‘He’s My Cousin…’

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Now that the long-awaited team-up of the Man of Steel with the Maid of Might has finally made its successful screen debut, (albeit on television) SUPERMANIA goes once upon a time-warp to investigate just how & why the opportunity to do this some thirty years earlier on the big screen was lost.

With the latest addition to the collection of a second-draft script (Dated November 1982) produced by Alexander Salkind and written by David Odell, could the mystery of Christopher Reeve’s 11th hour decision to pull out (forcing last-minute script rewrites) be solved?  Would the film have been better received had Superman remained part of the story as originally planned?

By late 1982 filming was concluding on Superman III with the general understanding that this would be the last of a ground-breaking, phenomenally successful movie trilogy.  By part III, the saga was flailing in terms of concept and script quality and its star was also keen to move on to pursue other roles.  Not yet ready to put their cash cow back out to pasture, however, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind (cannily having made the deal for the rights to the entire Superman family back in 1976) decided to mount a spin-off series of pictures based on the adventures of Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El.  Supergirl.

With Jaws 2 and Somewhere In Time Director Jeannot Swarzc attached and Dark Crystal screenwriter Odell on script duties, to say nothing of a gargantuan budget for the time and the same talented team of SFX technicians the Salkind’s must have been assured of another blockbuster franchise…

Its surprising for a second draft just how much material made it unchecked into the finished picture – the plot, structure and dialogue in key scenes survived what would have been countless rewrites after Superman’s exit.  So what of his role in the story?  Evidently, the lack of a Superman forced the creation of the Omegahedron, the power source Kara pursues in the movie to save her home Argo City, from destruction.

Keen to capitalise on Reeve’s established audience to springboard their new, unknown star, Superman was supposed to be ready and waiting for Kara’s arrival so he could introduce her to a new world.  As for insights into what made Reeve reject the script – arguably it may still have been to early to return to the part having publicly made his decision to retire but beyond that, the material presented here was, for want of a better word, garbage.

With all the rich story potential this opens up (to say nothing of Supergirl’s comic-book history) it seems incredible Odell produced such a confusing nonsensical mess based around the weak concept of ‘Magic’.  The Superman here is not developed in any way and lacks the charm and warmth we associate with the character .  In fact, Kal-El and Kara are afforded little time together to build any kind of releationship before Superman gets relagated to a bizarre sub-plot, abandoning Earth for- I kid you not – the ‘Planet of the Healers’ not to reappear until the end.  His one big action scene, (the battle with the invisible Shadow Beast shot with Supergirl in the final cut) is played out exactly as in the film ‘Leave this place and do no harm!’ but renders him weak and powerless having been exposed to Selena’s spell.

This, alongside the odd Zoltar character (a confused self-involved artist – not yet the scenery-chewing incarnation he becomes) and Jody (not yet Lucy) Lane and poor Jimmy Olsen showing up in once scene do little to advance proceedings.  Conversely, the Selena character is given a far more sinister background here as the newly-elected leader of an occult sect – but without the desire for the Omegahedron’s power she’s given no more motivation to take over the world than to win the affections of her dimwit gardener and destroy Supergirl in the process.  Its possible the witchcraft illustrated here (including using a severed ear as a communication device!) made the producers nervous about appealing to a family audience so was diluted to the cringeworthy camp which it became.

In short, its not difficult to understand why the movie failed on so many levels and why Reeve was smart enough to turn it down.  Today, as a cult curio if little else, Supergirl has its fans and is fondly remembered but hardly the cinematic titan it was intended.  Had Odell adhered more to the science fiction aspect without fully embracing the fantasy elements (Innerspace/Outerspace? What?) we would surely have gotten a better take (a road the producers of the current Supergirl series have wisely taken) and who knows?  A Super-sequel guest starring the Man of Steel may have been the premiere Super-Hero team-up we deserved…

From the top – Christopher Reeve & Helen Slater meet at a Premiere in 1984, Unpublished poster art by Lawrence Noble, Front cover and select script pages featuring Superman from Odell’s 132 page screenplay…

Toes Pointed…

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With 50 years in the business, its inevitable that you will have seen Mr. Paul Weston in numerous genre classics and most likely not even realised.

With an impressive (most impressive) resume that boasts seminal pictures like ALIEN, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Return Of The Jedi, Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves and Bond films The Living Daylights, Octopussy and Moonraker to name but a few, it should come as no surprise Paul would also lend his talents and expertise to the big screen adventures of the Man of Steel.

“I worked on Superman’s one, two and three, the veteran stuntman, co-ordinator and second – unit Director revealed to SUPERMANIA this past weekend at MCM Comic-Con –  

“Chris Reeve was just lovely.  He came in and he was so young – just a kid – and he was tall and broad but he had no chest, it was flat.  I remember they made him up a padded suit, like the Batman ones now and he wouldn’t have it, he went straight to the gym.  After a while they brought in Dave Prowse and when he was ready he looked fantastic.

When we had him up in the air the first few times he was learning how to hold himself so he was streamlined.  We found that unless he pointed his toes it didn’t look right but it was hard to do, hold yourself like that.  We’d be down on the ground shouting up at him ‘POINT YOUR TOES CHRIS!’ and when he did he’d got it.  It became so much of a thing on set that when he eventually went home on Concorde, we had the pilot announce over the tannoy ‘Would a Mr. Christopher Reeve remember to keep his toes pointed in flight’.  He loved that.

“Everything you see in the Junkyard battle in Part III that isn’t Chris himself is me.  We worked really hard on that scene.  There were instances where we both had to be in the same shot and they super-imposed his face over mine.  In The Making Of Superman III you can see me on the swing being thrown into the car crusher.

I had Superman belt and a pair of boots – I kept them for years but eventually I just threw them away.  Same with ALIEN, I had a costume, pipes on the back and everything but that was thrown too.  Back then these things had no worth, its all different now.  I heard the ALIEN costume would’ve fetched literally thousands but there you go…” 

Obviously not one for hanging on to souvenirs, very few pictures of Paul on the Superman sets exist so he was kind enough to sign a still of his late friend Chris for SUPERMANIA (top pic) while the remainder of them are borrowed form Paul’s fantastic website – these rare pics show Paul on the Chemical Plant set (second from top), consulting with fellow Stuntman Roy Alon in Calgary for the fire hydrant crash and celebrating in the early days at Pinewood (bottom) with the news of Chris Reeve’s impending fatherhood.

Still very much active in the industry, Paul finds time to attend conventions and give talks on his fascinating career and is always happy to share stories with fans.  Should you wish to catch him he has an upcoming event in December at GATA where he is hosting an evening called ‘My Life In Stunts’ which is sure to be another Super-Occasion…

Most Iconic…

img_4998img_4976img_4979img_4968Taking its rightful place as the centrepiece in an exhibition charting a trio of cinematic Sci-Fi anniversaries, an original Superman costume stands proudly among selected screen used props currently showcased in Moyes’s Hall Museum UK.

Celebrating its 8th Sci-Fi Action exhibition in acknowledgement of 30 years of the Alien franchise, 40 years since the camera’s rolled on the original Star Wars and 50 years of Star Trek, the West Suffolk site is currently housing over 100 items of memorabilia from these enduring saga’s and more.

Described as ‘Perhaps the most iconic Movie costume of all time’ and on loan from Propstore, the Christopher Reeve Superman display has had somewhat of an upgrade since it was last seen in public at Covent Garden in 2012.  Although the costume remains the same combination of mis-matched tunic & tights last seen by SUPERMANIA on the Propstore tour, it has apparently been neatly re-mounted on the mannequin with a new \S/ shield base and the cape now sports its yellow patch – missing since the original display since its first appearance in 2010.  Stephen Lane himself told me he had the shield in storage the whole time (which accounts for its clean appearance) but had yet to re-attach it – making this the very first time the costume has been displayed 100% complete.

Superfan Andrew Hanton took the fantastic pics above and had this to say about his close encounter –

“My wife works in Bury St Edmunds and said she had seen a leaflet about a small sci-fi exhibition in Bury’s Moyse’s Hall Museum in the town centre.  I wasn’t too interested as I usually attend the big Showmasters Comicon events said ‘Mmm I don’t think I’ll bother’ – then she said ‘they have Christopher Reeve’s Superman suit on display!’ Well my reaction was ‘No way!!’
Sure enough it was true so the next day we drove to Bury to see the costume, when I walked in the room I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was a dream come true for me –  a Superman and in particular a Christopher Reeve fan since the age of 8 (I’m now 41). There it stood in a glass case and to top it off it was standing proud on a Christopher Reeve mannequin.
Although a little battered & bruised it looked amazing and to be up close to the real thing was overwhelming, the tunic was a little faded but for me that added to it, as the ‘S’ stood out vibrant in colour and proud.
We were allowed to take as many pictures and video it as we liked which was brilliant, apart from seeing this iconic suit for me it affirmed the authenticity of my ‘Super Costumes’ replica as I have to say mine is pretty damn close to the original which makes me even more pleased with it.
All in all a wonderful day and only £5 to get in – who’d of thought I’d get to fulfill a life long dream – seeing a Superman costume & in little old Bury St Edmunds…!”

The exhibition runs until Sunday November 13th so be quick if you want to share the experience of seeing it for yourself – click on the tab in the right hand column for details and be sure to leave comments here about your visit..!

64…

unmasking-1unmasking-2-001unmasking-3unmasking-4Today would’ve been Christopher Reeve’s 64th birthday.  As is customary here at SUPERMANIA we mark the occasion with a fitting tribute – in this case a rare interview with the man himself taken from the August 1987 issue of Starlog Magazine.

Speaking to Kim Howard Johnson from the set of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace in 1986, Reeve, somewhat poignantly indicated how this film was the most personal of the series.  In fact it would be, both thematically and practically having taken story credit and second unit direction besides the standard dual roles.

All of which Reeve seemed to take in his stride, his experience evident after a decade in the red boots and the creative freedom to express what his Superman should be doing.  Some of these character nuances (such as both identities ultimately being a disguise) were firsts here and continue to resonate in Super-Literature.

Though the film would be a critical and commercial failure, Reeve’s performance was universally praised and remains the one constant in what has now regained life as a cult classic.

Rest in Peace, ‘Toph…

With Merit…

Merit1Pictures32Pictures33Merit2Edition One of Merit Publications magazine is quite the enigma given that there were no subsequent issues and that it is arguably one of the finest pieces of vintage Superman items produced in conjunction with the movie.

Though it proclaims to showcase Warner Bros. New films, it is actually an elegant portfolio of photographs and accompanying text all from Superman: The Movie featuring the best publicity stills and some uncommon prints.  Anybody seeking info on Clint Eastwood’s and Stanley Kubrick’s latest would’ve felt short-changed as coverage amounts to nothing more than ads for Every Which Way But Loose and The Shining inside the back cover.

As if the glorious layouts (above) were not enough, the centrefold is a pull-out poster of the iconic ‘Punch’ shot taken by Bob Penn in New York in 1977 – all of the above making this the ideal companion piece to the Collectors Album and SUPERMANIA’s recommendation for an inexpensive addition to the perfect Super-library…

Coming soon – The Japanese edition…

Living The Dream…

20160716_16212020160715_14454220160715_14562620160716_085619Regular visitors to SUPERMANIA could be forgiven for noticing a lack of posts in the last few weeks but now we are back, and with exclusive coverage of the most significant and personally gratifying event this site has ever hosted.

As the sun sets on this years Milton Keynes International Festival #IFMKFest, a wide ranging celebration of culture and history within the city, the 10 day celebration closes this very evening with the big screen premiere of Director Richard DeDomenici’s Superman IV: Redux – Thirty years to the date of the UK release of Superman IV back in 1987.

This latest addition to the Redux Project, a bold experimental attempt to remake selected scenes from Hollywood blockbusters brought DeDomenici to the infamous locations used in 1986 by Cannon Films to shoot there some thirty years later. Keen to celebrate their small but fondly remembered involvement in Superman cinematic history, Milton Keynes Council lent their full support to Superman IV: Redux.

With years of research dedicated to the making, marketing and mayhem of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace it was only natural that the project would eventually come to my attention where I would admit to initially being sceptical.  However, as the casting call was open to all and the opportunity to access indoor locations was rare I decided to tag along for the audition process.

Never once did I anticipate or dream I would be cast as Superman/Clark Kent and embark on a short, but life-changing journey but that’s exactly what happened.

A full account of the events leading to, during and after the shoot will be uploaded to a permanent page on the site in the coming weeks.  I can’t wait to share my dream come true with you all…

From the top – Martin Lakin as Superman alongside actor David John Waterman, reprising his role as the Hot Dog Vendor from Superman IV, one of the many props reproduced for the filming of Superman IV Redux, Martin Lakin as Clark Kent in  the Avebury buliding, original location of the Daily Planet offices and Esther Webb exhibiting appropriate sass as Lois Lane…

Poster Gigante..!

Postermag120160607_14230520160607_141900Postermag2Presenting the latest piece of vintage memorabilia to be added to the SUPERMANIA archive – this unique poster magazine was released exclusively in Spain and is so rare this is the first and only copy seen in decades of collecting.

The Superman Movies have a long and rich history with this most ’80’s of collecting staples.  Most big genre movies of the decade were awarded with similar colourful fold-outs which would adorn many a childhood bedroom wall until, much like cinematic events themselves, their fade into obscurity.

Whereas the foldout format would be limited to European/UK shores (with II and III upcoming in future posts) Stateside offerings would be appropriately heftier affairs with the glossy magazines for Superman III and IV by Starlog Press emerging as arguably the best tie-in’s for each picture – both of which will also appear here soon..!

Rated PG…

SIVPress1SIVPress2SIVPress3SIVPress4By 1987 the traditional bumper advertising manual was steadily being consigned to history.  Indeed, what began as a series of grand ‘Exhibitor Campaign Books‘ concluded with the above basic four-page leaflet.

SUPERMANIA gets back to good old-fashioned vintage ephemera with the fine vintage example reproduced in its entirety above.  For what was a modest campaign thanks to the low-key efforts made by Cannon Films, the poster and still sets made available by the National Screen Service are of immense quality (the UK Quad arguably the best variation of the poster with its bold silver title) and form a vital part of the SUPERMANIA collection.  Enjoy..!

“For Real…”

13234720_10208531476700620_1090034604_o13219757_10208523069490445_659303663_n13223636_10208523058370167_908964285_o13242341_10208523061730251_1671658281_oSUPERMANIA cuts the virtual ribbon and welcomes you to the newest wing of the SuperSebas gallery with these stunning brand new pieces above –

After you have feasted your eyes on these flawless new renders we further invite you to attend a conversation with the artist to hear all about what it takes to create such awesome likenesses and discover the inspiration behind them.  Click here to go straight to the studio for an exclusive interview with SuperFan Sebastian Colombo where he talks about his techniques, breaking into the comics industry, his plans for the future and the moment he saw a genuine Superman costume for the first time.

The Colombo Portfolio has been thoroughly revised and updated and coverage of his upcoming art and costume projects will be showcased there.  Meantime, enjoy the candid conversation with the SuperFan who thought the man he saw on screen at a young age was Superman for real and continues to apply his considerable talents to keeping the Reeve legacy alive…

Extra! Extra..!

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SUPERMANIA spins the world back to 1986 for yet another pictorial exclusive from the making of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace courtesy of actress Stephanie English.  A tenured performer appearing in numerous productions of the 70’s and 80’s, Steph shares her experiences of being a background artiste in the quick chat below…

Stephanie, thanks so much for talking to SUPERMANIA – can we start by asking you how you came to be involved in so many memorable movies & shows back in the 80’s and what exactly was your contribution?

I started doing films/TV in the early 70’s from being a model it was really just a transgression from one to the other as I started getting small parts as a model and it went on from there.

Can you tell us what a typical day for you as an extra/stand in would entail? What was the most memorable show you spent time on and why – were there any jobs you look back on as the best of them all?

A typical day on a film would be an early start around 6 to 7am then time spent waiting to have your hair and make up done and getting into costume – you have no idea what time you will finish and often no idea what you will be required to do.  My most memorable films I would say are Batman as the Gotham city set was amazing and Robin Hood as we spent many memorable weeks filming in the woods at Burnham Beeches.

And so to SUPERMAN IV – how and when were you approached by the production  company and were you excited to be a part of it?  Had you been a fan/seen all the SUPERMAN films up to that point?

I got the job on Superman IV through my agent – I had already worked on Superman II but the scene I did where we were being blown over by the super villains was cut out unfortunately.

How much time did you spend on the set and what were your specific scenes?  From your pictures its evident you were in Milton Keynes for the two major sequences where Superman flies down into the Train Station.  What was the atmosphere like and was seeing Christopher Reeve in flight as cool as it looked onscreen?

I worked one day Milton Keynes as far as I remember and I was an onlooker watching Superman flying in.  It was interesting to see how they did it and how well they made the area look like Metropolis.  I was in the crowd behind Superman when he walks to the podium to make his speech.

Speaking of Chris, you were also present for what would sadly be a cut scene at the London Hippodrome nightclub.  That picture of you together (Top) must be special to you.  Can you give us your impressions of working with him and how he came across as a person?

My memories of Christopher Reeve from the Hippodrome scene were that he was very nice – friendly and down to earth.  I remember him saying his feet were hurting as the shoes they had given him were too small..!

Stephanie – thank you very much..!!