Saturday, February 11, 2017

Condorman ( 1981 )

Cartoonist Woody Wilkins ( Michael Crawford ) strives for realism when creating his comic books and would never write an adventure that he, himself, did not experience. So, when his friend Harry ( James Hampton ) gives him the opportunity to act as a courier for a CIA assignment, Woody jumps at the chance to try something new for his best-selling superhero comic, "Condorman". This simple task of passing papers tumbles into a full-blown mission when the beautiful agent ( Barbara Carerra ) he is expected to meet requests his help in defecting from Russia. 

"Come on, Woody, it's just a simple defection...." - Harry

"Simple defection for you, maybe! I just delivered some *simple* papers to Istanbul! Nearly got shish-ka-bobbed by three Turkish behemoths!"  - Woody

Walt Disney Productions really knew how to create fun family films and, in Condorman, they captured all the features you would want to see in a comic adventure : non-stop action, diabolic villains, a little romance and humor, and loads of gadgets and explosions. The movie is based upon Robert Sheckley's "The Game of X" and was filmed in beautiful locales all over France, Monaco, and Switzerland. Henry Mancini composed a gloriously campy opening theme for the film, as well as some wonderful background music. 
British-actor Michael Crawford ( of The Phantom of the Opera fame ) obviously had a blast playing the All-American Woody Wilkins. He gave Woody plenty of fool-hardy spunk and that "Zowie!" attitude that you would imagine a comic book creator to have. Crawford also performed all of his own stunts ( impressive! ), nearly drowning himself, too, when he fell into the river Seine after jumping off of the Eiffel Tower. The strength of the water current was miscalculated and he was dragged five to ten feet underwater before lifeguards came to his rescue in the nick of time. 

Barbara Carrerra looked stunning as Natalia, the Russian spy whom Woody must rescue from the clutches of Krokov ( portrayed by the Great Ham - Oliver Reed ). She looked like the ideal Bond girl and comic book heroine rolled into one. Incidentally, this part led to Carerra being cast as "Fatima Blush" in the unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again ( 1983 ). 
Like most of the Disney films made prior to 1990, the "crooks" are not bumbling idiots but dangerous men bent on destroying our hero. It is only Woody who enjoys the entire defection process, heedless of the life-threatening danger he is involved in. Foolish confidence can accomplish wonders! 

Krokov goes to great lengths to bring back his prize KGB agent but time and again he is foiled by the cartoonist's wild assortment of gadgets, taken straight from his very own Condorman comics. Academy Award winning special effects artist Colin Shilvers created these comic book inventions which include a wild-firing machine gun/walking stick, laser cannon, floating car, jet rods to ride the cable on the Matterhorn, and those unreliable Condorman wings. 
Condorman also gives us a little peek at the life of a comic book artist. In one scene in particular, Woody does a marvelous sketch of his newest creation, Laser Lady, based upon Natalia. 

Disney was expecting a huge box-office success with Condorman and so they pulled out all the stops and spared no expense in its production. It is almost painful to see the amount of machines they destroyed for this film.... Porsches and Rolls Royces were exploded or thrown into the water as though they were plastic models, a fleet of stealth speedboats were wrecked with abandon, and helicopters were bombed in mid-air. 
Unfortunately, Condorman also bombed upon its release. Who knows what was capturing kids' attention during the summer of 1981, but they obviously did not enjoy this all-out superhero spoof. The few fans of the film have now become Condormanologists, collecting memorabilia from the movie at comic-cons, introducing the film to their children, and waiting for the day when this film will receive its blu-ray release. 

2 comments:

  1. I remember seeing the trailer for this at the beginning of some movie we watched on VHS in the '80s. The trailer made me laugh, but I never saw the movie.

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    Replies
    1. Seeing it as an adult, you may not find it as entertaining as if you grew up with it, but it's still a fun film and sure packs in a lot of action!

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