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  Condorman I'm Like A Bird
Year: 1981
Director: Charles Jarrott
Stars: Michael Crawford, Oliver Reed, Barbara Carrera, James Hampton, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Dana Elcar, Vernon Dobtcheff, Robert Arden
Genre: Comedy, Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 3 votes)
Review: Woody Wilkins (Michael Crawford) is a comic book artist who dreams of becoming a genuine superhero like the one he draws, and to that end he has designed himself his own special outfit which he has donned today as Condorman himself. He is perched on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and with the help of his wingspan he hopes to fly over the city, as monitored by his friend, C.I.A. pen pusher Harry Oslo (James Hampton), but things don't go according to plan and after gliding off the structure, Woody ends up landing in the Seine, not the best start to a superhero's career...

Michael Crawford is of course a better Briton than Margaret Thatcher, and that has been scientifically proven. Back at the turn of the millennium, there was a poll on the BBC which was designed to list the hundred greatest Britons in order of popularity, and Michael came one place ahead of Maggie, so there's your evidence. Not that it was movies such as Condorman which really cemented his position in such surveys, although on paper it sounded like a pretty good idea, after all what kid doesn't like the idea of a comedy superhero? Yet it's a concept that the movies have had trouble making wholly successful for some reason.

This was one of the British Disney films, and joined a catalogue of poorly received efforts from the company from around this time, especially as regarded their live action unit. Crawford must have hoped the film would make him a star around the world, but he found his role as Frank Spencer in sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em fulfilled that promise far better than this excursion did, and besides, he was about to become famous all over again in the eighties with his stage role as The Phantom of the Opera. So Condorman remains a neglected footnote in his career with the only fans of it the few who took the film to their hearts when they saw it as children, either at the cinema or more likely on television.

Condorman isn't really a superhero movie at all, it's actually a spy spoof, but one which wants to have its cake and eat it. It's all very well laughing at the antics of the bumbling Woody, but this also wants you to be wowed by the stunts and special effects, which falls down on both counts because the humour isn't very funny, and the special effects are obvious and a little shoddy, with only a few vehicle stunts taking off the way they were intended. This in spite of Crawford's usual insistence on performing his own daredevil action, which is good in that you can see it is really him doing it, but as the rest of this is frantic without being involving, the setting lets the star down.

Woody gets into the spy game when Harry is ordered by his boss to recruit a civilian to hand over some papers to the Soviets, here represented by Nicaraguan beauty Barbara Carrera, playing agent Natalia. Woody is understandably impressed by her, and after fending off some heavies in slapstick style they make an emotional connection which means he is drawn into a web of defection as she tries to join the West. However, that is not going to be easy because her old boss, Krokov, is relcutant to let her go; he was played by Crawford's old co-star from The Jokers, Oliver Reed, but not getting enough to do but scowl and thunder when his character's plans go awry. It's a pity that Condorman didn't succeed, because there's not a bad idea here, but its underwhelming nature can be summed up by the sequences where Woody gets to fly, as they convince nobody. Music by Henry Mancini.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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