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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Comedy > Superman 1978 - 1987 Five Film Collection 4K (DC Comics/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays w/Blu-rays)

Superman 1978 - 1987 Five Film Collection 4K (DC Comics/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays w/Blu-rays)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+/B+*/B**/B/B Picture: B- Sound: B/B*/B-**/B-/B & B- Extras: B/B*/B**/C/C Films: B/B*/B-**/C-/C- *Superman II Director's Cut/**Theatrical Cut

In 1973, when releasing the first four 8-inch action figures (of what led to a landmark toy series) of the four male leads on the new Superfriends! animated TV series with Hanna-Barbera and DC Comics for ABC-TV, which became a huge hit, the Mego Toy Company eventually copyrighted a term that became the name the genre that featured Superman, Batman, Robin and Aquaman belonged to: superheroes. Superman and Batman already had their live-action hit TV shows, while all had animated hits a decade earlier with the Filmation animated studios and the live-action likes of Shazam! and Wonder Woman were soon on the way. It was this success that led Warner Bros., who bought DC Comics, to take a big gamble and make a big-budgeted feature film based on Superman.

George Reeves was dead and would be too old for a feature film, so many wondered who they could possibly get to play the role. After several big names were suggested, then-unknown Christopher Reeve was picked to play the title character. The resulting 1978 release directed by the successful journeyman director Richard Donner was a huge hit and though no one may have known it at the time, Superman: The Movie finally established superheroes as a full-fledged genre after making money for decades on TV, in animation and even live-action chapter plays.

Reeve would play the character in four films, the second of which now has two versions, all of which are included in the new 4K box set Superman 1978 - 1987 Five Film Collection 4K which also includes regular Blu-ray versions of all the films.

We have reviewed the majority of them, so here is our coverage of...

Superman: The Movie (1978)



4-DVD Set


Superman II: Director's Cut (1980) HD-DVD + DVD editions


Superman II: Theatrical Cut (1980)


That leaves us with the two duds: Richard Lester's Superman III (1983) and Sidney J. Furie's Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987). The former is a mess with Richard Pryor showing up as an unemployed man who turns out to have special intelligence that allows him to create a supercomputer than can destroy Superman and villain Robert Vaughn (of the original Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV series, The Protectors) wants control of it to get Superman and take over the world. The script is as much of a mess as the awful-upon-arrival visual effects (making the first two films look like state of the art CGI from Avatar II!) and a good cast also including Margot Kidder, Annette O'Toole, Jackie White, Annie Ross and Pamela Stevenson among others in a film that is loaded with plenty of missed opportunities.

With the money that lost and how no one liked it, that should have been it and Reeve even compared it to the first three Connery/James Bond films saying he would stop there because he only liked those first bond hits.

Sadly, he changed his mind when the infamous Cannon Films stepped in when Reeve decided he wanted to make a 'big statement' against nuclear weapons and the resulting Quest film managed to be as horrid and hideous, but for far less money, yet with even worse special visual effects. Gene Hackman was somehow convinced to come back as Lex Luthor and still-unknown actor Mark Pillow played the boring... I mean 'evil' Nuclear Man, designed top destroy Superman. WOW, is this one bad, but even ten times the budget they had would not have saved it because it is a mess and it joins the third film as among the worst in the history of the genre (though the recent Black Adam, the worst in the genre's history, is somehow worse than these two nightmares) and the two films hurt the character for many years.

Though the extended version of the first film is still missing from this release, it is the best of the films, followed by the Director's Cut of the second, then it is all downhill from there and the two revivals (Superman Returns and the Henry Cavill films, despite his best efforts) never came close to them.

For fans, Warner and DC have done their best to save and preserve the films, spending much time and money on them and all the extras they have been compiling for years, as featured all over this set.

As for playback performance. The first Superman was already issued as a 4K single. These films (though not listed as clearly as I would have liked it) are all here in the 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image transfers are about as good as we will ever see these films, save the first one (the only entry here in Dolby Vision; too bad the Director's Cut of II was not) and the Director's Cut of the second, which I think could still benefit from a little more work. All the films were shot in real anamorphic 35mm scope with high quality squeeze lenses, the first three with Panavision, the fourth in the underrated J-D-C Scope format, but used very badly and generically here.

The 4K of the first Superman, followed by the Director's Cut of the second, are the best-looking releases on the set, as expected. Though some shots show older visual matte work and some dated effects, plus some slight color fading in very brief spots, this is the best these films have looked outside of a quality, mint 35mm print (wonder if the first Superman get dye-transfer Technicolor treatment in the U.K.?) and that makes them all the more effective. Color can be especially rich and stunning at times on the first Superman. The 4K discs for the third and fourth films only bring out their flaws all the more and they have not aged well, even with some name talent behind the scenes.

The 1080p regular Blu-rays of all five films look soft, substandard, noisy old and in the case of the first two films, are likely the transferred used for the HD-DVDs. Odd that they seemed to look better on those discs and were also used on the oldest Blu-ray versions.

The 4K discs have all had their sound upgraded for Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) lossless sound, while the regular DVDs offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that are a little older and passable at best.

The first Superman was an experimental 5.1 film in its 70mm blow-up prints, but not one featuring what such a mix would offer, unlike Coppola's Apocalypse Now a year later, but was impressive for its time. The Atmos version brings out new life in the music score and sound effects, yet dialogue sounds more subdued and older than the DTS on the Blu-ray and DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo on the 4K. Superman II was a full 5.1 sound release in its 70mm blow-ups and had the added luxury of being one of five films to feature a richer bass format called MegaSound warner was trying out at the time before the '.1' of the 5.1 sound was perfected.

The Dolby Atmos on II can sound better, but some bad choices on the Theatrical Version and limits with the audio reconstruction on the Director's Cut version can hold the sound back for different reasons. Still, that was state of the art for the time.

Superman III also had 70mm blow-up prints with 6-track magnetic sound, but Warner was already cutting back the budget, so it started with 4.1 sound, thus the Atmos mix here is weaker and all versions om both discs sound much more dated than the first two films. Quest had even cheaper, regular, older, dated Dolby System A-type stereo analog sound, so trying to upgrade this to Atmos was probably a very time-consuming and trying experience. Surprisingly, the Atmos on its 4K disc is the third best soundtrack in the whole set, partly by default, but because it was the most recently recorded and somehow, the surviving sound and the way it was recorded was likely in better shape than the old Dolby-A could deliver in parts. No 70mm blow-up of the film (thankfully!) was never made.

Extras as noted are many and easy repeat all the goods from the previously released versions in older formats we covered above. With special notations on the press release list, here are the extras for each of the films in the set:

Superman: The Movie Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Feature Length Audio Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spangler

  • The Making of Superman vintage featurette

  • Superman and the Mole-Men vintage featurette

  • Super-Rabbit (Bugs Bunny) 1943 WB cartoon

  • Snafuperman (WWII) 1944 WB cartoon

  • Stupor Duck (hilarious Daffy Duck spoof!) 1956 WB cartoon

  • TV Spot

  • Teaser Trailer

  • and an Original Theatrical Trailer

Superman II Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Feature Length Audio Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler

  • The Making of Superman II 1980 TV Special

  • Superman's Souffle Deleted Scene

  • Fleischer Studios' Superman vintage cartoons (in standard definition; now on Blu-ray from 4K scans, but with issues)

    • First Flight

    • The Mechanical Monster

    • Billion Dollar Limited

    • The Arctic Giant

    • The Bulleteers

    • The Magnetic Telescope

    • Electric Earthquake

    • Volcano

    • Terror on the Midway

  • and an Original Theatrical Trailer

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Feature Length Audio Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz

  • Introduction by Richard Donner featurette

  • Superman II: Restoring the Vision featurette

  • Deleted scenes:

    • Lex and Ms. Teschmacher head north

    • Lex and Ms. Teschmacher head south

    • The villains enter the fortress

    • He's all yours, boys

    • Clarke and Jimmy

    • Lex's gateway

  • Famous Studios vintage cartoons (WWII propaganda after the Fleischer Brothers left; in standard definition,now on Blu-ray from 4K scans, but with issues)

    • Japoteurs

    • Showdown

    • Eleventh Hour

    • Destruction, Inc.

    • The Mummy Strikes

    • Jungle Drums

    • The Underground World

    • Secret Agent

Superman III Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Feature Length Audio Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler

  • The Making of Superman III 1983 TV special

  • Deleted Scenes:

    • Save my baby

    • To the rescue

    • Making up

    • Going to see the boss

    • Hatching the plan

    • The con

    • Rooftop ski

    • Boss wants this to go

    • Superman honored

    • Gus' speech

    • Hanging up on Brad

  • and an Original Theatrical Trailer

and the Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the

following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Feature Length Audio Commentary by Mark Rosenthal

  • Superman 50th Anniversary Special 1988 TV special

  • Deleted scenes:

    • Clark's morning

    • Jeremy's letter

    • Superman's visit

    • Nuclear Man's prototype

    • Metropolis after hours

    • Lex ponders

    • Flying sequence (extended scene)

    • Battle in Smallville

    • Battle in the U.S.S.R.

    • Nuclear arms race

    • Superman's sickness

    • Red alert

    • By my side

    • Lark and Lacy say goodbye

    • No borders

    • and an Original Theatrical Trailer

So that's the set and there is very little they miss. All serious fans will want to see all the films once, though the 4K of the first had the biggest surprises for me in not having looked that good since I saw it in its original release eons ago. Most will agree it was all worth the wait.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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