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


I love it when a film buff showers praise on the 70’s. It seems to be the go-to for whining on about what’s awful about the modern motion picture. Taking risks! Social Issues! Respectable porn!

We seem to forget that for each raw, experimental character drama there was a tremendous amount of poppycock. For example, enough people saw the 1979 Captain America (review here) that a sequel was made. Reb Brown returns once more with his pal scientist in Captain America II: Death Too Soon, but the female role is played by a different actress who couldn’t look less like the original. Different body type, brunette instead of blonde… Why not change her character’s name? Couldn’t afford the script reprint?

That was probably their reason, seeing as they also reused the same bike, costume, shield, and soundtrack from the first. It came out the same year so maybe there just wasn’t time to think about any of this. I could be imagining it, but the shield looks even cheaper than before. Where the first one fluttered to the force of high speed winds, this one folds when dogs put their paws on it. A dollar store couldn’t sell one of these. As a child, I painted a trash can lid that had more function as a weapon.

Lucky for Cap, all the badguys react as if it’s indestructible and, if thrown, sentient. All Steve Rogers needs to do is brush them with the side of it and they flail their arms as if experiencing a seizure, abruptly falling to the floor. They’re also knocked out by rolling off three foot surfaces and colliding with wicker baskets. Had one endangered eighty year old grandma realized she was besieged by a gang of Glass Joes, she could have taken them out herself.

Don’t think the drama ends with stolen pension checks, there’s also the earth shattering main event, which is best described as eight generic television pilots edited together in a failed attempt to make a single cohesive feature. A scientist is kidnapped. Captain America’s response is “sounds like a job for the FBI” (lazy bastard). “It would be,” they say, “if not for a message left in hydrochloric acid.” (actually a dusty window with a couple letters marked). Random shipyard workers must be beaten up, therefore, so as to discover drugs. With drugs, we can transport magically to a small town that has a veterinarian who doesn’t know about beetles. This guy must be covering up the fact that everyone in the town is aging really fast unless they get shots, but if we read how many miles his car has; we’ll know how far he travels to his hidden base. The aging spray is also sprayed on Oregon. We know this because one of a set of identical twins is given the antidote and doesn’t age.

Wait, don’t they both deserve the antidote? Who cares about your experiment!? This sounds like Nazi science! You’re supposed to be the good guys! Somebody call the real Captain America!

This guy’s an imposter! It all starts with a mother telling muscle bound “Steve Rogers” to leave her son alone after he approaches them with “Maybe you could show me those terrific horse trails Peter, I sure would like to go riding with you,” followed by dozens of locals getting their asses kicked without a shred of proof to justify. It’s pretty much Hell Comes to Smalltown when he’s not in costume.

Anyway, before any of this happens, someone randomly says “Looks like the work of Miguel.”

Who is Miguel? Miguel is the famous jungle fighter, played by the British Christopher Lee, who is committing terrorist acts all over Europe while working at a U.S. prison. He’s the warden, but also a revolutionary and an expert chemist. Sometimes his thugs refer to him as “General.”

How is he defeated? I might as well tell you. Steve Rogers deploys a parachute from his bike that turns into a hang glider. He hijacks a helicopter in the air and lands in the woods. Miguel has a machine gun, but can’t attack Steve because he can’t see him past a few pine branches, even when Steve shouts Miguel’s location at him as a taunt, which logic serving would also tell Miguel where he is. Miguel then spills aging stuff all over himself. Steve takes the remaining age accelerator, turns it into gas without the means to actually do so, and releases what he describes as only a tiny bit over Oregon, saving the entire population.

The plot, by the way, explains that the accelerator in reverse is the cure for aging, so it stands to reason that Oregon will then learn how to use swords and live throughout centuries trying to behead each other.

Death Too Soon has never been released on DVD. The last VHS tapes are currently deteriorating which is a shame, because it’s really satisfying to behold. When Joe Johnston releases his version of Captain America this week, it could possibly rank near Jurassic Park III on his career scale, rather than on the semi-respectable Rocketeer side. If that’s the case, people will moan, groan, and curse, whereas Death Too Soon only becomes more enjoyable as it’s further removed from its decade of origin, just like the Captain America character, who’s a Dodgers fan, by the way.

In Death Too Soon he makes a Yankees reference but otherwise it’s PERFECT.

Whatta ya think? Should I review Captain America (1990) tomorrow? I hear there’s a director’s cut!