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"Have you seen this report on this Condorman? On this man Wilkins? He is an amateur, do you hear? He is not an agent of the CIA! He is a writer of comic books!"—Krokov, Chewing the Scenery as usual.
A 1981 Disney live-action spoof of the classic Spy Fiction genre, Condorman follows the exploits of the hapless Woodrow "Woody" Wilkins (Michael Crawford), a comic book writer who is determined to bring his titular superhero to fame by refusing to write anything that he can't actually do in real life. To that end, he sets out to perfect a set of wings that he can fly around town with. He also convinces his friend Harry, a CIA Desk Jockey, to let him go on a courier mission where he meets with a Russian spy. Naturally he's ridiculously out of place, but still manages to pull it off.
When that same spy, Natalia (Barbara Carrera), passes word to the CIA that she wishes to defect, but only to their top secret agent, Condorman, puzzlement ensues until Harry admits to his boss Russ that he let Woody take the mission. They reluctantly ask Woody to escort Natalia, but in return he insists that they help him bring his comic book creations to life. Thus begins a merry romp around Europe as Woody and Natalia are pursued by agents of the KGB determined to get her back at any cost, complete with car chases, boat chases, cable car chases, improbable disguises, Stuff Blowing Up, and a daring rooftop escape scene.
This movie contains examples of the following tropes:
- Animated Credits Opening: A cutesy animated Condorman zooming across the screen, with the titles following in his wake.
- Arab Oil Sheikh: Used as a disguise by the heroes.
- Ascended Fanboy: Woody, who goes from writing Condorman to being Condorman.
- Big Bad: Krokov, Natalia's boss.
- Cardboard Prison: The jail that Woody and Natalia get taken to after their capture by police holds them for about as long as it takes Harry to get there with a Wig, Dress, Accent.
- Chase Scene: Lots and lots of chase scenes.
- Cloak and Dagger: Both the CIA and KGB act this way because of Woody's involvement, despite Russ and Harry's protests that they don't do that kind of stuff.
- Chained Heat: Woody and Natalia, briefly.
- Comic Books Are Real: Woody thinks so, or at least that they should be, and in thinking so, actually makes it happen.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Woody's "disguise" for the first mission where he meets Natalia. It's as comically ineffective as it sounds, but ironically forces Woody to attempt to be a Badass, impressing her enough that she falls for him.
- Cool Boat: The Condorman speedboat used in the final chase scene.
- Cool Car: The Condorman racecar used in the first chase scene. Seeing a pattern yet?
- Defector From Commie Land: Natalia...
- Defector From Decadence: ... who is defecting basically because she can't stand Krokov. Since he apparently veers between an abusive father figure and a jealous lover, it's understandable.
- Easy Come, Easy Go: Quoted verbatim by Harry as his stolen car sinks into the ocean.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: In the car chase scene, every bad guy vehicle except The Dragon's blows up spectacularly. And again in the boat chase scene.
- Famous Last Words: Just before the Easy Come, Easy Go...
Harry: "Oh, Russ, if you could see me now!"
- Fanfare: Particularly as the music build up to a chorus singing the film title.
- Fire-Breathing Diner: The effect of the triple Istanbul Express on Woody.
- The Fool: Woody comes close to this character type in the beginning. It takes nearly getting killed and apparently losing Natalia for good before he starts taking things seriously.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: A speedboat equipped with a laser cannon... whee!!
- Gargle Blaster
Waiter: "One Istanbul Express."
Woody: "Yes, a double."
Waiter: "A double? Nobody orders the double, sir!"
Woody: "Okay. Make it a triple."
- High Heel Face Turn: All the other cast members are male, so it's not hard to see where this is going. Unlike most examples, however, it occurs near the start of the film and subsequently drives the plot.
- I Just Want to Be Badass: Woody's motivation throughout the first half of the story is to prove to the world that he can be Condorman -- or rather, that Condorman can be real. This despite being a comic book writer with absolutely no experience in combat or espionage. Later, Natalia's capture forces him to get serious about the mission and put Natalia's safety over his own dreams, which ironically causes him to fully embrace the Condorman persona.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The KGB goons studied here, especially in the scene where they can't hit the gliding Condorman suit from about thirty feet away. Of course, it could be Immune to Bullets, but no such indication is given, and Natalia's riding on the back anyway; if anyone's getting hit, it's her.
- Jumped At the Call: Woody, to the point of grabbing the call when it was not even meant for him in the first place.
- Non-Action Guy: Harry, and Woody for that matter. Lacking any Badass credentials, he manages to be an action hero through sheer chutzpah.
- Not Quite Flight: The Condorman suit. It glides, and not all that badly after the bugs have been worked out. Its first test flight doesn't go so well, though, with a collapsed wing dumping Woody into the Seine (a stunt that almost killed Michael Crawford).
- Psycho for Hire: Morovich, Krokov's Dragon.
- Reflecting Laser: That bounces off of choppy water. Cool!
- Shown Their Work: The comic book art actually looks like comic books in the 1970s.
- Show Within a Show: Woody's comics.
- Sidekick: Harry.
- Something Only They Would Say: "If you bring the dip..." used by Natalia to indicate that her apparent change of heart is not what it seems.
- Spy Fiction: Woody believes in the Martini Flavored variety, but he's in a Stale Beer world. Hilarity Ensues.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Cars. And boats. Lots of cars and boats.
- Time for Plan B: Used more or less literally after Woody and Natalia get captured by police.
- Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Played with -- Krokov is at a loss to figure out why "Condorman" is running around with all those crazy gadgets (and foiling his plans to boot) until he gets his hands on Woody's comic books, leading to the page quote.
- Wig, Dress, Accent: The Arab Oil Sheikh disguises, and Harry's "police inspector" disguise.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Woody, at first. What's interesting is that, due to his presence, everyone else starts behaving like it's the kind of Cloak and Dagger story that Woody thinks it is.