Though audience and critical response to Superman IV: The Quest For Peace had been derisory, Cannon films forged ahead regardless by announcing a fifth picture only three months after its failure with an apparent plan to use culled footage from the subplot of IV as the basis for a new feature. (See the deleted scenes here)
This incredibly rare promo (top pic) confirms the film was in ‘Pre-Production’ with rumours director Albert Pyun was attached (and presumably Christopher Reeve with whatever conditions he demanded just to get him back in the role). Sadly, like a glut of other announced projects, (among them Masters of The Universe Part II, part one ironically responsible for Superman IV‘s cut budget) the film went unrealised due to the collapse of the Cannon Group, whereupon the rights reverted back to the Salkinds who would proceed with their own doomed attempt to bring the Man Of Steel back to the big screen.
The priceless pieces of memorabilia shown above were salvaged from the refurbishment of Elstree studios, remodelled soon after Cannon’s collapse. Along with the original studio layout (second pic) and original Thorn EMI internal memo was this incredible evidence that a fifth Superman feature was indeed a reality. A SuperFan by the name of Paul passed them onto me with this description;
This is a mini poster for the cancelled, never made film Superman V. To quickly explain where I got this, I grew up in Borehamwood – home of Elstree Film Studios where Star Wars (and Superman IV) were made. In the late 80’s The Cannon Group owned the studios before much of it was demolished. In late 1987 or early 1988 (I can’t remember when but I do remember it was cold winter day) I was working with my father gutting the valuable stuff from the soundstages that were being demolished. Being a curious teenager I was raiding the trash looking for stuff. I found a collection of framed mini posters most in smashed glass frames. I later found out these were hung along the corridors coming from the main reception area. I took a few of these that interested me (Masters of The Universe, Superman, Spider-man) and I’ve kept them all these years. Superman V was never made but Cannon had started work on it…
My sincere thanks also go to SuperFan William S. Wilson (see his amazing Movie blog here) for securing an original copy of the ad taken from the pages of daily Variety (bottom pic – on the rear: Delta Force II) and adding this grail item to my collection after a long and exhaustive search…
Despite the announcement from Cannon Films that Superman V was in Pre-Production as early as 1988, the project’s failure to materialize due to the collapse of the Cannon Group meant their option had reverted back to the Salkinds.
Having received lukewarm reception to their SuperBoy TV series, the Salkinds were keen to return to past glories and finally get the Superman Motion Picture Series back on track. Though Ilya Salkind had produced an ambitious treatment during the series tenure (which he elaborates on in the DVD documentary ‘You Will Believe, The Cinematic Saga Of Superman’) the script and story were fleshed out by writers Cary Bates and Mark Jones (the former having written numerous episodes for the TV series)
With a first draft provisionally titled ‘Superman The New Movie‘ taking the saga back to its science-fiction roots (incorporating the City of Kandor and Brainiac as the villian) the project was intended to be the Salkinds next once they had completed Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. With buzz already circulating due to Alexander Salkind turning up to Europex courting investors (see third pic down) and rumours (confirmed by Salkind, Bates and Later Reeve himself) that the star was interested in returning (see second and last pic – translation; “He is perhaps going to be sent into the air for a 5th time – he is being sought to star in ‘Superman: The New Movie‘) and production slated for Universal Studios in Florida, things were slowly falling into place.
Tragically, however, by 1992 Warner Brothers were seeking to consolidate their ownership of the character and the Salkinds were ousted as WB eventually retained all rights. This meant that the third and final draft of the script (now entitled Superman Reborn – see top pic for script cover) would be shelved indefinitely while plans were made to have Superman return to the small screen.
Superman Reborn would remain a working title for script submissions & rewrites (most notably by Jonathan Lemkin) and would languish in development hell before its evolution to ‘Superman Lives‘ and the arrival of Tim Burton. But that’s a whole other story…
Download a PDF of the Jones/Bates script here
Culled from an oversize UK newspaper article in the The Sun entitled ‘Why I Believe in Superman’ circa 1988, after the release of Superman IV. It seems Reeve’s only stipulation for returning to the role at the time was a return to quality. As the possibility of a fifth chapter was closer to fruition than most believe, I intend to post as much evidence from the aborted fifth movie that I can and need your help!! Please get in touch if you have anything Superman V related…!