Condorman (1981) – Charles Jarrott

This week’s spy movie is a film that should have worked, if it had a tighter script, and a better effects budget. Disney delivers a superhero spy movie that feels like a family-friendly version of From Russia With Love.

Micheal Crawford stars in this film, and that was the thing that originally caught my attention as a kid, as I was a huge fan of his British series, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. He was a lovable, accident prone goof in the series, and this film wanted to use some of that, and saddle him with an unnecessary American accent.

So knowing this one was coming, I remember ordering the novelisation from Scholastic Books, and absolutely delighting in it, and honestly, I think the book may have been my first real introduction to the spy genre.

Unfortunately the visual effects of the film couldn’t match the ones in my mind, and despite a pretty solid cast including Oliver Reed as the villain, Barbara Carrerra, James Hampton, Dana Elcar and Jean-Pierre Kalfon. The film also has a score by Henry Mancini.

Crawford is Woody Wilkins, an artist and comic book creator and writer, whose prime character, Condorman, is a bit of an alter ego for Woody. When he gives his friend Harry (Hampton), who works for the CIA (in France?) a bit of a hand with a courier job, he gets a taste for spycraft, and poses as Condorman.

In the course of his courier work, he encounters Natalia (Carrera) a Russian agent. After the mission, she has a rough encounter with her KGB superior, Krokov (Reed) and decides she is going to defect. But only if the agent who goes by the name Condorman.

When Harry and his superior, Devlin (Elcar) approach Woody about doing this, he suddenly claims its not his thing, which is kind of out of place considering what happened on the courier mission. But perhaps he was only playing tough to get things the way he wanted.

He gets outfitted with everything that Condorman would have, a souped up spy car, a costume, gadgets, and more. And like spy films, there are chases, fisticuffs, romance, and exotic locales. But it kind of stumbles because of the poor script, and not letting Crawford work without the accent.

That, and the truly horrid special effects, even for the time. I mean you can even see the wires when they make Condorman fly. This is such a could have been, Disney was definitely betting on it as they had plans for a sequel before the film was even released.

But it flopped, badly, and is one of those forgotten Disney films. If only some attention had been paid to a stronger script, and maybe a more action oriented director, this could have been something really cool.

I don’t even know if this film has a cult following or not, or just been forgotten. It’s not like The Black Hole, which has garnered a huge following, this one seems to have vanished, and for better or worse, that may, in fact, be a good thing.

But it’s also ripe for a remake! Call me Disney!

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