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 conceivable 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 acclaimed 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 community 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 believed 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 nonetheless 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…
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 appearance 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)
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 Government 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…