I didn't have a good summer. I had an even crummier fall. (Here's why.) So, for the past three months I've spent a lot of time eating comfort food, reading comforting books (old friends, you might say--and a couple of them three times since July 6th). I've watched a bunch of old movies that I love, too.
One in particular I watched at least four or five times: Superman. Yes, the Christopher Reeve (1st) Superman picture. I've always loved that movie. I liked the first part with Jor-El, I LOVED the second part in Smallville (the cinematography is breathtaking--who could forget that wonderful scene in the wheat field?), and also loved the Metropolis stuff, too. (I wasn't too keen on the scenes with Ned Beatty. I couldn't imagine why a the "greatest criminal mind of our time" would have such a buffoon working for him.)
Even though I never liked Superman II -- I figured, what the heck, and bought a used copy. I watched it once and remembered why I never liked the film. It was dumb (and half of Gene Hackman's dialogue was looped by another actor, and it's REALLY obvious). All of Margot Kidder's close-ups look like they were filmed through heavy gauze--the focus is that soft. Overall, the story just didn't work for me.
I knew that the original director, Richard Donner, had filmed scenes for both Superman and Superman II, but had been replaced on the second film, even though he'd shot more than half the movie. Something like that never bodes well. About the only time it worked well was on the Wizard of Oz (right? Where's Jeff Cohen when I need him?).
I decided to look up the movies on Wikipedia and was surprised to find that, due to fan appeals, Warner Brothers had released Superman II, The Richard Donner Cut, in 2006. Whoa! I had to have that. Once again, I bought a used copy and waited. About 10 days later, it arrived and I put it in my DVD player and nothing happened. I tried it in my computer -- and nothing happened. I tried my other DVD player and . . . you got it . . . nothing happened. It turns out, it was an HD version of the film. I contacted the seller and was happily surprised that not only did he tell me to return it, he refunded my money within the HOUR! (You better believe I left nice comments for him via Amazon.)
But I still wanted to see that movie. So . . . I bought another one (this time making sure it wasn't an HD version).
Whoa! What a difference. I've now watched it twice (in 24 hours--the movie with and without the director's commentary) and while at least 75-80 of the film is the same, that 20-25 percent that was in the general (bastardized) release was not good. Instead of featuring Marlon Brando as Jor-El (they scrapped the footage), the theatrical release instead featured Suzannah York (Lara--Superman's mother) as Kal-El's mentor. I'm all for strong female stories, but there's no denying that the father-son relationship (established in the first movie) was far stronger. (After all, Lara had virtually NOTHING to do in the first movie.) And there were other big changes, as well.
No kidding, the Donner cut comes off as a totally different movie. And a much better one, too.
I'm probably going to resell my copy of the original Superman II -- why would I ever want to watch it again when the Richard Donner cut is so superior?
Has anybody else ever seen this version of the movie? If so--what do you think?