So, let’s say you’re a Salkind. You’ve been producing movies for your father for ten years now, including some of The Three Musketeers and a couple of Superman movies, but people still think that you’re just a money guy — specifically, your dad’s money guy.
But you’ve been working in the same building as creative people for so long, you’ve started to hallucinate that you’re a creative contributor as well. Since nobody has any idea what to do with Superman III, you sit down at the typewriter and write an eight-page treatment, which you send to the Warner Brothers and ask them for millions of dollars so you can make it.
In the years to come, you’ll tell people that Warner Bros thought it was too “sci-fi”, and too embedded in Superman lore. That is not the reason Warner Bros rejected your treatment. They rejected it because they were grown-ups who read movie treatments for a living, and yours is bugfuck insane.
Continue reading Superman III 4.2: It Was Ilya’s Other Idea
There are a lot of things that Swamp Thing doesn’t say in this movie, and here’s one of them: “Who knows how far up the rot goes in Washington? You’re not safe calling anyone!”
Which is probably for the best. I’ve been having a good time lately, kicking holes in this silly rubber-suit movie, so it’s time for me to put the stick down for a minute, and appreciate a good decision.
Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.26: The Chatterbox
“Christopher felt very strongly about staying in character, all the time,” Margot Kidder says, in one of the DVD featurettes. “I, on the other hand, got really bored during the flying scenes, because there were Chris and I strapped together for ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day. So I would hide books down my front, or try and tease Chris, and he’d be going, ‘shut up!’ And we would bicker, and the poor crew would look away, and they’d go ‘action’, and suddenly we’d be madly in love, and they’d go ‘cut’, and we’d go back to our bickering.
“And at one point, I remember Christopher said, ‘Don’t you stay in character?’ and I said, ‘Oh, Chris, for god’s sake, I’ve been Lois Lane for a year now, and all we have to do is look left!'”
So this is what happens to you, I guess, when you spend fifteen weeks writing about the same movie: I’m watching this incredibly romantic night flight sequence, and all I can think about is how much of a pain it was for them to shoot.
Continue reading Superman 1.73: The Takeoff
Hey gang, it’s time for another round of What Did Mankiewicz Do, the fascinating behind-the-scenes game where we look at old drafts of the Superman: The Movie script, and figure out how script doctor and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz solved its many glaring problems.
So far, we’ve seen how Mankiewicz made the Kents more appealing, took the corny sci-fi cliches out of the Jor-El/Lara scene, and made Lex Luthor stop chewing Kleenex all the time. Now we’ve arrived at the largest and most important structural change that Mankiewicz made to the script: taking three Lex Luthor/Superman confrontations spaced out through the second half of the film, and compressing them down into just one climactic face-off between the hero and the villain.
Now, you would think that having the hero and the villain only share one scene together in the whole movie would be a bad idea, but that’s because you haven’t seen the volcano sequence yet. In this movie, it was the right call. Allow me to explain.
Continue reading Superman 1.67: The Gauntlet
All right, folks: we are five weeks into the blog and thirty-eight minutes into the movie, and we’re finally getting out of Smallville. We’ll spend next week in the Fortress of Solitude, and then we’re heading for Metropolis, I promise.
The structure of this movie can be fairly challenging, especially for the modern viewer, because it takes so long to get to what people expect a Superman movie to be about. We first get a glimpse of Christopher Reeve as Superman at minute 47, and even then it’s only for one shot. We don’t really get the full “Clark Kent changes to Superman and does something heroic” until 68 minutes into the movie, which is a long time to wait, if you’re not prepared for it.
The simple answer for why there’s such a long prologue is that that’s how the story is supposed to go — you have to understand that the character came from Krypton, and grew up on Earth, to know who he is and what he’s about. But in the first issue of Action Comics, that was all taken care of in the first few panels; by the top of page 2, Superman was haring across the countryside, dropping off bound-and-gagged ladies on people’s front lawns.
It’s not like the filmmakers didn’t have a choice. You could easily imagine a movie that begins with a big spectacular Superman rescue, and then the backstory is handled in a five-minute flashback. As far as the plot is concerned, this three-part prologue is just dead weight; once we reach Metropolis, nothing happens that requires the audience to know that Clark wasn’t allowed to play football when he was in high school. You could watch the entire movie without knowing about the Phantom Zone or the Fortress of Solitude — both of those pay off when you watch the sequel, but you can go from 47:00 to 2:23:00 without them, and you’d hardly miss them.
So if they could have condensed this backstory down — making the movie shorter, cheaper and faster-paced — then why didn’t they?
Continue reading Superman 1.25: Syd Field Forever
Holding the hand of the extraterrestrial cuckoo that she’s about to bring home and housetrain, Martha Kent says, “All these years, I prayed for a child.” She should have looked into the best practices on that, I think they’ve been doing it wrong.
Continue reading Superman 1.18: Opening the Box
So Plan B, as I understand it, was to get everybody in the science council to sign off on constructing a fleet of massive space arks, which would carry the entire population of Krypton to a planet that’s not scheduled to blow up within the next thirty days.
I imagine that Plan C was for Jor-El to just take his own wife and baby in a family-sized rocket ride to elsewhere, but then the stupid science council said that would create a climate of fear and panic, so he had to promise that he and Lara wouldn’t leave the planet.
They’re currently working on Plan D, which is to at least get the kid somewhere with a supply of passing motorists and farm families, and even that’s getting the science council all worked up, so they’re going to have to work fast. Meanwhile, Lara is advocating for some unspecified Plan E. It would have been easier if they could have stuck with Plan A, which was for the planet just not to blow up in the first place.
Continue reading Superman 1.10: Crazy Little Thing Called Love
ALEXANDER SALKIND is proud to announce the engagement of MARIO PUZO (The Godfather — The Godfather II — Earthquake) to write the screenplay of SUPERMAN
it said, in enormous type.
This was another one of the Salkinds’ full-page ads in Variety, in March 1975. That was the whole thing, a one-line engagement ring with no further information. That was enough, back in the days when they thought Puzo would deliver a decent script.
Continue reading Superman 1.4: The Kojak Moment