Like so many of us only last year, life as we knew it had changed and not for the better. In the worst cases, we lost loved ones and for the rest of us – the world was on indefinite hold. While I don’t pretend my situation was any worse than anybody else’s, by September of 2021 I was unemployed for the first time in over 20 years, bored and miserable with no motivation.
It was one of those days in the endless weeks staring into the abyss and avoiding job websites that the phone rang. It was an International number. My first instinct was simply to reject the call but something told me to pick up. A booming voice with a broad US accent greeted me on the line, the kind that raises your spirits when you listen to the radio, for example.
“Hey Martin! Its Jay. How are ‘ya!?”
“Jay? Wow. Hello. To what do I owe the pleasure??
“So Jim and I are thinking of doing a thing at Motor City Comic-Con this year. A little Superman IV reunion.”
“Well. What a fantastic idea. Would you like me to contribute or something?”
“Actually yes – we want you to come over.”
“Ya! To Detroit for the event. It’ll be great. Jim & I are dying to meet you”
“Are you serious?”
“Absolutely. We want you there. You’re gonna love it”
“Ah…you know I don’t think I’ve ever been so flattered to be asked about anything more. I’m overwhelmed, but…”
“I’m really not a good flier. I don’t like it at all. ironically…”
“Hey, I don’t like it either but what the hell. Talk with your family and let me know by end of day”
“Wow. Are you sure about this??”
“Absolutely. Talk later”
And so months of intense planning ensued, and for my part there was little I could offer but I’ve watched and listened in awe at how Jay & Jim have turned what was planned as a modest celebration into probably the ultimate (and maybe final?) unique gathering of celebrities from the classic Superman Movie series to date. And I will be part of it. In what capacity yet I still don’t really know beyond representing Capedwonder Europe but I’m so honoured to have been asked that it didn’t seem real. Then a few weeks ago, I was sent this –
Which not only made the whole thing real but is also in my opinion, one of the best Reeve tribute videos ever made. Then there’s this –
Where, unbelievably, I get a mention.
I can’t begin to express my gratitude to these guys for everything they’ve given me – both previously with the guest spots on the Capedwonder Podcast and in advance of this event. Its hard to express just how the invite alone back then went a long way to pull me out of the mire and I’m glad to report everything has gotten better for me since then. Hopefully that goes for the rest of you too. Just like the guys say, I can talk about this stuff all day so if you do attend (and you really should!!) come seek me out, it will be my pleasure to speak with you and maybe help do for you what’s already been done for me. I plan to document the whole trip and upload several YouTube videos on my channel but be sure to watch for live coverage during the event. Details are all below and updates will follow but for right now as Jim would say – Stay Super.
– Martin Lakin, Feb 2022.
35 Years after his Final Flight in Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, the Love and Admiration For Christopher Reeve, both on Screen and in Life, are Stronger and more Inspiring than ever!
Today would have been Christopher Reeve’s 69th Birthday. Here at SUPERMANIA, and similarly with Superman websites all across the globe, we honour his legacy by remembering him as a husband, father, actor, humanitarian and the actor who would forever personify the original comic book hero.
Over forty years since he set the standard by which all other comic-book based performances would be judged, his BAFTA-winning portrayal still resonates, his powerful influence still echoed in the many live-action interpretations produced since. For many fans though, his timeless combination of sincerity, physicality, compassion and overall righteousness have made Christopher Reeve virtually incomparable. The story of his casting is now as big a part of cinematic history as when Vivien Leigh was cast as Scarlett O’Hara as was his ascension to to Superstardom and ultimately, tragedy.
Such was the impact made on a generation that most refuse to consign his memory to history, instead honouring him through media for later generations to enjoy. One of the best recent examples is DC Comics Superman ’78, a six-part series with written by Robert Venditti and illustrated by Wilfredo Torres that perfectly echoes the Donnerverse by emulating the late Geoffrey Unsworth’s cinematography on paper accompanied by dialogue delivered in clear homage to writer Tom Mankewicz. At the centre, of course, is Reeve’s dual characterisation back in action again, delighting its core audience whilst appealing to the new. This, with new licensed merchandise appearing regularly ensures that the definitive Man of Steel remains at the forefront of popular culture and, through the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, a significant contribution to humanity left by a super man.
On paper the notion seemed sound. He wasn’t Richard Donner (Or indeed Lester) but nevertheless a tenured Director with an impressive resume littered with some notable titles, The Ipcress File, The Entity and more recently cult sensation Iron Eagle. Moreover he was keen, available and as this particular project was now Christopher Reeve’s baby, a shoe-in after Wes Craven’s vision was met with Indifference.
Unfortunately Sidney J. Furie had it all against him. Taking on a franchise that had already derailed, its future now in the hands of easily the most notorious producers of the age and a star looking to dominate proceedings wherever possible. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace was always going to be somewhat insurmountable, but nobody could have foreseen just what twists and turns lay ahead.
Indeed, according to producer Michael Kagan‘Nobody wanted to make a bad movie’ even though the script by Laurence Konner & Mark Rosenthal (with story input by Reeve) was considered to be in dire need of another draft. Reeve had already been served with a lawsuit from outraged would-be writers Barry Taft and Ken Stoller who claimed the Nuclear disarmament theme of the story was theirs. The case would eventually be thrown out but was the start of many obstacles to overcome. The Go-Go Boys, (having bought the series from the dejected Salkinds at a discount on a sunny afternoon in Cannes) were nothing if not keen to get the picture made and out to its built-in audience in order to help Cannon Films finance the 30plus projects shooting around the globe at the time.
In the above interview with Steven Simak taken from the Summer 1987 Issue of Galactic Journal Magazine, Furie at least seems to have a clear outlook, fighting for Margot Kidder to be reinstated and citing that heavy-handed auteurship (i.e. Dick Lester) could be detrimental to the truth of the character. Arguably the love-triangle described with the introduction of Mariel Hemmingway’s character that Furie seems so keen to explore were among the best scenes in a film otherwise consumed by the spectre of visual effects done on the cheap.
Details about the infamous test-screening were recently revealed by Visual Effects artist Harrison Ellenshaw, who stated that while he sat in with the audience, Furie patiently waited in a cafe across the road. When the showing, (and indeed, the rioting) was over, Ellenshaw reported back to Furie who allegedly asked ‘Was it that bad??’ Word soon got back to Warner Bros. who would issue a simple, yet damning directive before general release – ‘Lose two reels’.
The resulting cuts are well-documented but the fallout remains. The sub-plots, the runtime, the soundtrack. Clive Mantle’s entire part – the list goes on. At one time thought to be merely a rough cut, Ellenshaw did confirm the test screening was that of the full-length feature, warts & all – and despite long being thought destroyed, Warner Bros. have confirmed the print survived and is stacked among the multitude of cans rescued from the Pinewood Studios vault to facilitate the Richard Donner cut of Superman II.
So with all this information finally brought to light – and over three decades later – can there be closure on the enigma that is Superman IV? The choice, as ever, seems to rest with the fans. For all the furore that saw the eventual release of @thesnydercut people seem to forget that @releasethedonnercut was not only first, but revolutionary in terms of studios response to the DC fanbase. We (the Superman community) proved that it can be done. We know what it takes to be done. We also now have the benefit of knowing the footage exists so it could be done. I therefore beseech anyone with even the slightest interest in this film to make their feelings known to @warnerbros and @warnerarchive to #releasethefuriecut and see the full extent of his much-maligned vision. We owe it to ourselves as Superman fans but we also owe it to a Director who suffered the humiliation of having 45minutes cut from his picture, leaving an incoherent mess.
Alongside the campaign for the release, hopefully you will have heard my ramblings on the @thecapedwonderpodcast, #releasethefuriecut on Twitter, and the amazing restoration work done by @aaronprice. I will be writing a separate post on that topic shortly but meantime, all these efforts have not gone unnoticed by the man himself, who, at 88 is still going strong and recently posted in response to seeing what can be achieved with modern VFX with “This is wonderful – if only we had this kind of technology back then…”