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Entertainment Earth

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Entertainment Earth

Neat Stuff Hall of Fame - Superman (1983)

"I remember seeing this in the theatre.
The bad Superman upset the kids!"

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

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SUPERMAN III

Superman III is a 1983 British superhero film directed by Richard Lester, based on the DC Comics character Superman. It is the third film in the Superman film series and the last Superman film to be produced by Alexander Salkind and Ilya Salkind. The film stars Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Annette O'Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, and Robert Vaughn. This film is followed by Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, released on July 24th, 1987.

Although the film still managed to recoup its budget of $39 million, it was less successful than the first two Superman movies, both financially and critically. While harsh criticism focused on the film's comedic and campy tone, as well as the casting and performance of Pryor, the special effects and Christopher Reeve's performance as a temporarily corrupted Superman were praised.

The plot involves Gus Gorman (Pryor), a chronically unemployed loser who discovers he has a talent for computer programming and gets a job at the Metropolis-based conglomerate Webscoe. Gus, dissatisfied with his pay, embezzles from his employer using a technique known as salami slicing, which brings Gus to the attention of CEO Ross Webster. Webster is intrigued by the computer's potential to aid him in his schemes to rule the world financially. Joined by his sister Vera and his "psychic nutritionist," Lorelei Ambrosia, Webster blackmails Gus into helping him. Meanwhile, Clark Kent returns to Smallville for his high-school reunion and is reunited with childhood friend Lana Lang.

Series producer Ilya Salkind originally wrote a treatment for this film that included Brainiac, Mister Mxyzptlk and Supergirl, but Warner Bros. did not like it. The treatment was released online in 2007. The Mr. Mxyzptlk portrayed in the outline varies from his good-humored comic counterpart, as he uses his abilities to cause serious harm. Dudley Moore was the top choice to play the role. Meanwhile, in the same treatment, Brainiac had discovered Supergirl in the same way that Superman was found by the Kents. Brainiac is portrayed as a surrogate father to Supergirl and eventually fell in love with his "daughter", who did not reciprocate his feelings, as she had fallen in love with Superman.

Both Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder were angry with the way the Salkinds treated Superman director Richard Donner, with Hackman retaliating by refusing to reprise the role of Lex Luthor entirely (though he would later be persuaded to come back for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in 1987, with which the Salkinds had no connection). After Margot Kidder publicly criticized the Salkinds for their treatment of Donner, the producers reportedly "punished" the actress by reducing her role in Superman III to a brief cameo.

In his commentary for the 2006 DVD release of Superman III, Ilya Salkind denied any ill will between Margot Kidder and his production team and denied the claim that her part was cut for retaliation. Instead, he said, the creative team decided to pursue a different direction for a love interest for Superman, believing the Lois and Clark relationship had been played out in the first two films (but could be revisited in the future). With the choice to give a more prominent role to Lana Lang, Lois' part was reduced for story reasons. Salkind also denied the reports about Gene Hackman being upset with him, stating that Hackman was unable to return because of other film commitments.

Following the release of this movie, Pryor signed a five-year contract with Columbia Pictures worth $40 million.

As with the previous sequel, the musical score was composed and conducted by Ken Thorne, using the Superman theme and most other themes from the first film composed by John Williams, but this time around there is more original music by Thorne than the Williams re-arrangements. To capitalize on the popularity of synthesizer pop, Giorgio Moroder was hired to create songs for the film (though their use in the film is minimal).

William Kotzwinkle wrote a novelization of the film published in paperback by Warner Books in the U.S. and by Arrow Books in the United Kingdom to coincide with the film's release; Severn House published a British hardcover edition. Kotzwinkle thought the novelization "a delight the world has yet to find out about." However, writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, Roberta Rogow hoped this would be the final Superman film and said, "Kotzwinkle has done his usual good job of translating the screenplay into a novel, but there are nasty undertones to the film, and there are nasty undertones to the novel as well. Adults may enjoy the novel on its own merits, as a Black Comedy of sorts, but it's not written for kids, and most of the under-15 crowd will either be puzzled or revolted by Kotzwinkle's dour humor."

A video game for Superman III was developed for the Atari 8-bit family of computers by Atari, Inc. in 1983, but was ultimately cancelled. A prototype box for the Atari 5200 version also exists, although existence of the actual game for this console remains unconfirmed. The game (perhaps intended to be like Missile Command) would have been loosely based on the plotline for Superman III.

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The total domestic box office gross (not adjusted for inflation) for Superman III was $59,950,623. The film was the 12th highest-grossing film of 1983 in North America.

Reviews for the film were mostly negative in response from critics and audiences. At Rotten Tomatoes, only 26% of critics have given the film positive reviews, based on 43 reviews. The summary on Rotten Tomatoes goes as follows: "When not overusing sight gags, slapstick and Richard Pryor, Superman III resorts to plot points rehashed from the previous Superman flicks." A frequent criticism of Superman III was the inclusion of comedian Richard Pryor. Film critic Leonard Maltin said that Superman III was an "appalling sequel that trashed everything that Superman was about for the sake of cheap laughs and a co-starring role for Richard Pryor". After an appearance by Pryor on The Tonight Show, telling Johnny Carson how much he enjoyed seeing Superman II, the Salkinds were eager to cast him in a prominent role in the third film. The film was nominated for two Razzie Awards including Worst Supporting Actor for Richard Pryor and Worst Musical Score for Giorgio Moroder.

Audiences also saw Robert Vaughn's villainous Ross Webster as an inferior fill-in for Lex Luthor. Fans of the Superman series also placed a great deal of the blame on director Richard Lester. Richard Lester made a number of popular comedies in the 1960s including The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night before being hired by the Salkinds in the 1970s for their successful Three Musketeers series, as well as Superman II. Lester broke tradition by setting the opening credits for Superman III during a prolonged slapstick sequence rather than in outer space.

The film's screenplay, by David and Leslie Newman, was also criticized. When Richard Donner was hired to direct the first two films, he found the Newmans' scripts so distasteful that he hired Tom Mankiewicz for heavy rewrites. Since Donner and Mankiewicz were no longer attached to the franchise, the Salkinds were finally able to bring their "vision" of Superman to the screen and once again hired the Newmans for writing duties.

Despite such harsh criticisms, Superman III was praised for Reeve's performance of a corrupted version of the Man of Steel (above), particularly the junkyard battle between this newly darkened Superman and Clark Kent. One of the film's positive reviews was from the fiction writer Donald Barthelme, who praised Reeve as "perfect" and described Vaughn as "essentially playing William Buckley - all those delicious ponderings, popping of the eyes, licking of the corner of the mouth."

When did Lois and Superman first kiss?

Action Comics #6
Superman #3
Superman #12
Action Comics #22

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General-DC Comics

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Check out the SuperHero Stuff Superman merchandise page, your directory to the biggest collection of Superman products on the Internet. They have Superman tees coming out their ears; and have tons of other cool Superman products, too, like Superman hoodies, belt buckles, baseball caps, sandals, magnets, alarm clocks and even Superman underwear! All products are official and licensed.

DC comics toys and more at TFAW.com

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Content intended for informational and educational purposes only under the GNU Free Documentation Areement.
All Superman and DC Universe characters and merchandise are copyright © and property of Warner Brothers, DC Comics, and/or their subsidiaries and licensors.

 

 

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