Show & Tell…

It what is rapidly becoming a worldwide event, over 600 lots of original props & costumes from some of Hollywood’s most spectacular productions went under the gavel in Propstore’s Live Auction of Entertainment Memorabilia last month.

As the coverage in the media was extensive (with CEO Steven Lane popping up all over daytime TV proudly doing show & tell) you may have noticed a familiar blue uniform not seen onscreen since 1987. As is now tradition, the lobby of BFI IMAX Waterloo was once again temporarily converted into a movie museum where the offerings could be previewed and once again, the Superman Series was well-represented.

Courtesy of SuperFan Graham Holden come these amazing images taken from the exhibition on preview night, where amongst other treasures the tunic from Superman IV and the Crystal prop from Superman: The Movie were confirmed to be the same ones sold only last year by Eubanks Entertainment & Memorabilia. These lots, sold for £5000 and £1500 previously would make tidy profits on the day as expected, but still fairly conservative in comparison to some of the estimates from the glossy catalogue.

Indeed, by all accounts live bidding was as frenzied as ever with some astronomical figures reached by way of vintage Star Wars ephemera and modern equivelant Guardians of the Galaxy. Superman evidently retains its popularity with all lots going to very lucky/happy SuperFans – We look forward to next year..!

65…

Today marks what would’ve been Christopher Reeve’s 65th birthday and forty years to the day where he turned 25 on the set of Superman: The Movie.

One cannot help but wonder what Reeve would be doing now had his life not taken such a fateful turn in 1995.  It would seem (by Hollywood standards) that being of pensionable age no longer inhibits the revival of vintage franchises (see Harrison Ford) so its concievable that Reeve would still be involved in some capacity with his most celebrated turn – maybe even as a director.  Indeed, just before his accident Reeve seemed to be set on a return to the mainstream again, appearing in the critically accalaimed Remains of the Day alongside cult fare like The Village of The Damned.  Tragic, then, on one hand that his best work onscreen may have been to come but on the other, his pioneering efforts on behalf of the disabled commuinity will surely serve to change lives for the better all over the world.

SUPERMANIA is proud to help preserve the legacy with this newest addition to the collection, a significant find that surfaced only recently after more than 40 years.   Many Superfans are aware that lifecasts/masks were taken by makeup supremo Stuart Freeborn for most of the lead actors and that recasts of Reeve’s have been circulating for a number of years (click here).  These reproductions were of an altered cast made for production (where the eyes were cut out for the purposes of adding false ones later) so are more of an SFX curio than a ‘standard’ lifecast.  These, along with a few other variations offered by Propstore over the years (serving as wig mounts and suchlike) were belived to be the only existing examples remaining from the series after Freeborn’s passing.

So imagine the surprise when a complete, almost full-head casting with superb detail appears from nowhere and instantly becomes the definitive source for reference to date.  While some consider lifecasts to be ghoulish, this fibreglass pull is nonethess a superb impression of the late actor.  Note how it compares in size with the older FX casting (third pic) having shrunk many generations down the line.  Though the newer cast isn’t perfect (suffering from some distortion and lack of clarity around the nose)  its shortcomings are made up for by the inclusion of the ears, a very uncommon feature to survive the process…

We miss you, ‘Toph…

Margot’s Timeout…

SUPERMANIA presents what at a casual glance would appear to be just another cover story for the opening of the theatrical run of Superman II but this particular issue of London’s Time Out magazine from 1981 represents not only the first no-holds-barred account of the troubled production but what would ultimately result in the demotion of the leading lady.

Indeed, Dave Pirie’s article ‘The Truth about Superman‘ has been cited on more than one occasion as so inflammatory that Margot Kidder’s opening remarks (top) about the Producers consequently limited her apperance in Superman III to a pair of short bookend scenes.  Common knowledge now but revealed with clarity here are the reasons for Brando’s absence from the sequel, the terms on which Dick Donner was dismissed and the almost hilarious lengths Alexander Salkind went to both fund the project and avoid incarceration as a result of various lawsuits.

Not even Christopher Reeve, already acknowledged for his discretion throughout the process could hold back his feelings regarding the rewrites of the Donner/Mankiewicz script for II and the decision to throw all of his scenes with Brando onto the cutting room floor.  Interestingly, Reeve is quoted as saying that Guy Hamilton (the Salkinds first choice as director) was drafted in as Donner’s replacement long before Richard Lester took the reigns.

Given all the controversy it is fairly miraculous that the finished product (also reviewed by Pirie, bottom pic) gained such plaudits as a successor to the original, the marked differences between thematic and directorial styles highlighted here still relevant and hotly debated today…

Footnote:  Among the many examples of how the Salkinds were to exploit their property not mentioned here was the sale of an extended cut, nearing three hours long, edited together without any approval of the director and broadcast over two nights by US Station abc purely to attain the advertising revenue.  Never shown again and long believed lost, this version has just been restored by Warner Archive and is released on Blu-Ray next month (see sidebar)

Bow, Yield, Kneel…

Jillan Freisen, DAILY PLANET 15:00 ET July 30th 2017

METROPOLIS – The Man of Steel is reunited with fallen dictator and fellow Kryptonian General Dru-Zod during a visit to a top-secret Government facility. Zod and his cohorts, Ursa and Non were imprisoned in 1981 after an attempt at world domination was thwarted by Superman during a battle in an undisclosed location in the Arctic.  The trio were sentenced to five consecutive life-sentences each, reduced to three after it was discovered they had been stripped of all their unearthly powers and been rendered mere mortals.  Zod, now 79, and subject to decades of rehabilitation has had numerous appeals for his release rejected despite claims of repentance for his crimes, which included the murder of three astronauts and collateral damage to the cities of Washington DC and Metropolis estimated at $3.6 Billion.  After their brief private conversation, Superman was challenged about his motivation for the meeting and said “While the General’s crimes were terrible and many of his actions unforgivable, he and his associates are nonetheless a vital link to my former homeworld.  I have absolute faith in our Govenrment and legal system and support their efforts to ensure their term is served according to Earth’s laws.” (Photograph by James Olsen)

Last week’s London FIlm & Comic Con at the Olympia scored an unprecedented coup for fans of the classic Superman Movies by announcing the first ever reunion of all three villians from Superman I &II, and almost delivering.

In a guest lineup that promised no less than Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran and Margot Kidder, Showmasters had done what many thought was impossible and had managed to secure legendary British actor Terence Stamp for his Convention debut.  Besides the obligatory autograph signing, the bill included a group photo session of all the Super-stars and a talk with Q&A.  It was, in short, a once in a lifetime opportunity and of course, SUPERMANIA was there.

Despite best laid plans, however, the show was dealt a series of blows in the form of guest cancellations right up to the last minute meaning the organisers could not fulfil their promises and were made to improvise in ways that unfortunately left many advance paying fans disappointed.  First to go was Jack O’Halloran, who had to drop out for health reasons (get well soon big man!) and then in the irony of Ironies, poor Margot Kidder missed her flight and never made it to the UK.

There was great relief on the Saturday as Terence and Sarah’s arrival was confirmed by a photo on social media so happily photo sessions and the talk would go ahead, but not exactly as intended.  The group photo session (costing over £100 paid in advance) was cancelled in favour of a joint picture with Terry and Sarah (third pic) which would’ve been a great alternative had it been organised and promoted correctly.  Instead, fans that had bought group photos were turned away with a promise of a refund and could only purchase a ticket for the double pic there and then for £70 in cash only.  This outrageous action was followed up with a poor queuing system that meant anybody without a Diamond Pass (Over £200) had little chance of obtaining Terence Stamp’s coveted autograph.

In fact, the show was evidently massively over-subscribed and it was everything one could do to bounce from location to location to obtain what you had, in most cases, already paid for. This, and the excessive crowds did not make for a pleasurable experience and were it not for the class act that is Ms.Douglas (bottom pic signing a replica of the Phantom Zone) being the standard by which all other con guests should be judged, it would’ve been worse.

So thank goodness for Mr. Stamp, who maintained an unflappable aura for the entire proceeding.  Softly spoken and gentile, his iconic intense gaze was as sharp as ever now found under a shock of white hair.  This was what hit me first as I approached for my photo wearing the Superman costume (top pic) as he glared at me up and down, it seemed to me, completely in character!

Drawing up next to him whilst feeling a combination of awe and dread, he extended his hand to shake mine and whispered, ‘Hello, lovely to meet you thanks, for coming’.  Now, as you can imagine, for a fan of the Superman series since childhood this was a powerful significant moment.  The General, it turns out, is a total gentleman and if you ever get the chance, as many people did that day, I can’t recommend meeting him highly enough.

There was still one hurdle to overcome before the day could end and that was obtaining Terence’ autograph.  During the day I’d been so gratified that many Super-fans had come up to me to say hello and compliment me on the costume and for the first time at a con a had real sense of community – it was great to put names to faces including Mark Cookson, Filip Biesmans and Graham Holden.  One fan, it would turn out, would turn out to be the biggest hero of all as it looked like we weren’t going to get the much-coveted autograph after all.

A serious contender for No.1 Superfan in the UK, Andrew Hanton was already in the queue for Terence and saved the day by getting a photo signed on my behalf (second pic) made all the more significant by way of his alternate signature (where you can actually make out his name).  Quite why he elected to do this rather than the standard two lines is a mystery but I was overjoyed with the result and it is now a key piece in the SUPERMANIA collection.

While I would be reluctant in the extreme to attend the London show again, rumours persist about plans for an ultimate celebration of the 40th anniversary of Superman: The Movie next year.  If anybody can do it, Showmasters can but I would hope that many learns have been taken on in the meantime from the LFCC 2017 experience…

Coming On Strong…

SUPERMANIA marks the 30th anniversary week of the final entry in the classic Superman series released in Cinema’s across the world with an unprecedented trio of posts (one for every 10 years!) of rare and unseen material.

Despite ‘Coming On Strong’ (according to the US tagline) in July 1987, Superman IV: The Quest or Peace continues to be divisive decades later.  Critically mauled on initial release leading to audience indifference and disastrous box-office, the Cannon Films production would be a franchise killer long before the term was properly coined.

However, against considerable odds, the film somehow endures to this day.  Despite its reputation as one of the worst comic-book films ever made, something about the beleaguered production and deeply-flawed 90-minute (un)finished product still resonates and manages to retain a small but dedicated fanbase.  Those who can see beyond the cut-price visual effects and clunky plot to embrace it as a pure translation of comic-book to film are rewarded with some classic Superman Movie moments and at its heart, as always, the performance of the late Christopher Reeve.

Much maligned as it may be, the film is the guilty pleasure that refuses to fade away, clinging firmly to its cult status.  But don’t take my word for it, go here to read a fabulous new retrospective written by Bill Williams, where you’ll discover the real legacy of this film is that it got made at all.  Indeed, until such time as the complete and uncut edition is pulled from the WB archives and restored, we literally have don’t yet have the full picture…

From the top – The exciting latest addition to the SUPERMANIA archive is this authentic, production-used Stunt Double black satin crew jacket!  This was acquired from Propstore and is most likely attributed to Christopher Reeve’s stuntman Mark Stewart (Reeve himself wore a very similar one onset).  Paired with a genuine crew cap, this represents a complete ensemble as worn by personnel at Elstree Studios in 1986…

Above, more never-before-published pages from the volume of storyboards pencilled by Martin Asbury as scans resume from the Big Red Book last posted over three years ago!!  There are many more to follow this sequence of the battle for the Statue of Liberty and it should be noted this vast binder houses the complete version of the film, so future updates will document the epic Metropolis battle as it was meant to be seen, including yellowcabs tossed around like rocks!

Below, a brand-new set of fanmade vintage style promotional ads for Superman IV presented by Jason Leggett, giving us an insight into what might have been had the advertising budget matched those of previous instalments…