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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Superman: Original Theatrical Edition

Here we go again on Fishing in  the Discount Bin, my weekly blogging about a movie I own.  I'm going to start on the Superman franchise, with the appropriately titled Superman.  This is in my notes at January 16, 2016.

So there's this Blu-Ray box set I've had my eye on for a few years now:  The Superman Motion Picture Anthology 1978 - 2006, which contains every Superman movie from the first Christopher Reeve one to Bryan Singer's Superman Returns.  I've wanted to pick it up for quite some time, but I never saw it at a price less than $80.  Then, as I was browsing Boxing Day bargains on Amazon, I saw it marked down to $35.  Literally the cheapest I'd ever seen it, so I snatched it up.

That's right, I'm starting a plow through the Superman franchise.

Now, I've already done the first Superman film here on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  Hell, it was one of the first ones I did...five years ago.  Sheesh, I can't believe I've been doing this for that long.  Anyway, the great thing about things like director's cuts is there's multiple versions of films, giving me the great excuse to revisit films.  One such example is the first Superman

See, when DVD was new and exciting in the late 1990s/early 2000s, just about every release was getting a director's cut.  Superman was not spared when it was prepped for its first DVD release in 2001.  Director Richard Donner was called back into action, and he prepared a director's cut with about 10 minutes worth of new scenes in it.  The new scenes were already familiar to most, as they'd already been used in the "edited for TV version" for years.  That's the DVD I own, so when I first did my entry, I did the director's cut. 

But, with this Blu-Ray boxed set, not only do you get the director's cut, but the original theatrical version.  So that's the version I watched to start this journey. 

Since it was the director's cut I'd been watching on DVD for...sheesh, 15 years (God, I'm getting old), I missed some of those director's cut scenes.  The most famous has to be when young Clark Kent is using his super-speed to run home from school.  Playing on the old "more powerful than a locomotive," we see Clark running alongside a train.  A little girl in the train sees Clark.  Clark waves hello, and the girl excitedly waves back.  In the original theatrical version, this is where things end.  In the director's cut, the girl begins to excitedly tell her parents what she saw, and we learn that the little girl is young Lois Lane.  What's notable about this scene is who plays Lois Lane's parents:  Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill, who played Superman and Lois Lane in the Superman movie serials of the 1940s.  They were the first live-action Superman and Lois Lane. 

But I love the scenes with young Clark Kent...especially because it was mostly filmed in southern Alberta, making most of it look maddeningly familiar.  I just love seeing Alberta Wheat Pool grain elevators on the Smallville skyline!  I swear Pa Kent is buried in the Badlands out by Drumheller.  I wonder if someone's put together the "Superman tour" of southern Alberta.  That should be a summer vacation road trip. 

But I remember discussing this film vs Man of Steel to a friend.  In Man of Steel, Pa Kent's death is always seen as being relatively pointless, as Pa Kent decided to take one for the team because being saved by an awfully slow-moving tornado could have exposed Clark's secret.  But in this film, Pa Kent just keels over and dies of a heart attack, teaching our young Superman that, despite all his abilities, he still can't play God.  "All my powers, and I couldn't save him," laments Clark over his father's grave.  It teaches young Superman great humility. 

For the longest time, this was the gold standard when it came to superhero adaptations.  Everything about the film is just so note-perfect.  They capture the tone of Silver Age Superman comics perfectly.  It's remarkable how well it holds up.

And can enough praise be written about Christopher Reeve's dual performance as Clark Kent and Superman?  I mean, it's not just a pair of glasses.  He really sells the differences between the two.  There's that one scene were, as Clark Kent, he contemplates telling Lois Lane his secret.  And he becomes Superman.  It's not just taking off the glasses.  He stands a little taller...he talks a little deeper.  Reeve did so many subtle little things like that to make Clark Kent a totally different person from Superman.  It was brilliant. 

But it did stray a little bit from the source material.  Turning Lex Luthor from the mad scientist of the Silver Age to a campy comic book villain replete with bumbling henchman, but Gene Hackman pulls it off, and his Lex Luthor became definitive for a while. 

After all these years, you still can't help but love this movie.  So optimistic, so earnest...still one of the best superhero films made.

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