The Return of Captain Invincible
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (25th October 2017).
The Film

"The Return of Captain Invincible" (1983)

WWII Veteran Captain Invincible (played by Alan Arkin) was a national hero until labelled a socialist during the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s. Now an overweight alcoholic hiding in Australia - who's forgotten how to fly! - Invincible learns his arch enemy Mr. Midnight (played by Christopher Lee) is back, and has stolen the US Government's latest super weapon. Can the Captain get on the wagon and learn again to soar? Or will Mr. Midnight and his army of henchmen destroy the world? With cameos from an Aussie cast including Graham Kennedy as the Prime Minister, Chris Haywood as a maitre-d and Bill Hunter as Tupper, "The Return of Captain Invincible" is a madcap superhero spoof from talented Australian director Philippe Mora.

Following the cult horror hit "The Beast Within" in 1982, Philippe Mora's next seemed a surefire hit - with big established actors Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee in the leads, a superhero genre film, and composer Richard Hartley from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" working on the compositions for the musical segments, and a not-too-serious tongue in cheek attitude seemed like a recipe for success. Unfortunately the $7 million superhero parody musical did not find an audience, grossing only $55,000 at the Australian box office and not faring any better elsewhere. The film starts off with an excellent black and white newsreel recap of who Invincible was and his contribution through the years - fighting gangsters during the prohibition era, fighting Nazis in World War II, and being a hero to children until his exile after the McCarthy hearings, which used real footage of the times along with clever editing. It easily sets up who the man was and what he was capable of. What follows is a hodgepodge of ideas that do not particularly stick well together.

As for the acting Alan Arkin is a strangely interesting choice for the former superhero and he does a fine job of the drunkard in absurd situations. Christopher Lee seems to be channeling his performance in "The Man with the Golden Gun" as the mastermind villain in his supervillain lair. Kate Fitzpatrick as Patty who helps Invincible get back into the groove does a fair job as well. But as good as the leads are, do they fare well in the musical segments? One issue for a musical film is the lack of music in so many scenes. It takes a while for the first musical segment to appear that it comes as a strange surprise, as well as the latter segments. Arkin and Lee also show off their singing pipes and they are surprisingly good though they do seem to be lip syncing to well performed studio versions of the songs. The songs are not particularly memorable nor do they really have much purpose except for record sales. "Rocky Horror Picture Show" had the songs to further navigate the audience and characters into the surrealness, while in this film they seem like a distraction and feel out of place. The film is a flat out comedy though this also falls flat. The sight gags from the food fight, the drunken tirades, the wacky training montages all are comedy staples dating from the vaudeville era, though make no mistake this does not give laughs as they should with most falling to awkward silences. There is a difference of being funny and parodying how to be funny. This film follows the latter for the most part.

Like the down and out has-been superhero film "Hancock" (2008), "Captain Invincible" shows a different side to the suphero genre but sadly it does not connect by having too many wacky ideas thrown together rather than concentrating on consistency.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC format DVD which can be played back on any DVD and Blu-ray player worldwide


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the NTSC format. This seems to be a port from the US Elite Entertainment DVD from a while back in 2001. Although that was advertised as supervised by the director, the transfer doesn't quite hold up in 2017. Colors are a bit contrasty, specs and dust are visible, and some blurriness in portions. It's not as clear as it could be and lacking full depth in the image, though it is on the better side framed at the correct cinemascope ratio.

The film is uncut and the runtime is (101:04).


English Dolby Digital 5.1
The English track has been remixed to 5.1. Directional sounds are used for the musical portions, though it is not used too effectively. The surrounds have some echo but this is not a discreet mix from original elements. Dialogue is almost always centered. Also there is a slight hum to the soundtrack especially at the start of the film which can be a bit distracting.

There are no subtitles for the film.


Theatrical Trailer (2:37)
The original American trailer is provided in a cropped widescreen transfer.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

The trailer courtesy Umbrella Entertainment has been embedded below.


"The Return of Captain Invincible" is a wacky inconsistent ride which could have been a cult classic but ended up more on the forgotten side of the musical-superhero-parody genre, if there ever was one. The Umbrella Entertainment release is basically a port of the 16 year old Elite Entertainment disc so the quality standards are a bit on the lower end. Hard to recommend, but it is a fairly fascinatingly weird ride.

The Film: C- Video: C+ Audio: B- Extras: D Overall: C-


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