Tag Archives: production

Swamp Thing 3.17: People Make Choices

“The film couldn’t and doesn’t rely on its special effects,” said director Wes Craven, erroneously. “As the producers went for the person who did the effects on the basis of who gave the lowest quote, you can understand why I had to make the film more of a human experience.”

Which is all very well — I like a human experience as much as the next guy — but the fact is that Swamp Thing absolutely does rely on its special effects, because the non-human is the lead character. This is a superhero movie about a big green monster who saves a beautiful woman from a mean wizard, which means you’re going to need, at minimum, a credible monster, woman and wizard. A story like that can’t just skate by on insights into the human condition, especially since I don’t think Swamp Thing has any of those, either.

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Swamp Thing 3.2: Dark Genesis

It wasn’t supposed to be Swamp Thing, of course; Swamp Thing isn’t a “supposed to be” type character.

After Superman was a huge hit, the next superhero character to line up for a feature film was supposed to be Batman. The character had been around for almost as long as Superman, and was easily the second most popular DC character. It was Superman and Batman headlining World’s Finest Comics, and the Super Friends cartoon, plus there was that TV show that everybody liked.

Everyone in the world knew that if DC was going to make any more superhero movies, then the next character in line was Batman — except, of course, for every movie executive at every studio in Hollywood.

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Superman 1.91: Defining Disaster

Time is running out. There’s a pair of misguided missiles streaking across the country in opposite directions, and nobody knows how to turn them off, except the guy who doesn’t want to.

Superman is currently chasing the first rocket, striving to save Hackensack, and Bergen Country in general, from a desperate fate. But while he’s not looking, the second rocket is headed straight for a fault line. He doesn’t have time to launch the first rocket into the stratosphere, and keep control of the second rocket.

You know, it’s amazing to me that the people who decided to make two superhero movies at the same time never noticed that the climax to their first movie is based on the idea that you shouldn’t try to do two things at once.

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Superman 1.85: An Oral History of Christopher Reeve Being a Dick During the Filming of Superman: The Movie

Jake Rossen: “By some accounts, Reeve’s abrupt entrance into celluloid fame brought with it some rather abrasive coping mechanisms.”[1]

Christopher Reeve: “I’m not here to win a popularity contest. I’m not here to have fun. I’m here to put something on the screen that’s going to entertain people later.”[2]

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Superman 1.84: Overtime

So they actually did try shooting the eagle sequence, where Superman is messing around in the sky when he meets one of those friendly midflight eagles that you don’t run into very often, and they loop and dive around each other in close formation, illustrating the beauty and poetry of flight or whatever.

I figured they would have cut that sequence very early on as obviously impractical, considering how difficult it was just to get the guy credibly off the ground in the first place, but the Making of book informs me:

“The flying unit was now working with some natural-born experts: a golden eagle, two Lanner falcons, and a Saker falcon, which were being used to film a majestic sequence of Superman soaring through the sky with an eagle. The Saker falcon was the one finally used and the scene went well; conditioned to fly toward the lights and then return to its trainer’s arm, the bird performed beautifully.”

The amazing thing about that postcard from Pinewood is that they were still having open-casting aviary auditions in February 1978, when it was way too late for them to be dicking around like that.

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Superman 1.77: The Center Cannot Hold

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.

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Superman 1.71: The Workout

“When it comes to muscles and body,” asks a random internet user on the social question-and-answer forum Quora, “Reeve’s Superman looks nothing like Cavill’s. Why didn’t Reeve train for the part?”

That question was posed in February 2017, during the production of Henry Cavill’s third Superman film, Justice League, and while the question is insulting to Reeve, you can forgive the inquisitor getting caught up in the propaganda. By that time, Cavill and his workout routines had been featured in supermarket workout-porn mags at least four times — Men’s Health in 2011, Muscle & Fitness in 2013, and Men’s Fitness in 2015 and 2016 — in an ongoing series of public-service bulletins keeping America updated on the current status of his big-ass arms.

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Superman 1.62: Catching the Cat

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.”

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Superman 1.57: A Man Can Fly

So here’s a scene that we didn’t see in Superman: The Movie, straight from the shooting script:

The eagle bursts through a white cloud bank up once more into the clean blue air. After a short moment SUPERMAN does likewise, trailing the bird.

For a few moments we are privileged to witness this real beauty and poetry of flying as the eagle and SUPERMAN chase each other through the air doing banks, loops, and dives, swooping closely together like two beautiful fighter planes in tight formation.

The unspoken ceremony over, they silently acknowledge each other, then head off in different directions.

Obviously, that scene didn’t happen, because who has the time to choreograph eagles, but the interesting thing is that it made the cut all the way up to the shooting script. That says to me that they really didn’t know how hard it was going to be just getting Superman to fly in a credible way, without having to do a fucking raptor ballet on top of it.

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