FILMS… Superman (1978)

 

A Seventies Superman Cast puts Superfun into a Superhero Film…

 

Superman’s origin story and his adventures when he grows up to be the superhero we know and love.

 

Superman: The Movie – 35th Anniversary Trailer, Joel Walden

With no sign of Paul Rudd’s Antman (2015) in the discount shelf of our local DVD rental shop, I debated on which superhero would have the superhonour of having the first film review. Thanks to Darlin’ Husband introducing me to the King of the Bromance movies, Judd Apatow, I’d noticed Rudd as something other than the extra in the TV series Friends (1994 -2014) and rom-com label I’d previously known him from.

I then avidly watched Rudd as Brian Fantana in Anchorman (2014), who recommends Black Panther aftershave to Ron Burgundy as “It’s illegal in nine countries… Yep, it’s made with bits of real panther, so you know it’s good”. Sadly, this aftershave doesn’t exist, despite what your angelic looking, wide-eyed then future husband might say…

I also watched Rudd’s role in This is 40 (2012), where Rudd had a great romantic chemistry with Mrs Judd Apatow, Leslie Mann as his on- screen wife. I do hope we revisit this film couple every decade. After finally watching Rudd in his tiny superhero role I noted as well as having the lead role that Rudd was a co-writer for the film. This screenplay brought back the fun and the comedy back into this genre which was there, but often lost in the action in far too many recent superhero movies.

For these reasons, I had thought of watching Guardians of the Galaxy (2012) again, but as Starlord isn’t technically a superhero, Darlin’ Husband and I watched Superman (1978).  In the dual roles of Superman and Clark Kent, Christopher Reeve proved you can also put the fun into funny as a superhero. Superman was the only superhero film, I remember watching from my childhood and that was before I knew it had a Larry “J.R. Ewing” Hagman cameo in it.

As Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor, the legendary Gene Hackman plays with his tongue firmly in his cheek. He’s fantastically evil in this role, and he looks like he’s having fun in his sparring scenes as villain to Reeves superdude. I’ve Always been a fan of Christopher Reeve since seeing him in Somewhere in Time (1980) in which his character went back in time to the girl of his dreams.. (sigh).

Superman starts with the trial of Zod for conspiring to overthrow the council in Krypton by the Godfather Jor El who is played Marlon Brando. Zod is sentenced by the council as my Darlin’ Husband put it “being turned into an 1980s concept album cover” in a hula hoop alongside Roger Taylor and Brian May . Brando is worth every dollar of his part of the profits and 3.5 million dollar paycheck.

The only other actor to my mind to have pulled this role off – in my mind anyway – would have been the wonderful Welsh actor, Richard Burton. Or maybe David Prowse’s experience of being dubbed by James Earl Jones for Darth Vader put Burton off the idea of even expressing interest in the project. But more about Prowse later. Jor El and his wife (Susannah York) then send their superbaby to earth in an escape pod as Krypton collapses to dust.

By the time the superbaby gets to earth he is a wee boy and he is taken in by the childless Jonathan and his wife Martha Kent. He is brought up by the couple in Smallville and his superpowers are discouraged by the couple. As he turns into 1980s crooner, Shakin Stevens a young man he is gently reprimanded by his foster-father of this after kicking a ball into orbit. As kids do but only as Superman. At this point in the film, Darlin’ Husband tries to convince me that this led to the damage to a satellite. I might have believed this, then he added that it led to the unrelated sequel of the film Gravity (2015).

After his father dies, Clark finds a shard of kryptonite. Young Clark then leaves for his “Fortress of Solitude”. The location for this is as that other actor with British gravitas, Sean Bean would describe as “up North”. Then Clark has what seems like a non-prescribed drug trip seeing his real dad. Brando adding his presence (kind of) as Jor El tells Superman more on his true identity and then refreshes his knowledge of his powers. He also tells him not to go back in time.

After his words of wisdom from Joe El, Clark is donning his familiar superhero outfit and he flies to Metropolis. During this time turns to into Christopher Reeve, as 12 years pass before he gets there. Ironically, he has the same voice as Christopher Reeve dubbed over the younger Clark Kent actor’s lines. But the muscles are all his, as Reeve worked out with Darth Vader David Prowse to get the chiseled muscly actor that was synonymous with the role we know and love.

Superman’s alter ego in Metropolis, is Clark Kent, a shy, bumbling gent with spectacles. Kent starts a job as a reporter at the Daily Planet. He meets his confident, sassy, co-worker Lois Lane – older Zooey Deschanel lookalike but hot in her own way, Margot Kidder – and his co workers. After a freak helicopter accident with a helicopter he saves Lois, as he turns into Superman. She falls for Superman. Christopher Reeve is perfect in both roles as the bumbling, nervous Clark and the more butch and commanding Superman. As Superman he has the confidence to meet her for a date. In a kind of role reversal for both of them, she’s nervous, he’s masterful. 

We meet the bad guy Lex Luthor, where Hackman hams up his role – no pun intended –  with relish – still no pun intended. This seen when he is talking of his grandiose ideas to his long-suffering girlfriend Eve (Valerie Perrine). Or putting down his incompetent, sidekick Otis (Ned Beatty). Hackman is fantastic and will always be my favourite Lex Luthor, as Nicholson is my one and only for the Joker. Zuckerberg Eisenberg had some big boots to fit in Batman vs Superman (2016), and just isn’t as good. Luthor’s master plan involves stealing two air missiles and…the rest is extremely watchable.

Superman does break his (real) father’s rules by going back in time. This is why it’s really hard for me to watch Reeve in Somewhere in Time. The love of my life ruined the ending for me as he suggested Reeve turned into Superman at one important point in the movie. This will make sense only if you have seen this particular romantic movie – the ultimate weeper. Darlin’ Husband does tell me of unique parody endings. If I told you that Nanette Newman opens a receipt to the glue factory in the closing moments of International Velvet (1978) you can understand why my younger sister and I will not let him watch Frozen (2013)  with her daughter, my niece.

Anyway, I will end, by referring again to the cameo I mentioned earlier, the one with the late great, Larry Hagman. Hagman starred in Superman. This in the same year he took on the role he is more famous for as J.R. Ewing in TV’s Dallas (1978- 91). His role is one of his more fun and comedic roles. Hagman shines like the star he is, in his five minutes on-screen. In Hagman’s autobiography co-written by Todd Gold – Hello Darlin,  Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life (2011) – the authors talk about this role. Hagman describes how his scene, where he tends to Eve after an apparent accident (a ruse set up by our villain), involved Valerie Perrine looking “nonetheless provocative” and how he “jumped on her”. Hagman boasts of completing the scene in just one take.

Talking Dallas, there is also another wee bit of irony regarding two of Pamela Barnes Ewing’s love interests. IMDB mentions how John Beck – aka Pam Ewing’s Bobby replacement, Mark Graison – was considered for the role of Superman. Later on Reeve said he no longer wanted to act in his Superman roles, none other than Patrick Duffy, Pam Ewing’s true love Bobby Ewing was considered for the role… but enough Dallas talk.

I recommend this particular Superman film, especially if you are tired or fed up of superheroes in psychoanalysis. Current directors appear to ask them to  lie on the couch questioning their existence, their upbringing and their reason for being. Or they are too busy saving the world to have a laugh, but have little time to hang out with their girlfriends. In one particular Avengers movie Age of Ultron (2015), Iron Man and Thor became a wee bit evasive when the girlfriend topic was brought up by Captain America. So maybe Natalie Jane and Pepper Potts dumped them because they’d lost their sense of humour. Admittedly a tad unfair to Iron man,  if this is so as he’d been well and truly nagged to ditch his Iron Man suits by Paltrow Pepper

Meanwhile the bad guys have always had all the good comedy lines, so I’m happy to add that Antman and Thor have found the humour in Superheroes once more. So maybe the rest of the caped wonders can try to find it instead of bothering with hunting the Arkenstone. Perhaps the actor co-writing the script is the answer. As for Antman, can we pair him off with Tom Hiddlestone’s Loki, instead of the dreary Yellowjacket. Loki is one of the more amusing bad guys, now that sparring duo would be worth watching…

Weeper Rating😦 😦 😦 😦 :-(/10

Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂  🙂 🙂 /10

Hulk Rating: ‎ ‎mrgreen  ‎/10

Bonus Trailer: Yes, Lego

Lego Superman Trailer, c/o DarthAnakininc

The Great Villain Blogathon 2019, No 27

This updated post was added to Ruth of Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows & Satin and Kristina of Speakeasy‘s The Great Villain Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Christopher Reeve in Deathtrap and Somewhere in Time. Larry Hagman in Dallas, McMillan and More. Gene Hackman in Misunderstood and Bonnie and Clyde. Valerine Perrine in Water and Ned Beatty in Network. Margot Kidder is also tributed in a Remembrance Post, HERE. Susannah York stars in X, Y and Zee (Zee and co).

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21 thoughts on “FILMS… Superman (1978)

  1. Superman (1978) was the second superhero feature film I ever saw. The first was Batman (1966), the movie spun off from the popular TV show. While I prefer Superman II, Superman is a lot of fun, especially with Gene Hackman as Lex. While others played the role before him, I still picture Christopher Reeves anytime I think of Superman.

    Speaking of Patrick Duffy, the first time I ever saw him, he was essentially playing a superhero. It was on the all too short-lived TV show The Man From Atlantis!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed this post very much! I remember the Hackman, Perrine, and Beatty as great comic (comic book) villains in this film, and it provided levity to this film. What a high-powered cast of actors in it Brando, Glenn Ford, Susannah York—quite The Who’s who in cinema history.

    Ha! I forgot all about the Larry Hagman cameo, but of course it came right back to me when I read the post. What a brazenly funny scene, and it seems like it had the spontaneity of one take. Thanks for the fun post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much for your unique take on this film — I haven’t seen it since I saw it at the movies upon its release, but I still clearly remember Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. I don’t remember Larry Hagman, though — your post makes me want to watch all over again. Thanks so much for joining the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was so looking forward to your essay on Lex Luthor and you did not disappoint. I loved it! He’s “fantastically evil” indeed, as you pointed out, and I love Gene Hackman’s portrayal here. (However, I like your suggestions of James Earl Jones or Richard Burton…)

    And what is WITH all the psychoanalyzing of superheroes, anyway? Why can’t we have more superhero movies like this one?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, always try and fail miserably to avoid those Dallas references but they keep on happening. Just seen Gypsy (1962) which has two future Dallas stars which I didn’t realise til I watched it. And about to check out Gable and Lombard which has one too… which I forgot about until I saw the cast list!

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