As students of the cinema will readily appreciate, the difference, auteur-wise, between the Donner-directed Superman movies and the Lester-directed Superman movies is that Richard Donner gave a shit and Richard Lester clearly did not.
That’s why the flying scenes in Superman III are so disappointing. In the original movie, Donner was willing to spend untold months and millions perfecting the technology, while Lester figured you could just put a shot of Christopher Reeve holding his arms out on top of a picture of the landscape, problem solved.
But if you really want to see the full extent of Lester’s that’ll-do pragmatism, just look at the pathetic little patch of weeds that he chose as the location of the film’s picnic scene.
Continue reading Superman III 4.23: Sure, the Picnic →
“Every time you’ve seen the girl, you’ve seen the beast,” says international villain Arcane, issuing instructions to his demented henchmen. “We’ll find the girl; the beast will follow.” That’s a good plan, except now they have to find the girl.
Luckily, Cable has managed to find an excellent hiding place: in the middle of a lake outside of Los Angeles, about 2,500 miles away from the South Carolina swamp where they filmed the rest of the picture.
Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.27: The Boat Fight →
“So what were your feelings about the film, once it was finished?” the friendly voice on the DVD asks director Wes Craven. “Did you have any, you know… expectations?”
“No,” Wes sighs. “And, you know, I didn’t work for two years after that. I felt like I’d had my chance and kind of blown it, and would probably never work again.”
Now, this is my third time approaching a movie like this, and what I’ve learned so far is that the DVD commentary helps me to define what the genre of this story is going to be. When I was talking about the making of Superman and Superman II, the story was a true crime podcast. For Swamp Thing, it’s a comedy of errors.
Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.3: It Wasn’t Wes’ Fault →
Then they went to Canada, and things did not go well in Canada.
I know, these posts about the 1977 production are all variations of “things did not go well” — they didn’t go well in May when they were shooting the Fortress of Solitude scenes, and they didn’t go well in June while they were shooting the Daily Planet scenes. Things actually went okay during the New York location shooting in July, if you didn’t count all the rioting and arson, which was pretty tame, for this production.
Overall, there were three big problems that the production had to deal with: first, everything that they wanted to do was harder than they’d hoped it would be; second, the director wanted to make a great movie, and didn’t care how much it cost; and third, the producers, who were quite at home with shady bookkeeping practices, discovered that there was a whole other level of financial mismanagement that even they couldn’t keep up with.
So Alexander Salkind stayed in Europe, soothing investors and not paying bills, while Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler traveled with the production, fretting, cutting crew salaries, and not paying all the other bills that Alex hadn’t gotten around to not paying.
Continue reading Superman 1.77: The Center Cannot Hold →
Time Magazine — August 1, 1977:
“Even with the crane and wires, flying is not easy. Christopher Reeve, 24, who plays Superman, has to make a dozen or so passes 50 ft. in the air before he bags his cat, made suitably cooperative by the taxidermist. Every once in a while Superman is brought down for an adjustment of his ailerons. He has 25 different costumes and perhaps six different kinds of capes—for standing, sitting, flying and coming in for a landing. He is now wearing his flying cape, which is stretched out with wires so that it appears to billow in the wind.
“The changes made, he goes back into the air, accompanied by cheers from local residents who are hanging out of windows. “Hey, Supraman, why cantcha get the cat?” someone shouts in that rich blend of gravel and adenoids known as Brooklynese. “Thattaboy, Supraman!” yells another when he actually touches the dusty beast.”
Continue reading Superman 1.62: Catching the Cat →
“Her light is growing faint,” Peter says, “and if it goes out, that means she is dead! She says…” Dramatic pause. “She thinks she could get well again if children believed in fairies!”
The children in the audience stir, surprised, as Peter Pan turns to implore them from across the footlights. Their attention isn’t enough, all of a sudden. “Do you believe in fairies?” he asks them. “Say quick that you believe! If you believe, clap your hands!”
They clap, of course. What else could they do? J.M. Barrie has constructed a dramatic trap that snaps shut on every kid in the theater: if Tinker Bell dies, then you personally are an asshole.
Continue reading Superman 1.52: Clap Your Hands →
Metropolis, at last! After forty-seven minutes and six weeks of blog posts, we are finally making landfall on the scene of an actual Superman movie.
Metropolis is the big time, where an up-and-coming newshound and secret frequent flyer from the Midwest can find his true calling — scoops to break, women to fall helplessly in love with, and super-villains to discourage. Complex and thrilling, the City of Tomorrow has all of the promise, danger and heartbreak that a newbie superhero needs, to discover what he’s truly capable of. Also, it’s New York.
Continue reading Superman 1.31: Metropolis Now →