Due to a technical mishap, much of this week’s B Movie Column was left on the cutting room floor. So here it is for your reading pleasure.
First – Mike and Rene’s takes on SUPERMAN III.
“THIS SCREW? NEVER!”
“I…I CAN’T SKI!!!”
I first saw Superman III when I was in Elementary School. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Superman franchise overall. I like the second one, as well as the third one, and of course the first one is pretty good, but it’s the middle 2 films that are the ones that I really like. The third one has so much silly stuff going on in it, but I really like a lot of the silly stuff. It works.
I’ve read that Richard Pryor only did the movie for the money, but damn if he didn’t utilize his comic timing and qualities to their full potential. He dresses up in a really stupid plaid outfit to dupe a really old looking Gavan O’Herlihy (Mike and I were discussing the other day on how he actually looks younger in Death Wish 3, which was still 2 years ahead) and they get drunk to the electronic country music of Roger Miller/Giorgio Moroder. Pryor even has a HUGE foam cowboy hat.
Pryor also makes plenty of goofy noises and faces. Oh, does the man do a huge amount of goofy faces. When he first arrives in Smallville, and he bumps into Clark Kent, he has this look on his face like he’s about to have a stroke. Then of course there’s the thing even the detractors of Superman III give a thumbs up to. The “Dark Superman”.
When Superman takes hold of the tainted Kryptonite, he begins to act like an asshole. He gets drunk, sports a shadow on his face, and Gets sleazy with Robert Vaughn’s secretary. Then he gets separated from the Clark Kent persona, and they have a face off in a junkyard. This is the big sequence in the film, and they go all out. This is the point in the movie where Reeve really gets to showcase his acting talent. First he’s good Superman, then turns bad (He is quite believable at being the bad guy) then he fights himself.
They couldn’t get Gene Hackman back, but they decided to have another character like him, so they invented Robert Vaughn’s character. He is quite good as Ross, and even though he was essentially Lex Luthor, I still liked him in the role.
Superman III is definitely worth a look, and the hilarious original poster of a straight faced Superman flying with a freaked out Richard Pryor is one of the best posters ever.
Mike’s Take, or How I Discovered My Love for Superman III
I don’t want to go to jail because there are robbers and rapers and rapers who rape robbers.
Blake Snyder, a screenwriter who had his hand in such essential classics as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Blank Check, wrote a book called Save the Cat, one of the few screenwriting advice books that’s considered above and beyond just an encyclopedia. In it, he suggests as an idea for those who are struggling with a case of writer’s block: start writing down every lame idea that comes to you, and somewhere in all of your nonsense lies something that’s an honest-to-god plausible and possibly good concept.
Superman III is one of those hogwash gusts of hot air that’s supposed to be the sort of random and horrific thing you flush down your creative toilet. In comparison to the job that had been done on the first two films, the thing is an utter joke whose sole purpose is to get a rise out of any person who steps foot into a comic book shop or tried to achieve a homemade Richard Donner director’s cut of Superman II on two VCR’s well before we actually got the real thing.
I had never seen Superman III for this very reason—the fact that it was just universally shit on and ignored as if the Museum of Modern Art had decided to run a year-long Police Academy retrospective exhibit. Having just experienced the film the other night, all I can say is that while I was probably wise to wait until I could appreciate something as stupid as this film is, I was totally wrong about my conceptions of this film. Dead. Fucking. Wrong.
The reasons this shouldn’t work are endless. It should have ended up the same way other asinine brainstorming sessions ended up—one of my favorites is in the 90’s when a live-action Curious George film with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Man in the Yellow Hat was actually a distinct possibility of happening—but as insipid as Superman’s big threat being moronic con artist Richard Pryor trying to assist Robert Vaughn in his world-domination plot, the film is a masterpiece in being inept and not realizing at all what the fuck you’re doing. Watching the franchise burn up all its energy in 125 minutes with its lazy blue screen effects, ZAZ-esque slapstick comedy and sight gags, and unwanted comedic material somehow works because it’s too hilariously staged to be bad and too ludicrous to be good.
Naturally, Richard Pryor is the star of the show here. Gus Gorman is the sort of scoundrel that thrives on Pryor’s comedic sensibilities. He’s sucked the teat of unemployment completely dry, and then, by either a miracle or a case of Hollywood coincidence, he finds redemption in a computer-programming job which allows him to discover his true calling as a white-collar criminal laureate who gets in way over his head. Essentially, Pryor’s performance here is a send-up of his similar and disdainfully underrated turn (might I add: should have been nominated for an Oscar and won) as a fed-up factory drone in Paul Schrader’s Blue Collar, and it’s often brutally funny. Seriously, when Pryor dons an outlandish plaid suit, Colonel Sanders tie, and a massive foam cowboy hat akin to the one Norm Macdonald wore as Burt Reynolds in one of the SNL Celebrity Jeopardy! skits, then gets Gavan O’Herlihy drunk so he can continue throwing the world into financial anarchy, is a laugh-out-loud scene that I’ll be more than happy to argue is funny without having a lick of irony. Likewise, the part where Gorman skis down the skyscraper in a moment that may have been unceremoniously lifted many years later in Ghost Rider.
Sadly, however, Gorman ended up in the wrong film. If he got his own vehicle without anything to do with Superman and it hit earlier than 1983, when Trading Places was making a killing, the thing might have been a genre benchmark. The reason why Pryor catches slack for his role here is twofold: one, he’s a likable and intriguing enough character to demand himself as the protagonist, and secondly, Gorman is not someone who was remotely near the Superman mythology. Anyone who had begrudgingly dealt with Gene Hackman’s unwillingness to shave his head had no tolerance for ol’ Supes going up against a buffoonish fish out of water played by a guy who was *too* funny for a source material that possesses a strong sense of lightheartedness.
Pryor isn’t the only good thing. The film’s plot allows for Christopher Reeve to have some fun as both the real Superman and Evil Superman, a half-assed Bizarro (again, in terms of the source) who drinks, smokes, doesn’t shave, and doesn’t give a fuck. Case in point: Evil Superman has the same code of ethics as Michael Keaton in Pacific Heights in that he’s just an asshole who gets his kicks by simply fucking with people’s heads and getting all his narcissistic, sociopathic catharsis from that. Evil Superman’s most heinous act is straightening out the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is utterly hysterical and leads in to Superman exorcising this demon of apathy in a mind-numbing climax involving robot people and a ton of crazy shit flying around.
Evil Superman is the personification of Superman III—it doesn’t give a flying fuck about appeasement or equaling the first two films in any way. The Salkinds were assholes, and Margot Kidder bailed out almost entirely for their dickery, but in the end, we got the rare guilty pleasure that actually works when there’s a hundred reasons it shouldn’t.
Much like Nick Pulovski, right now, I can’t think of one.
The fact we chose Superman III sent Rene on a tangent on bad sequels…
But he likes them.
RENE: EVEN BAD SEQUELS HAVE SOMETHING GOOD IN THEM
Sequels almost always get a really bad rap. Sequels are also usually looked upon as inferior to the first entry. There are rare exceptions. The biggest being The Godfather: Part II, Star Trek II, Evil Dead II, Aliens.
Then there’s films like Alien3 that get extra footage to flesh out the film, and become solid sequels.
I’m no stranger to liking sequels. I’m one of the biggest champions of Robocop 2, and probably the only one who says he likes Robocop 3.
This week’s B-Movie Column entry is one movie in particular that most dismiss, and they shouldn’t. It’s a sequel that has lots of great comedy in it. In this day and age, where every superhero needs to be “Nolanized” ie. Darker and more realistic, it’s nice to go back a couple of decades, and see that a Superhero movie could be silly.
The movies that usually get sequels are more often than not, horror movies. It’s because horror movies can be like a floozy. Cheap and fast. Recently, the Saw franchise reached 7 entries. Although because of the diminishing returns, they decided against doing the proposed 8th entry, and stopped with the 7th one. It may eventually be rebooted, like most franchises. Some would say the entire franchise is worthless.
I caught every entry of the series, most on video, but several, including the last one, in the theater. The traps are arguably the reason anyone goes to see these things. Even if they hate the “plots” of these movies, that even I will say got ludicrous as they went along (although part VI was a nice jab at the healthcare industry)
The Friday The 13th films are infamous for sending Jason out of the woods, and into New York (for about 20 minutes) and then into space. The gimmicks of those films were enough to get me to see them. I’ll even cop to seeing the space one, Jason X in the theater. It was laughable to say the least.
The Nightmare On Elm Street films are a seesawing set of movies. Everyone loves the first one, but a lot hate the follow up. Some insane folks like myself like the second one for still being an atmospheric horror movie that still had a scary Freddy Krueger. Er, and some other more “Coloful” elements in it. Then it went from teens fighting Freddy in their dreams, to him wanting to be reborn, to him being “killed” to finally wreaking havoc in the real world.
There’s tons of movie out there with sequels that are “bad”, but I’ve always been one to give them a chance. Even if they turn out to be like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Sequels started out as cheap knock offs of the first entry just so the company/producers could line their pockets with more money. Then filmmakers started to get the idea that sequels could be as good as the first entry, and sometimes even better. Even though sometimes those flimmakers don’t realize their dreams of making a superior sequel, the films usually still end up with some kind of sparkle of what could have been, and is usually enough to give the movie a look, and can be enough to have something good, in a bad sequel.