Thursday, November 17, 2005

Superman II: Restored International Cut

When I was a kid, I watched Superman II dozens of times. I memorized scenes. A few years ago, I rented the DVD. But something was wrong. Some of the scenes were cut differently. Dialog I had memorized was missing.

It turns out the version I recorded from ABC (or maybe CFCF-12) was longer than the cinema/DVD version. But that's just the beginning of the story. Read this:

Think you've seen Superman II? Think again.

I recently obtained a copy of what has become known as the "Restored International Cut" of Superman II. What the heck's that all about, you ask?

Let me explain... no, there is no time. Let me sum up.

Richard Donner directed "Superman: The Movie" and also shot 70% or so of "Superman II" at the exact same time. Before Donner finished filming all of "Superman II", Marlon Brando filed a lawsuit over a discrepancy in how much he was paid in regards to the original film's box office grosses.

As a result, he was completely removed from "Superman II" by the producers. Donner then argued with the producers who wanted to make the film "more campy", and as a result he was removed from the project and replaced with Richard Lester. And all of you who have seen both "Superman: The Movie" and "Superman II" knows just how much campier the second one really is (for so many reasons I won't get into here).

Gene Hackman then refused to return for any of Richard Lester's reshoots, and so in several places in "II" it's just a body double and a voice double redoing his lines and... all kinds of terrible stuff.

Well initially when "II" aired on television in foreign markets, a lot of the original Donner footage was in various versions (they have since been airing the theatrical version on television). The "Restored International Cut" is a masterful piece of work... it takes all of those lost Donner scenes from VCR recordings of these other versions from countries around the world and edits them all back in.

And I have to tell you, my friends, what Donner would have done and what we've all seen that Lester did are very different movies.

Anyway, it's just really blown my mind to have the curtain pulled back on something I knew and loved for so long to reveal nothing but a bad director fighting with a good director and muddling the final product.

Read the rest here, including a scene-by-scene summary of the differences. I have not yet seen this fan-created copy. It is supposed to be very well done. Like Wikipedia, this Restored International Cut is another neat example of how community-based initiatives are enabled by the Internet.

Ideally, Warner Brothers and director Richard Donner will open their vaults and re-cut the movie with previously unseen Brando footage and all the extra Donner-directed scenes, which were cut from the cinematic release and only included (partially) in the international TV version. Basically, I'd like them to try to create the film that should have been made.

UPDATE: I have now seen the Restored International Cut. The entire movie is made from old VHS copies. (I thought they would have used the official DVD footage with interspersed VHS extras. I was wrong.) There were only a few extra bits and parts that I don't remember seeing on my CFCF-12 version I watched as a kid. The subtitles are used to indicate to viewers if a scene was directed by Donner or his replacement.

Bottom line: the DVD is worth watching if you are (or used to be) a fan of Superman 2.

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