With the latest film on the Marvel conveyor belt/money printing machine, Avengers: Age of Ultron, around the corner, it’s a good time to review one of Australia’s greatest superhero movies, well, one of Australia’s two superhero movies – The Return of Captain Invincible.


Australia/USA, 1983, Philippe Mora

The Return of Captain Invincible is real mish-mash of a movie. It’s a half US, half Australian production. It’s part superhero movie, part comedy, part musical. There’s slapstick, ballads and acid flashbacks. It stars Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee (as the villain, of course) and has songs written by the songwriters behind Rocky Horror Picture Show. The late, great Discworld author Terry Pratchett said the movie ‘is a series of bad moments pasted together with great songs and a budget of fourpence,’ but also that it is ‘a regularly-viewed video in the Pratchett household.’ I have to agree with Pratchett (a man whose books you really should read if you like funny things), The Return of Captain Invincible is a very watchable hodgepodge.

Alan Arkin is Captain Invincible, an all-American hero whose back story is shown in a lengthy but well done black and white old-timey newscast parody. Captain Invincible aka The Caped Contender, The Legend in Leotards and The Man of Magnets takes out gangsters and Nazis with his superpowers, which include flight, a computer brain and magnetic powers because reasons.

It all goes wrong for the captain when he is accused of being a commie – gasp. He is also accused of impersonating a military officer (because he’s not a real captain), flying without a license and wearing underwear in public. Due to a lack of evidence to refute these claims, Captain Invincible flees the US.

Years later, The Man of Magnets is a loopy drunk who managed to get himself to Sydney (despite thinking he is in New York) and his arch-nemesis, Mr. Midnight (Christophe Lee) has turned New York into a treacherous hive of scum and villainy using improbable methods such as putting dog turds everywhere and hypnotising minorities so they buy homes from his goons. Christopher Lee expertly hams it up a villainous role the veteran actor could probably do with his eyes closed.

The President of the United States (Michael Pate) visits Sydney to meet with world leaders, including the Australian Prime Minister (an interesting cameo by Aussie TV legend Graham Kennedy), only to find out someone has used a giggle gun to steal a hypno ray. Try saying that with a straight face. Also, the giggle gun made most of the ladies take their clothes off, because this is an Australian movie from the 80’s after all. Most of the leaders blame the Ruskies for then the POTUS lays down the law with a powerful song.

For those who didn’t watch that video, the only word said in the song is ‘bullshit’. He also sings a song about needing a hero, but I was too busy recovering from the bullshit song to pay much attention.

The world needs a hero, and that hero is Spiderman, I mean Captain Invincible. After nonchalantly saving her life, police detective Patty Patria (Kate Fitzpatrick) wants the captain to make a comeback. With the help of Patty’s boss, Tupper (Bill Hunter), the former superhero attempts to get control of his powers again. This takes up a good chunk of the main storyline and is where the tone of the film really varies. There’s Benny Hill-style slapstick when his magnet powers make ladies’ blouses fly open, then there’s hallucinogenic PTSD flashbacks that aren’t really explained. And the bizarre scene in which Captain Invincible uses his computer brain (by having someone flicking through huge books in front of him) only for it to get stuck. And the scene where the captain and Patty fight vacuum cleaners.

There are also a lot more songs in the second half. Most of them are competent without being anything special, except for the ones Christopher Lee sings. That’s right, Christopher Lee, he of the bowel-rumbling baritone, sings a couple of tunes. It’s fantastic. I’d also like to mention that in recent years, 92 year old Lee has put out two metal albums. This has nothing to do with the movie, I just wanted a reason to remind people.

The balls-out ridiculousness of the film only escalates as it tumbles towards its climax, and I don’t want to rob you of the joy/confusion mix one gets when witnessing a film that is entertaining yet makes precious little sense, so I won’t say much more. What I will do is show this picture…

And say that The Return of Captain Invincible is a pile of cinematic nonsense that I wholly recommend.


The Return Of Captain Invincible can be found on DVD on Amazon, and in various formats on ebay (I even saw a laserdisc version). For local Aussie readers, Captain Invincible at one point in time had a release from Umbrella Entertainment. It’s now oddly absent from their website and likely out of print, but it should still be hanging around a few bargain bins.