Superman II (1981)

PG | 127 mins | Adventure, Romance | 1981

Director:

Richard Lester

Producer:

Pierre Spengler

Cinematographer:

Bob Paynter

Production Designers:

John Barry, Peter Murton

Production Company:

Dovemead, Ltd.
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HISTORY


       The following notes appears on title cards in the end credit sequence of the film: “Coming Soon Superman III, “Based upon the character ‘Superman’ appearing in comics and magazines published by D. C. Comics Inc,” and “Made by Dovemead Limited at Pinewood Studios, London, England. And on location in Canada, France, England, Norway and St. Lucia.”
       As early as 25 Apr 1976, New York reported that the combined budget for Superman and the sequel would be $20 million. Later, a 25 Jan 1979 DV story reported that director Richard Donner estimated the combined cost of both films to be $50 million with the cost of the first film ranging between $25 million and $35 million. Eventually, a 20 Feb 1979 Var article stated that the “negative costs’ of both films had escalated to $100 million.
       According to Warner Bros. production notes at AMPAS library, Sarah Douglas, who played “Ursa”, one of the villains from Krypton, stated that her screen test involved being suspended from a flying rig to determine whether or not she had the coordination and stamina to handle the role.
       An Aug 1981 Future Life story stated that producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler originally planned to shoot Superman (1978, see entry) and Superman II back to back. While Superman director Richard Donner shot some footage for the sequel, eventually production had to be shut down due to lack of financing. According to screenwriter David Newman, he, Leslie Newman and the producers then spent the summer of 1979 rewriting the script for the ... More Less


       The following notes appears on title cards in the end credit sequence of the film: “Coming Soon Superman III, “Based upon the character ‘Superman’ appearing in comics and magazines published by D. C. Comics Inc,” and “Made by Dovemead Limited at Pinewood Studios, London, England. And on location in Canada, France, England, Norway and St. Lucia.”
       As early as 25 Apr 1976, New York reported that the combined budget for Superman and the sequel would be $20 million. Later, a 25 Jan 1979 DV story reported that director Richard Donner estimated the combined cost of both films to be $50 million with the cost of the first film ranging between $25 million and $35 million. Eventually, a 20 Feb 1979 Var article stated that the “negative costs’ of both films had escalated to $100 million.
       According to Warner Bros. production notes at AMPAS library, Sarah Douglas, who played “Ursa”, one of the villains from Krypton, stated that her screen test involved being suspended from a flying rig to determine whether or not she had the coordination and stamina to handle the role.
       An Aug 1981 Future Life story stated that producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler originally planned to shoot Superman (1978, see entry) and Superman II back to back. While Superman director Richard Donner shot some footage for the sequel, eventually production had to be shut down due to lack of financing. According to screenwriter David Newman, he, Leslie Newman and the producers then spent the summer of 1979 rewriting the script for the sequel. The new script omitted actor Marlon Brando as “Jor-El” and added an early scene where Superman destroyed a nuclear device planted in the Eiffel Tower, shattering the “Phantom Zone” to explain the appearance of Kryptonian villains “General Zod”, “Ursa”, and “Non.” On 15 Aug 1979, Var reported that Marlon Brando was written out of the sequel when the Salkinds refused to pay the actor “a percentage of the net profits,” which had been the terms of his contract on the first Superman movie. Later, a 27 May 1980 LAT article stated that Reeve’s growing popularity made it unnecessary for the Salkinds to rely solely on Brando’s star power to generate profits at the box office.
       A 20 Feb 1980 Var article announced that principal photography on Superman II began Aug 1979 in Pinewood Studios in London, England, and finished by mid-Dec 1979. According to a 25 Jan 1979 Var article, principal photography included locations in New York City; Niagara Falls, Canada; Banff in the Canadian Rockies; Paris, France; as well as other locations in England, and a remote part of northern Norway. John Barry, who served as production designer on the original Superman, died following that film's release, so that his successor, Peter Murton, had to stay true to Barry's visual sensibility on Superman II. Similarly, with the death of Superman cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, Bob Paynter stepped in to handle the camerawork for the sequel. Although a shooting schedule had been created to accommodate scenes with overlapping plot points in both Superman and Superman II, the script for the sequel underwent major rewrites when Donner was fired and additional camerawork was needed. In a 9 Oct 1979 LAT story, Christopher Reeve stated that as new footage for the sequel was shot in Oct 1979, it had to match the footage originally filmed in May 1977. He remarked that his waistline fluctuated depending on the timeframe, while his co-star Margot Kidder’s appearance was altered as a result of undergoing “a lot of dental work.” On 20 Feb 1980, Var reported that twenty percent of the sequel could be attributed to the work of “the original director Donner.” However, in a 27 May 1980 LAT article, Ilya Salkind stated that although Donner’s contract entitled him to have his name on the sequel, it would “be up to the DGA to decide the credits.” Later, a 19 Mar 1980 Var article announced that additional “flying unit photography” for the sequel, using the Zoptic special effects system, concluded on 10 Mar 1980. The Zoptic system enabled the production to “combine front projection with zooms, pans and tilts” to achieve the “ideal continuous shot.” While the Zoptic system was a technological improvement over the first film, Sarah Douglas stated in the Aug 1979 Future Life story that being whipped around encased in a partial body mold controlled externally by a pole created great stress on the body. In the first film, a flying harness allowed her to move her arms and legs, but the new technology was restrictive and much more painful.
       A series of lawsuits and setbacks delayed the sequel’s release from summer 1980 to 19 Jun 1981. As stated in a 19 Mar 1979 DV article, the Salkinds, plus partners Film Trust S.A., International Film Production Inc. and Dovemead Ltd., filed a law suit in U.S. District Court in New York accusing leading man Christopher Reeve of walking out on the sequel during a hiatus from filming despite denials issued by Reeve. In the 4 Apr 1979 Var, Reeve and the Salkinds had patched up their differences assuring that Reeve would star in the sequel instead of accepting other roles that might make him unavailable to complete the film. Later, a Dec 1979 Playgirl news item stated that Reeve had “both script and director approval.” Meanwhile, a 21 Mar 1979 Var article reported that Donner’s assignment on the sequel was contingent on matters of “control,” whereas a DV article from the same date stated Donner had been fired and it was believed that Richard Lester, who had done uncredited "second-unit director work on Superman," would step in to direct the sequel, which was later confirmed. According to the May 1980 LAT article, Donner’s dismissal from the sequel stemmed from his criticism of Spengler, the film’s third producer, who Donner barred from the set. For Ilya Salkind, who had been an associate and friend of Spengler’s for fifteen years, this turn of events was unacceptable and counterproductive for the film. The Aug 1981 Future Life article stated that many of the clashes between the two men revolved around the tone of the scripts. Donner fought to keep the script tight with a minimum of “camp,” while Spengler had tried unsuccessfully to fire Donner during the first film.
       Superman II was highly anticipated by the public and set several box office records when it opened. According to a 22 Jun 1981 NYT article, the film earned $8,603,000 in tickets when it opened 19 Jun 1981, giving the movie “the best single day in the history of the industry” to the time. In addition, a 22 Jun 1981 DV news item reported that Warner Bros. estimated the sequel would “become the highest initial weekend grosser in film history,” earning $14 million its opening weekend. Later that summer, a 7 Aug 1981 NYT news item stated that “ the sequel was running neck and neck” in profits with Paramount’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.
       Yet, a 13 Sep 1981 LAT article followed the labyrinth of “financial arrangements” responsible for the production costs of Superman II , a film that had earned more than $100 million in the first two months of its domestic release for Warner Bros. but had not turned a profit.
       On 21-23 Jul 2006, HR announced that Warner Bros. would release a DVD titled Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut . Donner worked with Tom Mankiewicz and editor Michael Thau to complete the effort. The studio claimed the director’s cut DVD of the sequel made Donner “the first director in history to be able to complete a film he left during production with nearly all his footage in the can.” In 7 Aug 2006, Newsweek reported, “70 percent of the Donner cut will be film he shot.”
      In the "Order of Appearance" cast list that appears in the end credits, Angus McInnes' role as "Prison warden" is misspelled as "Prison warder."

              The following acknowledgments appear in the end credits: “Special Thanks to Howard R. Schuster and D. P. Associates.” Also, “The Producers Wish to Thank: The Niagara Parks Commission; Surrey County Council; The Mayor’s Office for Motion Pictures & Television, New York; The National Aeronautics & Space Administration.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Jan 1979.
---
Daily Variety
19 Mar 1979.
---
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1979.
---
Daily Variety
22 Jun 1981.
---
Future Life
Aug 1981
pp. 28-32.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 1980
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 - 23 Jul 2006.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Oct 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 May 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1981
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
13 Sep 1981
p. 1, 4 - 6.
New York
25 Apr 1976.
---
New York Times
19 Jun 1981
p. 8.
New York Times
22 Jun 1981.
---
New York Times
7 Aug 1981.
---
Newsweek
7 Aug 2006.
---
Playgirl
Dec 1979
p. 18.
Variety
25 Jan 1979.
---
Variety
20 Feb 1979.
---
Variety
21 Mar 1979.
---
Variety
4 Apr 1979.
---
Variety
15 Aug 1979.
---
Variety
20 Feb 1980.
---
Variety
19 Mar 1980.
---
Variety
3 Dec 1980
p. 22, 46.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Alexander Salkind Presents
An Alexander & Ilya Salkind Production
An International Film Production Inc. Picture
An Alexander Salkind Presentation
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
Asst dir
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog, Miniature unit
Dir of photog, Flying unit
Cam op
Cam op
Cam op
Cam op
Focus
Matte cam op
Matte cam op
Processed by
Wesscam photog
New York process stills
Aerial cam seq
Process photog
Cam equip supplied by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Prod des
Supv art dir
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Matte artist & illustrator
Matte artist
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Ed asst
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Buyer
Buyer
Const mgr
Const mgr
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
Ward supv
MUSIC
Music comp and cond
From orig material comp
Mus ed
Mus mixed & rec at
Mus mixed & rec, The Music Centre
SOUND
Dubbing ed
Sd mixer
Dubbing ed
Dubbing ed
Dubbing ed
Dubbing ed
Sd re-rec, Twickenham
VISUAL EFFECTS
Dir of miniature eff & addl flying seq
Dir of spec eff
Supv of opt & visual eff
Spec eff dir, Flying unit
Opt and spec eff ed
Zoptic op
Flying eff
Opt printer
Opt printer
Main title
Addl opt seq
Spec lighting eff
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Creative consultant
Prod exec
Prod exec
Casting
Prod accountant
Financial consultant
Prod supv, Niagara
Prod supv, Paris
Exec asst to prods
English casting
Unit mgr
Asst cont
Prod asst
Secy to the exec prod
Secy to the prod
Astronautical consultant
Accountant
Accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Accounts secy
Promotional consultant
Promotional asst
New York coord
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the comic strip "Superman" by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, copyrighted by DC Comics (1933--1988).
DETAILS
Release Date:
1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 19 June 1981
Production Date:
August 1979 at Pinewood Studios in London, England, to mid December 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Film Export, A.G.
Copyright Date:
23 September 1980
Copyright Number:
PAu228419
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo™
Color
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
127
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26049
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On the planet Krypton, the council sentences three villains - General Zod, Non the Destroyer and Ursa - to spend eternity in the Phantom Zone to pay for their crimes against humanity. Once he is imprisoned, Zod cries out that he will seek revenge against council member Jor-El. Years later on Earth, Daily Planet newspaper editor Perry White sends reporter Clark Kent to do research on terrorists commandeering the Eiffel Tower in France. However, Clark learns that reporter Lois Lane is already on her way to cover the story. At the Eiffel Tower, Lois watches as the terrorists prepare a hydrogen bomb. While Lois hitches a ride on the bottom of the tower elevator, the terrorists cut the elevator cable to detonate the bomb. Lois careens down the tower toward certain death until Clark becomes Superman and saves her. Next, Superman hurls the elevator into space where the bomb detonates, shattering the Phantom Zone and freeing the Kryptonian criminals. Meanwhile, in prison, Superman’s arch enemy Lex Luthor shows his sidekick Otis a little black box he has invented that tracks alpha waves, which will help him locate Superman’s secret Fortress of Solitude near the North Pole. On the Earth's moon, the Kryptonian prisoners discover that the closer they get to the sun’s orbit the more super powers they acquire. After attacking some American astronauts, they head toward Earth to conquer the planet. Later, Luthor escapes prison by a hot air balloon being flown by his girlfriend Miss Eve Teschmacher. Unfortunately, Otis bungles things and is left behind. Soon, Clark and Lois go to Niagara Falls on an undercover assignment posing as newlyweds. At the ... +


On the planet Krypton, the council sentences three villains - General Zod, Non the Destroyer and Ursa - to spend eternity in the Phantom Zone to pay for their crimes against humanity. Once he is imprisoned, Zod cries out that he will seek revenge against council member Jor-El. Years later on Earth, Daily Planet newspaper editor Perry White sends reporter Clark Kent to do research on terrorists commandeering the Eiffel Tower in France. However, Clark learns that reporter Lois Lane is already on her way to cover the story. At the Eiffel Tower, Lois watches as the terrorists prepare a hydrogen bomb. While Lois hitches a ride on the bottom of the tower elevator, the terrorists cut the elevator cable to detonate the bomb. Lois careens down the tower toward certain death until Clark becomes Superman and saves her. Next, Superman hurls the elevator into space where the bomb detonates, shattering the Phantom Zone and freeing the Kryptonian criminals. Meanwhile, in prison, Superman’s arch enemy Lex Luthor shows his sidekick Otis a little black box he has invented that tracks alpha waves, which will help him locate Superman’s secret Fortress of Solitude near the North Pole. On the Earth's moon, the Kryptonian prisoners discover that the closer they get to the sun’s orbit the more super powers they acquire. After attacking some American astronauts, they head toward Earth to conquer the planet. Later, Luthor escapes prison by a hot air balloon being flown by his girlfriend Miss Eve Teschmacher. Unfortunately, Otis bungles things and is left behind. Soon, Clark and Lois go to Niagara Falls on an undercover assignment posing as newlyweds. At the falls, Superman saves a little boy who as slipped over the rail as spectators watch helplessly. Following the rescue, Lois points out that Clark is never around when Superman appears. Later, Luthor’s black box leads him and Miss Teschmacher to The Fortress of Solitude where they discover tutorials showing images from the past of Superman’s mother Lara. Luthor also learns that if the trio of Phantom Zone villains are ever freed, they will have the same powers as Superman and his black box has picked up their energy waves. Meanwhile, the more time Lois spends with Clark the more she suspects that he is Superman’s alter ego. To test her theory, she jumps into the swirling waters of the falls, expecting to see him transform into Superman and rescue her. Instead, Clark tells Lois to grab onto a tree branch that he surreptitiously drops in her path using his heat vision. Grabbing the branch, she drifts into a shallow area, where Clark also falls into the water trying to rescue her. Elsewhere in a small town, General Zod, Non, and Ursa instill terror in the locals as they test their new powers. Later, when Clark trips on the rug in the honeymoon suite, he burns his hand in the fireplace. However, when Lois sees that Clark’s hand is not injured, she realizes he is Superman and confesses her love for him. Unable to keep the charade up any longer, Clark reveals himself as Superman and flies Lois to his Fortress of Solitude. There, Lois learns how a green crystal helped him build the fortress and the secrets of his birthright. He woos her with food and fresh flowers picked in Hawaii. Later, when the villains interrupt a live broadcast by a TV reporter, the military intervenes, but cannot stop their super powers. As destruction mounts, Superman and Lois are too in love to notice, spending their time sipping champagne and holding hands. When Superman seeks out his mother’s advice about love, Lara instructs him that exposure to rays from Krypton’s red sun within the fortress will destroy his super powers permanently if he wants to live and love as a human. Superman enters a special chamber where he is bombarded by the rays that turn him into an ordinary mortal. Lois is touched by his sacrifice. While Superman/Clark guides Lois to bed, Zod and the others carve their faces on Mount Rushmore. The villains’ next move is to attack the White House. When they reach the Oval Office, the President surrenders to Zod, but hints that there is one man who can defeat Zod. At a diner, a trucker flirts with Lois and beats up on Clark. Lois and a bloodied Clark watch on the diner's TV while the President announces to the nation that he has surrendered to Zod, the new ruler of the planet. During the broadcast, Zod challenges Superman to a fight. When Clark tells Lois he has to stop Zod, Lois reminds him that he cannot defeat the villain without his powers. Nevertheless, Clark trudges back to his fortress in which he apologizes to his father for forsaking his birthright, which has left him vulnerable to enemies. He cries out "Father!" but is met with silence when a crystal glows green from the rubble, giving him back his strength. Later, while Zod, Non, and Ursa wait for Superman to show up at the White House, Luthor arrives and persuades them that only he can deliver Superman, the son of Jor-El, to them. A bargain is struck: If Luthor delivers Superman, he will become the ruler of Australia. When the villains journey to The Daily Planet offices looking for Superman, Luthor advises them to take Lois hostage. Just as Zod orders Luthor killed, Superman appears and a battle erupts. As the public watches, superhuman bodies smash into the Empire State Building. Zod starts several fires in order to blow up a gasoline truck, but Superman uses a side view mirror to deflect the rays and stops the explosion. Then, Non and Ursa hurl a bus filled with passengers at Superman, which seemingly crushes him to death. When the Metropolis citizens attempt to avenge their dead hero, the villains blow everyone back with their powerful breath. Superman emerges unscathed from the bus wreckage and flies up and away out of the city. With Zod thinking that the son of Jor-El has proved himself to be a super coward, Luthor convinces him to find Superman at his fortress for a final battle. With Lois and Luthor in tow, the villains journey to the North Pole. When the trio gangs up on Superman, he clones himself and the villains fight phantoms instead of the real super hero. Later, Superman captures Zod, but releases him when Ursa and Non threaten to harm Lois. Zod, prompted by Luthor, demands that Superman enter the chamber of red rays to destroy his powers, which Superman enters willingly to save Lois. However, Superman has switched the mechanism, which instead robs the villains of their superpowers. Superman and Lois handily defeat all three villains who disappear into the mists below the fortress. When Superman flies Lois to her apartment in Metropolis, she promises to keep his secret. However, in the damaged Daily Planet offices the next morning, Lois confesses to Clark that she is in turmoil about sharing him with the world and never having a normal relationship. He comforts her with a kiss that erases her memory of the past few days. Then, Clark returns to the greasy diner where, with restored super powers, he pummels the trucker who beat him up previously. The bully ends up in a heap on the broken pinball machine and Clark gives the diner owners cash to pay for the damages. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.