pterodactyl Woman From Beverly Hills), Invincible casts Arkin as the eponymous tights enthusiast, an old-fashioned superhero who becomes an embittered drunk after he's blacklisted during the '50s. Called on to save the world several decades later, Arkin must first sober up, re-learn how to fly, and get his computer brain and magnetic powers working so he can face arch-nemesis Lee and his army of henchmen. A strange, indescribable musical/comedy/fantasy that alternately recalls Dr. Strangelove, Rocky Horror, and Zapped!, Captain Invincible boasts enough interesting concepts to fuel a series, but instead of complementing each other, the ideas in Mora's surreal superhero spoof tend to collide with a thud. Combining flashbacks, newsreels, narration, cameos from FDR, Kate Smith, and Joseph McCarthy, broad stylization, and gratuitous use of speeded-up film, Captain Invincible flails from one self-consciously wacky scenario to another. If nothing else, Arkin and Lee do good work in the face of strident nuttiness and some of the worst songs this side of Grease 2. Captain Invincible may embody the concept of the interesting failure, but at least there's nothing else quite like it.


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