The Return of Captain Invincible (1983)

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Director: Phillipe Mora

Stars: Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, Michael Pate, Bill Hunter, Kate Fitzpatrick

Last year marked the end of my long infatuation with superhero films. For almost two decades I regularly made the pilgrimage to the multiplex to see the latest superhero joints, and while I retain some anthropological curiosity about the genre, 2016’s unfortunate double whammy of X-Men: Apocalypse and Suicide Squad killed most of my affection for and investment in it. Even so, as a former genre apologist and a writer on Australian film, I’ve long had a hankering to see Phillipe Mora’s 1983 film The Return of Captain Invincible, one of Australia’s very few attempts at a superhero movie, albeit a parody.

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The Time Guardian (1987)

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Director: Brian Hannant

Stars: Tom Burlinson, Nikki Coghill, Dean Stockwell, Carrie Fisher

First viewing, via DVD

Earlier this week I read that Ian McKellen cried a little while filming a scene on The Hobbit when forced to act alongside photos on a green screen stage rather than other actors, who were filmed separately and incorporated digitally in post-production. Reading that piece and reflecting on the past few months of money misspent at the multiplex seeing films best described as digital minestrone soups – X-Men: Apocalypse, Warcraft, Independence Day: Resurgence – made me unexpectedly receptive to the celluloid tactility of The Time Guardian. I don’t think it’s a great film by any means, but it’s unquestionably a film, with actors and sets and stunts and some grounding in rudimentary physics.

During the 1980s, tax incentives made financing Australian films more attractive to investors, resulting in some heavily Americanized, commercially overt hybrid offerings, like the Indiana Jones-esque Sky Pirates (dubbed by producer John Lamond “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Crap”) and The Return of Captain Invincible, a superhero musical comedy starring Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee. The Time Guardian, as Australia’s first moderately budgeted science-fiction action film, is cut from the same cloth. This shouldn’t be surprising; the film was produced by Antony Ginnane, long a champion of transatlantic-minded, culturally-unspecific genre fare (see Harlequin, Turkey Shoot etc) and funded in large part by Hemdale, the British company behind The Terminator (and clearly wanting more of that Terminator money). But to its credit the film, made at and near Hendon Studios in South Australia, acknowledges and incorporates its Australian origins.

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