I should start off by saying that this "director's cut" is off of a workprint given to Pyun when he left or was let go of the project, depending on how you look at it. This workprint consists of Telecined tapes as well as the 35 millimeter workprint, so the picture quality is pretty low, several levels below VHS. But with this workprint were given a better look at the vision Albert Pyun had in mind when agreeing to sign on as director of this big undertaking. At the time, it was supposed to be a much bigger film than what eventually transpired, and as evident in the final product, he worked with what he had and with the budget he was given (or not given I should say). During production, funding ceased and the producers were left scrambling trying to secure funding to at least "finish" the picture. So imagine being a director hired to make a big budget film based on one of the most well known comic book characters of all time only to be told smack in the middle of filming that we've lost all our money? Inevitably you're left with having to improvise "everything", set pieces, action, effects, locations, etc.
I always knew that Pyun wasn't 100% completely to blame for what ultimately became Captain America. He had big ambitions for the character and the film and after several artistic failures like Cyborg, he wanted to go more mainstream and shoot the film much more straight forward and less artsy like his previous recent attempts that left no impact at the box office. Only what else can you do when your financer's back out and don't follow through with funding? You're left with no other choice "but" to be creative so you can finish the film you were hired to do but only now, with no money. So that's basically what happened with Captain America in a nutshell. Funding fell through which left no money for effects, stunts and most importantly the action. There is "some" action for sure, but in all honesty not nearly enough to satisfy a comic book geek or an action film fan. While some of them were pretty cool, they always felt so brief and I always felt short changed.
So how do I feel about this "extended director's cut"?
It's hard, because on one hand with Pyun's own constructed version of the film you see what film he was "trying" to make. But on the other hand it doesn't erase the fact that there was still zero budget to work with when he filmed it. So even though he's added a few new scenes and changed things around slightly, it doesn't really deliver a totally different impact than the film we got on VHS back in 1990. The film still looks cheap and there's still barely any action and the red skull still only looks like the red skull for a mere 2 minutes of screen time, and the red skull still talks with that ridiculous Italian accent. If anything, Pyun showed us how he was trying to go more into the melodrama aspect of it with his cut. I don't know, but for me I'd much rather have it be as campy as hell and with lots of ridiculous action as opposed to a more drama filled story about Steve Rogers not fitting in modern society and grieving the loss of his true love. Look at one of Pyun's later films for example, the awesome cyborg actioner Nemesis. I know it has to do with cyborgs and double crosses and stuff like that, but I honestly couldn't tell you what the entire story was about because it was filled with so much insane action and violence that I really didn't give a shit. A plethora of blood, bullets and boobs is what made Nemesis work. I think it would've been a great idea that, once the funding disappeared and they couldn't make the film they initially set out to make, to just go the complete opposite direction and throw in as much ridiculous action as possible so that we could at least say "well it wasn't the Captain America film we wanted, but man the action kicked ass!".
After seeing this cut twice in the last few days I've grown more forgiving to some of the things that drove me nuts before. Like Matt Salinger for one. I still don't think he looked like a good Cap, but I gotta give it to the guy, he gave it his all and put his heart into it, and you really couldn't ask for more. You wonder why he just didn't physically bulk up for the role after they shot his Steve Rogers scenes. Budget reasons I guess. But it's still so painfully obvious he's got some kind of padding or whatever he's got going on underneath his oversized long sleeved clothes and Captain America outfit. But this time around I was really able to see Matt Salinger the actor really delivering the goods. I might as well just give that credit to the entire cast as well because they were all pretty great in this. Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Michael Nouri and even Scott Paulin really do there best with what they're given.
Another is the action. Yea, there's not much of it in here but what there is, is put together really well under the budget constraints. The editing and multiple camera angles really give it a much broader feel than what there actually is. Inventive filmmaking to say the least.
The biggest problem that you feel throughout though is that you just want "more". More, more, more of everything and there just isn't any there because there was no money so it was never filmed. The workprint is a nice addition to your Captain America viewing experience and give great insight to the hellish conditions with which director Albert Pyun had to work under, but it won't win over any new fans or change your overall view of the film in general. It's a low-budget film that looks cheaper than what was envisioned on an already modest budget. No matter how hard it tries, it will never escape the camp factor because of this. Which is why I feel they should've embraced that aspect of it long ago and went full throttle with it. Raise the camp factor and just have fun with it. It's pretty interesting listening to director Pyun talk during the commentary about how bad a lot of it looks and as he repeatedly says, "he did the best he could with what he was given". The guy flat out admits that, for the most part, a lot of it doesn't look very good. That's what I respect the most about him I think, the honesty.
Director Albert Pyun has always been a "you either love him or you hate him" filmmaker. The guy has certainly delivered some gems in the past; some I even consider to be my favorite films of all time, but he's also given us some pretty terrible pictures as well. But here, I see talent in a man who wanted to make a name for himself and make something he had never done before in a way he had never tried. Who knows what kind of film he would have given us had he had the money to do so. The fault clearly lies on the studio producing the film. Giving the go-ahead on a film with a certain budget and then losing that money after filming had already begun is not good movie-making practice. So as with The Punisher, it never got a U.S. theatrical release and only got released on VHS after being shelved for 2 years because the studio still had no faith in the project and had no money to release it. So it's safe to say the poor guy had almost all the cards stacked against him.
If you would like to purchase this DVD, you can do so directly through Albert Pyun's website @ Albert Pyun Movies or by emailing your order to CurnanPictures@gmail.com.
For the technical specs on the 3 disc DVD set, check out my previous post here.