S I T E M A S T E R –
M A R T I N – E L
It may or may not have been the first time I ever saw it, but its the one event I remember most. That’s what they were called, you see. The ‘Event Movie’. Its a term lost to time now, (a little like ‘Blockbuster’ in more ways than one) but in the age of the silver screen epic, few things were more anticipated by my generation.
In his recent book ‘Watching Skies’ Author Mark O’ Connell describes us as ‘Starwatchers’ – which is as good a collective noun as any for adolescents born in the early to mid-seventies whose first exposure to Cinema – to anything – would be the epics as mentioned. If I have to name a single one of them you’re probably on the wrong site.
Anyhow – so imagine the excitement back in the day when it was announced there would be a showing – at my school, no less – of Superman (we never called it The Movie over here – only later did it become Superman I) in the Main Hall.
I’d seen the visiting projectionist a few times before at various children’s birthday parties, he was always polite and fielded many a ludicrous request for as-yet unreleased films from manic kids but never strayed from his 16mm reels as they unspooled. Over fifty kids sat entranced before the pull-down projection screen as the film played out (years before attention-spans were bred out of children entirely) and I was amongst them, most captivated of all.
I remember the collective gasp as Pa Kent collapsed and the silence in the room during the helicopter sequence. Once the picture was over I recall doing a Clark Kent impression as I timidly weaved through the crowd to get to the exit and walked home with my parents looking at the stars above.
During the next few days my mom came home with a couple packets of what we now call Trading Cards. Beneath the dusty stick of rock-hard pink chewing gum were spellbinding images of the Man Of Steel against the city skyline. I can pinpoint the start of the obsession to that week.
Forty years later my enthusiasm for what became the Superman Motion Picture Series has yet to wane. In fact it grows with every ‘new’ discovery and the collection of memorabilia has seemingly no bounds.
For a uniquely American icon I have always taken great pride in the fact the movies that defined him for generations to come were predominantly British-made, by UK craftsmen at the very top of their game. Say what you like about contemporary Superhero (a term I despise, btw) movies but even today, few walk away with an Academy Award for Special Effects and a BAFTA for its leading man. Indeed, this site was created to honour the likes of everyone from Denys Coop to John Barry and Wally Veevers to Derek Meddings, Les Bowie and back to maintain their legacy.
And we can’t continue about legacy without acknowledging the late, great Christopher Reeve. So many times I get asked by people ‘Why Superman?’ and while it might really be too big a question to answer I always prefer to let Chris’ performance speak for itself. It took a classically-trained newcomer to do it, but by treating the subject matter ‘like the bible’ the earnest young actor managed to transcend everything published or filmed to date by simply making the Man of Steel real.
It comes as a shock to most that outside of the movie series I don’t collect or have much interest in any of the character’s numerous incarnations. For me, there was only ever one, and not in the James Bond sense either, where other actors take on the part but Connery ‘was best.’ Don’t take my word for it, however, maybe when the greatest movie music composer of the last century tells us that ‘there may, in future, be other interpretations, but they’ll never get it quite as right‘ may convince you.