Albert Pyun, the prolific director of low-budget B-movies ranging from “The Sword and the Sorcerer” to “Cyborg” to a 1992 direct-to-video version of “Captain America,” died Saturday at age 69, according to a Facebook post from his wife and producer, Cynthia Curnan.
“I sat with him for his last breath that sounded like he was releasing the weight of the world,” Curnan wrote. Several years ago, Pyun was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and dementia.
Born in Hawaii, Pyun got his start in film after meeting Japanese star Toshiro Mifune, who brought him to Japan to intern on a TV series he was doing. After working as a commercial film editor for several years, he then moved to Los Angeles and took his shot on the 1982 low-budget fantasy film called “The Sword and the Sorcerer.”
The film became a low-budget smash, grossing $39 million and earning Richard Lynch a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor. It also earned Pyun the attention of mainstream Hollywood studios. He was briefly attached to direct “Total Recall” for Universal, and did direct the John Stockwell-Carey Lowell thriller “Dangerously Close” (1986) and the Carey Lowell thriller “Down Twisted” (1987) for Menahem Golan’s Cannon Films.
Pyun followed those films with the martial arts cyberpunk hit “Cyborg” (1989), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a mercenary in a post-apocalyptic America. The film grossed $10 million in theaters but proved even more successful on home video, where it developed a cult following that justified two sequels.
In 1990, Pyun directed “Captain America,” a loose retelling of the Marvel Comics superhero’s origin story starring Matt Salinger (the son of reclusive writer J.D. Salinger). The film became mired in legal rights issues and was released on cable TV and direct-to-video in 1992.
In the 1990s, Pyun continued to direct low-budget genre fare like “Kickboxer 2” that seldom won over critics though they consistently turned a profit. He also worked with up-and-coming actors like Teri Hatcher, Charlie Sheen and Rob Lowe.
By the 2000s, he frequently turned to older actors such as Steven Seagal and Dennis Hopper, stars of the 2001 action film “Ticker,” or Kevin Sorbo and Michael Paré in the 2010 fantasy “Tales of an Ancient Empire.” He completed his final film, “Interstellar Civil War” starring Kenzie Phillips in 2017.