by Jonathan Lewis

  CAPTAIN AMERICA II: DEATH TOO SOON. Made for TV movie. CBS/Universal Television, 23-24 November 1979. Reb Brown, Connie Sellecca, Len Birman, Christopher Lee, Katherine Justice, Christopher Cary,William Lucking, Stanley Kamel, Ken Swofford, Lana Wood. Based on characters created by Jack Kirby & Joe Simon (uncredited). Director: Ivan Nagy.

   If you want to know why CBS never was able to get a Captain America live-action television show off the ground, look no further than Captain America II: Death Too Soon. This 1979 made-for-TV movie was originally shown in two parts and stars Reb Brown as Steve Rogers/Captain America.

   It’s unevenly paced, clunky, and generally poorly acted. But once you get beyond all that, it’s actually an amusingly cheesy, mindless superhero movie that, whatever its faults, doesn’t rely on CGI for action sequences.

   In perhaps the most unintentional act of subversion ever on the part of a major studio, the character you end up liking the most isn’t Captain America. Patriotism flies out the window, much like Captain America’s motorcycle in the air, for it’s the diabolical criminal mastermind/international terrorist/general badass “Miguel” portrayed by Christopher Lee who’s the star here. (After his portrayal of Scaramanga in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun, casting Lee in this role was quite a coup.)

   Miguel, loosely based on Carlos the Jackal, has a plot that defies both credulity and nature. He’s acquired a biological agent that rapidly advances the aging process and he’s going to use it on American cities unless he gets some cold hard cash.

   I can’t honestly tell you Captain America II: Death Too Soon is a good movie or that it’s even worth seeking out. Consider it a curiosity, a quirky obscurity, something that really shouldn’t have been made, a “what in the world were they thinking” in the studio moment. Even so, my seeing criminal mastermind Miguel (Lee) driving a station wagon while fleeing Captain America was enough to put a smile on my face and overlook the whole absurdity of this pleasantly idiotic attempt at bringing Captain America to American living rooms.