Film - Condorman


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's Steve Taylor-Bryant talking about Condorman...

Before Kevin “I shit gold every morning” Feige and his Disney chequebook reinvented the superhero franchise, Disney were only known for a mouse with big ears, a duck with a speech impediment and an overbearing, singing nanny (yes, Poppins, I’m looking at you). But at least they tried. The 1980’s was not the best decade for Disney films but it is perhaps the comic book genre that was actually their saving grace. Condorman was a great concept from the very beginning and unlike any other origin story. We had seen Superman as a baby sent off into space but nothing about how the character had made it to paper in the first place. With Condorman we got to see both the paper and the reality of the birth of a superhero.

Michael Crawford (Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and The Phantom of the Opera) plays eccentric comic book creator Woodrow “Woody” Wilkins who demands some realism for the characters he creates in his comic books. His latest character is Condorman is the catalyst for Woody for create. He makes himself a flying Condor suit and launches himself off the Eiffel Tower in Paris but after a wing breaks he lands in the River Seine. Woody has a friend who works for the C.I.A. and he is asked to travel to Istanbul to meet a Russian civilian and do an exchange of documents. Whilst meeting his Russian counterpart, Natalia Rambova (Barbara Carrera, Never Say Never Again), he invents an identity for himself as an actual Government Agent codename: Condorman, and accidentally and luckily saves her life. Rambova is actually KGB and wants to flee her lover and handler Krokov (Oliver Reed, my hero and a man I once pretended to be as a drink and venue reviewer for a local newspaper). To defect to the United States though Rambova wants to ensure her safety and so Condorman The Spy has to be drafted back in.


Woody, meanwhile, is creating another comic character based on his Istanbul exploits with the lovely Rambova, and dreams up Laser Lady. He is initially against going to Yugoslavia (yes the film is that old it has countries that don’t exist anymore in it. I am also old as I have also been to Yugoslavia) to bring in a spy codename: The Bear, but when he finds out it is Rambova he agrees on the condition that the agency makes him some gadgets based on his own comic book ideas. Woody drags in his boss Harry Oslo (James Hampton, Teen Wolf) and they successfully evade Krokov and his henchman Morovich (Jean-Pierre Kalfon, The Ray Bradbury Theatre) the first time but fail on the Russian’s second attempt when they snatch back Rambova. Harry and Woody, distraught at losing his love, are sent back to Paris as failures but Woody want’s one last shot at saving her and begs for another chance.


Harry and Woody trace Rambova and her captures to Monte Carlo and disguise themselves as ultra-rich Arab Sheiks and cause a diversion in the casino allowing Woody in full Condorman regalia to fly Rambova and himself to the docks where they make themselves an escape on the Condorboat.

The above synopsis does not do the film justice. In a world that was relatively CGI free it was so refreshing to watch the film back and see how the stunts and action still held their own against today’s sometimes monstrous set pieces. The mixture of comic creator and superhero in one character was a fantastic idea and adding in a bumbling wannabe spy was genius. Crawford, himself a stuntman/actor of some repute was superbly cast bringing his stage timing from theatre and comedic sensibilities from Some Mothers to the big screen in such an impacting way. I was six when the film first came out and as I approach my fortieth birthday, Condorman is still the superhero I most identify with and want to be.


Part James Bond spoof, part dreamer ideal, Condorman is as good today as it was in 1981 and in a world of reboots probably not far from being reimagined, but even with perfect casting, superb direction and Oscar worthy writing you will never get the feel of the original. Bravo Mr. Crawford, well done Mr. Reed, you have made a man-child very happy for so many years.

Images - Amazon and IMDb

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