SUPERMANIA presents what at a casual glance would appear to be just another cover story for the opening of the theatrical run of Superman II but this particular issue of London’s Time Out magazine from 1981 represents not only the first no-holds-barred account of the troubled production but what would ultimately result in the demotion of the leading lady.
Indeed, Dave Pirie’s article ‘The Truth about Superman‘ has been cited on more than one occasion as so inflammatory that Margot Kidder’s opening remarks (top) about the Producers consequently limited her appearance in Superman III to a pair of short bookend scenes. Common knowledge now but revealed with clarity here are the reasons for Brando’s absence from the sequel, the terms on which Dick Donner was dismissed and the almost hilarious lengths Alexander Salkind went to both fund the project and avoid incarceration as a result of various lawsuits.
Not even Christopher Reeve, already acknowledged for his discretion throughout the process could hold back his feelings regarding the rewrites of the Donner/Mankiewicz script for II and the decision to throw all of his scenes with Brando onto the cutting room floor. Interestingly, Reeve is quoted as saying that Guy Hamilton (the Salkinds first choice as director) was drafted in as Donner’s replacement long before Richard Lester took the reigns.
Given all the controversy it is fairly miraculous that the finished product (also reviewed by Pirie, bottom pic) gained such plaudits as a successor to the original, the marked differences between thematic and directorial styles highlighted here still relevant and hotly debated today…
Footnote: Among the many examples of how the Salkinds were to exploit their property not mentioned here was the sale of an extended cut, nearing three hours long, edited together without any approval of the director and broadcast over two nights by US Station abc purely to attain the advertising revenue. Never shown again and long believed lost, this version has just been restored by Warner Archive and is released on Blu-Ray next month (see sidebar)
Jillan Freisen, DAILY PLANET 15:00 ET July 30th 2017
METROPOLIS – The Man of Steel is reunited with fallen dictator and fellow Kryptonian General Dru-Zod during a visit to a top-secret Government facility. Zod and his cohorts, Ursa and Non were imprisoned in 1981 after an attempt at world domination was thwarted by Superman during a battle in an undisclosed location in the Arctic. The trio were sentenced to five consecutive life-sentences each, reduced to three after it was discovered they had been stripped of all their unearthly powers. Zod, now aged 79, and subject to decades of rehabilitation has had numerous appeals for his release rejected despite claims of repentance for his crimes, which included the murder of three astronauts and collateral damage to the cities of Houston, TX, Washington DC and Metropolis estimated at $3.6 Billion. After their brief private conversation, Superman was questioned about his motivation for the visit and said “While the General’s crimes were terrible and many of his actions unforgivable, he and his associates are nonetheless a vital link to my former homeworld. I have absolute faith in our Government and legal system and support their efforts to ensure their term is served according to Earth’s laws.” (Photograph by James Olsen)
Last week’s London Film & Comic Con at the Olympia scored an unprecedented coup for fans of the classic Superman Movies by announcing the first ever reunion of all three villains from Superman I &II, and almost delivering.
In a guest lineup that promised no less than Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran and Margot Kidder, Showmasters had done what many thought was impossible and had managed to secure legendary British actor Terence Stamp for his Convention debut. Besides the obligatory autograph signing, the bill included a group photo session of all the Super-stars and a talk with Q&A. It was, in short, a once in a lifetime opportunity and of course, SUPERMANIA was there.
Despite best laid plans, however, the show was dealt a series of blows in the form of guest cancellations right up to the last minute meaning the organisers could not fulfil their promises and were made to improvise in ways that unfortunately left many advance paying fans disappointed. First to go was Jack O’Halloran, who had to drop out for health reasons (get well soon big man!) and then in the irony of Ironies, poor Margot Kidder missed her flight and never made it to the UK.
There was great relief on the Saturday as Terence and Sarah’s arrival was confirmed by a photo on social media so happily photo sessions and the talk would go ahead, but not exactly as intended. The group photo session (costing over £100 paid in advance) was cancelled in favour of a joint picture with Terry and Sarah (third pic) which would’ve been a great alternative had it been organised and promoted correctly. Instead, fans that had bought group photos were turned away with a promise of a refund and could only purchase a ticket for the double pic there and then for £70 in cash only. This outrageous action was followed up with a poor queuing system that meant anybody without a Diamond Pass (Over £200) had little chance of obtaining Terence Stamp’s coveted autograph.
In fact, the show was evidently massively over-subscribed and it was everything one could do to bounce from location to location to obtain what you had, in most cases, already paid for. This, and the excessive crowds did not make for a pleasurable experience and were it not for the class act that is Ms.Douglas (bottom pic signing a replica of the Phantom Zone) being the standard by which all other con guests should be judged, it would’ve been worse.
So thank goodness for Mr. Stamp, who maintained an unflappable aura for the entire proceeding. Softly spoken and gentile, his iconic intense gaze was as sharp as ever now found under a shock of white hair. This was what hit me first as I approached for my photo wearing the Superman costume (top pic) as he glared at me up and down, it seemed to me, completely in character!
Drawing up next to him whilst feeling a combination of awe and dread, he extended his hand to shake mine and whispered, ‘Hello, lovely to meet you thanks, for coming’. Now, as you can imagine, for a fan of the Superman series since childhood this was a powerful significant moment. The General, it turns out, is a total gentleman and if you ever get the chance, as many people did that day, I can’t recommend meeting him highly enough.
There was still one hurdle to overcome before the day could end and that was obtaining Terence’ autograph. During the day I’d been so gratified that many Super-fans had come up to me to say hello and compliment me on the costume and for the first time at a con a had real sense of community – it was great to put names to faces including Mark Cookson, Filip Biesmans and Graham Holden. One fan, it would turn out, would turn out to be the biggest hero of all as it looked like we weren’t going to get the much-coveted autograph after all.
A serious contender for No.1 Superfan in the UK, Andrew Hanton was already in the queue for Terence and saved the day by getting a photo signed on my behalf (second pic) made all the more significant by way of his alternate signature (where you can actually make out his name). Quite why he elected to do this rather than the standard two lines is a mystery but I was overjoyed with the result and it is now a key piece in the SUPERMANIA collection.
While I would be reluctant in the extreme to attend the London show again, rumours persist about plans for an ultimate celebration of the 40th anniversary of Superman: The Movie next year. If anybody can do it, Showmasters can but I would hope that many learns have been taken on in the meantime from the LFCC 2017 experience…
Eubanks Entertainment & Memorabilia (Movie, Music, Sporting & Toys), 12th May 2016, 12:00pm
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987) Christopher Reeve leotard in pale blue stretch fabric with Superman logo to front, zip to back & four stud fasteners on shoulders to attach cape, label to inside, ‘ Bermans & Nathans, 40 Camden St, London NW1, Christopher Reeve 4913 Flying Superman IV ‘.
Provenance: A friend of the vendor worked on the set of the film.
Superman – Acrylic crystal production used movie prop in the Fortress of Solitude scenes with Gene Hackman as he learns about his arch-nemesis Superman, and later in the film as Superman’s powers are taken away from him. approx 11 inches long.
Provenance: The vendors family have a long history of working on film sets in Elstree, Pinewood & Shepperton Studios. Her granddad was Bill Lowen (Rigger) & her father was Dave Lowen (Carpenter). This was given to the vendor as a gift from her father who worked at the Studios.
These two superior upcoming lots from the famed Surrey auction house represent the first original pieces of genuine Superman movie memorabilia on offer this year –
The ‘flying’ tunic (top three pics) is a great example of what distinguishes the Superman IV costume from the preceding films with its narrow bottom curve of the \S/ on the chest shield. The lack of shorts also suggests (or harness vents) also indicate this tunic may have been used for bluescreen effects and its soiling indicates potential use for the climatic Moon battle…
Costume month on SUPERMANIA gains momentum with this fascinating and unique variation of the iconic outfit made especially for Margot Kidder in Richard Donner’s Superman II.
As originally scripted, the scenes between Lois Lane and Kal-El in the Fortress Of Solitude conclude with the very controversial (at the time) consummation of their relationship before the sacrifice his of powers for love. Later, as Clark/Superman confides in his father that all he craves is the chance to live a ‘normal’ life, Lois appears wearing the Superman tunic as a nightshirt.
This particular tunic (one of three made) was specifically tailored to appear oversized for Margot from the same Bridal weight Spandex as the full costumes and was used to photograph wig tests prior to the filming (top pic). Asked about the footage only days ago – Margot herself recalls –
“I don’t remember wearing that at all but there was a love scene and Lois wore that the next morning. I don’t think the scene made it into the movie but I’m not sure. my hair was never like that in the Donner version. I had my own hair, not those hideous wigs. Harry (Dick) would never have allowed me to wear such an ill fitting piece of crap on my head..”
This entire sequence would be ultimately be excised and rewritten after both Richard Donner’s departure and Marlon Brando’s salary demands forced the Producers (and replacement director Richard Lester) to reshoot all of Jor-El’s scenes with Susannah York. In this theatrical version, Superman would first be de-structured before spending the night with Lois as a mortal man.
It would be almost thirty years before the sequence as originally shot would be discovered in UK vaults and restored for inclusion in Superman II; The Richard Donner Cut, where Margot does indeed appear wearing the tunic (without said hairpiece.)
Amazingly, one of the tunics would survive in pristine condition to this day and form part of the significant collection of the UK office of Propstore, where it was mounted in an acrylic case with its label still attached (second pic). The accompanying sign (third pic) eloquently highlights the differences between the structure of this shirt versus the bodysuits (where its appearance suggests Superman’s costume in the movie framework is a top and tights as opposed to leotard) and its provenance from Warner Bros (Read Jason DeBord’s assessment on The Original Prop Blog here).
Propstore would later offer the tunic on the market (read the listing here) and in the hands of a private collector in the UK it was recently photographed being signed by Margot Kidder at a con (bottom pic).
While an owner has the right to do what he pleases with his property, SUPERMANIA nonetheless urges fellow collectors never to interfere with any original costume in such a fashion as it dramatically affects the value of the piece…
Coming soon, the Super-auction to end all auctions…
At the dawn of DC Comics properties conquest of the silver screen, modern day successors Marvel would gamely go along for the ride in early 1979 with both this fun publication above and its more highbrow twin Starburst (to be featured in an upcoming post).
While Pizzazz may well have been ‘humour in the Marvel manner’, the articles featured about ‘The Big Palooka’ were very well-written and offered some great insights into the upcoming movie and probably best of all, a preview of Richard Donner’s Superman II, where actress/stuntwoman Ellen Bry (fresh from her appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man TV pilot, or feature if you lived in the UK) speaks out regarding a scene that wouldn’t surface publicly for another thirty years…