17 August 2005

Screw Richard Lester! Donner's Superman II Lives! (Kinda)

Hey guys it's Donnie...This is seriously one of the coolest things I've ever heard of. I'm sure most of you know the now infamous story of Richard Donner and his lost version of Superman II. Essentially what it boils down to is that Donner shot Superman and Superman II back to back, and he was approximately 70% through shooting Superman II when Marlon Brando filed a lawsuit arguing that the studio owed him money from the profits of the first film. He was therefore completely removed from the second film by order of the producers. (This is the footage that Bryan Singer will be using in Superman Returns.) Brando's removal prompted an argument between Donner and the powers that be, who wanted the second film to be "more campy". Donner was consequently fired and replaced by Richard Lester, who I'm pretty sure is responsible for most of the really crap moments of Superman II, including the memory-erasing kiss at the end, and the absolutely silly giant cellophane "S" that Superman throws at Non, the giant Kryptonian villian. (This unfortunate moment always seemed totally out of place to me, but it also spawned one of my favorite single jokes of the new season of Family Guy.)

So Lester came onboard and reshot some things, although Gene Hackman refused to return for reshoots, so most of Luthor's scenes in the sequel contain body doubles and dialogue looped by a voice imitator, ala George McFly in Back To The Future Parts 2 and 3. Lester finished shooting, re-edited, and we got a completely muddled sequel, which is where the franchise began to take a turn for the worse. On the other hand, there's a good portion of footage shot by Richard Donner that has never seen the light of day, and several cast members, most notably Margot Kidder, claim that Donner's version was fantastic and would have sent the franchise in a very different direction.

Here's the catch: When the movie was aired on TV in foreign markets, different countries aired different versions, many of which contained various Donner scenes that had been cut out of the theatrical release. Well, one determined soul tracked down VHS copies, restored the footage, compiled it all together and created what has been dubbed as Superman II: The Restored International Cut. All of the Lester Footage and all of the Donner Footage that could be acquired, edited together into one massive DVD. It's virtually impossible to track down a copy as they can't legally be sold without risking a lawsuit by Warners, but they do exist. I'm working on tracking down a copy myself. In the meantime, someone did a scene by scene break down, comparing the theatrical cut to the RIC, complete with a few screen shots and dialogue transcriptions. There are some really bizarre moments and some really nice moments as well, and overall it makes for a very interesting read.

Click it here to fly over to SupermanHomepage and read the Superman II: RIC review...


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