We all love Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America, and more importantly, we all adore the recent Captain America movies that have been hitting the big screen since 2011--that includes The Avengers series as well, of course...
But did you know that the 2011 Captain America movie Captain America: The First Avenger, wasn't the first time that Steve Rogers had made it to the big screen? In fact, Steve Rogers as Captain America has been coming to the big screen, or, at least, to your television screen at home as early as the 1940s. Captain America first appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics, well, to be precise, in the pages of Timely Comics in March 1941. Timely Comics would serve as the predecessor to Marvel and Steve Rogers couldn't have come along at a better time in American history, whereas Rogers was created to combat the Nazi's, America was in the heat of the battle in Europe trying to stop Hitler and the Nazi storm troopers from taking over during World War II. Naturally, Captain America would be the most popular character for Marvel/Timely in the era in which he was created because of the war time interest and American patriotism.
So it is shouldn't come as no surprise that Hollywood would be interested in Rogers and the Captain America character right from its initial creation. What follows is five instances in Hollywood (and Turkey) history that saw Captain America realized for the big screen long before Disney and Marvel would cast actor Chris Evans as Steve Rogers.
Captain America: Serial (1944)
Film serials, in case you aren't familiar, were shortened miniature films that would play in the '30s, '40s, and early '50s during Saturday matinee screenings across the United States. Kids would spend all day at their local movie theaters and be treated to several serial stories one week, only to have to return the following week or month to see the continuation of that story itself. Film serials often ran about fifteen to thirty minutes in length and kids were treated to comic book characters brought to the big screen like Flash Gordon, Batman, Dick Tracy, Tarzan, and Captain America.
However, Captain America fans were upset at the time when the serial series began to appear in their local theaters, as Republic Pictures, the Hollywood studio behind it, famously, took liberties with Captain America that they probably shouldn't have. Obvious changes included the mysterious exclusion of Bucky and the Super-Solider Serum. Steve Rogers, was no longer Steve Rogers. His name was changed to District Attorney Grant Gardner. Ultimately, Republic Pictures got into many fights with Timely/Marvel Comics regarding these changes, but by the time that Timely/Marvel caught the wind, it was too late to stop the production of the serial.
3 Dev Adam (1973)
Also, know as 3 Giant Men or Captain America & Santo vs. Spider-Man, 3 Dev Adam was a Turkish adaptation of Captain America that was based on the Marvel characters created and made famous by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and a slew of other comic talents. It was not an authorized use of the Marvel character by any means, and yet, it was made and released in Turkey in the Fall of 973.
In 3 Dev Adam, Spider-Man is a bad guy who runs a criminal syndicate laundering fake US dollars. A police task force is assembled featuring Captain America, Santo (well known as being Mexico's most famous superhero/wrestler), and Captain America's girlfriend, Julie. Captain America, Julie, and Santo set out to break up Spider-Man's business, and in the process, we see Spider-Man kill some people. (Stan Lee couldn't even write this good!) At some point in the movie, it is revealed that there are actually four Spider-Men behind it all, and Santo and Captain America decide to go undercover to stop them all! It's all very crazy, and as you've surmised, nothing is faithful to the Marvel Comics Captain America or Spiderman storyline. But damn, it is fun.
Captain America (1990)
Lambasted at the time of its release for portraying Captain America as being too sensitive, Albert Pyun's movie was released directly to video and didn't make the big screen. Although the film had the full blessing of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics, fans of Captain America thought that the film took too many liberties with the comic storyline. Whereas, in Captain America: The First Avenger, the first hour is spent there exploring the origins of how Steve Rogers became Captain America, Pyun's film brilliantly presents the back story in about twenty minutes before it fast-forwards through Captain America's time fighting the Nazi baddies and re-starts in the wake of Steve Rogers being thawed out of ice. Pyun's Captain America is played by actor Matt Salinger, famous for his role in Revenge of the Nerds (1984), but also, as being the son of notoriously reclusive writer J.D. Salinger, who penned the influential novel, Catcher in the Rye.
Captain America (1979)
Made as a television movie in 1979, Captain America featured actor Reb Brown in the role of Steve Rogers. The film, as with all of the previous, took many liberties with the comic storyline and received mixed reviews on its television airing.
Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)
As television's Captain America (1979) received mixed reviews, kids tuned-in to CBS in early 1979 to watch it. The market share caused CBS to produce a sequel with Reb Brown returning as Rogers. Although, the occasional magazine ad promoting the airing on CBS advertised the film as starring "Red Brown," not "Reb" which is the actor's actual name.
However this time around, CBS split the movie up and aired it on the network as if it were a mini-series of sorts. They broke the film up into two one hour episodes which aired across two consecutive nights.
Death Too Soon featured actress Connie Sellecca (Greatest American Hero), actor Christopher Lee (Star Wars), and Lana Wood (actress and sister of actress Natalie Wood), and saw Rogers as Captain America fighting a gang who has been robbing people. All of this, while, in the background, a terrorist is plotting a war which Captain America must stop before it starts.
In the wake of the success of Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, both Captain America (1979) and Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979) was released officially onto DVD, whereas, prior to the release of the Chris Evans movie, fans of Captain America were forced to source these Captain America movies out via low-grade VHS copies or DVD-R bootlegs.