With their collective eye set firmly on the upcoming (and potentially very lucrative) 50th anniversary celebrations of The Man of Steel in 1988, Warner Home Video went the extra mile with promotional material including the fold out brochure shown above.
This Super-rare glossy pamphlet was presumably an industry handout for the rental boom of the mid to late 80’s and may well have doubled up as advertising in-store. Although mostly devoted to the latest cinematic instalment Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, this would also mark the first appearance on tape of the 1950’s TV series ‘The Adventures of Superman’ with the first two volumes containing ‘Best of’ episodes alongside new transfers of the beloved Max Fliescher Superman cartoons…
This latest vintage addition to the SUPERMANIA collection has the distinction of being preserved for all eternity on a special AKAI videocassette (for high fidelity sound and picture!) released in 1992.
Beneath its fragile cardboard slipcase (with obligatory flipped deleted scene still on the rear) lurks an unmarked VHS tape, the contents of which are the longest available European cut of the film at 89 minutes in fullscreen with Danish subtitles and an AKAI logo in place of the standard Cannon/Warner intro card.
A perfect accompaniment for the tape is the Dutch theatrical release poster from the archive (bottom pic) which text translates; ‘The greatest adventure of all time, soon in theatres – Christopher Reeve is back in Superman IV…
Though the the restored and remastered Superman: The Movie Special Edition narrowly missed out on a theatrical release in 2001, the subsequent DVD transfer became a significant milestone in the Superman series celluloid history.
long-awaited and a superlative presentation for its time, the double-sided disc would represent the cleanest, sharpest version of the film to date in an extended cut supported by a significant amount of quality extras – but was not without its faults. (not least the awful cardboard snapper case.)
Indeed, many fans of the original picture were bemused by the liberties taken with the all-new sound-mix and some of the questionable editing choices by producer Michael Thau, whose revisions were felt by many to be invasive and clunky. Despite this, sales were immense and the Special Edition would be a mainstay for future formats (though the beloved original soundtrack would later mercifully resurface on Blu-ray)
As one of Warner Brothers flagship catalogue titles, Superman would be further awarded the Deluxe Box Set treatment in 2003,( alongside The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey) by CDA Entertainment, where the original disc would be supplemented by an array of reproduction ephemera presented in a handsome oversize black case.
Stylishly marketed and backed by an all-new advertising campaign (top 2 pics for MVC Stores exclusive to the SFX Magazine Superhero Special), the Deluxe Box Set was an expensive but irresistible package in the wake of what would eventually be less affectionately known as ‘double dipping’.
Given its slick appearance, its surprising and disappointing just how poor the final product turned out to be, starting with the Senitype (where the iconic, sharp 35mm film frame is obscured by the frankly godawful quality print on the mount) and moving onto the lobby cards and reproduction booklet (badly reprinted without any restoration and consequently way too dark). The poster is also a redundant addition being folded (though an offer restricted to the US made a rolled one available).
A triumph of promise over content resulting in an underwhelming dud, the box set today (bottom pic) is affordable as the DVD format erodes but is ironically hard to find. Genuine fans, however, would be better serviced with a copy of the blu-ray and genuine copies of the original memorabilia…
Produced to celebrate Superman’s 75th anniversary, DC Comics and Man Of Steel director Zack Snyder have collaborated with Bruce Timm (Superman: The Animated Series) and Warner Bros. Animation on a spectacular new short to chronicle the many incarnations of the Caped Wonder.
Originally intended as a special feature on the upcoming Man Of Steel DVD/Bluray release, (out Nov 12th) the 2:14 film highlights Superman’s evolution from the Siegel & Shuster days through comic, television video game and silver screen appearances to his current personification of Henry Cavill.
Shown above are screen captures from the Christopher Reeve segment (featuring the famous end title flyby) and bottom, a character study by artist Dusty Abell profiling all the character designs for how they would appear in the short.
For a project engendering considerable hype in advance of its premiere (EW.com ultimately getting the scoop), its a pity the final product ends up reminiscent of a commercial than genuine tribute. While its a delight to hear John Williams theme in any context, the transitions from era to era are rushed & clunky and the choice of incarnations to define them are highly questionable. While there is a reasonable explanation provided for this, (click on the EW link above) the omissions of Kirk Alyn, Brandon Routh and Dean Cain are nevertheless galling in light of their contribution to the mythos…
Concluding this month’s SUPERMANIA special feature on the vintage Laserdisc releases of the Superman series is the franchise denouement/killer Superman IV: The Quest For Peace –
Despite its quaint assessment by Desmond Ryan of The Philadelphia Enquirer as ‘good fun’ (See tagline on US release, third pic down) this final entry proved to be bittersweet but no less controversial than any of its predecessors. Dogged with problems from its conception onward and executed with a fraction of its intended budget, the above is notable for representing both the shortest and longest cuts of the movie before the advent of DVD.
The longest and therefore most coveted is the Japanese import release from King Video distributors (Top & Second pic) which was popular with US fans due to its 93 minute runtime. This, along with its sharp and unique sleeve art made it a serious collectable in its own right until ‘all’ of the lost footage was found and reinserted (as deleted scenes in workprint form) by WB years later for the Deluxe Edition on DVD.
Typically, the Western version was what would only be described as ‘Vanilla’ even back then, with a 90-minute runtime and uninspired presentation (replete with a still from a deleted scene carelessly included on the rear of the sleeve) though the reproduction of Daniel Goozee’s fantastic poster art on the cover is first class.
I hope you have enjoyed this overview of these great pieces of cinematic, now collectable history – please feel free to leave any comments or questions. Until then, a very Happy Easter to you all..!