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 is proud to present this world-first exclusive and significant documentation of film history courtesy of SuperFan Jay Towers –
Presumed lost to time deep in the vaults of Elstree Studios and buried amongst the pages of the final shooting script from Cannon Films (also to come!) are these few seemingly inconsequential notes that actually form the breakdown of no less than the entire set requirements for Superman IV: The Quest For Peace including cost estimates (In Sterling!)
The year is 1986 and ambitious producers Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus have invested a considerable sum to secure the rights to the Superman motion picture property from Alexander and Ilya Salkind and and had dedicated the largest budget in the history of their studio to producing this sequel with plans for more to follow.
Unfortunately, as Cannon already had a plethora of films already at various stages in production and was actually in dire financial straits, Superman IV’s original budget of $30 Million plus would steadily erode to approximately half of this during the shoot, where bottom line figures for the sets alone (£5.4 Million – third pic) surely had execs sweating.
Indeed, cutbacks in the finished film are evident where £220,000 was saved replicating sets as established in the previous pictures by filming scenes in the Daily Planet offices on location in an existing office building Milton Keynes, UK and similarly £60,000 saved by utilizing London’s Hippodrome as the interior of the Metro Club.
As further savings were made by shooting entirely in England, epic scenes such as Superman’s arrival on 42nd street would infamously be shot outside Milton Keynes train station rather than New York City and Aldwych Tube Station would become Metropolis Central with minimal dressing.
For some otherworldly environments and cityscapes where battles would take place, however, elaborate sets had to be built. Part of Cannon’s attempt at industry domination was the acquisition of flailing Elstree Studios, resulting in Superman’s controversial relocation from Pinewood and the loss of its much-needed technical facilities. Whereas Pinewood’s backlot had devoted acres and millions to the accurate reproduction of a New York street for Superman II, at Elstree façades of buildings were pinned outside its studio walls with backgrounds intended to be composited in by matte paintings later. This accounts for the visible wobbling and the noticeable rooftops (where the paintings weren’t added). nonetheless, apparently it cost £1.3 million pounds to achieve this (second pic).
Even Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, once housed by the world-famous 007 stage at Pinewood, was completely rebuilt on a smaller scale at Elstree for a bargain £3 Million (Top pic).
Among the more successful sets were Lex Luthor’s Penthouse lair (£150,000, top pic) and the location set of the Kent farmhouse (at £67,000 one questions if a small unit sent out to the original Canadian locale may have been cheaper) not to mention the sets built for scenes ultimately cut from the finished film entirely (US/Russian conference rooms).
Finally, further evidence of cost cutting is exemplified in the simple memo from Associate Producer Graham Easton (dated 11th Sept, Bottom pic) to all parties dropping a sequence involving the construction of a full-size blimp (see the storyboards here) and the costly appearance of the QEII.
While its well-documented on SUPERMANIA just how and why the 1987 release ended the franchise on such a sour note, its evidence such as this, so rare and so fascinating, that offers further proof that in the initial stages at least, this production was intended to be every bit as epic as its predecessors…
Coming soon – The building of a Metropolis…
An unprecedented success with many lots outperforming their estimates by thousands, the Propstore’s Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction made headlines across the prop world while making many a collectors dream come true.
Luckily, SUPERMANIA managed a last-minute pilgrimage to The ODEON BFI IMAX in London to photograph the Superman items on display only hours before they went live. Below are the highlights of the Super-sales along with the astonishing prices realised –
424. Contact Sheets – £1,100
425. Shooting Scripts – £4,750
426. Autographed Still – £700
427. Underwater Tunic – £25,000
429. Large Kryptonian Crystal – £1,700
431. Promotional Ephemera – £1,600
432. Autographed Stills – £700
433. Muscle Tunic – £20,000
436. IV Script – £350
437. Pod Prop – £4000
As expected, the well-publicised underwater tunic (second pic) stole the show with the Muscle tunic (third pic) nipping at its shorts at only five grand less. Less expected were the amounts achieved by some of the smaller lots, with a single autographed still of Christopher Reeve going well above estimate at £700 and a folder full of essentially promotional clippings fetching £1,600 – most of which already present in the SUPERMANIA collection.
While many of these fabulous relics of movie history will take pride of place in private collections, The Starship Pod prop (bottom pic) was bought by Stateside SuperFan and Broadcaster Jay Towers, a prominent figure in Superman collecting and vocal supporter of the classic films. SUPERMANIA wishes Jay all the best with his his purchase and hope he enjoys it for years to come..!