Tag Archives: variety

Superman 1.97: Man of Steal

Okay, we’re almost done with the story of Superman: The Movie, which means that it’s time to call in the lawyers. Last week, we talked about that mad moment in mid-November 1978, when executive producer Alexander Salkind told Warner Bros. that he wouldn’t release the final print of the movie in time for the premiere, unless they gave him another $15 million for foreign distribution rights. And just as they were wrapping up that little scheme, Salkind was arrested in Switzerland by Interpol, for a different but related crime.

Now, I’ve been writing a lot about the Salkinds and their bumbling financial crime syndicate, and people have asked me, “So what ultimately happened to them? Did they get caught? Did they get punished?” There’s no real mystery, so I might as well answer those questions now.

What happened to the Salkinds?

Nothing. They kept on making movies for another fifteen years, which got smaller and less successful until everyone got tired of them. Their last production was the 1992 movie Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, which was astonishingly badly-reviewed.

Did they get caught?

Yes, ceaselessly. Their production company folded in 1993, when Alexander’s son, Ilya, filed suit against his father for fraud and racketeering.

Did they get punished?

Nope. People like this never go to prison. They’re just forces of chaos, whirling through the world like Tasmanian Devils. They pick you up and spin you around, and then they go on their way, leaving you exhausted and confused, and with a different amount of money in your pocket. There’s no way to predict how much money you’ll have at the end of it, but it’s a different amount than when you started.

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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 1.90: A Man Can Buy

They didn’t use the word “synergy” for this kind of thing yet, so they just called it a “push”, as in SUPERMAN PIC GETTING WARNER COMMUNICATIONS PUSH.

Superman is due to get a super push from Warner Communications Inc.,” said Variety in July 1978, “marking the first time a major entertainment conglomerate has marshalled virtually all of its subsidiary operations in the advertising, promotion and merchandising of a feature film.”

And congratulations, the superhero movie is born, not with a whimper but a bang. Warner Bros. has realized that they’re about to launch a feature film based on one of the most well-known characters in the world, and by now they’ve actually seen a rough cut of the film, and it’s really good. So it’s time for the Warner subsidiaries to circle the wagons, and get ready to make some Star Wars money.

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Superman 1.87: The Other Movie About Black People

I want to check back in about the history of blockbuster movies, which I’ve been doing sporadically so I can figure out how they work. So far, I’ve talked about the first blockbuster, the 1912 Italian epic Quo Vadis, which set the bar for the kind of large-scale spectacle that audiences could expect from the high-prestige movies. We’ve also discussed the first American blockbuster, the 1915 Ku Klux Klan recruitment film The Birth of a Nation, which pioneered most of the foundational principles of narrative filmmaking, and also made the case for the continued oppression and second-class status of Black people in the United States.

And today, we’re going to look at Gone With the Wind, the flabbergastingly successful 1939 four-hour film epic about the death of the Old South, and… well, the birth of a nation, I suppose.

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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 1.4: The Kojak Moment

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.

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Superman 1.3: Brando and the Money

From “Godfather” to “Superfather”? Marlon Brando has been offered a reported “unprecedented” salary to play the father — or older brother — of “Superman” for Alexander Salkind. (Variety, June 30, 1976)

The two Superman films, to be lensed simultaneously, will ring up a super budget of $25-30,000,000. Of that figure, $2,700,000, goes to Marlon Brando who plays papa to “Superman”. (Variety, Dec  27, 1976)

Even Brando, long-famed for his temperament, posed no problems. Perhaps even he could hardly believe the money he was being paid for his 12 days — $2.5 million, the most expensive salary on record. (LA Times, July 31, 1977)

We’ve read that white-wigged Marlon Brando, for just 12 days of work as Jor-El, Superman’s father on the planet Krypton, snagged $2.7 million or $3.7 million or $4 million. (New York Times, December 10, 1978)

There are a handful of stories that make up the core mythology of Superman: The Movie — the dinner in Paris, the lollipop, the dentist, the workout, the flying unit, the extra director. But the most important and enduring story — the thing that everyone is sure to mention when they talk about the movie — is Brando and the money.

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Superman 1.2: It Was Ilya’s Idea

“Hello, I’m Ilya Salkind,” the man says, “executive producer of Superman: The Movie, which actually I guess everybody by now knows was called Superman on the screen.” We are one sentence into this DVD commentary and already I have no idea what he’s talking about.

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