Supergirl is a 1984 British superhero film
directed by Jeannot Szwarc and written by David Odell, based on the
DC Comics character of the same name and serves as a spin-off to
Alexander and Ilya Salkind's Superman film series. The film stars
Faye Dunaway, Helen Slater as Supergirl, and Peter O'Toole, with Marc
McClure reprising his role as Jimmy Olsen from the Superman films. He
was the only actor to do so.
film was released in the United Kingdom on July 19th, 1984 and
failed to impress critics and audiences alike. Dunaway and O'Toole
earned Golden Raspberry Award nominations for Worst Actress and Worst
Actor, respectively. However, Slater was nominated for a Saturn Award
for Best Actress. The film's failure ultimately led the Salkinds to
sell the Superman rights to Cannon Films in 1986.
The first DVD release was by the
independent home video company Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2000,
under license from StudioCanal. Warner Bros. acquired the rights to
the film and reissued it on DVD late in 2006 to coincide with the
release of Superman Returns. Although it is considered anon with the
Christopher Reeve Superman films, it is not included in any of the
Superman DVD or Blu-ray box sets by Warner Bros.
A book adaptation of the film was written
by Norma Fox Mazer and this was released in paperback form in 1984.
Kara Zor-El (Helen Slater) lives in an isolated Kryptonian community
called Argo City, in a pocket of trans-dimensional space. A man named
Zaltar (Peter O'Toole) allows Kara to see a unique and immensely
powerful item known as the Omegahedron, which he has borrowed without
the knowledge of the city government, and which powers the city.
However, after a mishap, the Omegahedron is blown out into space.
Much to the distress of her parents (Simon Ward and Mia Farrow), Kara
follows it to Earth (undergoing a transformation into
"Supergirl" in the process) in an effort to recover it and
save the city.
Earth, the Omegahedron is recovered by Selena (Faye Dunaway), a
power-hungry would-be witch (yes a witch) assisted by the feckless
Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro, who was once concidered for the role of Lois
Lane in Superman: The Movie), seeking to free herself from her
relationship with warlock Nigel (Peter Cook). Whilst not knowing
exactly what it is, Selena quickly realizes that the Omegahedron is
powerful and can enable her to perform real magical spells. Supergirl
arrives on Earth and discovers her powers. Following the path of the
Omegahedron, she takes the name Linda Lee, identifies herself as the
cousin of Clark Kent, and enrolls at an all-girls school where she
befriends Lucy Lane (Maureen Teefy), the younger sister of Lois Lane
who happens to be studying there.
Christopher Reeve was slated to have a
cameo as Superman, but bowed out early on. His non-appearance in the
film is explained via a news broadcast (overheard by Selena) stating
that Superman has left Earth on a "peace-seeking mission"
to a distant galaxy, of which the aftermath is seen in Superman
Returns. Director Jeannot Szwarc said in the Superman documentary
"You Will Believe..." that Reeve's involvement in this film
would have given the feature higher credibility and he admitted he
wished Reeve had made a contribution to the film's production. A
publicity photo of him as Superman and Supergirl, however, did appear
as a poster in Lucy and Linda's shared dorm room.
Marc McClure makes his fourth of five
appearances in the Superman films; he is the only actor to appear in
all five films. Demi Moore auditioned for and was cast as character
Lucy Lane, but bowed out to make the film Blame It on Rio. Maureen
Teefy was signed instead.
Upon gaining the film rights for Superman:
The Movie in 1978, Alexander Salkind and his son, Ilya also purchased
the rights to the character of Supergirl, should any sequel or
spin-off occur. After the critical and commercial disappointment of
Superman III, the Salkinds opted to make a Supergirl movie to freshen
the franchise. Ilya later recounted "[It was] something
different, to an extent. I thought it was a very different area to explore."
The producers attempted, and failed, to
get the services of Richard Lester, who had directed Superman III and
had completed the second film after their dismissal of original
director Richard Donner. Robert Wise also turned down the director's
chair. But French filmmaker Jeannot Szwarc, whose best-known work up
to that time was in television, was ultimately chosen after a meeting
with Christopher Reeve, who had complimented the Somewhere in Time
director. Szwarc sought advice from Donner over some technical
aspects of the production.
of actresses tested for the role of Supergirl/Linda, among them Demi
Moore and Brooke Shields. Shields was Alexander Salkind's top choice,
but she and Moore were both ultimately rejected by both Ilya and
Szwarc, who had both wanted an unknown actress, and they instead
signed Helen Slater. Years later, Ilya Salkind stated that he thought
Slater was miscast and that Shields was the better choice. Dolly
Parton turned down the role of Selena before it was offered to Dunaway.
Much of the film was shot at Pinewood
Studios in London. Production took place between the summer and fall
Although the Salkinds financed the film
completely on their own budget, Warner Bros. were still involved in
the production as the studio owned the distribution rights to the
film and its parent company, Warner Communications, was also the
parent company of DC Comics, owners of all "Superman and
Superman family" copyrights. The entire film was shot, edited
and overseen under the supervision of Warner Bros. Warners only had a
July 1984 slot open for Supergirl, but the producers insisted on
opening it during the holiday season. That conflict, along with the
disappointing critical and financial performance of Superman III,
prompted the studio to relinquish its distribution rights of
Supergirl to the Salkinds. The film proceeded to be released
overseas, however, and received a Royal Film Premiere in the United
Kingdom in July 1984. The film score for Supergirl was composed and
conducted by veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith, who had been the
initial interest of director Richard Donner to compose for the first
Superman film. Goldsmith used a number of techniques to identify the
music to the film, such as synthesizers simulating the sounds of
take-off during the main theme.
Supergirl earned extremely negative
reviews. The film holds a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the
consensus: "The effects are cheesy and Supergirl's wide-eyed,
cheery heroine simply isn't interesting to watch for an hour and a
half." The film was nominated for two Razzie Awards including
Worst Actor for Peter O'Toole and Worst Actress for Faye Dunaway.
However, John Grant, writing in The
Encyclopedia of Fantasy, was more positive about the film, describing
Slater as "an exceptionally charming Supergirl" and arguing
that Supergirl had some "excellent-and excellently
realised-flights of imagination." Even so, Grant too still
criticised the "inconsistent" characterization of Slater's
and Dunaway's characters. Summing up, he stated while Supergirl
"was less than the sum of its parts, not all of those parts are insignificant."
the U.S., Supergirl was picked up by TriStar Pictures for holiday
release in November 1984. Test audiences found the film overlong and
the film was edited from 135 minutes to 105 minutes for its North
American release. Critical reviews in the U.S. were poor, and
although the film took the #1 slot at the North American box-office
during its opening weekend, it is widely considered to be a box
office bomb after making only $14.3 million in North America.
The film has since been released several
times on home video, laserdisc, and DVD. The original 105 minute
version, a 114-minute cut, the 124-minute "International
Version", along with a 138-minute "director's cut". In
1985 the movie's first home video was released by now defunct U.S.A.
Home Video. The "Director's Cut" DVD was made from the last
print known to exist of the cut, which was apparently prepared for
release before the film was edited into its various versions. In
November 2006, coinciding with the home video release of Superman
Returns, Warner Home Video now owning the rights to the film through
their parent company Warner Brothers, released a single-disc DVD
featuring the 124-minute "International Version" (also
called the "European Theatrical Edition") cut of the film,
with only some extra material being carried over from previous
releases, a commentary by director Jeannot Szwarc and Special Project
Consultant Scott Bosco, and the theatrical trailer.
Material that was cut for the 105-minute
version of the film included the Argo City opening, which was
Another cut scene from the US release is
known as the "flying ballet", though included in the
International Cut. As Supergirl arrives on Earth, she is surprised to
find herself capable of almost anything, especially flying. She can
use her super-strength to crack rocks into dust, and use her heat-ray
vision to help flowers grow.
Scenes concerning Selena, Bianca, and
Nigel were also trimmed. In the U.S. version, Selena's introduction
was merely a few lines long when the Omegahedron lands on Earth, and
Selena takes it for use of its magic. The full introduction
establishes Selena as an impatient witch, who is sick of her mentor
and lover, Nigel, who is himself, a warlock. Later scenes not seen
before the 2000 DVD release, include Selena using the Omegahedron for
the first time, and realizing that she has no control of herself when
under its influence, namely the "Roast Chicken" sequence.
Selena later throws a party for all her followers, and deleted
material shows Nigel insulting Selena after being dismissed. Nigel
then gets friendly with another party member, on whom Selena pulls a
vicious magical prank.
scenes involve Linda Lee making a temporary home in the city of
Midvale, Illinois, and an extended version of the tractor sequence in
which the possessed machine runs amok on the Midvale streets and
kills a civilian. This alleged death scene does not appear in either
the International or the Director's Cut. Another cut scene shows
Supergirl unable to find the Omegahedron because Selena keeps it in a
lead box, demonstrating that Supergirl's limitations are similar to
those of her cousin. The Phantom Zone scenes are also longer.
Much of the deleted material appeared in
DC Comics's one-shot comic book adaptation of the film, primarily the
scenes that fleshed out Selena's character.
The American theatrical cut for Supergirl
ran at 105 minutes. Supergirl originally ran at 124 minutes in its
European version. When it aired on network television in 1987, ABC
added numerous scenes from the International theatrical version as
well as sequences not contained in any other edit. Shown in a
three-hour slot, some believe this expanded edit is the same as the
"Director's Cut", particularly because profanity had been
dubbed over and the soundtrack was mixed in mono. There was also a
shorter 92-minute version seen in syndication.
Some broadcast television versions have a
scene not seen in either laserdisc edition: After Selena's defeat,
Nigel is standing on the street. He bends over to pick up the Coffer
of Shadows, now restored to its original, small size and decides to
keep it as a memento. In another broadcast-only scene, after
Supergirl flies off to return to Argo City, Ethan gets into his
truck. He then stops to say goodbye to Lucy and Jimmy. Both scenes
can be found in the director's cut.
At the end of the film's end credits,
dedications were made to the memory of Marguerite Green, Gary Evans,
and Andrew Warne. Green was the film's production coordinator, Evans
was a member of the junior special effects technicians, and Warne was
an uncredited production assistant. All three died during the film's production.
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