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The Return Of Captain Invincible (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Return Of Captain Invincible (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: July 26th, 2022.
    Director: Philippe Mora
    Cast: Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, Kate Fitzpatrick, Bill Hunter, Michael Pate
    Year: 1983
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Return Of Captain Invincible – Movie Review:

    A black and white prologue lets us know what a big deal the Superman-esque super hero named Captain Invincible (Alan Arkin) was back in the thirties and forties. We see news reels showing off how he smashed up gangsters and took down the Nazis before going on to inspire America's youth and then being hauled in front of the Senate where he was accused of doing Stalin's work for him! Captain Invincible was then brought up on charges for flying without a license and wearing underwear in public only to then disappear from the public eye and move to Australia where he fell inside a bottle and never came out.

    From here we move to the New York City of the early eighties where crime is rampant and graffiti is everywhere. Here the sinister Nazi named Mr. Midnight (Christopher Lee) is Hell-bent on getting his hands on a secret weapon developed by the same United States government that ostracized him dubbed The Hypno-Ray. When Midnight succeeds, Captain Invincible is called out of retirement to, with some help from an Australian accomplice named Patty Patria (Kate Fitzpatrick), once again save the world from certain doom and, hopefully, not fall too far off the wagon.

    Directed by Australian filmmaker Philippe Mora, the man behind The Howling II and The Howling III, and featuring musical numbers by none other than Richard O'Brien and Richard Hartley (of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fame), 1983's The Return Of Captain Invincible, maybe not so surprisingly, flopped upon its initial theatrical release but has since gone on to develop a pretty sizeable cult following in the nearly four decades since it came and went from theaters around the world (audiences were probably confused by the title and expecting a sequel to a movie that didn’t exist). It’s easy to see why this one would have some pretty legitimate cult appeal: Arkin’s character is a wacky drunk, it features superhero hijinks aplenty long before super-powered characters in tight ruled the box office and it features Christopher Lee in a pretty fun role and on top of that we get to see him sing in one of the musical numbers.

    The performances are amusing. Arkin is obviously a weird casting choice to play a superhero but it’s that weird casting choice that makes him funny in the role. He handles the drunk aspect of the character better than the superheroic side, but that’s almost certainly intentional and it’s hard not to giggle a bit when we see him flying around in a goofy costume. Lee seems to think he’s above the material pretty much every time he’s on screen, and the truth is that he was, but that adds a certain something to his work here. His character is a megalomaniac and a bit of a pompous ass so for that to come out in Lee’s performance intentionally or not is definitely a plus. They make for interesting foils, these two, and Kate Fitzpatrick’s supporting role is decent enough.

    The whole thing is just utterly bizarre. Not all of the musical numbers works, in fact less of them do than don’t, and the tone of the comedic elements is all over the place. The vast majority of the supporting players are Australians doing odd impersonations of Americans and the special effects are hokey even by the standards of the era. This shouldn’t work… at all, but somehow it does and it turns out to be a lot of silly fun.

    Note that Severin’s Blu-ray edition includes both the ninety-one minute theatrical cut as well as Mora’s director’s cut which runs ten minutes longer. The two versions are edited a fair bit differently and the theatrical cut (less seen on home video in North America as that was the version that Elite Entertainment used for their DVD release years back) removes some of the slightly raunchier humor, presumably to get the PG rating that the film was given when it played theaters.

    The Return Of Captain Invincible – Blu-ray Review:

    Both versions of the feature are offered up on separate 50GB region free Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35.1 widescreen (with the opening 1.33.1 black and white newsreel clips presented fullframe within that widescreen). The theatrical cut looks fantastic and is virtually spotless, showing very strong detail and excellent color reproduction. We get strong black levels, accurate looking flesh tones and nice depth and texture throughout without any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement. The director’s cut is taken from what would appear to be a print and it still looks quite good but doesn’t ever reach the heights of the much nicer looking theatrical cut, as the colors don’t look as rich and the detail isn’t as strong.

    Audio options for the theatrical cut surprisingly enough includes a Dolby Atmos, a 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, all in English, with optional subtitles provided in English only. The 2.0 mix would replicate the film’s original audio but the Atmos and 5.1 options do spread out the score and the sound effects well enough. Regardless of which option you choose, the audio is clean, clear and nicely balanced. The Director's Cut gets a 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and it also sounds quite good.

    Extras are spread across the two discs in the set as follows:

    Disc One - Theatrical Cut:

    There are a few featurettes included on the first disc, starting with The Invincible Producer which interviews producer Andrew Gaty for twenty-one minute. He talks here about how he got his start in the film industry, the early days of his career, bringing Steven E. de Souza in to help write, what went into bringing The Return Of Captain Invincible to life and how he feels about the film overall.

    Cinematographer Mike Molloy is up next in An Eye For Ozploitation in which he speaks for nine minutes about what it was like on set, some of the trickier scenes that he had to shoot and some of the challenges and complexities that arose during the making of the movie.

    From there we spend just under nine minutes' worth of time with actress Kate Fitzpatrick in Side Saddle Superhero Sidekick to learn about her experiences on set during the shoot, memories of shooting specific (and fairly memorable) scenes and getting along with both the director and her co-stars while making the picture.

    The last of the main featurettes on the first disc is A Brit Playing A Frenchman In Australia, which is an interview with actor Chris Haywood where he talks for six minutes about how he approached his character and his accent, how he landed the part, what the Australian film scene was like when the movie was made and more.

    Finishing up the extras on disc one is a clip wherein Christopher Lee Performs "Name Your Poison" live on German television that is worth its weight in gold, an alternate opening title sequence for the film, an original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    Disc Two - Director's Cut:

    Extras on disc two include an audio commentary with director Philippe Mora and Mark Hartley, the director of Not Quite Hollywood. This is a seriously interesting track that goes over how and why Mora came on board to direct, his thoughts on the writing and the script, working with the different cast and crew members and who he got along with the film’s two main leads, some of the effects work, memories of shooting specific scenes, why the film was made as a musical and lots more.

    The second disc also includes a featurette called Creating Captain Invincible, which is a conversation between Mora and screenwriter Steven E. de Souza that runs for twenty-four minutes. This covers some of the same ground as the commentary but goes over a fair bit more detail on the pre-production process and the genesis of the production.

    Lastly, The Return Of The Return Of Captain Invincible is a conversation between Mora and Beat The Geeks' Marc Edward Heuck. Here, over forty-one minutes, Heuck quizzes Mora about how he got his start making movies, what his family life was like, his training, someo of the early projects that he cut his teeth on and the different and varied feature productions that he'd go on to direct over the years. It’s a very enjoyable career retrospective.

    A third disc in this limited edition release includes the film’s entire score and soundtrack on CD, which is a nice touch. As to the packaging, the limited edition comes with a spot varnish slipcover, some nice reversible cover sleeve art and an insert containing some promotional art on one side and a track listing for the CD on the reverse.

    The Return Of Captain Invincible – The Final Word:

    The Return Of Captain Invincible is a relentlessly goofy picture but it’s also a very entertaining one, worth seeing just for Lee’s turn as the heavy all on its own. Severin has, quite surprisingly, really rolled out the red carpet for this one, offering two different versions of the movie in very nice presentations and a host of extra features that really do a great job of exploring the film’s origins and history.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Return Of Captain Invincible (theatrical cut) Blu-ray screen caps!

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