Supergirl is a 1984 British superhero film directed by Jeannot Szwarc and written by David Odell. It is based on the DC Comics character of the same name and serves as a spin-off from Alexander and Ilya Salkind's Superman film series. The film stars Helen Slater as Supergirl, along with Faye Dunaway, Mia Farrow, 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. Supergirl was the first English language superhero film to feature a woman in the lead role.
The film was released in the United Kingdom on July 19, 1984, but 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. Its first DVD release was by the independent home video company Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2000, under license from then-rights holder 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 canon 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 released in paperback form in 1984.
British film poster
|Directed by||Jeannot Szwarc|
|Produced by||Timothy Burrill|
|Screenplay by||David Odell|
by Otto Binder
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Edited by||Malcolm Cooke|
|Box office||$14.3 million|
Kara Zor-El lives in an isolated Kryptonian community named Argo City, in a pocket of trans-dimensional space. A man named Zaltar 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. After overhearing the wariness of her parents, Kara follows it to Earth (undergoing a transformation into "Supergirl" in the process) in an effort to recover it and save the city.
On Earth, the Omegahedron is recovered by Selena, a power-hungry would-be witch assisted by the feckless Bianca, seeking to free herself from her relationship with warlock Nigel. 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 new 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, the younger sister of Lois Lane who happens to be studying there. Supergirl also meets and becomes enamoured with Ethan, who works as a groundskeeper at the school.
Ethan also catches the eye of Selena, who drugs him with a love potion (which will make him fall in love with the first person he sees for a day); however, Ethan regains consciousness in Selena's absence and wanders out into the streets. An angry Selena uses her new-found powers to animate a construction vehicle which she sends to bring Ethan back, causing chaos in the streets as it does so. Supergirl rescues Ethan and he falls in love with her instead while in the guise of Linda Lee.
Supergirl and Selena repeatedly begin to battle in various ways, Supergirl appears to have the upper hand until Selena uses her powers to lure then trap Supergirl sending her to the Phantom Zone. Here Supergirl discovers she's lost her powers, she begins to wander the bleak landscape, but misses her footing, falls into a swamp and passes out. Zaltar, who has exiled himself to the Phantom Zone as a punishment for losing the Omegahedron finds Kara. After she regains consciousness Zaltar sacrifices his life to allow Supergirl to escape. Back on Earth, Selena misuses the Omegahedron to make herself a "princess of Earth", with Ethan as her lover and consort. Emerging from the Phantom Zone through a mirror, Supergirl regains her powers and confronts Selena, who uses the Omegahedron's power to summon a gigantic shadow demon. The demon overwhelms Supergirl and is on the verge of defeating her when she hears Zaltar's voice urging her to fight on. Supergirl breaks free and is told by Nigel the only way to defeat Selena is to turn the shadow demon against her. Supergirl quickly complies and begins flying in circles around her, trapping her in a tornado. Selena is attacked and incapacitated by the monster as the whirlwind pulls Bianca in as well. The three of them are sucked back into the mirror portal, which promptly reforms, trapping them all within forever. Free from Selena's spell, Ethan admits his love for Linda and that he knows that she and Supergirl are one and the same, but knows it is possible he may never see her again and understands she must save Argo City. The final scene shows Kara returning the Omegahedron to a darkened Argo City, which promptly lights up again.
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. 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, 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-related films; he is the only actor to appear in all four films featuring Superman and this spin-off film. 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.
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.
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 mainly in television and directing Jaws 2, 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.
Hundreds 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 and the film would have done better at the box office with Shields. Slater was paid $75,000.
Dolly Parton turned down the role of Selena before it was offered to Dunaway.
Although the Salkinds financed the film completely on their own budget, Warner Bros. was still involved in the production since 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.
|Supergirl: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Film score by|
|Length||39:35 (Varèse Sarabande)|
77:37 (Silva Screen)
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. The soundtrack has been released twice, through Varèse Sarabande in 1985 and an extended version through Silva Screen in 1993. It has also been referred by critics as one of the only redeeming qualities of the movie.
"The Superman Poster", included on the 1993 release, incorporates John Williams' Superman theme.
1985 Varèse Sarabande Album
1993 Silva Screen Album
Supergirl earned extremely negative reviews. The film currently holds a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 29 reviews 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. Variety referred to the film as "intermittently enjoyable spectacle" noting "some well-staged effects highlights, notably a violent storm that threatens the school and the climax which Supergirl and Selena confront each other in the latter's mountain-top castle."
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 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."
In 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. In 1985, the movie's first home video issue was released by U.S.A. Home Video in the Tri-Star-edited 105-min. U.S. version. In 1990, the same 105 minute U.S. cut was re-released on VHS by Avid Home Entertainment. By the mid-1990s, the rights to the film were acquired by Pueblo Film Licensing (successor-in-interest to the Salkind production company) and French production company StudioCanal. By this time Anchor Bay Entertainment had assumed the video rights, where it was re-issued on VHS in 1998 as the “114-minute cut” under the Anchor Bay Entertainment Family Movies label. For their DVD release in 2000, two versions were issued. The first of these was a 2-disc "Limited Edition" set (limited to 50,000 copies only) featuring the 124-minute "International Version" (never seen in the U.S., which was digitally mastered by THX for this DVD release), along with a 138-minute "director's cut", which had been discovered in StudioCanal's archives. The second version was a single-disc version featuring the 124-minute "International Version", with many bonus features: a 16-page full color booklet; Audio Commentary with Director Jeannot Szwarc and Special Project Consultant Scott Michael Bosco; “The Making of Supergirl” Featurette; U.S. & Foreign Theatrical Trailers; U.S. TV Spots; Original Storyboards; Still & Poster Galleries; and Talent Bios (these extra features were also available on the 2-disc "Limited Edition" set). Anchor Bay re-issued a new VHS release once again, this time the 124-minute "International Version" coinciding with the DVD release, both a separate fullscreen and widescreen editions (widescreen version labeled as the "Collector's Edition") under different packaging artwork and digitally mastered by THX. The "Director's Cut" DVD was made from the last print known to exist of the cut, which was apparently prepared for possible television broadcast before the film was edited into its various versions. This longer version was never broadcast on network television in the U.S., though it is believed to have been distributed in syndication worldwide.
In 2002, Anchor Bay re-issued the 138 minute "Director's Cut" separately. 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 Bros., released a single-disc DVD featuring the 124-minute "International Version" cut of the film, with only some extra material being carried over from the former out-of-print Anchor Bay releases, a commentary by director Jeannot Szwarc and Special Project Consultant Scott Bosco, and the theatrical trailer. This Warner Bros. release includes an edited version of the audio commentary from the Anchor Bay release. All comments about Anchor Bay are edited out.
It was reissued on July 17, 2018, under the Warner Archive Collection label as a two disc set, with the International Cut on Blu-Ray (in a new 1080p HD remaster), and the “Director’s Cut” on DVD, mastered in SD as the only surviving element of the longer version is from the same StudioCanal print used for the previous Anchor Bay release. The commentary from the 2000 video release, “The Making of Supergirl” Featurette, and a theatrical trailer were carried over to WAC’s latest issue.
Material that was cut for the 105-minute version of the film included the Argo City opening, which was originally longer.
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 from Anchor Bay Entertainment, 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.
Other 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 2000 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.
The 2006 DVD release and current Blu-Ray reissue by Warner Home Video, whose parent company, Warner Bros., is the current rights holder to the Superman movies, contains the International Edition, also called the "European Theatrical Edition". The latter release also features the aforementioned "director's cut".
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 two-hour slot, this 92-minute version was essentially a cut-down version of the “Director’s Cut”, otherwise resembling the U.S. edit, with “offensive” dialogue dubbed over for TV. This same 92-minute version was also seen in syndication on most stations (as well as superstations such as TBS and WGN) by Viacom.
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.
As aforementioned, the full longer version has never been broadcast on U.S. network television.
Films directed by Jeannot Szwarc