Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979) – Review

 

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If at first you don’t succeed try, try again and this was certainly the philosophy of CBS back in 1979.  After the network’s first Captain America TV Movie failed to get a series off the ground,  later that very same year they decided to have another go at it. It also failed.  This installment begins with what clearly would have been the shows opening if it had been picked up for a series run as it’s basically a credit montage with lots of shots from the first TV movie and even more endless footage of Steve Rogers (Reb Brown) driving the same coast road in his “awesome” van. After the credits we find Rogers sketching an elderly woman.

vlcsnap-2014-05-08-11h21m57s158This is a marked improvement over his sketching of small children

This is where we get our first bit of action as Steve saves her from getting hit by a Frisbee, now I’m not saying this isn’t something Captain America would do, because he totally would, but maybe we could focus on something with a bit more bite.

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It is from this sweet old lady that Steve learns a group of muggers is preying on the elderly, waiting for them to cash their pension check and then snatching it away from them. Steve tells her to go ahead and cash her check and not to worry. Sure enough the poor woman is immediately targeted by the local street gang but the minute her purse is snatched Captain America leaps into action. Bursting out of the back of his van on his Super-Bike he races after the purse snatcher.

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The mugger decides to pull a knife on Captain America because in this universe nobodies heard of Captain America. Cap throws his shield at the mugger but it flies over the guy’s head (Note: once again the shield is a silly transparent Plexiglas thing that doubles as his bike’s windscreen), it wobbles slowly through the air before circling back to nudge the mugger in the back rendering him unconscious.

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The action scene isn’t over yet as the mugger’s partner is in a dune buggy and fleeing the scene. Cap chases after the dune buggy on foot because either he forgot he has a Super-Bike or he saw a sign that said “No motorized vehicles on the beach” and of course he is not one to break the rules. Cap yanks the driver out of the dune buggy without any seeming concern that the vehicle continues down the beach on its own where it could potentially run over poor hapless civilians. He then tells the mugger “I want you to remember when you get out of jail pal! The old people in this town are my friends. And if I hear they’re having problems again, I’m comin’ after you! You got that?” He then demands to know the name of every member of the gang. We never find out what he does with these names but I bet he just sent them all sternly worded letters about the perils of a life of crime.

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Finally the actual plot of this movie gets into gear with the kidnapping of Professor Ilson (Christopher Cary) who has been secretly working on a formula that speeds up aging. While being kidnapped, Ilson managed to write “MIGU” on a piece of glass with hydrochloric acid, these were obviously patient kidnappers, and it’s these letters that have Dr. Simon Mills (Len Birman), Dr. Wendy Day (Connie Sellecca) and Steve Rogers sure that the man responsible is none other than “Miguel” a revolutionary/terrorist responsible for several kidnappings and murders of diplomats all over Europe.

vlcsnap-2014-05-08-10h42m51s223Christopher Lee as Miguel in a new career low.

Professor Ilson is being held by General Miguel (Christopher Lee) inside a prison where the poor man is forced to mass produce his rapid aging formula.  You see that the Professor’s hometown has also been gassed with the formula and all the residents will rapidly age if not given the cure. Quite the ingenious blackmail ploy.  Miguel is pretending to be the warden so he can work out of this local prison because “Who in the world would think of looking for the famous terrorist Miguel inside an American penitentiary?” Can’t argue with that logic.

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Our heroes realize that the only way Miguel can have Ilson working on this formula is if he provides him with the necessary rare chemicals, so rare that they can only be obtain through smuggling. Steve races to intercept a cargo being unloaded from a ship known for smuggling. Captain America tears into the dockworkers like a Wal-Mart shopper on Boxing Day.

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Cap easily renders them all unconscious but what he doesn’t do is find out if these guys are just average Joes working the docks and reacting logically to seeing some idiot in a red, white and blue costume smashing up the place. I sense that there will be several civil suits against Captain America in the near future.

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Rogers decides to track the shipment and follows it to the sleepy town of Bellevelle where he uses the cover of “Wandering Artist” to investigate. Local thugs try and scare him off but ole Steve doesn’t give up that easily, he takes his cat over to the local veterinarian and finds a large crowd lined up out front. It’s there he meets Helen Moore (Katherine Justice) and her son Peter Moore (John Waldron) and where Rogers asks if the kid could show him around the local trails. The mom says they are too busy running the farm which is not the reaction most mothers would probably have to some strange dude asking to go off in the woods with her son. Lucky for us the rest of the film focuses mostly on his creepy stalking of the mom and not the kid.

vlcsnap-2014-05-08-12h21m58s45“No wait, I just want to sketch him!”

His investigation stalls out because the townsfolk all clam up while he’s around, but he does find out from Dr. Mills that Miguel has contacted the White House and is demanding one billion dollars or he’ll release the rapid aging formula over a major American city. He claims that all within its range will age 38 days per hour, and he also provided a cougar cub dosed with the formula to prove it works.

vlcsnap-2014-05-08-12h38m05s255“Who’s the cute kitty?  Oh you’re the cute kitty.”

The local toughs take another run at Steve but once again as these are just normal yahoos with no real chance against a super soldier,  he is able to beat the ever living crap out of them with little to no effort.

vlcsnap-2014-05-08-12h31m23s71Time for a little assault and battery.

This lands him in jail but he uses his super strength to bend the window bars in his cell and escape as Captain America. Miguel’s goons’ chase him across a dam where Cap’s only option is to drive off it into the raging waters below.

vlcsnap-2014-05-08-12h35m42s104“I didn’t kill my wife!”

With Captain America out of the way and the government refusing to deal with terrorists, Miguel is forced to carry out his threat and proceeds with his plan by sky writing the word “Smile” with the rapid aging formula over the city of Portland. His henchwoman then goes on the radio to inform the citizens that they are all going to die of old age sooner than they expected, unless the government ponies up the money for the cure, “So call your local congressman!”

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Rogers of course survived crashing down a two hundred foot dam and retreats to the farm belonging to Helen Moore and her son. It’s there that he finds out the whole town has been blackmailed to keep quiet about what is going on, that they have all been dosed with the rapid aging drug but are getting a daily treatment at the veterinarian’s clinic that will temporarily halt the aging as long as they co-operate. With the aid of young Peter and some old fashion sleuthing they figure out that Miguel is hiding out at the nearby penitentiary. Captain America races to action!vlcsnap-2014-05-08-12h52m19s81

Miguel orders that the biggest dogs in the prison be given a triple dose of the aging formula and sick them on Captain America. Now at no point in this movie has it been established that this formula does anything else but age you faster, nothing about increased aggression or strength is ever mentioned. So Miguel’s plan should pit Captain America against dogs dying of old age. What a challenge!

vlcsnap-2014-05-08-12h56m57s90The wagging tails diminish their menace a tad.

Miguel escapes out the East Gate with the antidote and Captain America gives chase in the most awesome way possible, in his Super-Bike that transforms into a hang glider.

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After an exciting hang glider vs guy in station wagon chase that reaches speeds of up to 55 mph!! Cap lands and tracks Miguel into the woods. “Too late General; I have your exact position now. You’re 20yrds north and 30yrds west of me.” Captain America informs Miguel because apparently Cap has some kind of Super-GPS power as well enhanced strength and reflexes.

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Cap tries that ole shield trick where he throws it passed the villains so it circles back and hits them from behind, but it fails as Miguel easily ducks it.

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“You didn’t expect to fool an old jungle fighter with a boomerang trick like that, did you?” Miguel laughs. The General then throws out that old chestnut that in “Any other circumstance we might have been friends.” Yes, Captain America and a world renowned terrorist have so much in common; if it wasn’t for the killing of hundreds of innocent people they definitely would have hung out and gone to ball games together. Miguel tries to shoot Cap but that pesky shield gets in the way so he goes to plan “B” tosses a bottle of the rapid aging formula at him. Cap throws his mighty shield, breaking the bottle, causing its contents to splash all over Miguel who proceeds to age very, very rapidly.

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This then gives us Captain America wrestling with a decrepit old man. Another awesome challenge for our hero!

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Cap shrugs him off and then watches in horror as General Miguel dies of old age right in front of him. To the films credit the aging make-up is pretty darn good.

vlcsnap-2014-05-08-13h30m27s224“I suddenly want to watch Matlock.”

Simon and Steve outfit a helicopter with a crop dusting sprayer and dose the city of Portland with the cure, but more importantly Steve returns to the town of Belleville to hook up with Peter and his mom.

vlcsnap-2014-05-08-13h35m25s130Totally not creepy.

This was CBS’s last attempt at getting a Captain America series off the ground and anyone can clearly see why it failed.  The heroics vary between bland and boring, the plots were poorly constructed, Reb Brown was just terrible as the titular hero and even adding such great actors as Christopher Lee couldn’t help.

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