Superman-The Movie: Special Edition (1978)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Richard Donner (Dir) & Tom Mankiewicz (Creative Consult)
Listing-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Taking Flight - The Development Of Superman
Featurette-Making Superman: Filming The Legend
Featurette-The Magic Behind The Cape
Audio-Only Track-Additional Musical Cues
|Year Of Production||1978|
|RSDL / Flipper||
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Richard Donner|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/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|
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, References to JVC, Cheerios|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Superman was the first serious adaptation of a comic book hero to the medium of film, and in my mind remains the best. As a movie, it has everything working for it, from the perfect casting of Christopher Reeve as Superman, Gene Hackman as the criminal genius Lex Luthor; the direction of Richard Donner (The Omen, Lethal Weapon) and the incomparable scoring by John Williams.
The planet Krypton is on the brink of disaster, with its sun coming to the end of its life and threatening to destroy the planet. Only Jor-El (Marlon Brando) has the foresight to understand this, though unable to save himself. Without the consent of the security council, he sends his only son to a distant and safe planet called Earth. On Earth, Superman has incredible powers and uses them for good, quickly becoming a part of the American crime-fighting landscape. Only the insane Lex Luthor has the genius to stop him, though his plans are foiled by the incompetency of his bumbling colleagues. Superman must ultimately choose between his love for Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) or to violate his father's prime teaching not to interfere with the course of human history.
The plot reads as it should; a naive and simplistic comic book story, and as such lends itself to any number of different realisations. It is without doubt that the way this story has been adapted is without par in contemporary film making. From the opening credits, it is clear that cinematic history was made back in 1978 with the release of Superman, and watching it today brings back all those memories of wonder and awe which I remember vividly as a child. Warner are to be congratulated for presenting this much-cherished landmark film in such a thoughtful manner.
This is a superb transfer and is a reference example of how a relatively older film can be presented on DVD.
Superman was shot in 35mm anamorphic with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This transfer preserves that aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.
The sharpness of the image was somewhat variable for a number of reasons. Many different techniques were used during production, ranging from front-projection photography, matte artistry, optical compositing and the like. Indeed, many of the methods used were pioneered for this movie. As such, sharpness ranged from extraordinary to somewhat less-than-perfect, but never was it the fault of the transfer. Many long shots were exceptional in the amount of fine detail resolved, and had me pausing to marvel a number of times, a clear indication of the high quality of the transfer. Grain was under tight control for the most part, although many process shots were extremely grainy and as a result most of the effects work was quite obvious; this contrasts with today's CGI work which is generally invisible. Edge-enhancement was not an issue. Shadow detail was very impressive for a movie of this vintage, and was always exceptionally good, though it must be said that watching in a light-controlled (ie. very dark) environment is a must (as with all movies). There was no transfer related low-level noise whatsoever.
The colour palette varies according to the three distinct phases of the movie. The first phase on Krypton was shot under unusual conditions, with a special light-reflective coating on costumes, which tended to drown out much colour especially in faces. However, young Superman's blue, red and gold blanket is a hint of things to come, being most vivid and lifelike, clearly the result of modern post-processing. On Earth, colours are quite natural if a little subdued, making the clear, bright reds and blues of Superman's cape all the more impressive. There is chroma noise evident in process shots, but this cannot be helped
It is most pleasing that the movie has been allowed two whole layers and competition with only a few low bitrate audio tracks; the video is entirely faultless and devoid of MPEG artefacting of any kind, save for some inevitable and minor posterization. The restored print is exceptionally clean and almost totally devoid of film artefacts, and there are no instances of film-to-video artefacting.
This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring between Chapters 23 and 24 at 76:36 minutes. It was not distracting.
As with the video, the soundtrack was a very pleasant surprise, and is absolutely reference quality.
There is a stunning English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a wonderful Dolby Digital 5.0 Music Only track and a Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track. There is also a Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian soundtrack.
I initially was quite concerned with some crackling during dialogue on Krypton. Thankfully, this was restricted to the first 10 minutes or so, and for the most part dialogue was very good, although its dated origins were sometimes evident. Spatial integration was very convincing, with the dialogue seeming to be part of the environment, notably inside the wonderfully reverberant lair of Lex Luthor. There were no lip-sync problems.
The incredible score has John Williams stamped all over it, with just the right sense of wonder and emotion throughout - indeed it is a critical component of the movie Superman. The opening credits send shivers down my spine every time, with the same power as Star Wars and Indiana Jones and with much the same style. I can say that I was not prepared for the power and clarity provided by this transfer. It has clearly been reworked for discrete surrounds and is so enveloping, clean and warm that you can't help but be swept away by it. It is so superb in its own right that, thankfully, a separate music-only track is provided in Dolby Digital 5.0, and it is indeed subtly better than that provided with the main soundtrack.
Of some controversy of late is the reworking of old soundtracks to be more appealing to modern audiences. For those movie lovers amongst us who invest great sums of money into audio hardware, it is somewhat of a double-edged sword; we would like the original (maybe mono) soundtrack, but also want our gear to be made use of and justified. Well, the new soundtrack to Superman is so sublime that I can see no one being upset in this case. At all times the spaciousness and neutrality of a modern, carefully produced soundtrack is presented here. The discrete surrounds are used constantly, though never call attention to themselves for their own sake. There is a great sense of atmosphere, and any panning is effortless and always in keeping with the on-screen action. There is some front-to-back panning, and much centre-rear activity, as those with expensive Dolby Digital Surround EX setups will no doubt be pleased to hear.
The .1 channel was used with great precision, and got a great workout. It was effortlessly integrated into the soundtrack amidst the many explosions and rumblings, and again had the authenticity and power generally reserved for contemporary soundtracks such as this.
|Surround Channel Use|
The following three featurettes are one large documentary broken into three smaller pieces. They are all presented in 4:3 and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, and are excellent in quality.
The R4 version misses out on:
Superman is a truly legendary film. It has been presented on DVD in a manner which fans could only have dreamt of, and as such I am nominating this movie for inclusion into the hallowed Hall Of Fame. The video, audio and extras are all absolutely reference quality and will delight.
|DVD||Panasonic A-360, using S-Video output|
|Display||Pioneer SD-T43W1 16:9 RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DB-930|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 603 Series II, Centre - B&W LCR6 Series II, Rears - B&W 603 Series II, Subwoofer - B&W ASW500 Active|