Sunday, 13 November 2011

Is it a bird, is it a plane or is it a load of British actors hamming it up?

Tonight, I have been watching Superman 3. I've loved the Superman movies from a young age as it seemed escapism from the normal hum-drum life and during the 1980's something was needed to be able to. But apart from these movies being set in America, they have a very British quality to them, perhaps this was helped that the filming moved to Pinewood from Italy when the Pound became cheaper in 1977.

For this piece of all-American apple pie, with its directors Richard Donner for the first one, Richard Lester for the second and third, Sidney J. Furie for the fourth and Bryan Singer for Superman Returns. The main cast were mainly all american but when it came to it, it seemed British was the best. With Trevor Howard cast as one of the Krypton elders, that Shakespearian quality would come through to give gravitas to the film. But how many of you know that one of the hoods who contrive to do a robbery is none other then wine-expert Oz Clarke?

"Oh cock! It is you... Pour me another glasses please Oz... Better still give me the whole bottle!"

Now famous for being a sidekick to James May, Oz was an actor who appeared not only in Superman: The Movie but also Who Dares Wins as well. Amazing to think ten years later he would be lyrically giving his opinions on fruity red wines, but his place is assured in the Superman movie franchise.

After the original movie was released and it was a success, the Salkinds had Richard Donner taken off the project though 75% of the second movie's scenes were already done. Richard Lester, had been a unofficial producer on the original film took the helm for the second one, reshooting many of the Donner scenes in his own way. With Lester's history being the director of The Beatles movies, lead to Superman 2 being lighter in tone than the first one.

The basis for the Kryptonian villains took on the same style that Trevor Howard did in the first movie, by hiring Terence Stamp as General Zod adding his own brand of villainy to the role and Sarah Douglas playing Ursa as well gave Hollywood the impression of hiring a Brit usually means they will add menace to a role, but that's not always the the Brits job to do that. Comic relief is also a factor as well, the ability to raise a laugh within all this action taking place. One person who follows through from number two to three in the series is a man who helped launch BBC2, that man was Gordon Rollings. Mention his name and they'll say that he was in the John Smith's bitter commericals for many years, but his first appearance is as a fisherman who cannot believe his eyes when Terence Stamp literally walks on water causing his to question what's been put in his thermos flask...

"Oh Zod it! I've left the cooker on Ursa... Can we come back next week to invade you?"

But the award for the best start and the number of Brits has to go to Superman 3, from Pamela Stephenson fresh from Not The Nine O' Clock News playing Lorelei Ambrosia. She seemingly is dippy, but hiding intelligence beyond her looks. From the start of the move where she most men's heads with a display of legs and cleavage causing all sort of chaos in a chain of events including Graham Stark losing his guide dog in exchange for a line painter, Gordon Rollings again falling in a hole having Stark step on his head, Bob Todd getting covered in paint and for the ultimate humiliation Rollins gets a super pie-slap from Christoper Reeve right in the face. These giants of comedy, show what humour can be had as well as action and it sits perfectly
in any start to a movie. Its this which Superman Returns was lacking in a way, there is realism but also there got to be sillyness as well. As part of an action film, I'm not saying everything must go into a pie fight but those one-liners and comical moments make the movie great.

John Smith's Bitter not included...

Now the baton is being taken up by Zack Snyder with 'Man of Steel' with Christopher Nolan of the revamped Batman trilogy producing the film as well, it seems like this seriousness is over-swamping films now. Its not saying as much, that films have to be serious though think about when movies are their most enjoyable is when the action is mostly akin to the silent movies or just a one-liner which raises a laugh...

As Gene Hackman says in Superman 2 when realising he might have bitten off more than he chew with General Zod "Oh God..." Terence Stamp retorts "Don't you mean Zod?" In that moment we know that villains have a sense of humour and that movies don't take themselves to seriously with the Brits able to make the jokes....

The Big Apple meets The Big Yin's wife...

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