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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Superman Motion Picture Anthology (1978 - 2006)


Starring: Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh
Warner Home Video
RRP: £49.99
Certificate: 12
Available 13 June 2011

The Superman Motion Picture Anthology (1978 - 2006) set looks to cash in on the imminent release of the latest Superman film. Spread across a whacking eight Blu-ray discs you get not only the original four films and the Bryan Singer reboot, but also over twenty hours of extras, including documentaries, cartoons commentaries... too much to do anything other than just list them.

How do you do justice to an American cultural icon? In the case of Superman people have been trying since the first comic book appeared in 1932. Initially appearing in serials on radio, television and theatrical musicals, Superman finally made it onto the big screen in 1978, in the guise of Christopher Reeve. Although not an obvious choice, Richard Donner directed the movie, hot off his success with The Omen (1976), a good film, but hardly the stuff from which legends are born.

The movies success meant the inevitable sequel, but instead of staying true to the character, the subsequent films - Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) - quickly betrayed their lack of budget, with an increasing dip in quality. Apart for a couple of successful television shows, the franchise looked dead in the water until the Bryan Singer directed Superman Returns (2006), which paid homage to its predecessor, Superman (1978), by continuing the story as if the sequels just hadn’t existed. It is a testament to the imagery of Superman (1978) that it continues to influence future generations of superhero directors to become the quintessential template from which all others have stolen.

With the prospect of a new Superman reboot on the not too distant horizon, the release of this box set on Blu-ray gives a whole new generation a chance to see where it all began, especially as the set contains Superman, Superman: Expanded Edition, Superman II, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Superman III, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Superman Returns, on a total of eight discs. This is an attempt to be the definitive Superman collection with over twenty hours of bonus material and a Blu-ray print which restores the films back to the quality levels of their theatrical release.

For anyone who has been living in a cave for the best part of a hundred years, Superman is actually Kal-El, last survivor of the annihilated planet Krypton, which orbited a red giant star. Sent alone into space by his parents, the infant Kal-El finds a home with Ma and Pa Kent. Only as he matures under our alien yellow sun does his power start to manifest. In adulthood he takes on the disguise of Clark Kent, investigative reporter, whilst beneath his shirt he wears the red and gold ‘S’ which will forever mark him as Superman, a being of incredible power who fights for truth, justice and the American way...

The first film tells of Superman’s origins, as well as introducing other iconic figures in his mythology, including Lois Lane. Superman II kept up the momentum by introducing villains from Superman’s own planet. Where the series really missed a beat was with Superman III, which is more of a Richard Pryor film than it is Christopher Reeves. Reeves answer to this was to be heavily involved in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a well-intentioned film which ended up as the worst in the series.

The transfer of the films onto Blu-ray is both a curse and a blessing. On the up side the movies, for the most part, look great. What hasn’t stood the test of time is some of the special effects, especially as you work your way through the series. The lack of money spent on the special effects becomes a real problem by the time you get to Quest for Peace.

In sheer volume the extras rival the high standard set by The Lord of the Rings, but not having been made with one eye on the DVD market much of the extra material has been previously released and only a very little of it is in HiDef. Still as it stands this is the definitive Superman box set. The breakdown of the separate disc is:

Disc 1
Superman: The Movie, Original Theatrical. Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (Original Theatrical Version). The Making of Superman: The Movie (1978 TV special). Superman and the Mole-Men (1951 feature). Warner Bros. Cartoons - Super-Rabbit (1943 WB cartoon), Snafuperman (1944 WB cartoon), Stupor Duck (1956 WB cartoon), Trailers.

Disc 2
Superman: The Movie, Expanded Edition. Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz (Extended Version). Taking Flight: The Development of Superman. Making Superman: Filming the Legend. The Magic Behind the Cape. Screen Tests – Superman, Lois Lane with Optional Commentary, Ursa. A Selection of Restored Scenes. Additional Music Cues - Main Titles, Alternate Main Titles, The Council’s Decision, The Krypton Quake, More Mugger/Introducing Otis, Air Force One. Can You Read My Mind (Pop Version). Music Only Track (Donner Cut).

Disc 3
Superman II, Original Theatrical. Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (Original Theatrical Version). The Making of Superman II (1980 TV special). Deleted Scene. First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series - Fleischer Studios’ Superman, Superman, The Mechanical Monsters, Billion Dollar Limited, The Arctic Giant, The Bulleteers, The Magnetic Telescope, Electric Earthquake, Volcano, Terror on the Midway. Theatrical Trailer

Disc 4
Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut. Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz (Donner Cut). Introduction by Richard Donner. Superman II: Restoring the Vision. Deleted Scenes. Famous Studios’ Superman - Japoteurs, Showdown, Eleventh Hour, Destruction, Inc, The Mummy Strikes, Jungle Drums, The Underground World, Secret Agent

Disc 5
Superman III Theatrical Version. Commentary by Iilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler. The Making of Superman III (1983 TV Special). Deleted Scenes. Theatrical Trailer.

Disc 6
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace Theatrical Version. Commentary by Mark Rosenthal. Superman 50th Anniversary Special (1988 TV Special). Deleted Scenes. Theatrical Trailer.

Disc 7
Superman Returns. Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns - Pt. 1 Secret Origins and First Issues: Crystallizing Superman, Pt. 2 The Crystal Method: Designing Superman, Pt. 3 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman on the Farm, Pt. 4 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in the City, Pt. 5 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in Peril, Pt. 6 The Joy of Lex: Menacing Superman, Pt. 7 He’s Always Around: Wrapping Superman. Resurrecting Jor-El. Deleted Scenes including the never-before-seen original opening to Superman Returns. Bryan Singer’s Journals - Video production journals. Trailers.

Disc 8 - Additional Bonus Material
Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Hi-Def). You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman - Pt. 1 - Origin, Pt. 2 - Vision, Pt. 3 - Ascent, Pt. 4 - Crisis, Pt. 5 - Redemption. The Science of Superman (Hi-Def). The Mythology of Superman. The Heart of a Hero: A Tribute to Christopher Reeve. The Adventures of Superpup (1958 TV pilot).


Charles Packer

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