The Magic Under The Cape…

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It may have taken over thirty years to clarify but when Perry White confronts his Daily Planet staff about the mysterious ‘flying whatchamacallit’ and asks “What does he keep hidden under that cape of his??  Batteries!?”  The answer, most emphatically, is yes.

Courtesy of SuperFan Steve Lumsdon comes yet another SUPERMANIA exclusive and tribute to the ingenuity of special effects craftsmen of yesteryear.  Pictured above is the finest reference to date of the legendary ‘Cape Flapping’ device built by Colin Chilvers & Co. to simulate convincing movement whilst ‘in flight”.  The mechanism was created out of necessity to control the flow of the cape whilst star Christopher Reeve was suspended on the infamous ‘Pole Arm’ or wire flying rig.

Operated by remote control, the custom unit consisted of a motor and battery pack housed in an aluminum box which was mounted on Reeve’s back by a velcro attachment (third pic).  When activated, the motor would drive the umbrella-like poles (covered in cape fabric to blend seamlessly into folds) up & down at random to create ripples.  Besides the full-size version, at least one more was created, amazingly, in miniature for models in certain scenes.

As the production team in 1978 worked hard to preserve the illusion that ‘you will believe a man can fly’ by not revealing the details on how many of the effects were achieved, this device was widely considered a myth until it was officially acknowledged in the extras on the Superman: The Movie Special Edition on DVD.  Although undetectable for the vast majority of the Salkind produced films (including Supergirl) in which it was used, the scene where Superman swoops down to save Frisky from the tree and the blooper from Superman III (Bottom pic) are the best proof of its existence until now…

For the enviable opportunity of owning this piece of SFX Magic and cinema history, catch Steve’s auction here…


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