"Have you seen this report on this Condorman? On this man Wilkins? He is an
amateur, do you hear? He is
not an agent of the CIA! He is a writer of comic books!
A 1981 Disney live-action spoof
of the classic Spy Fiction
follows the exploits of the hapless Woodrow "Woody" Wilkins (Michael Crawford), a comic book writer who is determined to bring his titular superhero to fame by refusing to write anything that he can't actually do in real life. To that end, he sets out to perfect a set of wings that he can fly around town with. He also convinces his friend Harry, a CIA desk jockey
, to let him go on a courier mission where he meets with a Russian spy. Naturally he's ridiculously out of place, but still manages to pull it off.
When that same spy, Natalia (Barbara Carrera), passes word to the CIA that she wishes to defect
, but only
to their top secret agent, Condorman, puzzlement ensues until Harry admits to his boss Russ that he let Woody take the mission. They reluctantly ask Woody to escort Natalia, but in return he insists that they help him bring his comic book creations to life. Thus begins a merry romp around Europe as Woody and Natalia are pursued by agents of the KGB determined to get her back at any cost, complete with car chases, boat chases, cable car chases
, improbable disguises, Stuff Blowing Up
, and a daring rooftop escape scene.
Loosely based on a short-story, "The Game of X", by Robert Sheckley
This movie contains examples of the following tropes:
- Animated Credits Opening: A cutesy animated Condorman zooms across the screen (and crashes frequently), with the titles following in his wake.
- Arab Oil Sheikh: The heroes infiltrate Krokov's party at an estate in Monaco by pretending to be oil-rich Arabs.
- Ascended Fanboy: Woody goes from writing Condorman to being Condorman.
- Cardboard Prison: The jail that Woody and Natalia get taken to after their capture by police holds them for about as long as it takes Harry to get there with a Wig, Dress, Accent.
- Chase Scene: Most of the action scenes turn into chases of some sort. The most memorable ones are the Condorman racecar chase early in the film and the Condorman speedboat chase in the climax.
- Cloak & Dagger: Harry protests to Woody that the CIA doesn't operate like he's read in spy novels, but Woody is a firm believer in bad disguises, super tech toys, dramatic chases, and so forth. Because of his involvement, they end up doing exactly those things.
- Chained Heat: Harry springs Woody and Natalia from jail, but they remain handcuffed together for quite a while because he can't find the key.
- Comic Books Are Real: Woody poo-poohs Batman and Superman because they're blatantly unrealistic, insisting instead that Condorman should not do anything that can't be done in Real Life; in believing this, he actually makes it happen.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Woody dresses up in a trenchcoat, hat, and sunglasses for the first mission where he meets Natalia. It's as comically ineffective as it sounds, but ironically forces Woody to attempt to be a Bad Ass, impressing her enough that she falls for him.
- Cool Boat: The Condorman speedboat used in the final chase scene is inexplicably equipped with a laser cannon. The KGB speedboat flotilla, for its part, comes with what appear to be mortars.
- Cool Car: The Condorman racecar used in the first chase scene is equipped with a variety of gadgets including a rear-mounted flamethrower, rockets, and a shield that doubles as a ramp, and can transform into a hydrofoil.
- Defector from Commie Land: Natalia's motivations for defecting are not spelled out completely, but she seems to deeply resent Krokov's abusive behavior towards her. She's more than happy to go to America and watch baseball games, though.
- Easy Come, Easy Go: Harry steals an embassy car in Monaco to make it to Woody's anticipated landing spot. He's having so much fun that he forgets to set the parking brake, and as it rolls off a boat ramp and into the sea, Harry sadly observes, "Easy come, easy go."
- Every Car Is a Pinto: In the car chase scene, every bad guy vehicle except The Dragon's blows up spectacularly. And again in the boat chase scene, although the latter is a bit more understandable as they are carrying mortar rockets and get shot with a laser cannon.
- Famous Last Words: After Harry steals the embassy car, he's so excited to be doing the action-spy stuff that he tempts fate a bit too much.
Harry: "Oh, Russ, if you could see me now!"
- Fanfare: Condorman has a distinctive choral salute every time said hero puts in an appearance.
- Fire-Breathing Diner: The triple Istanbul Express causes Woody to breathe fire. He later weaponizes this against a Mook.
- The Fool: Woody starts as an ordinary guy who's in way over his head and can't seem to take anything seriously (except his comic book work). It takes nearly getting killed and apparently losing Natalia for good before he realizes that he's putting people in unnecessary danger with his antics.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Woody pilots a speedboat equipped with a laser cannon that uses the typical "slow" variant. It also bounces off of choppy water.
- Game of Chicken: During the car chase, two of the KGB pursuers attempt a front-rear pincer maneuver against Woody, with one taking a shortcut to get ahead of him and cutting him off. Woody, however, has a secret weapon: a front-facing shield that doubles as a ramp, causing the enemy vehicle to vault over his car and hit the car behind him. Kaboom.
- Gargle Blaster
Waiter: "One Istanbul Express."
Woody: "Yes, a double."
Waiter: "A double? Nobody orders the double, sir!"
Woody: "Okay. Make it a triple."
- Silver Eye: Morovich has a silver false eye, which he sometimes conceals with an Eyepatch of Power.
- High Heel-Face Turn: It's not hard to see where Woody's encounter with the female spy Natalia is going, especially when all the other cast members are male.
- I Just Want to Be Badass: Woody's motivation throughout the first half of the story is to prove to the world that he can be Condorman — or rather, that Condorman can be real. This despite being a comic book writer with absolutely no experience in combat or espionage. Later, Natalia's capture forces him to get serious about the mission and put her safety over his own dreams, which ironically causes him to fully embrace the Condorman persona.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Krokov's KGB goons can't hit the gliding Condorman suit from thirty feet away. Given that Natalia is riding on the back, this is a good thing for both Woody and them.
- Jumped at the Call: By begging Harry to let him go on a spy mission, Woody grabs the call when it was not even meant for him in the first place.
- Non-Action Guy:
- Lacking any Badass credentials, Woody manages to become a credible action hero through sheer chutzpah.
- Harry is a desk jockey, not a field agent. He doesn't do any actual fighting, though he does a creditable job of stealing a car to aid Woody in his escape... until he lets it sink, that is.
- Not Quite Flight: The Condorman suit glides, and not all that badly after the bugs have been worked out. Its first test flight doesn't go so well, though, with a collapsed wing dumping Woody into the Seine (a stunt that almost killed Michael Crawford).
- Psycho for Hire: Morovich, Krokov's Dragon. It becomes apparent in his fits of murderous rage upon losing Woody and Natalia, and comes to a head when he attempts to ram the Condorman speedboat, despite Krokov trying to get him to stop.
- Ramming Always Works: Morovich attempts this at the climax, after both his and Woody's weapons are disabled. It is subverted by the arrival of a helicopter to lift Woody and crew out of harms' way. Morovich proceeds to fall victim to a self-inflicted Wronski Feint.
- Reflecting Laser: The Condorman speedboat has a laser cannon whose shots bounce off of choppy water.
- Shown Their Work: The comic book art actually looks like comic books in the 1970s.
- Show Within a Show: Woody's comics, which he insists the CIA bring to life for him as a condition of agreeing to rescue Natalia, and which Krokov uses to figure out his tricks.
- Sidekick: Harry tools merrily around after Woody, rescuing him from messes and playing driver, with a bit of Only Sane Man thrown in to boot.
- Something Only They Would Say: "If you bring the dip, I'll bring the Dostoyevsky," used by Natalia to indicate that her apparent change of heart is not what it seems.
- Spy Fiction: Woody believes wholeheartedly in James Bond style spy dramas, despite Harry's protests that the CIA doesn't do that sort of thing.
- Stock Scream: The Goofy holler is used in the opening credits.
- Stuff Blowing Up:
- Quite a few cars and speedboats spectacularly sacrifice themselves for the chase scenes.
- Woody and Harry's plan to spring Natalia from Krokov's estate in Monaco involves the detonation of a number of explosive charges around the premises.
- Time for Plan B: Russ snarks to Harry that they don't even have a "Plan A", never mind a "Plan B". When Harry breaks Woody and Natalia out of jail, he name-drops the trope:
Woody: Hey, ugly American. Remember Plan B? This is it.
- Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Played with — Krokov is at a loss to figure out why "Condorman" is running around with all those crazy gadgets (and foiling his plans to boot) until he gets his hands on Woody's comic books, leading to the page quote.
- Wig, Dress, Accent: The Arab Oil Sheikh disguises, and Harry's "police inspector" disguise.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Woody, at first. What's interesting is that, due to his presence, everyone else starts behaving like it's the kind of Cloak & Dagger story that Woody thinks it is.
- Wronski Feint: At the end of the speedboat chase, Woody's boat is damaged and out of gas. Morovich, whose weapons are also disabled, elects to ram him in a final attempt to finish the hero off. Unfortunately for Morovich, the speedboat is airlifted away just in time, causing him to crash spectacularly into the rocks.