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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Science Fiction > Superman - The Movie (1978/4-DVD-Video Set)

Superman - The Movie (4-DVD-Video Set)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: B+     Film: B



The late 1970s brought great films, containing everything from flying ships to flying men (and even some “sweet transvestites”) and all have engrained themselves in our memories.  Superman has come in many forms over the years, from animated to live action and from the big screen to televisions in our homes Superman has been there.  The 1978 release of Superman: The Movie, which is possibly one of the greatest incarnations of Superman ever to be made.  In this film Christopher Reeves manages to portray the heroic Superman and geeky but lovable Clark Kent in perfect balance; even more so than Brandon Routh in the newer Superman Returns.


Superman: The Movie also does take many liberties with the original story line which was established almost 40 years earlier, but overall this revamping of a classic was necessary and the little facelift Richard Donner did on this classic was refreshing.


The simple but classic elements of the Superman machine were utilized to almost perfection in this film using the hero, villain relationship in a progressive nature throughout.  Background on Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent are given early in the film, along with a portrayal of Lex Luther sneakily plotting world domination in his underground layer.  Metropolis is also portrayed nicely in this film rendition of Superman in its pseudo 1940s setting, being simple but perfectly embracing the essence of the original Superman Comics and Action Comics series.  Perhaps that is the best way of describing the 1978 Christopher Reeves portrayal of Superman, simple but perfect.  Superman: The Movie is most likely the best live action version of Superman that will ever exist, though there are those who are partial to The Adventures of Superman 1952-1958 television series starring George Reeves.  Character development is key to Superman: The Movie, the story centralizing mostly on who people are more so than what they do. 


Superman (Christopher Reeves) is a man who desperately searches for his place in the world, having lost his home planet, his birth parents, and his foster father.  He has all of this greatness to share with the world and it is his personal duty to not exploit his extraordinary gifts.  Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) is the true Bizarro Superman, being evil, greedy, and not only embodies injustice but fuels the flames of injustice by stealing and killing.  Luthor may have weak morals but has a strong mind (with a 200 pt IQ), but instead of using his gift of genius for good, he flows with evil.  Though in the end, Luthor and Superman are one in the same looking for consolidation of their place in this fast universe, one choosing the righteous path and the other malevolence.  Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) is a strong minded, strongly opinionated woman who searches not for truth or justice but for the next top story, and in her book Superman is front page news; though something about the entrance of Superman into her life has changed her.


Certain individuals feel Gene Hackman did a perfect job with his portrayal of Lex Luthor, with his attempt to balance a comic nature along side the darkness which is Lex Luthor.  This reviewer personally feels Hackman’s portrayal was a bit too light hearted at points.  Surely, Lex Luthor was never the cackling, evil genius type. Luthor mostly has been portrayed in the comics as a very smooth and sly character with a gentleman’s demeanor; but Hackman’s smiles and laughs are bit too much to be the true Lex Luthor.  Though this reviewer like’s the classic Hackman more so than Spacey’s portrayal of Lex Luthor in Superman Returns; though Spacey does dark and evil very well.



The technicals of this DVD 4-Disc set are mixed.  The picture is presented in 2.35 X 1 anamorphic Widescreen, which is much better than any previous DVD release of the film.  Both the original and extended editions of the film look quite nice being clear and crisp, but not perfect having moments of grittiness and color issues.  The light/dark balance throughout the film is excellent but other aspects, as previously mentioned, need some work.


The sound is not the best, presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, which does give a quite nice theatrical feel but there is one major issue with the characters voice levels.  The Booms and Bangs all pop nicely but when the characters speak they often sound distant and too spread out.  The film to some degree does attempt to personify the setting of each scene with sound (i.e. - open spaces, confined spaces, etc) but this reviewer finds the sound to be inadequate for this great film.  Overall, some improvements must be made.  This film was also recently released on HD and Blu-ray DVD, the latter of which has also been reviewed on this site as the link below shows.  There you can get additional technical details.


The extras are very plentiful and interesting.  There are also three documentaries, including Taking Flight: The Development of Superman, Making Superman: Filming the Legend and The Magic Behind the Cape.


All three documentaries are very interesting for all comic and Superman fans, but at times they do tend to drag, so be sure to space out viewings.  Other extras on these 2 discs of extras encompass such areas as beautifully restored scenes (some which were originally cut, but never should have been), Screen Tests and even more.  On disc ‘4’ some of the best extras are included, mostly centering on the vintage Superman collections including 9 Fleischer Studios Superman Animated shorts from the 1940’s.  These shorts are simply amazing with their ability to capture the essence that is Superman.  These animated shorts have been remastered for a clearer picture and sound, they look great and prove why the world fell in love with this man from Krypton in the first place.


We previously looked at the entire Fleischer Superman series at this link for the VCI DVD edition at:





You can read more about all of them in that text, though note that this Superman – The Movie set only has the Fleischer shorts, not the later Famous Studios WWII propaganda shorts Paramount produced when they bought the studio out.  I will look at those when I cover the older cut of Superman II on standard DVD, the only edition issued.


These animated shorts are great for all to view and all-time classics everyone should see.


In the end, this is a great set for all to purchase who have waited to own on DVD.  It is a great film with an even larger than life history.  To this reviewer a classic…  UP, UP, AND AWAY!



For more on DVD and HD releases of the Superman franchise, try the following links:





















-   Michael P Dougherty II


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