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Film / Captain America (1990)

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Starring the son of the guy who wrote The Catcher in the Rye.

A 1990 superhero film based on the Captain America comics, directed by Albert Pyun and starring Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty and Scott Paulin.

Not to be confused with the 2011 film, Captain America: The First Avenger, or, more likely, with the 1979 film of the same name

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Name Change: Red Skull's real name is Tadzio de Santis, while his name in the comics is traditionally Johann Schmidt. While there have been multiple Red Skulls in the comics, none of them have ever been named Tadzio de Santis, which was a name created specifically for the film.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The Red Skull's nationality is changed from German to Italian for this film.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Downplayed- while Red Skull at no point displays any real positive qualities whatsoever, he's still far less utterly repulsive and vile than his comics counterpart. Not only is his racism greatly downplayed, he treats his daughter (even after her failure) with far greater tolerance than Comics Skull ever shows for his daughter Sin, he can at least act polite enough more often than his constantly sneering and insulting original source, and he's even given a sympathetic and tragic origin while his comics self always was rotten to the core.
  • Adaptational Sympathy: In the comics and the MCU, the Red Skull is a heartless, unrepentant Nazi and one of Marvel's vilest villains. In this film, while still the villain of the piece, the Red Skull is more of a tragic, self-loathing figure. Instead of a German man who eagerly worked directly under Hitler, this Skull was abducted from his family in Italy as a child and forcibly experimented on. He even is capable of showing a degree of love for his daughter, which Johann Schmidt most certainly never did.
  • Age Lift: The man who would become the Red Skull was still a child (presumably 12) when he was kidnapped and experimented on in 1936, which would make him only 19 (though grotesquely disfigured) when he fought Captain America in 1943, unlike the comics, where he was at least a decade older when he fought Cap in WWII. This was likely done to make it believable that Red Skull could still be alive in the present day (the early '90s) without prolonging his lifespan somehow or being a decrepit geezer (though its implied hes stronger and sprier than a man in his mid-60s should be due to the super soldier serum).
  • Amazon Brigade: The Red Skull commands a group of supermodel henchwomen, one of which is his daughter.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Thomas Kimball, twice. Not only does he grow up to be the President, but once he does so, he also gets to help Captain America.
  • The Atoner: Dr. Maria Vaselli sees Project Rebirth as a chance to redeem what she was forced to do for the Nazis.
    Dr. Vaselli: (to Steve) Because of you, I have a chance to make a wrong thing right. I thank you for that.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The tape recording from the prologue of the movie.
  • Composite Character: Bernice is based off both Bernie Rosenthal and Peggy Carter, while Bernice's daughter Sharon Cooperman is an Expy of Sharon Carter, minus the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent skills.
    • Several aspects of Red Skull's origins (a young boy that watches his family get killed by Axis forces before his very eyes, gets abducted, tortured, and experimented on by said Axis forces, and then grows up to be a supervillain) certainly bring Magneto to mind. The only major difference is that Red Skull ends up working for the Axis Powers instead of against them.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: The assassin proudly announces his allegiance before shooting Dr Vaselli from point-blank range in the middle of a crowd of military personnel.
    Remarkable work, Dr Vaselli. Congratulations. HEIL HITLER! (blam)
  • Cunning Linguist: Sharon suddenly shows a fluency in Italian, remarking that she spent a summer in Italy before.
  • Disney Villain Death: Red Skull.
  • Don't Create a Martyr: Red Skull mentions that the assassinations of both John and Robert Kennedy, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., simply turned the men into "martyrs to the cause". Which is why this time he's planning to brainwash President Kimball instead of simply killing him.
  • Faceless Goons: Inverted. All of the Red Skull's mooks are well-dressed highly attractive people. The military force that comes to rescue President Kimball and help Captain America come equipped with face-concealing masks and all-black uniforms.
  • Failure Hero: Most of Cap's fights involve him getting defeated or running away.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Red Skull. As he has Captain America tied to a rocket, he asks him for help with his English.
  • Film Adaptation (Live-Action): A new Origins Episode for Captain America and Red Skull, making them share the same Super Serum, but changing the Skull's nationality to Italian.
  • Gender Flip: In the comics, the ill-fated creator of Captain America's Super Serum, assassinated by a Nazi spy before he could create more than one Super-Soldier, was a man, Dr. Abraham Erskine. In this film, the creator is a woman, Dr. Maria Vaselli, who meets the same fate.
  • Greasy Spoon: The front for a secret government laboratory.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Red Skull was expertimented by Fasicst Italy, thus making Mussolini into this role.
  • Green Aesop: The main point and Anvilicious aesop of the movie, which the President was a victim for his new bill for environmental conservation that angered the Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: A trope familiar to the Captain America, and though it's less prominent here, it's still a part of his character.
    Red Skull: Fifty years ago, you were Dr. Vaselli's ridiculous idea. You remain a clownish symbol that no one cares about.
    Captain America: I care.
    Red Skull: You care? Then come to me, my brother. Let us see if this heart of yours is stronger than my hate.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Captain America feigns sickness to lure the unsuspecting driver out from the car before he steals it, twice. Subverted when he appears to steal a bike from a civilian during his and Sharon's escape from the Red Skull's thugs, but he throws down money towards the owner for compensation.
  • Historical Rap Sheet: The Nebulous Evil Organization that Red Skull works for was responsible for such things as the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations.
  • Iconic Item: It wouldn't be Captain America without the shield.
  • Identical Granddaughter: Bernice and her lookalike daughter Sharon, so minus a generation.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Sam Kolawetz. He even gets killed because of it.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: The Red Skull chops off his own hand after Captain America (tied to a missile about to launch) grabs him to invoke Taking You with Me.
  • "London, England" Syndrome
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Well, yeah.
  • Mistaken for Spies: Captain America thinks that Sam Kowlawetz is a spy for either the Japanese, because he has a tape recorder that was made in Japan, or possibly for the Germans, because he's driving a car that was made in West Germany. (This is the first car he steals, under Hero Stole My Bike.)
  • The Mole: General Fleming, going all the way back to World War II.
  • Mythology Gag: When young Thomas Kimball tells his friend Sam about Captain America, they discard the idea of the hero having been the Human Torch or the Sub-Mariner, heroes who fought in World War II along with Cap in the comic books.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: The Red Skull's organization in the present day.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Captain America and the Red Skull both got their powers as a result of the same research. Because of this, the Red Skull insists on referring to Captain America as his "American Brother".
  • Off with His Head!: The Red Skull's daughter apparently met this fate when Cap's shield returned. Though it's left ambiguous enough so she could have just been knocked out.
  • The Only One: But not by design. The scientist working on the project did not have any written notes, for fear that they would be used for evil again. Shortly after Rogers is successfully given the treatment, a Nazi assassin kills the scientist and her knowledge is lost. Otherwise, the intent was for him to lead an entire company of super soldiers.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: In particular, he manages to be both President Target and President Action.
  • Psycho Prototype: The Red Skull.
  • Raised by Orcs: The Red Skull is raised by Nazis after being abducted from his family.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When the recently-escaped President Kimball runs into General Fleming, in the Red Skull's hideout, in a business suit, the general stands at attention and claims that he is leading the rescue force to extract the President. The President doesn't buy it.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Played with. Steve initially confuses Sharon for her mother Bernice, but her style and personality are substantially different (both characters are played by the same actress).
  • Sherlock Scan: Notably, it gives Captain America all the details needed for him to reach exactly the wrong conclusion. note 
  • Strapped to a Bomb: The film has the hero tied to a rocket at the end of the first act, setting him up to be frozen and appear in modern day.
  • Super Serum: The key to Captain America and the Red Skull's Super-Strength.
  • Super-Soldier: Captain America for the Allies, Red Skull for the Axis.
  • Taking You with Me: Attempted by the Captain against the Red Skull, forcing the Red Skull to make a Life-or-Limb Decision.
  • Tragic Villain: This version of Red Skull, since he is shown as a child and its clear that the experiments who turned him into what he is were not consensual. That said, its quickly glanced over and almost treated like an afterthought by the narrative.
  • Villain Opening Scene: It starts by telling how the Red Skull was taken from his Italian home.
  • Who Shot JFK?: Well, the Red Skull didn't shoot him, he just hired the guy who did. For both John AND Robert, and it's implied MLK as well.
    Red Skull: Assassination isn't worth the trouble. It took me two years to find Sirhan. Three to find Oswald. The King job alone cost me over twenty million dollars. What do we get for our pains? Saints. Martyrs to the cause.
  • Wicked Cultured: The Skull can be awfully poetic for a supervillain and it appears he's a fan of classical music. Additionally, once he's in the present, he's never seen without a crisp suit and tie. Bonus points for hiding his megaton detonator in his piano.
    Red Skull: We are both tragedies. And now I send our tortured souls to rest.