“We’re Gunslingers…And you don’t win every duel…”
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…”
As cub reporter Jimmy Olsen himself once said “We’re back!!!!”
A very warm welcome to SUPERMANIA’78 for friends old and new alike. Over the last year the site has been completely regenerated with a dynamic new look featuring all new navigation. Please make your first destination here for an introduction and mission statement. Then I invite you to click across the top menu for pages featuring brand new content ending with one devoted entirely to you – the Superfans and your experiences.
Meantime, older posts have been updated and links to both my Instagram page and, finally, YouTube Channel have been added. SUPERMANIA on video is a new venture for me and I’m very excited by its potential. I have a number of shoots upcoming that will include everything from cast member interviews to showcasing original Props & Costumes! See the first of these shorts here and be sure to subscribe!
Please feel free to leave any feedback and continue to check back for updates – my email is firstname.lastname@example.org should you wish to contribute or just get in touch. In the meantime, on the very day Superman IV: The Quest For Peace premiered 32 years ago I’m proud to bring you a world exclusive from the filming on location in the UK –
This amazing backstage pass is awarded to you by one Graham Bedford – a photographer who happened to be working right in the centre of the city doubling for Metropolis. Graham tells his story below –
“Way back in 1986 I had an office in Milton Keynes, adjacent to the Railway Station –
When I discovered that some scenes for Superman IV were to be filmed there I couldn’t resist taking in my camera to get a few pictures. As a life long Superman fan it all seemed quite magical!
Once filming got underway I mingled with the other onlookers and chatted with some of the film crew – Health & Safety restrictions didn’t exist in those days!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to speak to Christopher Reeve himself but I did manage to get some images of him in action. The pictures are a bit “grainy” but in those days and with a cheap camera they were as good as I could expect. It all made for a great tale to pass on to my Grandson one day…”
All images ©Graham Bedford 1986 – Anybody interested in prints can contact him directly here
In a week where the first and best Superhero movie of the modern era was welcomed into the National Film Registry archive and its latest media release awarded ‘Best Product’ by fans on the Superman Homepage, SUPERMANIA concludes 2017 with another first –
Martin Lakin – Editor, SUPERMANIA78.com
Just as Superman IV: Redux was a personal triumph, SUPERMANIA was doubly honoured to act as consultant on this magnificent project initiated by two friends made from back in the earliest days of web fandom.
It fills me with pride when I recall, some 20+ years ago now, how a random bunch of young fans united by their passion for the Superman series deigned to meet and explore some of the locations shown above and marvel at how little had changed since filming had completed years before. The experiences from that day obviously left lasting impressions on more than just myself, and now here we are, with once coy Oliver Harper chairman of his own YouTube empire and quiet Introspective Tim Partridge now a tenured filmmaker. Keeping in touch with these talented folks over the years has culminated in the superb piece of broadcast-standard material above. Think you know everything about Superman IV? Think again and be entertained doing so.
Many times since this website has been live I have mused on quite why a 30-year old movie reviled by most should still court quite so much analysis and attention today. I could go on and on as to what I love about it, but like religion, would never force it on anybody else. What surprises me is I never have to and I’m gratified beyond words when many fans tell me the best reference for the film is to be found right here. Like many fans I wish to pass on my thanks to Tim and Oli for putting it to such memorable use, I look forward to future collaborations…
Tim Partridge – Director
I’m a professional filmmaker and Oliver Harper is a popular YouTuber, specialising in video essays. Both of us have known for decades about the filming locations of Superman IV, thanks mostly to SUPERMANIA, and we always felt there was a great story to tell about the unusual choice of it’s settings. We wanted to both analyse and celebrate the film’s undeniably creative production design. We thought this project was very appropriate for Oliver’s YouTube channel, and would enhance his format by putting him on-camera in the Superman IV locations.
We went through all of the original production/publicity material we could find in order to research this, as well as speaking to some of the crew members who worked on the film. Oliver and I had spoken of making the video as early as 2012, and had aimed to release it in the autumn of 2016, exactly 30 years after Superman IV went into production. However, the project grew and our narrative adjusted itself. We were very lucky to interview double Oscar-winning set decorator Peter Young about his experiences on the film, enriching the video with a first hand perspective and insight into the production design of Superman IV.
A huge thanks to everyone who helped us along the way.
Oliver Harper – Film Documentarian/Video Editor
I’ve been fascinated with Superman IV ever since I was a kid. It’s obviously a bad movie but I always appreciated its good intentions and its production and design I found very interesting. With the movie making use of the United Kingdom for many of its locations, far more so than Superman 1 to 3 and Supergirl, I wanted to explore these places and see how they made use of them. However, this was always just an idea in the back of my mind. I had made a trip to Milton Keynes in the late ’90s with Martin Lakin and Tim Partridge (director) but that was as far as I got in seeing what they used. Come 2011 when I started my YouTube channel, which focused on movies of the ’80s and ’90s, my first review was on Superman IV and the idea of making a video on the locations was something that I felt could be interesting. The director of the ‘Man of Steel and Glass’ video, Tim, and I both shared similar views on the film and we had discussed ideas about making something a couple of years before we even decided to officially move forward with it. Come 2016 I finally said let’s get this going so we could celebrate the 30th anniversary of the production, although it grew into a bigger project which we would release the following year.
The documentary started out as something quite simple but the narrative began to change. The whole design of it shifted radically into something more than just a before and after video like most traditional videos of this nature that you find on YouTube. Tim especially wanted to push the magic of the movies and how filmmakers have continuously tricked audiences into believing they’re shooting in one location but in fact are shooting in a entirely different country. Superman IV could’ve successfully done that but was let down by some poor decisions regarding the photography of the locations, thus undoing the illusion…
2018 marks the fortieth anniversary of Superman: The Movie’s cinematic release and advance word is that the celebration will last in various forms all year long. In the US, 40th Anniversary Cons attended by many of the original cast have already begun with more promised across the world in the coming months. Indeed, for a franchise entering middle age, it shows no signs of slowing down and new discoveries continue to emerge such as these exclusive images below from the Milton Keynes location of Superman IV in 1986 –
SUPERMANIA wishes you & yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New year. The Adventure Continues in 2018..!