Christopher Reeve

In the Gloaming (1997, Christopher Reeve)

In the Gloaming is a qualified success. If you’re trying to go for humanizing a guy dying of AIDS while his upper middle class White yuppie family is slow to realize he’s a dying person who they probably ought not to avoid because they’ll regret it… it does that job. Gloaming is an hour-long HBO movie, based on a New Yorker story, all set in and around Glenn Close and David Strathairn’s picture perfect home in Westchester County, New York. Straithairn presumably works in the city, but it’s never actually clear. Doesn’t really matter. Just they’ve got enough money to have a gorgeous house but no servants.

And son Robert Sean Leonard has come home to die.

The film’s a series of what you know the filmmakers would prefer you think of as vignettes, as Close bonds with Leonard while Strathairn gets pissy. Close has to overcome the fear she’s responsibility for Leonard being gay because she was nice to him as a kid. She wasn’t as nice to his sister, Bridget Fonda, who grew up to be too much of a yuppie even for Close, off married with child, but the son and husband don’t come around because AIDS is gross and so’s Leonard being gay. But it’s okay because Fonda’s going to cry when he’s dead? Maybe. Not resolved. The vignettes are more like clips of the character development without any follow-up. Like when Strathairn, finally coming to terms with Leonard’s impending death, thinks it’s a good time to go for some martial relations with Close. No follow-up on that one.

Plus Whoopi Goldberg’s just around as the nurse, who eventually makes Close feel better about herself.

The film’s… comprised. Screenwriter Will Scheffer does not have the chops to make the strained manners of the bourgeois somehow say more than if Strathairn actually sat down and had a conversation with Leonard. They talk a lot about how it’s going to happen, then never does. Because Strathairn’s a terrible guy, even though he grows tomatoes for Close to cook him even though he doesn’t like tomatoes much. But we’ve got to understand Strathairn’s position–he just wanted what must be a macho man in Westchester County 1997, a tennis playing gardener man. Instead he got son Leonard, who went off to Berkeley and became gay. Meanwhile, why doesn’t anyone love Fonda enough, she’s doing her part, working full-time and wearing pantsuits and being mean to her own son so he doesn’t turn out gay.

Yes, Gloaming is from 1997. Yes, it’s from HBO. Yes, it’s from a New Yorker story (but 1997 New Yorker so… I mean… right?). But it has a lot it’s not willing to address. Scared to address. Leaving Strathairn, Fonda, and Goldberg with somewhat pointless parts. Fonda’s scary good as the shittiest human being and Goldberg’s at least likable. Strathairn’s just tiresome. He’s a one note caricature, with some “details” thrown in to round him. Doesn’t work.

So after two paragraphs dunking on it, why is In the Gloaming a qualified success?

Because the stuff with Leonard and Close, as they bond and work through his imminent mortality—mind you, they don’t get real character development in the script because of that vignette structure–it’s great work from Close and Leonard. The script limits them, sure. But Reeve works the hell out of their scenes together. And it resolves their relationship just right. Then ruins it with the actual last scene, which is an eye-roll and a half.

But Leonard and Close. They’re real good. They do so much with… not so little, but so… comprised a material. They refuse to let it limit their performances, which is cool.

Reeve’s direction is fine. He likes crane shots and doesn’t get to do enough of them. Good photography from Frederick Elmes. David Ray’s editing is a little too hurried, which is strange because of the the oddly manipulative nature montages–it’s like HBO is slamming their affluent viewers over the head with, “It could be your sons too, White women ages 45-55 who like Glenn Close!”—but then Ray’s got no sense of cutting when it comes to the dialogue scenes.

It’s like Reeve tried to direct it as a stage adaptation but without the play backbone.

Very heavily Scottish-influenced Dave Grusin score, which is weird (and figures into the plot); it’s a good score, it’s just a lot.

But it’s definitely a missed opportunity overall. It’s aged like flat root beer.

So, technically, earnestly, but unenthusiastically:

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Christopher Reeve; teleplay by Will Scheffer, based on a story by Alice Elliott Dark; director of photography, Frederick Elmes; edited by David Ray; music by Dave Grusin; production designer, Andrew Jackness; costume designer, Jane Greenwood; produced by Nellie Nugiel; aired by HBO.

Starring Glenn Close (Janet), Robert Sean Leonard (Danny), David Strathairn (Martin), Bridget Fonda (Anne), and Whoopi Goldberg (Myrna).


Frasier (1993) s01e02 – Space Quest

This episode picks up right after the previous one, which you’d think have been a no-no in the syndication chasing days of sitcoms. But, no, the first scene is not at all morning person Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) getting up late and groggily confused about what Jane Leeves is doing in his apartment. She fills him in just before he realizes the chair wasn’t a dream either.

The episode’s all about Grammer realizing he’d much rather have his apartment to himself and just stick dad John Mahoney and healthcare worker Leeves in their own place. Grammer does a fantastic job moping around the place, getting mad at Mahoney for making him an unhealthy breakfast and Leeves bringing in the paper.

It all blows up when Frasier thinks he’s going to be able to read his book in piece and then “his father, Mary Poppins, and the Hound form Hell” return, leaving to another argument.

Grammer storms off after Mahoney calls him a “little hot house orchid,” which is hilarious.

The episode also introduces sports radio host Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe, played by Dan Butler, who has got “The Gonzo Sports Show” on after Frasier. Butler’s hilarious. He and Grammer play well off each other from the start.

There’s a nice scene for David Hyde Pierce, including some sharp cuts at Grammer’s professional ability, and then Peri Gilpin gets the episode’s most dated scene. She’s on the phone talking about her sex life, which mental health professional Grammer doesn’t think is appropriate with the other person… her mom.

It’s the second episode so it’s no surprise the writers haven’t figured out how much they want people to laugh with or against Grammer and his antics, but it’s still an iffy sequence. At best it’s slut-shaming.

Writers Sy Dukane and Denise Moss do a lot better with the eventual resolution for Grammer and Mahoney, which has laughs, surprises, and some nice character development for Mahoney in particular. There’s a cute end credits sequence and the celebrity caller this episode is Christopher Reeve; the episode’s from years before the accident, so it’s more bittersweet than anything else.

Street Smart (1987, Jerry Schatzberg)

Somewhere around the halfway point in Street Smart, when both female “leads” get reduced to a combination punching bag–figuratively and literally–and damsel, the movie starts to collapse. It doesn’t collapse in a standard way. It doesn’t give too much to either of its dueling stars, Christopher Reeve and Morgan Freeman; instead, it gives them less. It collapses out of a kind of inertia. After promising sensational developments, it offers none.

Except, of course, Reeve embracing his mediocre (but good looking) white guy privilege. Like everything else in the ending, however, Street Smart doesn’t really want to pursue it. It just wants to be over.

Lots happens in the third act–assaults, murders, two jail sequences for Reeve (though the second is after the movie’s stopped treating him like a protagonist)–and none of it gets any resolution from the characters. The film skips over their reactions to their subsequent actions. It rushes through the most intersting part of the story, when Reeve’s hubris brings suffering on everyone.

The film starts with Reeve as a floundering New York (sadly filmed in Montreal because Cannon) magazine reporter. Despite going to Harvard and being good looking, Reeve can no longer hack it. The managing editor, Andre Gregory, thinks he’s boring. Until Reeve sells them on a lifestyle piece on a Times Square pimp. They buy it. Only problem, Reeve doesn’t know any Times Square pimps to write lifestyle pieces about. He does, however, take Times Square working girl Kathy Baker out for ice cream.

So Reeve makes up the story. Girlfriend Mimi Rogers is supportive, as Reeve losing his job means they can’t pretend to be successful yuppies anymore.

Simultaneously, Times Square pimp Freeman has just accidentally killed an abusive john. The D.A., Jay Patterson, is out to get him. Patterson is everything Reeve isn’t. Patterson’s not good looking, but he’s honest and hard-working. He’s also cruel as shit. Reeve’s not cruel. He learns to be cruel (not thanks to Patterson, who keeps getting him thrown in jail, but Freeman, but it’s in the dreadful third act so who cares).

Patterson wants Reeve to snitch on Freeman. Only Reeve doesn’t know Freeman. Until Freeman finds out Baker knows Reeve and then decides to use him as a defense witness. Reeve needs Freeman to convince Gregory he’s got a real pimp. Reeve and Freeman have a successful reciprocal relationship, complicated when Reeve gets too close to Baker and vice versa.

The one thing Street Smart never does–oh, I forgot, Reeve also becomes a TV news reporter because he’s rather good looking and photogenic–but the one thing the film never does is show Reeve reacting to where he was wrong in his fiction. He sees Freeman’s real life, in some of the film’s best scenes–even when it’s over dramatic, the acting is superb (director Schatzberg realizes then forgets the cast is best when in frame together)–but he never really reacts to it.

He’s got the Baker subplot instead.

And Baker’s great. It’s just not great for the movie.

Most of the acting is excellent. Freeman is phenomenal. If he doesn’t give the best performance in sunglasses ever in Street Smart, he’s got to come close. Patterson’s great. Baker’s great. Reeve’s quite good some of the time. The rest of the time the writing’s just too thin. And he and Rogers have zero chemistry.

Rogers isn’t good. She’s occasionally okay, but it’s a crap part. Gregory is annoying. It seems unlikely such a nitwit could run a successful magazine, even if he’s rich and white.

Erik King is pretty good as Freeman’s sidekick. Anna Maria Horsford is awesome as Freeman’s “business manager.” She only has a couple scenes but she’s so good.

Schatzberg’s direction never makes much impression either way. Given the film’s Montreal shooting location, I guess it’s impressive how well he makes the film feel like New York. Adam Holender’s photography should get some of that credit as well. It’s not great cinematography and he really should’ve worked with Schatzberg on some of the establishing shots, but it’s convincing.

Robert Irving III’s score is a little much. Miles Davis contributing results in some nice trumpeting, but not much in the way of effective movie scoring.

Street Smart has some great acting going for it and a lot of interesting character intersections. It’s a bit of a cowardly script. It runs away from the race angle; brings it up, then (impressively) runs away from it, enough fingers to fill ears and cover eyes. Basically it just needed a strong rewrite–or a stronger director–but it’s a Cannon production. Its producers don’t care about making a good movie, just selling one.

So, for a movie about a mediocre white guy’s bullshit catching up with him and forcing a metamorphosis (for better or worse), it’s a fail. But for a Cannon production, it’s pretty amazing.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Jerry Schatzberg; written by David Freeman; director of photography, Adam Holender; edited by Priscilla Nedd-Friendly; music by Robert Irving III; production designer, Dan Leigh; produced by Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan; released by Cannon Films.

Starring Christopher Reeve (Jonathan), Morgan Freeman (Fast Black), Kathy Baker (Punchy), Jay Patterson (Pike), Mimi Rogers (Alison), Erik King (Reggie), Anna Maria Horsford (Harriet), Shari Hilton (Darlene), Frederick Rolf (Davis), Michael J. Reynolds (Sheffield), and Andre Gregory (Ted).


Superman (1978, Richard Donner), the extended cut

The extended version of Superman runs three hours and eight minutes, approximately forty-five minutes longer than the theatrical version (Richard Donner’s director’s cut only runs eight minutes longer than the theatrical). The extended version opens with a disclaimer: the producers prepared this version of the film for television broadcasts (three hours plus means two nights). The director was not involved.

Neither, one must assume, was original editor Stuart Baird because I’m not sure anyone could stand to see their work so butchered. Superman’s already had one somewhat inglorious revision–the director’s cut–and this extended version takes it one step further. Scenes will now drag on and on as actors try one more line. The subtly of the cuts, which enhance the performances, is either gone or severely hampered. The John Williams music is rearranged to fit the lengthened scenes and sequences, with no attention paid to how the music fits the scenes.

Worse, padding the film out changes the emphases. Margot Kidder is far less relevant (Christopher Reeve’s Superman as well) because most of the added footage is Gene Hackman and company. In addition to introducing Lex Luthor (Hackman) as a piano-playing crooner, the extended edition has all sorts of physical humor and lame jokes for Hackman’s sidekicks, Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine. Perrine gets a little more character–in fact, she’s the only actor who benefits from the extended material–while Beatty gets a lot less. The constant jokes make his presence drag, especially since he and Hackman aren’t funny with the physical humor.

The extended edition does explain a few things, like why Larry Hagman isn’t with the missile on Hackman and company’s second attempt at it. And Chief Tug Smith gets a whole subplot. In the other versions of Superman, he gets maybe a line or two in an interview with Kidder.

And there’s more at the beginning on Krypton. With everyone except Brando and Susannah York–though, wow, you forget how amazing they are together in their one scene. So good.

Actually, the extended version starts just fine. Terence Stamp’s microexpressions are preserved as well as Baird’s exquisite cuts between them. Then there’s a little more dialogue, here and there, with Brando and the other council members. The scene starts to drag and instead of the drag being corrected, it just gets worse. All the added lines are superfluous (as the two successful versions of the film attest).

Then the flying guard out to bust Brando for using too much power shows up. It’s a pointless addition–I assume it got cut because they couldn’t get the special effects to work or just decided it was a waste of time. But the producers want to waste some time with this cut. Well, executive producers. Original producer Pierre Spengler apparently didn’t have anything to do with bloating the film out. Ilya and Alexander Salkind, however, wanted to get it to those two nights for television.

Most of the added material–after the three major additions (Krypton, Hackman and company, Smith and the Native Americans)–is surplus dialogue. Lines no one would’ve kept. Including the actors. Besides Hackman seeming lost in the slapstick, Glenn Ford’s got a real awkward added line and can’t get any traction out of it. Though the extended scenes of the Daily Planet are interesting. They’re still too long.

After the surplus dialogue, the Salkinds threw in a lot of establishing shots. Lots of second unit. Lots of unfinished special effects–like during the way too long destruction of Krypton. Or special effects director Donner wisely cut just because they didn’t look any good even when finished. There’s some great helicopter footage of New York City though. Sorry, Metropolis. And, actually, Smallville too. It just doesn’t do anything.

Except add time. As scenes play long, even unpadded scenes start to drag–the mono soundtrack with the rearranged score doesn’t help–and subplots stop developing. Kidder disappears for way too long. Reeve gets some added material, which starts the character in a mildly new direction, but then there’s nothing else. The extended material is dead weight. Even when it’s good for character development, like with Perrine. And, to a lesser extent, Marc McClure.

Superman: The Movie: The Extended Cut is a swell curiosity, but nothing more. Maybe it really should be seen in two parts. Except, of course, it’s not like the Salkinds tried to do anything to make it feel like a two-part story either. Because their additive editing is disastrous and an ignoble diss to the film, its cast, and its crew. Not to mention the screenwriters, who clearly wrote some rather wordy, rather unnecessary lines.

However, if you’re a Fawlty Towers fan… Bruce Boa (from “Waldorf Salad”) does show up for a second and gets very angry. There’s also more John Ratzenberger, if you’re an avid Cliff fan.

Anyway. Editing is important. So is not purposely bloating out a film. The extra forty-five minutes are kryptonite to Superman.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; screenplay by Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman and Robert Benton, story by Puzo, from characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; creative consultant, Tom Mankiewicz; director of photography, Geoffrey Unsworth; edited by Stuart Baird and Michael Ellis; music by John Williams; production designer, John Barry; produced by Alexander Salkind and Pierre Spengler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Christopher Reeve (Superman/Clark Kent), Ned Beatty (Otis), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Glenn Ford (Pa Kent), Trevor Howard (First Elder), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Jack O’Halloran (Non), Valerie Perrine (Eve Teschmacher), Maria Schell (Vond-ah), Terence Stamp (General Zod), Phyllis Thaxter (Ma Kent), Susannah York (Lara), Jeff East (Young Clark Kent), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Sarah Douglas (Ursa) and Harry Andrews (Second Elder).


What’s Cookin’ (1992, Gilbert Adler)

The opening titles for What’s Cookin’ give a little too much away. They draw too much attention to Judd Nelson, who doesn’t fit with the rest of the cast title cards. Christopher Reeve, Bess Armstrong, even Art LaFleur. The episode has a certain type of cast member and a Judd Nelson “special appearance” is noteworthy.

Reeve and Armstrong own a restaurant. Nelson is the drifter who cleans up around the place. Do he and Armstrong run off together? No. But Judd Nelson in a “special appearance” as a drifter? There’s got to be something funny about that guy. A.L. Katz and director Alder’s script doesn’t get very interested in character. It’s not clear Reeve and Armstrong are even married until it’s needed in expository conversation. They might have a sort of sitcom chemistry, but Adler doesn’t ask them to have chemistry. He directs What’s Cookin’ like they never got to rehearse it.

Needless to say, Nelson proves to be trouble. There are two big twists–with only the first one forecast, though the second one is obvious, there’s no attempt at forecasting. Instead, the second twist is just a way to hurriedly tidy up all the plot threads.

The episode has occasional moments where the cast would be fully capable of doing something better, but Adler never goes for it. He relies entirely on the predictable plotting. What’s Cookin’ is a MacGuffin in search of its host.

And Nelson’s really bad. He’s supposed to be creepy. Instead, he’s just bad. Some of it is Adler’s fault. But not much of it.

Reeve’s passable, though clearly just cashing a paycheck. Armstrong comes off the best, though still significantly weighed down by Alder’s lousy direction.

The funny thing is–Katz and Adler miss the most obvious twist to explore. Reeve’s always the patsy. There’s too much emphasis on Nelson to explore the possibilities of the tired concept. The majority of the actors in What’s Cookin’ deserve better engagement from the director. It should’ve been much better with this cast.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Gilbert Adler; teleplay by A.L. Katz and Adler, based on a comic book by William M. Gaines; “Tales from the Crypt” created by Steven Dodd; director of photography, John R. Leonetti; edited by Robert DeMaio; music by Nicholas Pike; production designer, Gregory Melton; aired by HBO.

Starring Christopher Reeve (Fred), Bess Armstrong (Erma), Art LaFleur (Phil), Meat Loaf (Chumley) and Judd Nelson (Gaston).


Village of the Damned (1995, John Carpenter)

Village of the Damned has three major problems. In no particular order… I’ll start with the stunt casting. Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Mark Hamill and Michael Paré are all–to varying degrees–genre actors. While Reeve and Paré are both fine, Alley’s out of her depth and Hamill’s just terrible.

Some of Alley’s failings–and some of Hamill’s even–tie directly to Village‘s next big issue. It has enough characters and story for a mini-series, not a ninety-some minute feature. It takes place over nine or ten years, most of those years flying by without enough reestablishment of the ground situation. Major supporting characters disappear, like the actors had to go do something else. Village lacks any narrative ambition and it needs a lot.

The third problem, in terms of Carpenter’s direction, involves that lack of ambition. He never figures out how to make the evil, psychic Aryan children scary. They do nasty things and such, but they aren’t scary because he makes them so obvious. It doesn’t help the kids are bad actors–Lindsey Haun is particularly bad as the ringleader, but Thomas Dekker isn’t much better as the primary male.

Most of the other performances are good. Linda Kozlowski does well as the secondary lead (it oscillates between her and Alley). Karen Kahn, Peter Jason and George ‘Buck’ Flower are all fine. However, Pippa Pearthree is terrible.

Carpenter has occasional good directorial moments, but he’s clearly disinterested, which is too bad. Reeve and Koslowski deserve better.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Carpenter; screenplay by David Himmelstein, based on a novel by John Wyndham and a screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla and Ronald Kinnoch; director of photography, Gary B. Kibbe; edited by Edward A. Warschilka; music by Carpenter and Dave Davies; production designer, Rodger Maus; produced by Michael Preger and Sandy King; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Christopher Reeve (Dr. Alan Chaffee), Kirstie Alley (Dr. Susan Verner), Linda Kozlowski (Jill McGowan), Michael Paré (Frank McGowan), Meredith Salenger (Melanie Roberts), Mark Hamill (Reverend George), Pippa Pearthree (Sarah, George’s Wife), Peter Jason (Ben Blum), Constance Forslund (Callie Blum), Karen Kahn (Barbara Chaffee), Thomas Dekker (David McGowan), Lindsey Haun (Mara Chaffee) and George ‘Buck’ Flower (Carlton).


Switching Channels (1988, Ted Kotcheff)

In Switching Channels, Kotcheff attempts two styles he’s inept at directing—madcap and slapstick. He’s got Ned Beatty, who can act in both those styles, and Beatty does okay. He’s not any good, but one can’t hold the film’s failings against him.

But for his other buffoon, Kotcheff uses Christopher Reeve. The audience is supposed to dislike Reeve because he’s vain, wealthy and a nice guy. One of the biggest laughs in the film is supposed to be at Reeve’s expense, when he’s in an acrophobia-induced fit. Reeve’s got some decent moments (particularly at the beginning of the film), which makes it all the more unfortunate.

The hero of the film is Burt Reynolds, who doesn’t so much give a performance as audition for his subsequent sitcom. He and Reeve are rivals for Kathleen Turner’s affections… though not really. Turner and Reynolds have zero chemistry, making any romantic possibilities laughable.

If the film continued where it opened, with Reeve and Turner meeting and romancing in a tranquil Montréal resort, Switching Channels probably would’ve worked. Turner’s good. She’s just not the film’s protagonist and so, when it pretends she’s important to it, the film fails.

The film—and Kotcheff—do her and Reeve the most disservice.

Though set in Chicago, it’s a very Canadian one. City hall is apparently in an office park.

There’s some good supporting work from Henry Gibson and George Newbern’s endearing as Reynolds’s flunky.

Between Reynolds’s non-acting and Kotcheff’s awkwardness, it doesn’t have a chance.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Kotcheff; screenplay by Jonathan Reynolds, based on a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; director of photography, François Protat ; edited by Thom Noble; music by Michel Legrand; production designer, Anne Pritchard; produced by Martin Ransohoff; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Kathleen Turner (Christy Colleran), Burt Reynolds (John L. Sullivan IV), Christopher Reeve (Blaine Bingham), Ned Beatty (Roy Ridnitz), Henry Gibson (Ike Roscoe), George Newbern (Siegenthaler), Al Waxman (Berger), Ken James (Warden Terwilliger), Barry Flatman (Zaks), Ted Simonett (Tillinger), Anthony Sherwood (Carvalho), Joe Silver (Mordsini) and Charles Kimbrough (The Governor).


Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987, Sidney J. Furie)

Roughly a third of Superman IV is missing, so it’s a little difficult to really form an opinion of the filmmakers’ intentions. I mean, it was an anti-nuclear proliferation movie… which suggests they were well-intentioned, but it’s impossible to know what they were trying to do with it as a film. For instance, it doesn’t have an ending. It also doesn’t have any real drama, but you can have an ending without any drama.

Some of the edits make me curious if anyone noticed, while it was being cut and recut and so on, if there’s the serious implication Lois Lane knows Clark Kent is Superman. There’s this weird scene at the beginning where we find out Superman takes Lois Lane out on flying dates then brainwashes her with the magic kiss (last seen in Superman II) whenever the date’s over. But the later scenes with Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve… it’s like they’re playing it like she knows. There’s a definite subtext. It’s nearly interesting.

The opening actually seems like the first real Superman sequel. It’s not awkward like II or gimmicky like III, as a tabloid tycoon swoops in to buy out the Daily Planet. It gives drama to the Clark Kent side of things and lots of opportunity for returning cast members Jackie Cooper and Marc McClure… then doesn’t do anything with them.

Furie’s actually got some good shots and the effects are–while terrible–occasionally ambitious.

And Hackman… even with terrible lines, he’s great.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sidney J. Furie; screenplay by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, based on a story by Christopher Reeve, Konner and Rosenthal and on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; director of photography, Ernest Day; edited by John Shirley; music by Alexander Courage; production designer, John Graysmark; produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Christopher Reeve (Superman / Clark Kent), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Jon Cryer (Lenny), Sam Wanamaker (David Warfield), Mark Pillow (Nuclear Man), Mariel Hemingway (Lacy Warfield), Damian McLawhorn (Jeremy), William Hootkins (Harry Howler), Jim Broadbent (Jean Pierre Dubois), Stanley Lebor (General Romoff), Don Fellows (Levon Hornsby) and Susannah York (Lara).



This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Superman.

Superman III (1983, Richard Lester)

Superman III–deservedly–gets a lot of flak, but it’s actually the most faithful to the comics in a lot of ways. It plays out like a late sixties, early seventies Superman comic–“The Man Who Killed Superman,” turning out to be a bumbling, generally well-meaning guy like Richard Pryor, or “Superman Versus the Ultimate Computer.”

Superman III is also Superman versus the neo-cons (one has to wonder if, while the computer hijinks influenced Office Space, the oil plotting influenced Dick Cheney). The film’s villains are constantly weak, with Robert Vaughn (whose character has some great lines) and Annie Ross turning in dreadful performances.

But it didn’t have to be bad, which is what’s so upsetting about it. The stuff in Smallville with Clark Kent meeting up with his high school crush is often fantastic–it lets Christopher Reeve add a facet to the performance and Annette O’Toole’s great as the love interest. Even better is when she gets to Metropolis–it’s only one scene (she wasn’t back in IV) but the dynamic with her and Margot Kidder seems like it would have been outstanding.

Poor Marc McClure gets a lot of screen time at the beginning… then disappears. But the same goes for Reeve. Once Superman turns into evil Superman, he’s in the movie even less.

Pryor’s good. His dialogue’s weak, but his performance isn’t.

Lester’s direction is mostly good, though the slapstick fails–cinematographer Robert Paynter is a disaster.

But then, disaster is Superman III‘s keyword.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Lester; screenplay by David Newman and Leslie Newman, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; director of photography, Robert Paynter; edited by John Victor-Smith; music by Ken Thorne; production designer, Peter Murton; produced by Pierre Spengler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Christopher Reeve (Superman / Clark Kent), Richard Pryor (Gus Gorman), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Annette O’Toole (Lana Lang), Annie Ross (Vera), Pamela Stephenson (Lorelei), Robert Vaughn (Ross Webster), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Gavan O’Herlihy (Brad) and Nancy Roberts (Unemployment Clerk).



This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Superman.

Superman II (1980, Richard Lester)

There are, now, three versions of Superman II. The theatrical, an extended television version (not officially released) and original director Richard Donner’s take on it. Unfortunately, Superman II is–as a narrative and a sequel–rife with problems. Drawing attention to these problems is a bad idea. And the version with the least emphasis on them? Richard Lester’s original.

Whatever Lester’s problem with the Superman character, it’s not really apparent here. Superman II feels like a good Superman movie should feel–some of the campy humor works, some of it doesn’t. I’d say about fifty percent of Terence Stamp’s lines fail. The successful ones, however, are great. And Sarah Douglas is fantastic.

Most importantly, Lester gets some wonderful acting out of Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve. The somewhat nonsensical romance doesn’t fit in the picture–and never will, no matter how many revisions people make–but it makes the film singular. Superman wasn’t a particularly long film series and the familiarity Lester gets out of Kidder and Reeve in this one, the first sequel, is something television shows usually have to go three or four seasons to achieve.

The special effects–particularly the flying sequences–are occasionally weak. There are a lot more complicated rear projection sequences than in the first film and they don’t work out very often.

Like I said before, Superman II‘s basically a bad idea for a movie. But it works out in the end, thanks to the actors and, yes, Lester.

That Paris opening’s great.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Lester; written by Mario Puzo, David Newman and Leslie Newman, from a story by Puzo, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; creative consultant, Tom Mankiewicz; directors of cinematography, Robert Paynter and Geoffrey Unsworth; edited by John Victor-Smith; music by Ken Thorne; production designers, John Barry and Peter Murton; produced by Pierre Spengler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent/Superman), Ned Beatty (Otis), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Sarah Douglas (Ursa), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Jack O’Halloran (Non), Valerie Perrine (Ms. Teschmacher), Susannah York (Lara), E.G. Marshall (The President), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen) and Terence Stamp (General Zod).



This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Superman.
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