Archive for Superman


Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , on November 13, 2021 by dcairns

When I spoke to Richard Lester about his career he was at pains to make clear that his work on SUPERMAN (as a go-between going between Richard Donner and the Salkinds) and SUPERMAN II, finishing the film Donner started, was strictly professional and impersonal. “You were able to get more of your sensibility into SUPERMAN III,” I ventured. “Yes. And that didn’t work.”

SUPERMAN III is indeed flawed, there is some kind of mismatch between Lester the satirist, grounded in some kind of social reality, and the comic book fantasy of Supes, and this weirdly results in a film that’s MORE comic-book and juvenile than its predecessors, maybe because Lester can’t take the thing seriously enough to indulge in the epic chunkiness of Donner, whosaw the thing in terms of myth. Well, to Lester, myths exist to be examined and debunked.

It’s probably a perfect entertainment for the under-tens, but as a fifteen-year-old I remember being offended by nonsense like a weather satellite being reprogrammed to make weather instead of analysing it. When the baddies try to slip some kryptonite to Superman, pretending it’s an award for his services, they don’t sculpt it into a convincing medal, they just hand it to him in a lump. That seems kind of charming to me now, and there’s something benign about a superhero movie actually aimed at little kids, as it should be.

But what’s with the mustard motif?

This first appears as a literal splash of mustard on Jimmy Olsen’s sweater, before the very very Lester title sequence, a chain reaction of Tatiesque chaos on the streets of Metropolis (Calgary). In the next scene, Clark Kent spots the stain using his supervision. But even before then, a girl in mustard coloured kneepads and cap rollerskates into the hot dog cart and propels it into a set of mustard call boxes, toppling them into mustard plantpots.

To say nothing of the mustard dicky-bows of the runaway wind-up penguins, and the jumper worn by the chap Superman rescues, echoed by the parking sign he’s run into:

There’s more. I think it maybe has something to do with Superman’s colours being mirrored throughout the film: a traffic jam is all red white and blue and yellowcabs. One green car (for kryptonite?) has crept in. Lana Lang is associated with a softer yellow, matching the Kansas wheatfields (of Alberta) while the Smallville sweater than nearly gives Clark’s secret identity away is definite mustard.

Maybe the further answer is that when the defective synthetic kryptonite turns Superman bad, the colours of his costume get muddied, turning the yellow of his S emblem into a muddy… mustard?

The car wrecks are all red, white, blue and yellow too. A lot of effort has been gone to, Antonioni style, in this Milton Keynes junkyard.

Okay, I’m satisfied that this is all about the costume. Although it should be noted that Superman gets his powers thanks to earth’s yellow sun, which we see in the closing shot. Turns out it really is yellow. Sorta mustard, in fact.

Superhero Death Match

Posted in Comics, FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by dcairns

THE AVENGERS, or AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, or whatever it’s called, may signal the death knell of what I call “double voodoo,” the principle that you can’t have more than one aberrant, reality-defying concept per movie. Or not without ending up with an unacceptable fruit salad. Thus, HOUSE OF DRACULA combines lycanthropy and vampirism, which are both sort of supernatural blood diseases, which could work, but then throws in mad science electro-galvanism, which “makes the whole thing unbelievable,” as Bob Hope says to the bibbed vultures in SON OF PALEFACE.

But in AVENGERS we have aliens and mutants and cyborgs, which I guess are all SF concepts, and also Norse gods. That’s quite a stretch. The only overarching idea that can umbrella all those disparate elements is the superhero genre, which does exactly that in comic books. The Frankenstein Monster, a crime-fighting millionaire, the last son of an alien civilization, a vegetable nature god, and demon-conjuring magicians are all part of the DC Comics universe, and Marvel Comics have just as big a menagerie.

Until now, the movies have been cautious of this everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink approach. SUPERMAN featured only one superbeing. SUPERMAN II added three supervillains, but they all had the same origins and powers as Supes. The entire BATMAN saga got by with no superpowers at all, ever. Only X-MEN introduced the gimmick which makes most superhero comics amusing — the idea of an array of characters with different powers. They’re like chess pieces, each with their own strengths and limitations. When Magneto’s magnetism cancelled out Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton, I suddenly recognized what the earlier movies had been missing.

The X-MEN characters are all mutants, an implausible enough excuse for their multiple magic powers, but at least a consistent one. AVENGERS seems to throw the door open to a much crazier clashing of different fantasy concepts. Here are some suggestions.


Both are immortal nordic demi-gods, so you could say this was a grudge match waiting to happen. Loki commands an extraterrestrial army in AVENGERS, and Santa has experience fighting Martians. He also had his own movie, from the Salkinds, who produced the Chris Reeve SUPERMAN. But it was seeing Loki in his flying chariot that made me realize how perfectly suited they are as opponents. Tom Hiddleston versus David Huddleston.


In the De Niro-Pacino rematch fans have been waiting for, the HEAT stars reprise their roles from MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN and DICK TRACY respectively. Kenneth (THOR) Branagh directs, and also cameos as Laurence Olivier (SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW).


Lisbeth Salander is a superheroine, let’s face it. A bisexual, maths genius, computer hacking, bike riding, autistic, kick-boxing emo girl? Come on. Anyhow, after David Fincher’s highly watchable revenge-fantasy fairy-tale underperformed, and the comedy GREEN HORNET positively UNperformed, both series need a reboot. And Seth Rogen is surely just the kind of crass male Salander would enjoy butt-fucking and tattoo-graffitizing.

He might like it too.


Roland Joffe exec produced SUPER MARIO BROTHERS. And made a film about the Manhattan Project. You’d think I’d be able to make something of that, wouldn’t you?

Obviously, the comments section is merely an open invitation to you guys to join in…

The Sunday Intertitle: The Curse of “What Drink Did”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2011 by dcairns


“A thoughtful moral lesson.”

A lot of nonsense is talked about “The Curse of THE EXORCIST” or “The Curse of SUPERMAN”, proving generally that you can make any series of unfortunate coincidences look sinister. But here’s a movie tale surely no skeptic can gainsay. Of all those who worked on D.W. Griffith’s 1909 morality play, WHAT DRINK DID, not a single one survives…

Griffith himself died in 1948, a mere 39 years after helming this film, victim of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was just seventy-three years old. Star Florence Lawrence committed suicide in 1938, no longer buoyed up by her amusing stage name. The film’s lead drunkard, David Miles was dead just six years after completing his role, under mysterious circumstances which even the internet Movie Database has been unable to uncover. Some might find this suspicious. I do.

Child star Gladys Egan, AKA “Little Gladys,” perished in 1997, her career long over — nobody thought to offer adorable moppet roles to a ninety-one-year-old. Way down the cast, we find Mary Pickford, who went on to become “America’s Sweetheart,” one of the greatest box-office sensations of the age and a founding member of United Artists, but even that could not save her — she died in 1979, aged 87, eerily enough, from a cerebral hemorrhage. Her body was buried and her house was demolished.

Another bit player, Mack Sennett, became a famed producer of slapstick comedies at the Keystone company and received an honorary Oscar, only to die at the comparatively youthful age of eighty.

More sinisterly still, bartender John R Cumpson was slain by diabetes and pneumonia in 1914, just five years after his role in this blighted picture, and another of the movie’s bartenders, Arthur V. Johnson, succumbed to tuberculosis just two years later. extra Flora Finch fell prey to a streptococcus infection in 1940, and “workman” Owen Moore had a fatal heart attack the previous year.

Coincidence? I think not.

You may smile (“I think they’re smiling, Gary”), but do you have the courage to watch the film? I tell you, this curse is attached not just to the poor doomed cast and crew, but also to the audience. Everyone who watches this film will die.


“Mr Goldwyn, I hate to tell you, but of all the people who ever lived on this earth, not one of them ever had a happy ending.” Dorothy Parker.