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 incarceration is carried out appropriately.” (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…

Con Yvonne…

From Fotogrammas.es; 25/04/2017

“Behind Superman’s outfit was a Super-woman. That was Yvonne Blake, the current president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Spain. She was the one who designed the superhero costume for the movies directed by Richard’s Donner and Lester, and originating from the comic-book character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster .

‘The Superman Costume’ is a short film by the Algecirian filmmaker Juan Manuel Díaz Lima, who reveals the in’s and out’s of the creation of the Man of Steel’s dress through its own creator.

The costume designer has four Goya awards (‘Remando al viento’, ‘Canción de cuna’, ‘Carmen’ and ‘El puente de San Luis Rey’) and won an Oscar for the film ‘Nicolás and Alejandra’ in 1971.  She has also been part of the technical team of productions such as ‘Fahrenheit 451’, ‘Robin and Marian’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘Don Juan in the Underworld’ and ‘The Goya Ghosts’ among many others.

The Documentary also includes interviews with directors, film critics, seventh art scholars and experts on Krypton’s most famous inhabitant who serve to contextualize and understand the fascination with the designer’s work. Among the personalities are: Jesús Palacios, Antonio Sánchez-Escalonilla, Carlos Díaz Maroto, Miguel Ángel Vivas, Jordi Claramonte, Raúl Álvarez, Manuel M. Velasco, Iskander López, Jorge Jiménez, Jordi Costa, Víctor Matellano and José Manuel Serrano Cueto.

DirectorJuan Manuel Díaz Lima holds a degree in Audiovisual Communication and Doctor from the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid. His filmography includes several documentaries and several fiction short films and director of several video clips.
‘The Superman Costume’ is a film financed with the support of the Community of Madrid by Creta Producciones SL, Veo Veo Producciones SL and Pasajes Invisibles SL.”

Debuting on the 19th week of the Short Film of the Community of Madrid, The Superman Costume, a new documentary apparently made without the authorisation or involvement of DC Comics or Warner Bros. seems to have passed right under the radar of the English-Speaking world.

Now a National treasure in her adoptive home country of Spain, legendary designer Blake has already been the subject of a book so it was only a matter of time before she herself made the transition to film, although precious little information about the picture itself seems available online.

With the subject matter obviously very dear to SUPERMANIA’s heart, a hand is extended to our Spanish readership for more information on this (or indeed a link where it can be watched) In the hope it may share some valuable revelations.  In the meantime, enjoy the excellent piece below written by Irene Velasco for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo ;

A self-respecting superhero cannot leave his wardrobe in the hands of anyone. And even less so when it comes to the definitive Superman. When the Man of Steel decided in 1978 to make the leap from the pages of the comic to the big screen actor Christopher Reeve needed one of the most reputed specialists in the world to take care of his wardrobe. A woman who had as an arduous mission to dignify, as much as possible, a garment that she herself recognised as quite ridiculous, composed of an electric blue suit with a large “S” printed on the chest accompanied by a cloak and Red underpants. Her goal was to make the grotesque combination work in the movies. She achieved it. This heroine is Yvonne Blake, who has made costumes for some 58 films (some as mythical as Jesus Christ Superstar), has dressed dancers and singers of numerous ballets and operas, has worked under François Truffaut , won An Oscar for best costume for the film Nicolas and Alexandra (1971), has four Goyas awards, has dressed legends the likes of Marlon Brando, Robert de Niro, Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor . Since July 2016 she is the president of the Spanish Film Academy.  A 76-year-old superwoman has led an exciting life. Aware that a hem, a stitching, or a tie could be more damaging to Superman’s image than the Kryptonite itself, Yvonne made it seamless. The Man of Steel’s suit she made for the film had, of course, the usual seams, but she managed to keep them well hidden and keep her superhuman reputation safe.  She also prepared Superman layers of 25 different fabrics, with the aim of getting the desired movement in each of the shots before the camera. But the biggest problem, she confesses, was to find the exact blue. “No doubt that was the most complicated,” reveals Yvonne as she pulls out of a large portfolio the original sketch of the figure, whose upper left corner still retains a sample of that happy fabric that cost him so much. The difficulty was that it was necessary that the patina was not too blue or too greenish to serve for the chroma-key, that technique in which certain scenes (especially those that require special effects) are rolled on a background.  But there were also other difficulties. “Christopher Reeve was very nervous, he was sweating a lot, and because his skin was very sensitive and he was immediately irritated, he could not use deodorant,” recalls Yvonne. Result: Superman appeared constantly in the armpits a very little dark patches, an unmistakable sign that the superhero transpired. “We solved the situation the only way we could: drying Christopher Reeve’s sweat stains with a hair dryer.”

 Marlon Brando is one of the actors that impressed me the most,” she says.. “He had a fantastic sense of humour, and he was not vain, on the contrary, in the first costume test he did not even bother looking at himself in the mirror, sating he would leave it in our hands.” She made a special cloth suit that reflected the light and made it look white, as if it radiated energy. “He told me that he had a hard time memorising the dialogue, and he often had to use large posters to remember his script, sometimes writing on his hand and sometimes directly off the forehead of the actress when she was off- camera.  He also said that this inability to memorise was what prevented him from doing theatre.

But before reaching the summit and making the mythical suit of Superman , Yvonne Blake had to go a long way from Salford, the northern city of England where he was born in 1941. “I have been very lucky in life but also a lot of push, I’ve always been ambitious. Once I had a goal in my head, I went for it,” She confesses…

From Slater With Love…

Showmasters Collectormania finally came to Birmingham this month after a long absence from the UK Midlands.  A show nestled somewhere between a Con and a Collector’s fair its consistent crowning achievement is the calibre of guests it manages to attract.

SUPERMANIA has attended the show for years, starting in arguably its best suited venue, Centre:MK, where such Super-Alumni as Jack O’ Halloran, Sarah Douglas and Brandon Routh would appear and later, in the Ill-judged transition to The MK Dons Stadium Marc McClure would be meeting and signing for a multitude of fans.

So it was with particular excitement that it was announced noneother than Helen Slater would be flying into the second city as this time there was an opportunity to have a picture taken together by a pro photographer so what better excuse to dust off the costume after Superman IV: Redux?  

Every bit as demure and age-defying as the pics above suggest, Ms. Slater seemed totally unfazed by the many cosplayers who had donned the cape for the event and seemed flattered when complimented on her contribution to the Superhero genre – with her appearances in Smallville and the current Supergirl series being aired on the CW.  The 10×8 selected for signing had been bought in advance (notice the flap hanging down beneath the armpits on a Chris Reeve cape!) and the result (top pic) was a very happy fanboy.

Next month marks a historic occasion in Super-Fandom as Showmasters have managed to do it again by assembling no less than all three supervillians from Superman II for the very first (and most likely last) time as Terence Stamp attends his first-ever Sci-Fi convention.  SUPERMANIA will of course be there and will deliver a full report and hopefully a group photo!  Stay tuned…