Live-action Marvel projects before the MCU were wild. Can you imagine David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury? How about a Trippy, acid flashback version of Dr. Strange, who sports a porn-stache? The wackiest example of early Marvel characters on screen, though, has to be the pair of 1979 Captain America movies that Marvel would just as soon pretend never happened.
There’s Two Forgotten Captain America Films From The ’70s
It’s tempting to chalk up 1979’s Captain America and its sequel Captain America II: Death Too Soon, to the copious amount of drugs floating around Hollywood in the late ’70s. After all, how else do you explain Captain America’s iconic shield doubling as a detachable windshield for his motorcycle? Not weird enough? How about the version of Steve Rogers in the first two Captain America movies actually living in the present day and basing his identity off an old nickname given to his dad?
Long Before Chris Evans, Reb Brown Portrayed Steve Rogers
The ’70s Captain America movies took Cap’s classic origin of being a super soldier in World War II who gets frozen for decades and said, “Nah, let’s make him an artist who drives around in a van and draws pictures of his dream superhero costume.” This Steve Rogers, played by Reb Brown—no Chris Evans, that’s for sure—is given an experimental FLAG serum that stands for “Full Latent Ability Gain” and was made using his own father’s glands.
After getting the late ’70s television budget equivalent of “superpowers” Rogers then receives a super suit based on his drawing and a matching red and white motorcycle that he launches out of the back of his van. To complete the look, Steve dawns a motorcycle helmet with his classic white “A” and wings painted on it.
The Sequel Film Made Things Worse
In the sequel, the costume gets somehow worse thanks to a new helmet with the wings now glued onto it instead of painted. Oh, and did we mention that in both of the 1979 Captain America movies, his shield is made of transparent plastic instead of vibranium? Because, yeah, that’s a thing.
There’s No Red Skull In This Version Of Captain America
At this point, it should surprise no one to find out that ’70s Captain America fought normal schmucks instead of his classic nemesis Red Skull. In Captain America, the First Avenger goes up against some dude threatening to set off a neutron bomb in the middle of a populated city.
Meanwhile, Captain America II: Death Too Soon features the late great Christopher Lee as revolutionary terrorist General Miguel, whose plan is to hold Portland, Oregon, hostage with a chemical that makes people get really old, really fast.
Putting aside the 2023 reading of Christopher Lee playing a Latino freedom fighter as problematic, the whole terror plot is ridiculous. Why not use a traditional bomb instead of a highly specific aging chemical?
Both Movies Have Terrible Ratings
The fact that both Captain America movies were made and aired in the same year should give you a hint as to the amount of love and care that was put into the two films—none. The first movie rates a mere 3.5/10 on IMDb, and the sequel has a slightly higher 3.7/10. To say that neither film is a classic is an understatement.
Oddly enough, the two films would end up influencing the Captain America comic book—ironic since the two made-for-tv Captain America movies took almost nothing from the source material to begin with. The comic would establish Steve Rogers as a commercial artist in his downtime as well as set him up with a motorcycle and conversion van.
The Goofy Charm Of The ’70s Captain America
The only consolation for anyone who looks back on the two 1979 Captain America movies with fond nostalgia is that at least the movies have a sort of corny, goofy charm. Pity the same can’t be said for the 1990 straight-to-video Captain America. That one isn’t fun bad; it’s just bad bad.