Thursday, December 04, 2008

Live Action: "Captain Cold"

“Captain Cold” (April 6, 1991)

Writer: Gail Morgan Hickman
Story: Paul DeMeo & Gail Morgan Hickman
Director: Gilbert Shilton
Editor: Greg Wong

Synopsis: In the midst of a record-breaking summer heat wave, cutthroat crime boss Jimmy Swain prepares to take over the Central City underworld by eliminating his competitors. To that end he has hired the mysterious Captain Cold, a mercenary albino hit man wielding advanced weaponry capable of freezing his targets at subzero temperatures! When Swain contracts Cold to ice the Flash as well, the cold-blooded assassin becomes outright obsessed with ending the life of the fastest man alive.

Commentary: Another of the Flash’s famous foes is reinvented for the screen in “Captain Cold,” an episode that proves to be just about as much fun as you would expect given the fresh infusion of comic book inspiration. This story’s strength lies in its relative simplicity. Though the episode is padded by a pair of inoffensive subplots, the narrative’s focus is on an ongoing contest between the scarlet speedster and the icy assassin determined to destroy him, the sort of conflict that supported so many Silver Age adventures. Michael Champion brings a sort of dispassionate charm to the character of Captain Cold. To this day, Cold remains one of the Flash’s more well-drawn nemeses and his appearance on the television series is satisfying, barring one absurd and outright cartoonish scene in which he’s burdened with some laughable dialogue seemingly in an effort to exhaust all possible puns relating to the character’s frigid motif. The script manages to find some amusing and inventive ways for the villain to launch his attacks on unsuspecting victims; in the hands of Captain Cold, even a snow globe becomes a weapon. The episode’s special effects are noteworthy as they creatively combine lighting, make-up, and visual effects to represent the icy impact of the supervillain’s trademark cold gun. It’s nice to see noted character actor Jeffrey Combs guest star in the series as gangster Jimmy Swain, although he’s criminally underutilized in the story. A secondary storyline involving Officer Murphy’s attempts to cash-in on his memoirs proves to be more entertaining than another involving Lisa Darr as a ruthlessly ambitious reporter, so there are a few genuine laughs to be found amidst the bad puns as well. Like its predecessor “The Trickster,” this episode ultimately delivers just the sort of escapist entertainment you want from a television series based on a classic comic book. As you watch the Flash dodge blasts from Captain Cold’s ice ray, you can’t help but feel as if the series is at last attempting to make up for so many missed opportunities. In episodes such as this, the Rogues bring a sense of fun and adventure to The Flash that was distinctly absent from earlier installments. It’s a shame the series didn’t introduce them sooner.

High-Speed Highlight: Acting fast to save lives, the Flash runs in circles to create a frictional whirlwind in a desperate effort to defrost an ice-encrusted Central City bus before its encased occupants freeze to death inside!

Quotable: “There he was, the man who brought Central City to its knees, and there I was, Michael Francis Murphy, the cop who put law back in law and order! Only one of us was going to walk away from that so, suddenly… Aw, nuts. The truth is, I didn’t do anything. All I saw was a streak of red and a blaze of lightning.” --Officer Murphy nearly takes credit for Captain Cold’s comeuppance

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