A big thank you to Youtube user Oliver Harper who found this rare VHS footage recorded from the BBC in 1978. Film reviewer Barry Norman previews Superman: The Movie and later reviews it in a series of clips that also segues into several scenes from the UK premiere of the film, attended by Her Royal Highness, the Queen and her 18-year-old son, Prince Andrew.
Barry Norman’s brief review of the film is particularly interesting here, singling out Reeve as “gratifyingly good” and “built like a brick outhouse”!
Many of my friends grew up with a certain film series that happened in a galaxy far, far away. This is great for them, and I’m more than a little envious of the tales they tell of visits to the cinema to see each film in the original trilogy. That’s not me though, I’m just a little bit too young to have made that same connection with Star Wars and, whilst I love those films, I’m not as emotionally connected to them as other people are.
No, for me, the film that I have the deepest fondness for is Superman: The Movie.
I don’t recall exactly when I first saw Superman: The Movie but I know it wasn’t at the cinema, it was on TV, possibly when it premiered in Britain. To this point, I had no idea who Superman was, and so that first viewing sat with my mum and dad was something very special indeed. So special that I cried when Lois succumbed to the earthquake that would have Superman screaming to the heavens.
I know that I cried because my dad never lets me forget it. “Do you remember when you first watched Superman and you cried like a baby?” he asks whenever the Man of Steel enters into a conversation. I do remember, and that scene is still very emotionally powerful to me.
The Superman bug took hold after that early small-screen showing and has been with me ever since. I had Superman: The Movie Wallpaper for many years, I would fly around with a variety of capes whenever I could and I even went to see The Quest for Peace at the cinema. This was a young boy dedicated to the cause.
A few years later whilst my teenage angst and the separation of my parents were fighting for my attention, I reconnected with Superman: The Movie. As a 13-year-old, this film now made a lot more sense to me. I could really appreciate its many facets and, whilst I didn’t make any conciseness decisions at the time, I’m pretty sure those repeated plays of that VHS tape molded my psyche into what it is today.
Christopher Reeve became an idol to me. He couldn’t have been more perfect for that role and I hung on every mannerism, every smile, every selfless act performed as both Clark Kent and Superman. To this day, no matter how many Supermen take to the screens to portray that character, my mind instantly replaces them with Reeve and his passing in 2004 was a huge blow to me.
Equally, Margot Kidder owned the role of Lois Lane so completely that I was besotted with her. Her portrayal of a reporter was perfectly adequate but it was her relationship with Superman that really taught me what it meant to love somebody. Every time the two characters found screen time together, the film lit up and both were so much better for it.
The entire cast of the film is incredible really, when you think that this was truly the first big-budget superhero movie. To this day, I believe that Marlon Brando was a poor casting decision, but Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and Ned Beatty as his bumbling sidekick, Otis, was inspired. I don’t think that Hackman nailed that role in the same way that Reeve did but he was never anything less than magnificent as the villain of the piece and his interaction with Beatty and Valerie Perrine’s Eve Teschmacher is wonderful to watch.
Whilst I love the film as a whole, I usually skip the first act on repeated viewings. The early scenes on Krypton and those set in Smallville are so deeply embedded in my mind that I have little need to watch them now. I usually start watching as Clark Kent enters the Fortress of Solitude and Superman flies out. Forget his origin, what you really want to see is a Super Man, doing Super things, and from the moment the Daily Planet helicopter finds itself in trouble, you get non-stop Super thrills.
To finish, I really must mention the music. The John Williams score is obviously iconic to a great many people but to me it was more than that, it was the music that really got me interested in soundtracks as a genre. The Superman theme is a clear highlight but the themes of Krypton, Love, the Fortress and the March of the Villains are all amazing compositions and, in my opinion, are amongst Williams’ best work.
Superman: The Movie remains as a big film in my life. I don’t have the VHS tape now, replaced by shiny discs in a collectors box and as my two young boys grow up, I hope that they will both love the original outing as much I do. If not, I guess I’d settle on them enjoying the more recent Man of Steel outing.
Did you know that the Christopher Reeve era Superman films had tie-in board games released? I didn’t, so when I stumbled upon some pictures of them recently, I needed to know more.
Sadly the internet has failed me in my quest for knowledge. Other than an image to prove its existence, I can’t find any information about the first movie game. The game looks terrible though, perhaps explaining why the game seems to have released only in Greece!
Thankfully, Superman 2 from MB in 1981 looks like a better effort, tasking you with capturing the three villain’s from the film and getting to the Fortress of Solitude.
The 1983 Parker Brothers board game for Superman 3 is probably the most interesting. It has the “III” logo and states that it is based on the movie but as far as I can see, the game artwork is based on comics and I see no sign of Richard Pryor or anything else from the film!
As far as I can tell, Superman IV’s Quest for Peace didn’t receive a board game. I suspect that is why Nuclear Man above is so upset? Possibly.
More information about these and other Superman board games can be found at BoardGameGeek.com.
Images for the games above are from a collection posted by someone calling themself Titanfan. Their Super-Hero Game Collection is amazing and I’ll certainly be posting more from the collection in the future!
While they continue to make Superman movies, for many of us, only one Superman will do. That is Christopher Reeve in the 1978 film. A big old thanks to the always impressive Mike Sterling at the just as equally impressive Mike Sterling’s Progressive Ruin Blog for posting this wonderful scan of a Superman Trading Card from the 1978 film. The card features Reeve not as Superman, but as the lovable Ace Reporter, Clark Kent.
What a smirk! How can anyone else ever be Superman?
If you love comic book related news and humor, make sure to follow the link up top to visit Mike’s blog. He likes Swamp Thing as well…so it shows that he is a good guy!
Although I don’t recall seeing “Superman: The Movie” in the theater (I was in utero at the time), I like to think that the experience planted the seed of my life-long fandom for the Last Son of Krypton. I vividly remember running around the house as a boy, wearing a bath towel for a cape and a t-shirt emblazoned with the iconic “S”-shield. I ate Superman peanut butter. I owned a die-cast Superman rocket ship with spring-loaded fists. I was at the comic book store on that fateful Wednesday afternoon in 1992 when Superman fell in battle to Doomsday; I bought two copies of that issue, one of which is still safely stored in its black polybag.
My generation of geeks largely credit the original “Star Wars” as the impetus behind their love of the fantastic. I, however, must part ways with them and point to “Superman: The Movie” as my point-of-entry into science fiction fandom. And with the new Zack Snyder “Superman” reboot in pre-production, I think it’s time to take a look back at Richard Donner’s epic and influential 1978 film.
Born on the planet Krypton, baby Kal-El is sent to Earth in a rocketship moments before his homeworld is destroyed by its red sun. Kal-El’s space craft crashs on a Kansas farm, and he’s discovered by the childless Jon and Martha Kent, who take him in, call him Clark and raise him as though he was their own; Clark already demonstrates incredible powers as a toddler, which he derives from our yellow sun.
Years later, Jon dies suddenly of a heart attack, and Clark is compelled to leave home by a strange crystal he finds in his rocket ship. Clark journies to the Artic, where he builds the Fortress of Solitude — a crystal palace reminiscent of his homeworld — and learns about his true origins from a holographic representation of his Kryptonian father, Jor-El.
Then Clark moves to the bustling city of Metropolis and leads a double-life, working at the Daily Planet as the bumbling and bespectacled Clark Kent as well as fighting for “truth, justice and the American way” as the gravity-defying and immeasurably powerful Superman. His heroic alter-ego brings him to the attention of the lovely Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane, not to mention the self-described “greatest criminal mind of our time:” Lex Luthor.
Christopher Reeve’s inimitable performance as Clark Kent/Superman is often imitated (see Brandon Routh in “Superman Returns”), but 33 years on, it still remains *the* best cinematic representation of the character’s dual identities. There’s a marked difference in his physicality and voice, depending on when he’s Clark and when he’s Superman. He brings a lot of humor to Clark and vulnerability to Superman, which goes a long way into making the character accessable. People criticize Superman for being too perfect and difficult to relate to. But, Reeve’s approach to the character humanizes him.
Gene Hackman’s take on Lex Luthor has been criticized for being over-the-top, and yet, I find it to be a great counter-balance to Reeve’s understated Superman. Luthor is criminally brilliant. His “warped brain,” as Superman describes it, makes him more than a match for the Man of Steel. It’s Luthor who deduces Superman’s only weakness, Kryptonite, and masterminds a land grab involving two nuclear missiles. That he surrounds himself with noncompoops only serves to make him seem all the more intelligent by comparison.
Richard Donner’s direction is also noteworthy in that he tenaciously strove for “verisimilitude” during production, taking the proceedings seriously and not descending into camp. Under his guiding hand, the film spans galaxies and maintains a sense of realism despite its larger-than-life characters and comic book trappings. It doesn’t wink or pander. Unfortunately, Donner was released from his obligation to direct the first sequel during production (“Superman” and “Superman II” were shot simultaneously), and his absence can be felt in the follow-up. I count myself as a fan of “Superman II.” However, the film is tonally inconsistent.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing “Superman: The Movie” theatrically twice now at revival house screenings in Los Angeles. There’s nothing quite like John Williams’ fanfare over the opening titles, as the credits streak through the inifity of space. It’s a stirring theme that announces a film that I’ve literally been a life-long fan of.