TNB Night Owl–The Return of Captain Invincible

Wheel of cheese cut and stacked in front of a stone wall. Photo by Alexander Maasch.

Superhero gets disillusioned and goes into retirement. Decades later, his old nemesis resurfaces, causing abovesaid hero to get back in the action. After a few training sessions, a few battles, some inner conflict, the villain is defeated and the superhero saves the day. You know which movie I’m talking about, right?

The problem is you could be thinking any one of countless movies from BIRDMAN to THE INCREDIBLES. So how does one movie set itself apart from the flock? It could have a budget bordering the billions. It could have deep characterization and tear-jerking performances. And then you have THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE (1983), whom the great author and humorist Sir Terry Pratchett had this to say:

“May I also add that the film The Return of Captain Invincible, which is a series of bad moments pasted together with great songs and a budget of fourpence, is also a regularly-viewed video in the Pratchett household.”

Terry Pratchett Quotes

How does CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE set itself apart from the rest of the pack? First off are the people involved. It was directed by Philippe Mora, who consistently proved himself a master of low-budget filmmaking with gems like MAD DOG MORGAN and HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS. For the leads he got two of the greatest actors of the modern era. Alan Arkin plays the titular hero with equal parts world-weariness and tenacity. His arch nemisis, Mr. Midnight was masterfully done with the great Sir Christopher Lee. Between years honing his craft in the Hammer horror movies and his Earth-shaking baritone voice, no one could have done it better.

Then there is the music Pratchett mentioned. Ten songs including the President repeating the word for Bovine Feces over and over again. Three of the best songs were written by ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW screenwriter, Richard O’Brien. One of those, an ode to alcohol sung by Lee to tempt Arkin’s recovering alcoholic, is easily the best moment in the movie. I have included it here because, even if you don’t watch the full movie, it deserves to be seen:

Lastly, while it’s true that the movie didn’t have much of a budget, it made up for the lack of cash with some fun (albeit cheap) visual gags, including moments where Captain Invincible’s magnetic powers cause some…issues.

Don’t just take my word for it. Watch the movie for yourself and have a good time:

QUESTION OF THE NIGHT–Who’s your favorite Supervillan?

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