On this day, a mere 33 years ago, a 13-year old boy ran up several flights of stairs at the Kings 123 Cinema West Bromwich in great anticipation. For this was the first showing of the eagerly-awaited fourth film in the beloved Superman franchise, and this one even had an intriguing byline – The Quest For Peace. Much later I would discover the translation of this title in other countries was interesting (and in some cases, better.) In Brazil it was ‘In Search Of Peace’. In Denmark, ‘The Struggle For Peace’. The Swedish title was ‘The Threat From The Sun’, the German (and possibly my favourite) was ‘World On The Brink’. In Hungary it was known as ‘The Power Of Darkness’, and in France, Superman: Face To Face. Don’t be fooled by the first pic above, the proceeding vintage feature in French is not from MAD Movies but its short-lived companion IMPACT magazine, where Superman IV is given some serious coverage with rare images to boot.
Having viewed the movie for the first time I left the cinema in a daze only to bump into a schoolmate waiting in line for the next showing. I joined him and went back a second time. For all its apparent faults, it was a visceral experience and as serendipity would have it, remains a significant part of my life to date – not bad going for a notorious franchise-killing controversy-mired embarrassing box-office disaster. Yes, of course its terrible – part of embracing this picture is acknowledging its inherent Roger Corman production values – but having said that, love it or hate it, are we still talking about Billy Zane’s Phantom, for example, Lundgren’s Punisher or even Beatty’s Dick Tracy (to name but a few) all these years later with the same enthusiasm? Much of the film’s longevity can be attributed to the fact the behind the scenes story of how it even got made is arguably more captivating than the film itself, and yet, in this age of fan-lead campaigns powered by social media actively forcing major studios to re-tool failed theatrical edits nobody is asking for an extended edition of Batman & Robin.
Over three decades later, however, the campaign to restore the original edit (or Furie Cut) only seems to gain momentum, with final judgement out on the film until we see the full version. Of course, the infamous test-screening in San Antonio has become part of the legend now (to this day nobody to my knowledge has ever attested to seeing it) and theories prevail about whether or not the longest cut actually exists at all. The closest we’ve come to date was the Deluxe Edition from 2006, where ‘a great deal of deleted scenes’ were included, restoring faith that even in its ugly test print form, the footage still existed. Possibly more telling was Warner Bros. declaration ‘We have located all the footage from Superman IV’ but as fan cuts were all the rage at the time, were afraid to present it.
As the upcoming Snyder Cut of the equally-lauded Justice League has ably demonstrated, the fan is more empowered than ever and if enough voices are heard in unison, it can yield results. Nowhere was this better proved than with the original Richard Donner Cut of Superman II, restored and released without anywhere near the kind of aggressive campaigning prevalent today. We count on Warner Archive, having done such masterful restoration of the Extended Cut of Superman: The Movie and Supergirl on Blu-Ray to once again dazzle us with the kind of quality release us dedicated fans deserve, and, speaking personally, make me feel like a 13-year old all over again…