Superman 1.89: Bad Girl Goes Good

Forget Catwoman. Forget the Black Cat. Forget all of the scheming anti-heroines who commit crimes and then make out with the superhero, whether they have a feline-based persona or not.

Because we have a champion, right here. As a temporarily-reformed supercrime vixen, Eve Teschmacher — known to her friends as MISS TESCHMACHER!! — has got to be one of the all-time greats. She reforms for a grand total of one hundred and twenty-five seconds, and during that period, she commits sexual assault. And she still doesn’t get any jail time! This woman is unbelievably good at her job.

I mean, there’s no room for ambiguity about Eve’s role in the impending missile massacre. Girl climbed a bridge. Or, at least, a stunt guy wearing a blonde wig and red evening gown climbed the bridge on her behalf, but there’s long-established legal precedent that characters are liable for any actions performed by their stuntmen, in whole or in part.

No, she didn’t come up with this cockamamie plan herself, but she was in the room during the brainstorming session, and the missiles couldn’t have been reprogrammed without her. Up until the Kryptonite-in-the-pool scene, there isn’t a single moment when we see her hesitate to offer Lex whatever assistance he needs. She called him “sick” when he killed that detective, but she didn’t feel regret or horror; it was just something to chat about.

The costume design really does all the heavy lifting, as far as the illusion of remorse is concerned. She spends most of the movie in lunatic Bond girl gear: a sparkly black dress that shows off her cleavage, a red evening gown that shows off her legs, a skimpy lime green bikini. She dresses a little more like a human being in the “meteorites!” scene, but even then she’s got a lot of cleavage showing.

And now, when Superman’s on his way, all of a sudden she’s got a sensible hairstyle, and a lily-white ensemble that doesn’t even reveal her entire neck. This is the couture equivalent of a rock-solid alibi.

So I have to say, I am not a hundred percent convinced by this “mother in Hackensack” routine. I grew up half an hour away from Hackensack, and when I was growing up, I never saw anything even remotely like Eve Teschmacher. If I had, I probably would have come out as gay, like, a shit ton earlier.

Now, I don’t have any hard evidence to the contrary; it’s possible that there really is a woman in Bergen County that’s responsible for all this mess. I’m just saying that there’s a lot going on in this sequence. Eve is definitely fishing for something, and Superman is eager to bite.

I mean, Superman is saying, “You can’t just stand there, and let innocent people — millions of innocent people die!” and he has basically nothing to hang that opinion on. This is the first time they’ve ever spoken. How does he know what Eve can stand there and let?

Now, as it happens, I have a little production story about this moment of sentimental aquaculture, from the Making of book:

“And then came the scene in which Miss Teschmacher, before rescuing the hapless Man of Steel, steals a kiss. Despite several rehearsals, it looked more like an X-rated loop than a quick peck in a family film. (Dick kept screaming at Perrine: “I want a short, simple, high-school kiss!“) And after each take, Chris had to jump out of the water, have a new battery pack attached — when Miss Teschmacher ripped the chain off him, it pulled out the connecting wires — and be recombed and made up for the next shot.

“In the end, the shot looked marvelous. And certainly no one could have questioned Val’s effort and enthusiasm.”

And I can see why Donner wanted this to look like an innocent kiss — because “innocent” is the word that she needs Superman to use, whenever he thinks about her.

Look, I don’t want to have such a cynical interpretation of this scene. It’s possible that Eve’s abrupt change of heart really is based on some nascent spark of moral courage, and appreciation for Superman’s soaking-wet hotness.

All I’m saying is, she looks down at the swimming pool, and there’s the guy that the movie that she’s in is named after, and she makes the appropriate calculation. There’s less than twenty minutes left in the movie — characters can tell time, just like everyone else — and she figures there’s not a lot of hope that this is going to be the finale.

So: modest dress + mother in Hackensack + high-school kiss = extenuating circumstances. You wouldn’t believe how much a girl like this can extenuate, when she really needs to.

Now, if you’re watching the theatrical cut of this movie like a normal person, this pool party is the last time you see Eve, but the bloated Extended TV Cut has a final scene where Superman returns to the lair, and finds Lex and Otis in the process of dropping the traitorous Eve into a pit of ravenous beasts. That means that she’s a victim rather than a villain, and she gets rescued, rather than apprehended and taken to prison, where she belongs.

Naturally, as soon as Superman’s flown away with Lex and Otis, Eve immediately starts sourcing hot air balloons, in preparation for the jailbreak that she organizes in Superman II. This is why you shouldn’t make out with microreformed supercrime vixens and then let them go; the recidivism rate is off the charts.

Tomorrow:
The highs and lows of 1978 Superman merchandising
1.90: You’ll Believe a Man Can Buy


Footnote:

There’s a little detail that I noticed in the pool scene. It says in the excerpt from the Making of book that when Eve takes the chain off from around Superman’s neck, she has to pull out the wires that connect the glowing Kryptonite prop with the battery pack that makes it glow. Then Chris has to go and get then reconnected, so that they can do another take. That might explain why, in the actual take that they used, the stone isn’t glowing green, even before Eve takes off the chain.

Also, somebody needs to explain to me why Eve doesn’t have amnesia now.

Tomorrow:
The highs and lows of 1978 Superman merchandising
1.90: You’ll Believe a Man Can Buy

Chapters
Movie list

— Danny Horn

28 thoughts on “Superman 1.89: Bad Girl Goes Good

  1. I must have missed something because I don’t understand the question. When was it established that kissing Superman leads to amnesia? Good thing he’s such a Boy Scout because that could easily be abused. Like an actress blowing take after take so she could continue kissing her co-star.
    I think they should have left the Eve rescue scene in. I assumed Superman let her go or at least didn’t pursue her. If I had known about the kiss thing I might have thought that he doesn’t take Eve to jail because the kiss gave HIM amnesia, a weird effect of Kissing While Wearing Kryptonite.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I almost always dislike that “GOLDFINGER” tradition of the female villain or “henchwoman” changing sides because of the hero, and not because of that controversy around GOLDFINGER itself (that “changing her orientation” one), but in a GENERAL way. To me, almost all of the best villainess characters are the ones who STAY villainous. So if it’s temporary in the case of Miss Teschmacher, that’s fine with me.

    I’m also about the only fan of titillating scenes in the world who doesn’t like cat-fight scenes, including the heroine / villainess kind of cat-fight scene that a million adventure stories have (including at least one SUPERMAN sequel). That’s mainly BECAUSE there are a million of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel the same way about redeeming villains, as they did with Loki and Crowley on “Supernatural”, for examples. It seems like popular villains end up being neutered if they survive long enough.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think there’s a term for it, but it happens all the time. Louie was a nasty man at the beginning of Taxi, for example, but became more sympathetic as the show continued.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The movie needs the audience to identify with Lex- if we don’t, we’ll start focusing on his plan to murder tens of millions of people, at once wrecking the lighthearted tone of Act Three and leaving us wondering why Supey spent so much time goofing around with Lois in Act Two.

    One of the ways they keep us looking at events through Lex’s eyes is by emphasizing the fragility of his operation. His only helpers are escapees from low comedy, from a sub-Three Stooges slapstick act in Otis’ case and from a cartoon in a girlie magazine in Miss Teschmacher’s. He discovers Superman’s one weakness based, not on the least possible evidence, but on much less than the least evidence that could lead anyone to that conclusion. Even his lair is, after all, just an abandoned section of a mass transit center.

    Lex has to beat the odds time and again to keep the story going. Unless we want the movie to end immediately, we find ourselves rooting for him, precisely because his scheme is so flimsy.

    When we see this as Miss Teschmacher’s last scene, it is the culmination of that flimsiness. All she has to do is change her mind, and she can pop free of Lex’s gang at once. He has no resources at his disposal to keep her on his side. But with that other scene in the cut, we have to believe that Lex had the means to discover what she had done, to restrain her, and to kill her. If he is that powerful and that well-organized, then everything we’ve seen since Clark arrived in Metropolis dissolves into nonsense.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes. Lex is basically the guy a used car salesman whose office is a running pickup truck dreams of being. His actual mass-murder inclinations aside, he pretends to be much more than he is–he lives in a disused hole with two dingbats, but still almost blew up the world! Wow!

      You can’t blame Eve for wanting a piece of that wet, vulnerable Superman–I bet even Lex didn’t blame her, as such. Her real transgression was showing up exactly how wildly ridiculous his plan was in the first place.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Killer insights from both of you! I never realized how the movie manipulated us into rooting for Lex as the underdog. Love the costumes & prom comment about Eve. If Eve was in charge of a scheme, it would take Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant from the Supergirl TV show to figure out what she’s up to and how to stop her. Earth-raised Kryptonians are just too nice to wrap their minds around a femme fatalle like that.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. “Dissolving into nonsense” is largely what I felt happened. The first 45 minutes sets up a different movie. The third act spirals wildly out of control. The more I think about the ending, the less sure I am about what even is happening as Superman turns back time. I’m hoping Danny will explain it all for me when we get there.
      I watched Batman as a kid and enjoyed it. But the beginning does not set this movie up to be camp. I think part of my problem with the ending was that I expected something weightier with a more serious villain.
      I did not really know anything about the Lex Luthor villain going in. I had no expectations of the character. At the end I found myself asking, “Is that it?” After over 2 hours and 20 minutes I should not be asking that question. (I know now that it was meant to be part one of two so maybe that was part of my problem.)
      I’ve never seen the sequel but I take it Superman is up against other Superbeings from the Phantom Zone. That sounds like it might have worked better with the first 45 minutes of this movie, at least for me.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think that 47 minutes is way, WAY too long to spend on the Krypton/ space journey/ Smallville stuff. The ponderous tone of that portion does indeed set you up to expect villains more like those in Superman II, but that movie is much better for handling that material quickly and getting straight into action.

        I would go further than you do and say that turning back time to un-kill Lois is offensively stupid. A story about time travel can work if there is a foundation for it- in Dark Shadows, for instance, they spent the first 73 weeks building up the idea that, hidden in the background behind the show we’re watching, there is another whole cast of characters who are connected to the action and who walked the earth in another period of history. So when Vicki is thrown back to 1795 and us with her, it suddenly makes sense.

        But in this movie, there is nothing at all to suggest that Supey will be able to turn back time and rewrite the script. It’s just a cheat to have him do that, and does nothing but insult anyone who had managed to care about what was happening on screen.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. BATMAN 1966 is more consistent than SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. The latter however deserves its praise for treating the character “seriously,” but it’s otherwise all over the place narratively. BATMAN is absurd but makes more internal sense.

        It’s not even modern “MCU blockbuster standards” that would suggest that Lex should’ve been involved in the otherwise random disaster that almost killed Lois (maybe an attempt on her life bc she was getting to close to uncovering his scheme).

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I think part of the “dissolution into nonsense” is in part due to the original two-part movie being split into two and an ending shoehorned at the end of the first.

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    3. Yes, and I agree with your later comment about the time travel ending, which is a complete cheat. Time travel had been one of Superman’s powers for decades by that point, but if a DOCTOR WHO episode had a companion die in an episode and the Doctor just undid it by time travel, we’d also call foul. (I’m sure there are examples of the Doctor doing just that, but there’s usually some clever workaround. Superman just … goes back in time).

      If “cheating” this way had cost him his powers in the second film, that might’ve been interesting, but instead, we get a less satisfying explanation.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think Eve Tessmacher is the woman feminism showed up just *thatmuch* too late to help.

    She’s clearly, by far, the brightest of the three dipshit world-destroyers; Lex is brilliant but as cracked as a dime store teacup, and Otis is a puppy who simply follows whoever’s around, wagging his tail. But she still dresses and acts like a cynical broad from a noir movie. Tight, cleavage-baring costumes (not clothes, nothing as simple and relaxing to wear as clothes) that announce she knows what men want her for, here it is, leave her alone already.

    You can bet if Eve Tessmacher had been running this operation the world would be smoking, glowing pile of rubble and mutants by now. But she never got the chance. Just has to hang around the periphery, be the bait in a fake car accident, act empty headed and allure by seemingly being a knocked out knockout.

    So when that hunka hunka burnin’ Superman love is all chained up and helpless, Eve decides the hell with it, I’ve spent my life being Jessica Rabbit’s cynical stepsister, I wanna go to the prom, dammit, and puts on that communion dress her mom bought her and she never wore and dives in and goes for it.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. “growing up, I never saw anything even remotely like Eve Teschmacher. If I had, I probably would have come out as gay, like, a shit ton earlier.”
    LOL & ROTFL & etc!! Ha ha ha!!!

    Maybe she just made up the line about her mother. Maybe it was just a lame excuse as to why he shouldn’t stop the San Andreas scheme as soon as he got the chance. Maybe it was Lex’s plan to endanger but not wipe out Hackensack all along. Maybe he figures that’s where the buyers at Marina Del Lex are going to come from.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. No forgetfulness for Eve: Lois was the one person who knew THE Big Secret and shouldn’t know it. Eve didn’t learn any Superman secrets that she needed to forget.

    Everyone who read the newspaper already knew what she knew about Superman. Except for one space-rock-weakness thing. Any super-genius like Lex could figure that out from already known clues.

    Superman saw that Lex was her only supplier of Kryptonite. She was willing to help him escape from it. No need to kiss away that knowledge.

    Skipping ahead to the Kiss: Even as an about 11 year old boy (not sure exactly which year II came out) I thought the “kiss of forgetfulness” was a really really really STUPID new power from nowhere, in a movie full of those annoyances.

    Levitation finger ray? Heat vision is now monumental rock resculpturing vision? Detachable chest shield boomerang targets holographic clones? WTF, Movie??

    In the first movie, only the travel back through time wasn’t set up. As I mentioned I think that could have been set up with some Spaceship Of Learning exposition by the Daddy Teacher Ghost AI. Just about everything else in the first movie was properly set up like Checkov’s Gun: “He’ll defy their gravity.”

    Makes you wonder if Richard Lester told Tom Mankiewicz to shut up with all his creative consulting, there’s more wacky super-slapstick to cram in here.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s interesting that you mention Chekhov’s gun because that might partially explain my problem. Three villains from Krypton are introduced at the beginning of this movie. They have no other part to play until the sequel. From what I understand, Chekov said if you introduce a gun in act 1, it needs to be used by the end of the play. If you’re not going to use it, it should be removed because it builds up false expectations. I guess subconsciously, I was waiting for someone to pull the trigger and it never happened. Thank you. I think that’s why I found it so unsatisfying. Well, that and the whole time travel thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It helps if you know that the first two Superman movies were originally going to be a two-parter with the Phantom Zone criminals.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It probably would have. But, really, if they knew they were making 2 movies, they could have done the trial scene as a flashback at the beginning of the second movie and it would have been more logical. Do they repeat that scene to remind you who these criminals are or do they think you’ll just remember? They make some odd choices in the editing of this movie I think.

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      3. Wasn’t the original ending supposed to show the deflected Hackensack missile shooting up into space and smashing the Phantom Zone prison as a ‘to be continued’ ending?

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  7. I’m willing to give a movie all the suspension of disbelief it wants. If I enjoy it, we both win.

    Maybe later the fridge logic sets in. I have enough imagination to fill in a few plot holes. The franchises that turn me off for good are the ones whose fans insist on retcons all the way down just so it seems consistent. I’m looking at you, Star Wars.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. ACILIUS: I think that 47 minutes is way, WAY too long to spend on the Krypton/ space journey/ Smallville stuff. The ponderous tone of that portion does indeed set you up to expect villains more like those in Superman II, but that movie is much better for handling that material quickly and getting straight into action.

    ****

    SER: It’s goofy motivation to have Zod pissed at Superman because his father sent him to prison (and arguably saved his life!). I would’ve treated Zod more like a Ra’s al Ghul type who sees him as a surrogate son and tries to convert Superman to his way of thinking.

    You’re right, though, that Zod, Ursa, and Non are far sinister and intimidating in the intro than the villains we actually get. That does seem to set up more than is actually delivered.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m sure we’ll talk about it more when we get to the end of the movie, but the big problem with the time travel cheat is not just that it’s never set up, but that it means problems have no consequences for Superman. If he makes a mistake, he’ll just hit Undo and redo it the right way. It could have worked if there had been an earlier premise that he could go back in time to fix a mistake, but only once in his lifetime so choose wisely.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Eve’s actions here make more sense when you watch the deleted Gauntlet scene. That’s where her admiration for Superman starts. The kiss in the pool shows that she sees more in Superman than “the guy who’s going to save her mom, because that’s what heroes do”. As her dialogue indicates, she wishes she could be one of the good guys, even if it somehow never pans out for her.

    Suggesting that this character is objectified in some way is rather baseless; the whole plot turns around her deliberate act of defiance in this scene. She is more empowered in this movie’s story than Lois Lane is. Her choice of wardrobe throughout the movie is designed to transition from Devil (seductress) to Angel (sweet schoolgirl), as Danny pointed out.

    Also, to continue the metaphor from an earlier post, Eve descends into the Stygian pool of Lex’s underworld to rescue Superman’s soul, and comes out purified by the encounter. It may not last through Superman II, but let’s lay the blame on the sequel’s writing for that (the sequel has a *lot* to answer for).

    Like

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