So Captain America was in WWII in THE FIRST AVENGER, he’ll be revived in 2012 in THE AVENGERS, but what did he do in between? And specifically I’m talking about in the ’70s?
If your answer is “he was frozen in Antarctica or whatever” you’re wrong. Actually him and his Mexican wrestling associate El Santo went to Turkey to try to stop Spider-man and his girlfriend’s string of murders, counterfeiting and antiquities fraud – an out of control “doing whatever a spider can” spree. It’s a little known chapter in Marvel Comics history that fuckin Nick Fury and all those guys don’t want you to know about. But you deserve to know the truth, and that’s why I’m telling you about the 1973 Turkish film 3 DEV ADAM (or THREE MIGHTY MEN).
The Spider-man of the ’70s is very different from the one you remember from the other movies. I don’t know if this is the Tobey Maguire Spider-man when he’s older, or the Andrew Garfield. I don’t know if this is the after effects of the evil jazz dance from part 3, or if he just gets bitter as he gets older and spends more time overseas. All I know is that in the opening scene he’s on a beach and he has his henchmen stick a woman’s face into a boat motor like that guy at the end of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. He’s skinnier than we’ve ever seen him and he wears normal pants with a belt to hold them up (skull belt buckle) and his eyebrows have gotten so long they stick out of the eyeholes on his mask like a cat’s whiskers. He does not use webs anymore and he does climb up the side of a house once and in some rafters another time, but not in ways that only a man bitten by a radioactive spider could. He’s in bad shape mentally, physically and super-powerly, but people must still like him, because they just call him “Spider” for short. Like he’s their bud.
He’s not their bud.
That’s why the Turkish authorities gotta call in Captain America, El Santo and some lady to put a stop to it. He meets them at the airport to make sure they’re able to get through customs, but they don’t have as much trouble as I assumed they would because they show up unmasked. This is bullshit, because El Santo would never take off his mask in public. Everybody knows that he wears a suit, tie and mask even when he goes grocery shopping or walking his dog. I don’t know how they think they can get away with calling this guy El Santo. I mean I can accept every other aspect of this movie but having El Santo show his face is just too much, this is ridiculous.
They’re out of costume for alot of the movie, which kind of makes it harder to keep track of who’s who. But they wear the costumes whenever they chase after Spider-man.
“Why are you putting on masks and outfits during duty?” the Turkish guy asks.
“Spider is a child minded lunatic,” Captain America explains. “He always wears a mask. When he sees someone else wearing a mask he wants to destroy them. My special outfit is bullet proof.”
Yeah, sure Cap. You don’t normally like wearing that costume. You’re only doing it because Spider-man is so immature. Real strong argument there, pal.
Their Turkish contact explains that “the Spider” is in town supposedly for a fashion show (a bunch of models in a living room together taking turns walking in the middle and turning around) but really it’s a cover for a plot where he’s selling antiques to rich people and then buying them back using counterfeit money. I don’t think he mentions the more important fact that he’s going around spying on women or couples in the shower and then strangling them. That seems like the more significant crime in my opinion.
Spider-man is actually a real pervert and psychopath. He has one consensual sex scene and even that one cuts away to random reaction shots of creepy puppets. He tortures one of his own men by sticking his face up to a pipe and sending starved mice through. At least he calls them mice in the subtitles, but they’re portrayed by guinea pigs. Deadly, face-eating guinea pigs.
So Spidey’s not really relying on his powers anymore, but neither is Captain America. It takes both him and El Santo to lift up the back of a car in one part, that doesn’t sound like a super soldier to me. On the other hand there’s a part where he pulls a classic Jason Voorhees move, busting his hands through a wall to strangle a guy. That part did make me proud to be an American.
Like Spidey, Cap looks awfully skinny these days, but he’s pretty energetic. The fight scenes are goofy but actually kind of impressive with the amount of scrambling around they do in continuous shots – punching, wrestling, flipping each other over, jumping onto tables, breaking furniture on people’s heads, swinging from things above. Cap chases Spidey through a graveyard and surprises one of those winos that’s always sitting around when something crazy goes by. Santo fights a studio full of what he accurately refers to as “karate guys.”
The two of them also get in a big burlesque club brawl as part of a plan which is described as “We’ll fight till Julia sees it. Then we pretend to have fainted.” (If they do end up pretending to faint I didn’t catch it.)
Despite the incorrect mask etiquette, the guy playing El Santo looks credible in the costume. Out of the mask he’s a long-haired hunky guy who wears a weird shoulder shawl thing, not like I ever imagined El Santo. This guy seems fond of himself except when he does a shower scene still wearing his underwear. Not a high school gym flashback, just alone where he’s staying. It’s weird.
My favorite part is a big fight scene in a small house. Captain America will be really going at it with Spider-man for a long continuous shot, then there’s an edit and all the sudden it’s El Santo fighting Spider-man. It keeps jumping around in kind of a confusing way that I thought was just poor editing, but then it turns out it’s cutting between two different rooms and there are two Spider-mans. Very clever.
I’m kind of interested in the concept of copyright. I feel like there’s some grey area in there that isn’t always acknowledged. Especially after the era of pop art and the modern age of remixing, sampling, mashing and referencing and all that shit. I think there’s a cultural value to being able to use iconography and references as the raw material for new works of art that is sometimes squashed by companies zealously protecting their “intellectual property.” These are ideas and creations made by artists, sometimes long dead, who no longer benefit from the selling of their works, it’s just “property” of some corporation now. Like I always like to say, the masterpieces of late ’80s, early ’90s hip hop like It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, Paul’s Boutique and 3 Feet High and Rising could never have been released if today’s copyright law had been in place at the time. There’s an artistic debate about what constitutes music or art, but the winner of the argument is not necessarily gonna be the artists that need protection, it’s gonna be the companies with money that want more money. And you end up in a situation where George Clinton finds out he’s suing friends of his who sampled his recordings that somebody else controls. It can be ridiculous.
But I don’t know a solution to that and I’m not a copyright anarchist. In my opinion I’m some kind of artist myself, and if I can ever pay the rent doing what I love (writing down words in a specific order that communicates shit out of my brain into yours) then I’ll do it. I don’t want some motherfucker giving away my books for free without my permission because I like this system we got in place where I can get money by selling them. For that reason I generally avoid the illegal downloads and shit like that, as a matter of honor.
Turkish copyright law I think has changed since the days of 3 DEV ADAM, but it’s kind of crazy that back then they could just use these famous icons as they pleased, counterfeiting them like Spider-man does money. In the U.S. there were decades of legal battles, through development of a Cannon version and a James Cameron version before we finally got Sam Raimi doing the first official movie version of Spider-man. In Turkey they just sewed a costume and did it.
I wonder if they even knew what they were doing to Spider-man? I thought that was a character that was known throughout the world, but it seems like they must’ve just seen a picture of him and assumed that since he was a spider he must be a bad guy and pervert. (or maybe this is based on a famous graphics novel, that’s probly what it was)
It would be weird if this type of thing was allowed in the modern U.S. Remember when Tarantino wanted to adapt the James Bond book Casino Royale? He couldn’t because the Broccoli family, who inherited the rights, insist on controlling the James Bond “franchise.” That could’ve been something if he could’ve just ignored them and made it. Or I’m sure there are plenty of people who could’ve made a more interesting FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel than some of the official ones. And maybe the studios with all the money wouldn’t be so obsessed with remaking all the titles they own, because they wouldn’t own them. Maybe they’d be looking for people to create new things instead of just taking temporary control of a brand name.
Also we could get a big budget remake of this with Chris Evans, Tobey Maguire and Rey Mysterio Jr. It might be a new renaissance.
But that’s a fantasy. More likely we’d just get alot of amateurish movies like this, released in theaters instead of on Youtube and at comic strip conventions. Asylum would be less clever in their naming, pornos would be able to remove “This Ain’t” and “Official Parody” from their titles, and Uwe Bolle and that guy that does the serial killer movies would make sequels to whatever hit movies they wanted. It wouldn’t be that great.
I’m not really a huge fan of laughing at these crappy old movies where the appeal is mostly just the strangeness and the befuddling cultural differences. It’s hard for a person from my culture and time to wrap their head around what they were trying to do with this movie, and that makes it interesting. But for the most part it’s more fun to just know about them, see some clips and look at the poster, than to actually sit down and watch them. But I did for this one and I don’t regret it. So if you come across the DVD somewhere maybe give it a shot.
CAPTAIN AMERICA, EL SANTO AND SPIDER-MAN WILL RETURN IN ULI LOMMEL’S BOURNE ARMAGEDDON.
Information that’s really more for me than for you: There’s a scene at a burlesque club where a girl is doing a sexy dance silhouetted behind a screen, along with a guy pretending to play drums as if performing live music. It was a song I’d heard a million times but I couldn’t remember where. It’s been bugging me and going through my head for days. But just now I figured it out, it’s “Source No. 3 (Caffe Reggio),” from the original SHAFT. So the loose copyright law helped them have good soundtracks too. None of that “I couldn’t get the rights to the song on the temp score” shit.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.