Thursday, April 16, 2015

Guest Post - In Appreciation of: Condorman


Karen: Today our pal Edo revives the long-dormant "In Appreciation Of..." topic to take a look at a film I've always been curious about. Take it away, Edo...



Edo: I wanted to see this movie so much when it was first released in 1981, but never did at the time. It was also universally panned as I recall, and considered a big expensive flop for Disney. However, it has since become something of a cult favorite, and I’ve occasionally come across online rumors that there’s going to be a remake, or that Condorman will even be introduced to the Marvel Universe.

I only got a chance to watch it as an adult, just a few years ago, so my impressions were not colored by childhood nostalgia – I absolutely and unreservedly loved it. It is a light-hearted, cornball, action-packed, and above-all fun romp. What really makes this movie work so well for me is the naïve and goofy main character, a comic book writer/artist who gets caught up in an espionage caper, ably played by Michael Crawford (an actor I don’t think I’ve ever seen in anything else – apparently he’s better known in the UK). It also stars Barbara Carrera and Oliver Reed, both perfectly cast as the female lead and the hero’s eventual love interest and the villain, respectively.

Here’s a really well-done, in-depth review that pretty much echoes all of my own feelings about this movie:


The only point I would disagree on – and it’s something that appears in most descriptions – is when the reviewer calls Condorman a superhero movie. It’s actually more of a spoof of spy films that underscores the often outlandish nature of that genre by employing the trappings of the similarly outlandish superhero genre (and when I say ‘outlandish’ I mean it with the greatest affection). However, it’s those superhero trappings that drew me into this film almost instantly.

So who else has seen this movie, and what did you think? If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and do so – this is a thoroughly enjoyable Bronze Age cinematic gem.



14 comments:

Humanbelly said...

Wait a minute-- Michael Crawford?? As in, "Phantom of the Opera" Michael Crawford?? Biggest star (a couple of decades ago) of the London and Broadway stages- Michael Crawford?? Wow-- the poor guy just could neeeeever quite get that film career launched. And this would have been shortly before he hit it SO HUGE in that epic Andrew Lloyd Weber musical phenomenon. . . !

HB

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, yes, according to his Wikipedia entry, it is indeed the same Michael Crawford. Again, not being familiar with the theater scene, I knew nothing of this.

Colin Jones said...

HB, you may know him from 'Phantom' but in the '70s Michael Crawford was one of the biggest stars on British TV. He played a hapless character called Frank Spencer in 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em', a comedy show that was broadcast between 1973 and 1978. No impressionist was complete without doing a version of Frank Spencer dressed in his trademark raincoat and beret. Most of the episodes are on YouTube. But I'd never heard of this film before today.

Redartz said...

I was one of those who basically ignored this film when it was released. Based upon your recommendation, Edo, I'll have to seek this out for a look. Thanks for the tipoff!

david_b said...

I vaguely remember it coming out, but as Edo suggested, it would make for great light-weight viewing nowadays.

I only remember Michael Crawford from 'How I Won The War' with John Lennon, but I knew he was a fairly-prolific actor in the 60s/70s.

Dr. Oyola said...

I've never seen it, but as a kid I read the novelization, twice!

Humanbelly said...

Thanks Colin-- I'd forgotten that he was a major British television figure. My off-handed "poor guy" comment is certainly mis-applied, as he's had a very long, successful career-- just never made that one specific jump to full-fledged Hollywood movie star. Honestly, my initial familiarity with him (where I liked him quite a bit) was as young, comic/romantic supporting leads in a couple of late Hollywood Musical adaptations: Hero in FUNNY THING. . . FORUM, and Cornelius in HELLO DOLLY.

Maybe he's lucky CONDORMAN didn't catch on, as it could very well have had a "Dean Jones" effect on his career-- and turned him into yet another Disney-fied leading man whose career got left at the side of the highway. . .
The Wikipedia entry on the film surely makes it sound like it could almost have been re-worked (or salvaged from?) as a very late addition to the HERBIE THE LOVE BUG series.

HB

Edo Bosnar said...

Osvaldo, was there a separate novelization of the film? Because to the best of my knowledge, the movie itself was apparently loosely adapted from a novel called "The Game of X" by Robert Sheckley (who's a really good writer, by the way).

Dr. Oyola said...

Here is the only record of it I could find.

But there was also a comic adaptation, that now that I think of it, I think I also had.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yes, there was indeed a comic adaptation, published by Whitman. The GCD has some scant information on it.

Humanbelly said...

Shades of Greatest American Hero and Peter Frampton-! That massive crown of permed hair is a delightful trip down memory lane all by itself! (I checked out the GCD link, edo-- many thanks--)

The covers and photos do suggest a very "television" level of production, don't they? But that's not necessarily a harsh criticism. That was often part of the expected product with a lot of Disney live-action films from that era. It definitely casts its own charm.

HB

Anonymous said...

I saw this (on TV) when I was a kid, but I don't remember much about it, except that it was pretty goofy...I'd agree that it was meant as a spoof of the spy genre more than the superhero genre.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, the production values are actually pretty high - by that I mean they correspond to those of the high-budget Bond films of the time. Remember, Disney shoveled a ton of money into this. And that costume is supposed to look ridiculous; it is, after all, essentially a satirical movie.

Humanbelly said...

I bet I'm spoiled by how far FX have come in the intervening 30 or so years. I happened to catch some bits of the first two Superman films on television recently, and my first reaction was how hokey the spec.effects seemed-- when I distinctly remember being floored by them in the theater at that time. I do like the hokey costume-- it definitely fits the context of being the artist's design for his comic-book character. There's a refreshing honesty to that, and it's funny w/out being painfully condescending.

I'm trying to remember what Disney Studios were largely producing in the late 70's/early 80's. Were they somewhat adrift? It seems like it was a major dryspell for any quality animated features, certainly.

HB

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