THE BIGGER PICTURE: A RETROSPECTIVE OF THE EXTENDED VERSION OF SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE
Written exclusively for CapedWonder™.com by Bill Williams
Posted 05 February 2017
There was once a time when movies hardly needed to be expanded beyond what was released in the theaters. Whatever the edit was that came out in theaters satisfied moviegoers, and that was that. The thought of deleted scenes and cut footage was something that hardly crossed the average moviegoer’s mind. I grew up in the era of the 1970’s. Whenever films were shown on television, they would generally be edited for content, language, violence, sexuality, or time constraints to fit within a two- or three-hour time slot, depending on the length of the film. Like most other people, I didn’t give a first thought of anything missing from a movie, whether it was shown in the theaters or on television.
Toward the end of the 1970’s and the start of the 1980’s, something changed. For the first time, you could see a movie with footage added into the context of the film to expand it to a longer running time. Some of the earliest films I recall include Black Sunday, the 1970’s thriller about a zeppelin attack during a football game; Golden Girl, Susan Anton’s feature film debut about a young woman genetically enhanced to compete in athletic games; and Midway, the docudrama about the Battle of Midway. In the case of Golden Girl, I recall seeing a reference in TV Guide that some forty minutes of footage had been added to the 105-minute run time to fit a three-hour time frame. In the case of Midway, twelve minutes of footage had been exclusively shot for incorporation into the film’s television broadcast.
Other films, like the Burt Reynolds comedy Hooper, had only a couple of minutes of added footage incorporated into the TV broadcast. This was the first film that, at a young age, I could clearly recall a difference between the theatrical version I had seen on HBO and the televised version on CBS. In that case, added voiceovers were included as Sonny Hooper’s friends watched a highlight reel at his house, while a new scene of dialog between the characters of Delbert Shidsky (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Gwen (Sally Field) discussing her relationship with Hooper was also included. Most of the times, this added footage amounted to little consequence, and sharp-eyed viewers didn’t give it a second thought.
All of that changed on the nights of 7-8 February 1982, when ABC premiered the two-part broadcast of Superman-The Movie. I was fifteen years old at the time. The film had already garnered worldwide critical and commercial acclaim during its 1978-79 release, and I caught the broadcast on HBO as many times as I could. Only now, things were different. The advertisement for TV Guide proudly proclaimed that 49 minutes of footage had been added to the film’s 143-minute running time, and nearly every major sequence would be expanded. A longer broadcast? A longer version of one of my all-time favorite films? No way! I was not going to miss this by any circumstance.
Did that broadcast deliver.
Every time a new sequence was added into the film, my eyes perked up. New footage of the Kryptonian council’s discussion with Jor-El, added bits and pieces of the destruction of Krypton, a longer look of the Smallville sequences, more footage of the creation of and look inside the Fortress of Solitude, more of Metropolis, all of this was a set-up for more footage of Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. His first flight through Metropolis; more moments of interaction with residents, criminals, and Lois Lane alike; and more action throughout the film’s second half – all of this served to expand the tapestry that Richard Donner and company created during 1977-78.
More importantly, even the musical score from John Williams had been expanded for the TV broadcast. This was a first. The original soundtrack album, which I enjoyed on LP and cassette, had only 78 minutes of music included. Now there was even more music in certain places, underscoring Jor-El and Lara’s discussion about their son Kal-El, the destruction of Krypton, the atmosphere in Metropolis, and the action toward the final third of the film. Some of this music had been previously unreleased, while other segments had been re-looped and re-edited to fit within the parameters of the added footage. A longer musical score to boot? That was definitely a first.
This was the kind of expanded version of a film that had me and some of my classmates talking that Monday morning after the broadcast of the film’s first half. That meant we were excited about it. Of course, this was in the day before my parents bought our first VCR, as such technology was expensive even in the early 1980’s. At that time, the only way for me to enjoy such movies was recording them on audiotape and listening to them either in my car or on my tape deck at home. Primitive technology indeed, but I remember those days all too fondly.
The expanded version of Superman would enjoy at least another screening on ABC in November of that year, this time in one full sitting. Part of the 49 minutes of added footage had simply been a repeat of the film’s end credits at the end of the first half, followed by a repeat of the main title credits and a brief recap at the start of the second half, which amounted to approximately sixteen minutes altogether. This was no longer needed. After November 1982, I would no longer see the extended version of Superman-The Movie on television.
Little did we know that that was the start of a chain reaction.
Throughout the 1980’s and into the 1990’s, all of the Superman films would receive expanded versions for their television broadcasts on ABC and syndication, respectively. As early as February 1983, Starlog Magazine reported that the Salkinds had planned to prepare an extended version of Superman II with footage cut from the film, which would see its first premiere a year later on 20 February 1984. That expanded version not only included added bits and pieces of footage shot by Richard Lester in 1979, but more importantly it incorporated footage shot by Richard Donner in 1977. By the mid-1980’s, my parents and I had our first VCR, and I managed to record this version of the film on videotape. This version would enjoy three screenings on ABC from 1984 to 1987. At times the film seemed choppy, as footage that had been in the theatrical version was missing from the TV broadcast. Little at the time did we know the full controversy that surrounded the film.
This would soon be followed by an expanded version of Superman III in the late 1980’s, with some seventeen minutes of added scenes thrown into the film’s 125-minute running time. Unfortunately, by now, nothing seemed to matter, as none of that added footage amounted to anything of consequence. In April 1990, when Superman IV: The Quest for Peace premiered on television, it was not shown on ABC but rather in syndication. The film’s 90-minute running time was expanded by three minutes to include two added scenes, Superman averting a tornado disaster in the Midwest and saving Moscow from a potential nuclear disaster. As with Superman II, little did we know the full story.
All of this was the tip of the proverbial iceberg where not only the Superman movies, but films in general, were concerned.
By now, more films were receiving the expanded treatment for their television broadcasts. One of the most notorious came in 1988 with the syndicated premiere of David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune. Some forty minutes of added footage was included in the two-part broadcast, without the involvement or blessing of Lynch himself, so much so that Lynch removed his name from the project altogether. Instead of his name on the title credits, it would bear a mysterious screenwriting credit from “Judas Booth” and an equally mysterious directorial credit from “Alan Smithee”, the pseudonym given to films whenever directors disavowed their projects. In 1995, ABC premiered a four-hour version of Kevin Costner’s epic Dances with Wolves, with nearly an hour of added footage restored into the film to expand the film’s vast tapestry.
It was during the summer of 1994 that KCOP, a television station in Los Angeles, California, broadcast the extended version of Superman-The Movie. Only this time, this version of the film incorporated several minutes of footage that had not been seen even in the ABC broadcasts. The most crucial piece of footage included the sequence between Superman and Jor-El at the Fortress after Superman’s first night in Metropolis. Other added scenes included more dialog between Luthor, Otis, and Miss Teschmacher; as well as more footage involving Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen on the West Coast. It would be a few more years before I would get to see this version of the film in its entirety.
As the home video format exploded during the 1980’s and 1990’s with the advent of laserdisc, then in 1997 with the birth of DVD, and in 2006 with the birth of Blu-Ray and the all-too-brief HD-DVD format, fans could enjoy not only the films that they remember seeing at the theaters, but now they could watch scenes that had been cut from the films for time and pacing, along with alternate scenes that had been completed but were ultimately discarded. And of course, in 2001 we were blessed to receive a longer restored and expanded version of Superman on DVD with eight of those 49 minutes of footage incorporated into the context of the movie. This would be followed five years later with the release of the 14-disc Superman Ultimate Collector’s Edition, in which all of the films in the series would feature deleted scenes, some taken from their 1980’s TV broadcasts, and some taken from work print editions. Most importantly, we would be treated to the premiere of the Richard Donner Cut of Superman II, with much (but not all) of the footage that he had shot back in 1977/1978 restored and put back in its proper place.
Nowadays, it is commonplace to see two versions of certain films released on Blu-Ray, the original theatrical version and a longer unrated edition that incorporates more footage into the film’s context. In many cases it’s nothing more than more sexual situations, language, and violence. In other cases, such as the Disney releases, we are given either early rough pencil animations of deleted scenes that were cut early in the development of their animated films, or work print versions of scenes that are trimmed during the editing process. In many cases these thoughts don’t pass our minds at all. We have seen Robert Wise’s version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture receive a generous director’s edition, as well as Peter Jackson’s expanded versions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies on DVD and Blu-Ray. Fox Video has blessed us with the ultimate Alien anthology, with each film receiving expanded versions to accompany their theatrical counterparts. Even James Cameron is given to releasing multiple versions of his films on DVD and Blu-Ray, with two or even three versions of such films as Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Abyss, and Avatar on the same disc, though he cites the theatrical version of Titanic as his director’s cut (even though the disc contains a good 45 minutes of deleted scenes). The list goes on and on. Granted, sometimes, more is not necessarily a good thing.
But all of this is part and parcel in the film and television production industry. This is all due to that one common denominator that we experience in life, no matter if we pay to see a movie at the box office or watch a movie or TV show in the comfort of our homes: audience attention span. There’s only so much time before we have to get up, stretch, go to the bathroom, or get something to eat after a while. In each and every case, something has to give before we give out, and that’s the footage. Some footage is trimmed for running time, some is cut for pacing and development, and some is cut simply because it doesn’t work.
And to think that we have seen all of this happen over the past thirty-five years. For me it all goes back to Superman-The Movie. That to me remains the benchmark of an expanded version of a film done right. Forget the politics, forget attention spans, forget even the footage that still remains unreleased and hidden away in a film vault somewhere. I think back to that fifteen-year-old who, like Dorothy and her friends in The Wizard of Oz, got to look behind the curtain and pay attention for the first time to true movie magic in its purest form.
February 7, 2017
The following videos were edited by Alex Serpa for CapedWonder.com.
SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE: RESTORED INTERNATIONAL CUT
Posted 05 February 2017
In 2009, a team of Superman movie enthusiasts came together to create the longest known version of Superman-The Movie, containing cut footage from the 1982 ABC-TV broadcast, the 1994 KCOP-TV broadcast, and other sources. The assembly of footage resulted in a robust 188-minute version, appropriately called Superman-The Movie: The Restored International Cut. It is a delight to watch and is presented in pan-and-scan format with mono audio, as originally broadcast on television. Experiencing this edit is like going back in time when television broadcasts of our favorite films were considered “events”.
Thanks to all who worked tirelessly to make this Superman-The Movie: Restored International Cut fan edit a reality, including “Phineasbg” (the main editor), Alex Serpa (the man who first notified me of the project, first heavily promoted the project on-line, and did some early editing), Chad Stevens, and two other contributors. My contribution to the project was a digitally transferred and color corrected file of my personal 16mm film print that contains many key cut scenes. Read more here about the history of this fan edit.
Superman-The Movie: Restored International Cut video clips with cut footage can be seen on the CapedWonder YouTube page. They were created by “Phineasbg” for the fans here at CapedWonder.com.
Now you can own the 188-minute fan edit in the following formats:
1. Download a single MP4 file (6.85 gigabytes) from CapedWonder.com.
2. Download the components to create your own 2-DVD set (video files, box & disc art, and instructions to create the DVDs) as a compressed RAR file (7.33 gigabytes) from CapedWonder.com. The RAR file can be uncompressed with WinZip.
The files above were prepped by the project’s editor (video and audio), “Phineasbg”, for the fans here at CapedWonder.com.
3. Alex Serpa uploaded an MPG file (7.6 gigabytes) to his Google Drive account.
Below is the 2007 CapedWonder box and disc art (created by “Nissen” and myself, with great contributions by Ramon Casares and Aaron Price) contained in the RAR file (see link above in #2 download option), a cut footage video montage (edited by “Phineasbg”), and a few “Superfeats” screenshots from my 16mm film print. Enjoy!
Updated February 10, 2017
Special thanks to Brian McKernan for your help with this webpage.