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review by Eric Dahl
Running Time: 154 minutes
Starring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene
Hackman, and Marlon Brando
Written by Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman,
and Robert Benton
Directed by Richard Donner
Retail Price: $24.98
Features: Feature length commentary with director
Richard Donner and Creative Consultant (and uncredited
writer) Tom Mankiewicz, Isolated Score Audio Track, Three
Behind-The-Scenes Documentaries, Two Deleted Scenes, Screen
Tests for the Parts of: Superman, Lois Lane, and Ursa,
Additional Music Score Cues, Original Teaser Trailer,
Original TV Spot
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby
Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish
Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chapter Search (44
"You'll believe a man can fly."
So read the tagline on pre-release promotional items for
the 1978 movie "Superman".
And boy did we ever believe.
"Superman", the movie, was a success in every sense of
the word: it garnered critical acclaim, raked in millions
upon millions of dollars in the box-office, and won itself
into the hearts of moviegoers across the world: myself
included. More than 20 years after it's original release,
people are still singing the praises of "Superman", and I
don't blame them one bit. With an all-star cast and
director, groundbreaking special effects for it's time
(which hold up surprisingly well, even in today's CGI soaked
world), and a great story originally penned by "Godfather"
author Mario Puzo, "Superman" is one hell of a movie.
For all of you who have been living under a rock for the
past 50 years or so, "Superman" is the story of Clark Kent,
an intergalactic refugee from the planet Krypton, who, after
crashing on Earth and growing up in a rural midwestern town
(cleverly named "Smallville"), goes to the big metropolis
of, well . . . Metropolis, and becomes a reporter for the
Daily Planet newspaper. All of his life, he's known that
there was something different about him, and that he has
powers that no-one else does, but when he realizes the full
potential of what he can do to help others, he takes hold of
his future and becomes Superman. By day, a geeky,
mild-mannered reporter, and by night a superhero fighting
for truth, justice, and the American way, Superman has a
full schedule. But when dastardly villain Lex Luthor (Gene
Hackman) hatches a plan to destroy southern California, can
Superman stop him? I guess you'll just have to find out for
Presented in it's original theatrical aspect ratio of
2.35:1, "Superman" looks better than I've ever seen it
before. It literally looks like it was filmed yesterday. The
anamorphically enhanced transfer had no visible artifacts
that I could see, and looked clean and colorful. The colors
were also great looking and not oversaturated at all. The
only drawback I noticed was a little softness in just a
couple of scenes, but it wasn't even distracting, and you
would be having to look extremely hard just to see it. All
in all, a great transfer.
This is where I feel that the presentation really shines.
Although some purists think that the remixed 5.1 soundtrack
on this disc bastardizes the original mix, I disagree
completely. The "whooshes" that Superman makes going by, and
especially the sound of the opening credits "zooming" right
over your head into the rear speakers are, for the lack of a
better word, breathtaking. Even though some of these effects
were not in the original sound mix, I do not disagree with
their inclusion. This movie, with it's new mix, sounds
AWESOME. The center channel's dialogue is clear and clean
and the 5 channels are used to great effect with great
fly-by sounds of Superman and John Williams's score booming
beautifully out of every speaker. The .1 LFE channel is also
given a great workout with this movie. But, to keep the
purists happy, and to show the variations between this and
the original mix, I kind of wish that Warner Bros. had
included the original mix. But other than that, this sound
mix is practically flawless.
This DVD-18 disc (the equivalent of two normal 2-layered
DVDs strapped back to back), has the extras on the other
side of the disc (with the movie on the other), which means
that this set has an extra disc's worth of space devoted to
extras. And man, is this thing packed to the gills with
For starters, the commentary with director Richard Donner
and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz. The commentary is a
very good addition to this disc. The two men seem to have
been friends for a long time, and, while there isn't as much
of a buddy atmosphere as in a Kevin Smith movie's
commentary, these guys are just like two old friends,
watching a movie they did a long time ago, reminiscing about
how much fun it was. Their comments are funny and
interesting, and they even point out little flaws in the
movie, such as a cameraman reflected in a window of a
revolving door. The only little drawback I found in this was
that they repeated some of the information that you learn in
the documentaries (which I will discuss later on).
Altogether, it's a great commentary and worth a listen.
Second, the three documentaries about the making of the
movie: "Taking Flight: The Development of Superman", "Making
Superman: Filming the Legend", and "The Magic Behind the
"Taking Flight: The Development of Superman" is about the
pre-production of "Superman". It tells about how they ported
the story of the "Man of Steel" from the comic book page to
the silver screen.
"Making Superman: Filming the Legend" is about the
filming of the movie, and how the cast and crew related
during the making of the movie.
"The Magic Behind the Cape" is about the special-effects
aspect of the production, and shows rare footage of test
special effects that didn't make the final cut.
The first two documentaries run about a half-hour each,
while the third clocks in at about 23 minutes. All of them
are extremely in-depth, and are not the fluff interviews
found on most discs today. They all feature interviews with
the cast (including Marlon Brando), crew, and director.
These are some of the best documentaries about a film that I
have ever seen, and I highly recommend them.
Third, the Isolated Music Score:
The isolated music score is an audio track that runs for the
entire length of the movie, showcasing only John Williams
fantastic score in Dolby Digital 5.0, and is an extra that I
believe should be more used on new DVDs, especially ones
with scores as good as this one's is.
Fourth, the Deleted Scenes:
The deleted scenes are only a couple of minutes long, and
just show a subplot about Lex's pet somethings (we aren't
shown, but they rival "Jurassic Park"'s velociraptors at
being able to strip meat off of bones in the shortest amount
of time possible). One of the scenes is Otis (Ned Beatty)
feeding them with the previously mentioned results, and the
other is the (almost) demise of Lex's cohort, Ms.
Teschmacher. The disappointing aspect of this is that there
is an existing 188 minute version of this movie that's shown
on network TV. That's practically another half-hour of
footage that's not in the movie, and yet we only get three
minutes of deleted scenes.
Fifth, the Screen Tests:
The screen tests are divided into three sections: Superman,
Lois, and Ursa.
The Superman screen tests are only Christopher Reeve
trying out for the part of Superman with another actress
trying out for Lois also. Nothing too amazing, but a good
The Lois screen tests are the real highlight of this
section with everybody from Stockard Channing (Rizzo in
"Grease") to Anne Archer (Harrison Ford's wife in "Patriot
Games"), to the final pick, Margot Kidder, trying for the
part of Lois Lane. You can pretty much tell why most of
these actresses didn't make the cut: most of them play Lois
to ditzy, or confidently, or whatever. Although I get
disputed on this point occasionally, I think Margot Kidder
was the perfect choice from all of them. This particular
screen test has a commentary available from the casting
director, who points out the shortcomings of the actresses
auditioning, which is a nice touch.
The Ursa screen tests are for a character, which I'm
told, is a lot more prominent in "Superman II", as she makes
only about a 5 minute appearance at the beginning of this
movie. The tests are quite humorous, as a requirement for
the part was the ability to flip a man over your shoulder,
which we are shown test footage of.
Fifth, the Teaser Trailer and the TV Spot:
The teaser, at about a minute long, and the TV spot at 30
seconds, are nothing amazing, but are nice to have in their
entirety, as they are refrenced to in the documentaries.
Sixth, and finally, the Additional Music Cues:
These are eight music cues, I assume, not used in the final
film. They are nice to have, as they are in Dolby Digital
5.0, and the hilarious, yet cool highlight is a lounge
lizard/muzak version of the section of the score called "Can
You Read My Mind?"
"Superman" is a great film with a great cast with an
exceptional score. It's got anything you could practically
want in a movie: romance, action, intrigue, you name it.
With 8 more minutes added to the running time in this
release, and a set of extras to die for, the only question
is "Why don't you have this DVD yet?"
(5/5 - NOT included in
(4.5/5, NOT an average)