My Young Man brought a copy of The Winter Soldier to watch - which was very good indeed - and while shopping in HMV in Hereford he came across a triple bill of earlier Captain America films for a ridiculously low price, so we had a look to compare.
The first one we watched was Captain America (the Original Avenger) from 1990. However, I watched it under the impression that it had been made in the 1970s, which kind of coloured my judgement (mostly to judge it less harshly).
It would have helped if Steve Rogers could act. But it wouldn't have helped much, because the storyline didn't really resemble anything from the comics, and was pretty convoluted anyway.
The first part of the film was basically the story of the more recent, Chris Evans, Captain America film, from Steve becoming Captain America to crashing into the snows of Alaska. Trouble is, they didn't take the time to show Steve, a civilian with a limp due to childhood polio, getting any training at all. They just slapped a parachute on his back and a shield in his hand and threw him out of a plane.
Because the Red Skull was now an Italian piano prodigy kidnapped by Mussolini to be injected with his super-soldier serum - the lady scientist having changed sides to give the same stuff to Steve, in a secret base under a diner. Bill Mumy, very smart in uniform, appeared for about five seconds here.
So Steve is thawed out, and the kid who saw him save the White House in 1942 is now the President, and the kid's best friend is now a newspaper editor, and Steve is pursued through the woods of Canada by hot Italian babes on motorbikes....
They actually went to Italy for location work for the end of the film, and the locations were lovely.
So then we watched the one that really was from 1979, Captain America (Sentinel of Liberty). It helped that this Steve Rogers could act, but it didn't help much. This one has a cut-price Oscar Goldman (who looks as though he would have been played by Henry Darrow if they'd had a bigger budget) trying to recruit Steve for the FLAG project (their name for the super-soldier serum). Very sensibly, Steve says no - he wants to go off touring America in his van with a motorbike in the back, to work on his art. He ends up being injected anyway, after mysterious bad guys try to kill him, and the serum, of course, is the only thing that will save his life. Also, his father (according to cut-price Oscar Goldman) was the original Captain America, and an all round good guy, and doesn't Steve want to be like his dad?
Thanks, but no thanks, says Steve - but he still ends up riding a souped up motorbike around, with the shield as a detachable windscreen, and foiling the bad guys' plans to blow up a gold depository with a neutron bomb. And all without killing anyone, because this was clearly a pilot episode for a TV series aimed at kids.
They didn't get a TV series, possibly because Captain America wasn't doing anything that the Six Million Dollar Man couldn't do, but there was enough interest in the project for it to get a second film.
We haven't seen that one yet. We've seen quite enough riding around the California countryside on a motorbike already.