What Up Yo.
Podcast episode coming on the almighty, Richard Donner, 1978 classic:
Superman: The Movie
Superman (informally titled Superman: The Movie in some listings and reference sources) is a 1978 superhero film directed by Richard Donner and based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film is a British, Swiss, Panamanian and American joint venture, produced by Warner Bros., Film Export A.G., Dovemead Limited and International Film Productions.
“Speaking as a child of the 80’s…”
I grew up on this movie, as did many of my peers.
This beautiful, epic masterpiece set the bar for superhero, fantasy & sci-fi genre movies for me from the time I was 5…right up until now.
Superman, along with Star Wars, had an immense effect on my childhood, on my understanding of the power of film, taught me morals, about good and evil and made me believe in the impossible.
Frankly… I became the movie lover I am beginning with these films.
Hell I picked up a camera and became a photographer staring at the cinematography of Geoffrey Unsworth in this film.
This is the man who photographed Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001.
The beautiful landscape photography he shot of Smallville alone, the vast cornfield landscapes and powder blue sky’s….
The opening pan through the red sun to the surface of the ice planet Krypton…
I first saw Superman The Movie when I was five or six years old. I didn’t know it was a movie, I didn’t know what a movie was.
I thought we were peering into the world of good versus evil, where this man with a long red cape came from the sky to fight for
For Christmas 1979, I asked for the ability to fly.
I get older, begin to study the film instead of just watching it…and its impact on me grows from one of childhood adoration…to one of appriciation.
THE SCORE! The John Williams score for the film is easily my favorite of his. Seminal, it screams Superman. Like he was touched when he wrote it. Although, the argument can be made that many of his scores sound like he was touched when he wrote them, so…
Without his direction, this movie wouldn’t exuded the heart and passion it does. It wouldn’t have lasted the decades the way it has.
Shooting both Superman I & II together as they were originally meant to be one film, he work relentlessly on the films. A love for the character, the dense comic history and legacy of the superhero and being given the opportunity to realize it for a modern day audience like it had never been done before…he was the father figure to the cast and crew for the 18 month shoot.
Running out of money before both films could be finished…attention was put on releasing Superman I for Chistmas 1978, and shooting the first chapter of the film would end 10 weeks prior to its release.
I have to stop.
I can’t even begin to get into this because I’m going to go bananas and I don’t have the time to do this properly.
This film is like fine china to me. I promised myself a few years ago that when I did finally tackle this movie here on Voices, I would do it justice.
That is why, after discussing it (many, many, many times) with Oldboy & Uncle Mike & Duke…we’ve decided to do a proper podcast dedicated to it.
That’s really the best way I can think of to pay homage to this film. Get a bunch of Voices togther to celebrate it, dig it, worship and discuss it for the duration of a full episode.
Now, there’s a clip below, Superman reveals himself to the world.
Allow me to set it up for you, through my eyes.
This movie doesn’t feature the title character, Superman, until 1 hour and 15 minutes in.
Nowadays, that doesn’t happen.
But when this film was made in 1977, released 1978, the filmmakers had such a passion and reverence for the subject matter that they took the time to tell the story and flesh it the fuck out.
They built momentum, gave you the title characters back story.
We met his birth parents (Marlon Brando and Susannah York).
We see three villains on trial for trying and failing to overthrow the leaders and established order of the planet Krypton. This is General Zod, Ursa and Non (Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran respectively).
We see their trial, judgement and sentencing in the first visionary scene of this film where they are judged by a creepy council whose faces are projected around the three of them while they are kept in place by these rotating, silver hoops…that just look super nuts.
No CGI baby. Optical, practical effects…groundnbreaking like those in George Lucas’s Star Wars from a year earlier (1977).
No corners were cut here.
They are found guilty of their crimes, and before being sent into the phantom zone, General Zod promises Joe-El that he will make him and his heirs pay for his captivity. This scene will prove critical to the next film in the series.
A dome that sits onto the planets surface opens, exposing them to space above and around them, and this a square mirror comes flying towards them from space.
The red krypton sun will collide with the ice planet and destroy it.
He is warned by the council to stop these ridiculous claims and is told that neither he or his wife may leave the planet as it will cause panic.
He promises not to leave the planet.
When he goes home to his wife, we see his new born son.
In what will be their final moments of life, Joe-El prepares a star-like pod for his child. Father and mother wish their child farewell as they place him into the pod and send him off of the planet to safety right before the red Krypton sun collides with Krypton.
As we watch the pod ascend and fly off towards its destination, a planet called earth, we witness the fate of the planet and see it’s destruction.
The impact blows the tire of a truck driving roadside next to the crash site.
Inside this truck are Johnathan and Martha Kent.
The Kent family (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter…no corners cut people) sit roadside, Jonathan underneath the truck repairing it’s tire as Martha holds the child with total happiness believing they have been blessed with a gift from God… as they cannot bear children of their own.
As Jonathan tries to talk sense to his wife, the truth slips from the jack it’s on, about to crush Johnathan Kent…and it is then we see baby Kal-El display his superhuman strength for the first time, saving his new earth fathers life by catching the falling truck in mid-fall, then lifting it up over his head as the Kent’s look on in amazement.
They name the child Clark.
We watch this confused teenage Clark grow up, wrestling with these abilities he has, but doesn’t understand.
He hides his powers from the world at the behest of his earth father’s wishes and warnings, words that will forever echo in Clarks mind:
“Son, you are here for a reason.”
This is when he is called by the Green Crystal early one morning.
Hidden in the barn, it was put in the pod that took him to earth by his birth father (along with his outfit I think, I’m pretty sure it’s in the backpack he takes off with).
it calls to him as it was meant to do when he reaches his 18th year of life on earth.
It directs him to go to the North Pole.
He explains to Martha he must leave that morning.
She tells him she has waited and dreaded this day since they found him.
”Remember son…always remember.”
In the north pole , we watch as Clark hops from iceberg to iceberg, dressed for a cool October night in sub zero temperature, until he stops, takes the green crystal out of the bag he is carrying and listens to it.
It lands far in front of him on the snow, then begins to sink, and up rises the magnificent Fortress of Solitude in a spectacular display in front of him.
Clark chooses one, inserts it into the chamber, in the face of his birth father Jor-EL face appears in front of him.
”My son…you do not remember me. I am Jor-El. I am your father. “
We watch and listen as Joe-El introduces himself as his father, and explains where he and Clarke come from.
“Even though you have been raised as a human, you are not one of them. You have a great powers. “
An fascinated Clark stands and listens attentively, his father asks him to speak.
“Who am I?”
“Your name is Kal-El.”
He tells Clark his true home:
The Planet Krypton.
They communicate and he begins to teach his son all he knows, answering all the questions that have plagued him his whole life.
When the lessons end, twelve years have past.
An older man stands in the Fortress.
Dressed in a blue suit with a red cape…we watch as he lifts his arms, assends from where he stands and flies out of the fortress.
This is Superman, played by Christopher Reeve.
When we see him next he is Clark Kent again, but now he is a mild mannered reporter, true to the comics.
He is accepting a new job at The Daily Planet, The New York Times of the city of Metropolis.
We meet Perry White, editor in chief (Jackie Cooper…perfect)
We meet Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure…Spot-on)
And we meet Lois Lane (Margot Kidder…tremendous.)
We see that Clark is a foolish nerd. A goof ball A nervous and sheltered man-boy.
But we also see he is in love with Lois as soon as they meet.
She simply doesn’t, nor will ever see him that way. Her eyes are wide open, focused on the next big story and she’s going to be the one to get it.
One night…Clark asks her out.
She is racing out of the office to catch a helicopter on the roof of The Daily Planet.
She is headed of to meet up with Air Force One as it lands because she wants to, in her words:
”Ask ‘You know who’ a couple of questions he would rather dodge about ‘You know what’.”
This will lead us to Superman’s first appearance in Metropolis, revealing himself to the world. The amount of set ups alone must have been in the dozens.
The angles and takes needed to put that scene together and bring it to life must have been a fantastic undertaking alone…nevermind the impact it had on the film.
This scene, the most complicated sequence of the film, took over 12 months to shoot, in 2 country’s in 5 + locations.
It is, like the entire film…remarkable.
Superman The Movie • Images:
Rest In Peace Christopher Reeve