Superman-The Movie: Four-Disc Collector's Edition (1978)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-Justice league Video Game
Featurette-Taking Flight: Development Of Superman
Featurette-Making Of-Filming The Legend
Featurette-The Magic Behind The Cape
Featurette-Superman And The Mole-Men
Featurette-Fleischer Studio's Superman
Featurette-Vintage Making of
|Year Of Production||1978|
|Running Time||137:14 (Case: 130)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (4)
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Richard Donner|
Warner Home Video
James E. Myers
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, It is even defended in the commentary|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The planet Krypton is reaching the end of its days. The red sun that sustains the planet is dying and causing it to shift orbit. Alas, only the scientist Jor-El (another flawless performance from Marlon Brando) believes this to be the case. He is sworn to silence by the Kryptonian council of elders and both he and his wife are forbidden to leave the planet. He does, however, manage to send his infant son Kal-El on a journey across the stars to the comparatively primitive planet Earth. There he is raised as Clark Kent in the quiet town of Smallville by a childless couple who discover the ship he arrived in by the side of the road.
Clark Kent had known of his super powers all his life, but it was not until after a journey of self-discovery following high school that he learnt of his true past and assumed the identity of Superman (by which time he is played by Christopher Reeve). Fighting for truth, justice and the American way as Superman, he maintains his secret identity as Clark Kent, reporter for The Daily Planet. This dual life manages to form an unusual love triangle between Clark Kent, fellow reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and Superman.
Superman's powers are so diverse and powerful that only the genius of the evil real estate obsessed villain Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) can stop his do-gooding ways.
Superman: The Movie was the first real attempt at translating a fantastical comic book hero into a live action film. To this day it is still one of the best comic book movies (some would argue it is the best) but it has had some stiff competition over the years. It holds up well to this day. Even the special effects have stood the test of time, looking good even by today's standard.
Superman could very easily have been a train wreck. The character himself has so much in the way of super-powers that it is difficult to construct an engaging and exciting story, let alone a good movie, out of the character - a point well and truly proven by later films in the franchise. Furthermore, there is so much back-story to tell, and rabid fans who hold that back-story as gospel, that a real balancing act was required to expose this mythology and tell a worthwhile story in its own right. Thankfully, the pen of Mario Puzo and the narrative genius of director Richard Donner managed to turn Superman into a true classic - and one that works equally well as a family film and an action movie.
This Collector's Edition presents a remastered version of the original theatrical cut of the movie (as featured in the 2-disc "Special Edition" being released simultaneously) and the remastered extended cut of the film that was released in 2001 (and reviewed here).
This video review covers the newly remastered theatrical cut (Disc 1 of the set) as the extended cut was not provided for this review. Our previous review of that transfer can be found here.
Like the 2001 edition of Superman: The Movie the transfer is of reference standard, at least for the most part. There is one unpleasant digital artefact that spoils this otherwise superb transfer.
The film is presented in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.
The video represents the quality of the original theatrical image very accurately, save for between 23:13 and 23:16 when there is some serious digital distortion that impairs a shot of the Kents as they peer down into the crater left by Kal-El's ship to Earth. Aside from this brief shocker, there are no MPEG compression artefacts noticeable in the transfer.
There are a handful of minor film artefacts throughout the transfer, but they are generally quite hard to spot, let alone get distracted by. The shadow detail is very good, particularly for a film of this age. There is surprisingly little grain, save for a few effects shots, or low level noise visible throughout the transfer. The sharpness of the image varies a little throughout the film, though never to a point that it is distracting, but this is a result of the various techniques employed in filming and not as a result of poor DVD mastering.
The colours are quite accurately captured. Significantly different colour schemes are used at different parts of the film. The primary colours of Superman's outfit remain bold throughout, which is particularly striking against the relatively soft palette throughout later half of the film.
This is an RSDL disc, with the layer break occurring discreetly at 77:16.
This audio review covers the newly remastered theatrical cut (Disc 1 of the set) as the extended cut was not provided for this review. Our previous review of that transfer can be found here.
There are four audio tracks available, including one commentary track. There is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384 Kbps), an English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kbps) and a German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192 Kbps) track as well as the commentary.
Dialogue is quite clear and in good sync throughout the feature. It has been mixed at a good level in the mix and translates well to the 5.1 mix, making good use of the surrounds for environmental effects (such as echoes).
The new 5.1 mix is a rare example of an excellent soundtrack reworking, so much so that even the harshest critics of soundtrack rework (of which I am one) will be pleased. The surrounds get used frequently and at all times appropriately. The subwoofer gets a better workout than many new films would give it, and not just booming explosions, but rumbling earthquakes and occasional bass from the score. For the purists, there is nothing to fault in the 2.0 mix, save for the additional presence the 5.1 mix adds.
John Williams' phenomenal score really needs no introduction. Not only is it a great score, but it is one of the most recognisable orchestral works of the last century. It has made a great transition to the 5.1 mix.
|Surround Channel Use|
The range of extras in this set is staggering. There is simply no other way to put it. The extras even reach beyond the confines of Superman: The Movie and collate other theatrical takes on Superman. There are a number of features in common with past Superman releases, but enough material that has not been released on DVD before to hook fans all over again.
The extras are spread across 4 discs as follows:
Commentary from the money man and his salesman. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of commentary on the pre-production side of things and their past work (particularly the Musketeers they had been involved with), but there are some interesting anecdotes about the production side of things. Certainly worth a listen, but not great.
An early teaser that consists solely of stock footage shot from a plane with the main cast credits flying through the air. Very simple stuff, but very effective.
A fairly standard theatrical trailer
A reasonably snappy TV spot, particularly for the day.
A rather unnecessary trailer for the next computer game that will feature Superman. It looks kind of fun, but is little more than shameless advertising
Dolby Digital 5.0 Music-Only Audio Track.
(reproduced from our previous review) This is a most interesting listen amongst the director Richard Donner and creative consultant Tom Manciewicz. Clearly friends, they talk with ease and have much to say. It is quite wonderful to listen to the gasps in their voice as they see a scene and say "Yes, I remember this.." and proceed to discuss it. One of many interesting points is that Marlon Brando can be seen many times during his scenes on Krypton pausing and looking around the room - looking for little cards with his lines on it! Not bad for someone getting paid $3 million for a few week's work, which was and is a ridiculous price for such a relatively small part. Poor old Richard Donner, who also directed 80% of Superman II, only got $1 million!
A documentary on the pre-production of Superman hosted by Mark McClure (Jimmy Olsen in the film). This was produced in 2000 for the previous Special Edition release of Superman.
A documentary on the production of Superman hosted by Mark McClure (Jimmy Olsen in the film). This was produced in 2000 for the previous Special Edition release of Superman. This documentary is largely made up of interviews with cast and crew. It also includes an interesting section about John Williams' score.
A documentary on the special effects of Superman hosted by Mark McClure (Jimmy Olsen in the film). This was produced in 2000 for the previous Special Edition release of Superman. It features some great stuff, particularly a number of effects that weren't used, the process of custom developing equipment to do the special effects for the film and a lot of test footage of effects techniques that were and weren't used in the movie. I doubt there is a fan out there that wouldn't want the radio controlled Superman tested, but never used, for the flying sequences!
Screen test footage for the roles of Superman/Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Ursa (who was featured more prominently in Superman II), introduced by the casting director Lynn Stalmaster. Legend has it that every actor in America tested for Superman. This featurette does little to dispel that legend. The tests for Lois Lane are the best (not to mention diverse) here. Ever picture Stockard Channing as Lois Lane? I didn't think so!
11 deleted scenes that have been restored in the same fashion as the main feature.
A series of 8 musical pieces recorded for the film that were never used and alternate versions of ones that were.
A "Making of" documentary from 1980. Although very dated, this is an insightful documentary. It consists mainly of interviews with the cast and crew, as well as representatives from DC Comics and members of the public. It also features a brief introduction to the world of Superman (despite spending a reasonable amount of time reminding us how he needs no introduction!), a segment on how Krypton was realised and a segment on how Christopher Reeve physically prepared for the role.
The entire Superman and the Mole Men movie, starring George Reeves as Superman and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. This 1951 movie was the precursor to the 1952 Superman TV series.
The story tells of a race of underground-dwelling Mole-Men whose existence is disturbed by people drilling for oil near the small town of Silsby. An angry mob from the town, led by Luke Benson (Jeff Corey), decide these creepy little people need to be eliminated and only Superman can prevent this genocide!
It is quite campy and fairly cheaply produced, but this is a real treat for Superman fans and fans of paranoid 1950s science fiction.
The video is incredibly well restored. It is presented in the film's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The image is very sharp for an old black and white movie. There are light film artefacts noticeable throughout, but no particularly big or distracting ones - mostly just white flecks. There are no noticeable film-to-video artefacts in the transfer.
The audio has been extremely well preserved and restored. It is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kbps), although it does sound mono throughout. It does sound dated, but there are no quality issues - the clarity is near perfect.
Nine of the 1940s Max Fleischer Superman cartoons are featured, from the earlier days of the series. The only thing better than these cartoons in this package is the main feature itself (though Superman and the Mole Men provides stiff competition!). They are fantastic. Not only are they great stories in their own right, but they are like a time capsule of the era - so much so that they border on being propaganda cartoons for the war effort at times.
The cartoons feature superb animation and a striking noir style. The recent Batman has borrowed from this style incredibly heavily, both in terms of look and story design and pacing.
Each is in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The video quality is very good for the age of these cartoons. There are film artefacts and grain visible to a modest degree and occasionally mild telecine wobble is noticeable, but none are enough to distract from the glorious animation. The audio is very clear, although it does sound somewhat dated. The cartoons can be played individually or all together as one feature.
The episodes featured are:
A near identical Collector's Edition is being released simultaneously in Region 1 as is being released in Region 4, the only differences being in language tracks and subtitles. Region 1 has a French language track in place of the German language track on the Region 4 release. Region 1 also misses out on Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles. This comparison is so close I'd call it a draw.
Superman is a true classic. This set provides both official cuts of the film, making it a must have for serious fans.
The extras package is excellent. Though there are a number of extras in common with the 2001 Special Edition, the additional extras in this Collector's Edition are well and truly enough to warrant owners of the 2001 edition upgrading. In particular, the additional feature Superman and the Mole Men and the Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons bear repeat viewing.
One significant, albeit brief, digital fault mars an otherwise excellent video transfer in the theatrical cut. There is nothing to complain about with the video of the extended cut.
The remastered audio of both cuts of the film is exceptional.
|DVD||LG V8824W, using S-Video output|
|Display||LG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub|