Supergirl (1984)

PG | 105 or 124 mins | Adventure, Science fiction | 21 November 1984

Director:

Jeannot Szwarc

Writer:

David Odell

Producer:

Timothy Burrill

Cinematographer:

Alan Hume

Editor:

Malcolm Cooke

Production Designer:

Richard MacDonald

Production Company:

Pueblo Film AG Productions
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HISTORY

Supergirl is a spin-off of the successful Superman movie franchise that began with 1978’s Superman (see entry). Supergirl is Superman’s super-powered first cousin, a character who first appeared in Action Comics #252, published in May 1959 by D. C. Comics, which was known as National Periodical Publications at the time.
       Supergirl was the final big-screen entry in the Superman franchise from father-and-son producing team Alexander and Ilya Salkind. When the Salkinds paid $3 million to Warner Bros., owner of D.C. Comics, for the film rights to the Superman character in 1975, that lease included all the characters in the “Superman family,” including Supergirl.
       In an interview with writer Jake Rosen for the 2008 book Superman vs. Hollywood (Chicago Review Press, Inc.), producer Ilya Salkind explained they first considered using Supergirl in 1983’s Superman III (see entry) as a way of introducing her for a subsequent spin-off movie. However, Warner Bros. was not keen on using lesser known characters from the Superman lore and vetoed having Supergirl appear in Superman III.
       Nonetheless, before Superman III began principal photography, the Salkinds announced their plans for Supergirl. The 24 Apr 1982 Screen International reported the producers were planning a $30 million film with production starting late in 1982. Just as they had looked far and wide for the right actor to play Superman before casting Christopher Reeve, the Salkinds intended to do a similar search for their Supergirl.
       The producers auditioned hundreds of actresses, including Brooke Shields, who was considered a front runner ... More Less

Supergirl is a spin-off of the successful Superman movie franchise that began with 1978’s Superman (see entry). Supergirl is Superman’s super-powered first cousin, a character who first appeared in Action Comics #252, published in May 1959 by D. C. Comics, which was known as National Periodical Publications at the time.
       Supergirl was the final big-screen entry in the Superman franchise from father-and-son producing team Alexander and Ilya Salkind. When the Salkinds paid $3 million to Warner Bros., owner of D.C. Comics, for the film rights to the Superman character in 1975, that lease included all the characters in the “Superman family,” including Supergirl.
       In an interview with writer Jake Rosen for the 2008 book Superman vs. Hollywood (Chicago Review Press, Inc.), producer Ilya Salkind explained they first considered using Supergirl in 1983’s Superman III (see entry) as a way of introducing her for a subsequent spin-off movie. However, Warner Bros. was not keen on using lesser known characters from the Superman lore and vetoed having Supergirl appear in Superman III.
       Nonetheless, before Superman III began principal photography, the Salkinds announced their plans for Supergirl. The 24 Apr 1982 Screen International reported the producers were planning a $30 million film with production starting late in 1982. Just as they had looked far and wide for the right actor to play Superman before casting Christopher Reeve, the Salkinds intended to do a similar search for their Supergirl.
       The producers auditioned hundreds of actresses, including Brooke Shields, who was considered a front runner for the part, and Demi Moore, who was screen tested. The role ultimately went to nineteen-year-old Helen Slater, the 27 Apr 1983 NYT reported. A graduate of New York City's High School of the Performing Arts, Slater’s only screen credits were a handful of television commercials and the 1982 television “Afterschool Special” movie, Amy & The Angel. The Salkinds signed Slater to a three-picture deal, paying her $75,000 for the first movie. She trained for four months to be in the right physical condition to play the role.
       Although Christopher Reeve was weary of playing Superman after three movies, Ilya Salkind told Jake Rosen in Superman vs. Hollywood that the actor initially agreed to do a small role in Supergirl. The producers envisioned Superman meeting his cousin upon her arrival on Earth and showing her how to use her powers, then falling victim to a magic spell. The rest of the movie would involve Supergirl’s quest to save her cousin. However, Reeve ultimately decided against appearing in the film and the script was rewritten. To create a connection to the Superman movies, the Salkinds hired Marc McClure to reprise his role as “Jimmy Olsen” from the first three movies. They also used a supporting character from the comic books, Lois Lane’s younger sister, “Lucy Lane.”
       As with the Superman movies, the Salkinds filled the supporting roles with name actors. Mia Farrow and Simon Ward were brought aboard to play Supergirl’s Kryptonian parents, “Alura” and “Zor-El,” while Peter O’Toole was cast to play a Kryptonian friend, “Zaltar.” Actress Faye Dunaway was given top billing to play the villainous witch “Selena.”
       While Christopher Reeve declined to appear in the film, he did suggest French filmmaker Jeannot Szwarc to direct it, Ilya Salkind revealed in Superman vs. Hollywood. Reeve and Szwarc became friends while working together on the time-travel romance Somewhere in Time (1980, see entry). Earlier, the Salkinds had approached Robert Wise about directing, but he declined.
       According to promotional materials in AMPAS library files, principal photography took place 18 Apr--11 Aug 1983. The film was shot on closed sets at Pinewood Studios, near London, England, the studio in which the first three Superman movies were filmed. The production used seven sound stages, plus a ten-acre set on the Pinewood backlot was used to create the small town of "Midvale, IL." The 26 Jul 1983 HR reported that film’s budget was $35 million, while the 16 Aug 1983 LAHExam said the budget was estimated to be $60 million.
       Test screenings found audiences restless at the film’s original 138-minute running time. About fifteen minutes were cut, including several scenes involving Supergirl’s home world of "Argo City" and of Supergirl first discovering her powers. The film was released internationally at 124 minutes. However, the 21 Nov 1984 Var reported that before the film was released in the U.S., another twenty minutes were deleted to give Supergirl a 105-minute running time. The twenty-minutes excised involved trimming down more scenes on Argo City, at Midvale High, in downtown Midvale, and of Supergirl learning to fly. The print viewed by AFI for this record was 124 minutes.
       Distributor Warner Bros. slotted Supergirl for a Jul 1984 release. However, the Salkinds did not want the film to compete with the 1984 Olympic Games being held in Los Angeles, CA, or to get lost among the other escapist fare that filled theaters in summer months. When the Salkinds insisted on a Christmas release, Warner opted not to distribute Supergirl, saying they did not have a holiday slot available in their schedule. The Salkinds looked for a new distributor, and Tri-Star Pictures agreed to release it for the 1984 holiday season, the 9 May 1984 Var reported.
       Supergirl opened in 1,608 theaters on 21 Nov 1984, the day before Thanksgiving, taking in $11 million in its first twelve days of release according to the 4 Dec 1984 DV box-office report.
       Reviews were lukewarm, with the 18 Jul 1984 DV calling it “intermittently enjoyable,” while the 20 Nov 1984 HR remarked that it “doesn’t really fly.” The 22 Nov 1984 NYT commented that it was “more or less up to the series standards. But it’s also exceedingly familiar, despite minor changes in the formula to accommodate a new star.”
       Due to the disappointing box-office, the Salkinds opted not to make another Supergirl movie, but they did not release Helen Slater from her contract until two years later, the 8 Jul 1987 Var reported. However, the Salkinds were impressed by director Jeannot Szwarc and invited him to direct their next film, Santa Claus (1985, see entry).
       In 1986, D.C. Comics killed the Supergirl character in its acclaimed “Crisis on Infinite Earths” comic book mini-series. However, several years later, the company brought her back to life. While another Supergirl movie has not been made as of 2016, the character has appeared on television. Supergirl, played by Laura Vandervoort, was prominently featured during the seventh season of the series Smallville (The WB, 2001-2006, The CW, 2006-2011), about a teenaged Clark Kent discovering his powers and becoming a hero. A Supergirl television series starring Melissa Benoist as the title character debuted in fall 2015 on the CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) television network. In that series, Helen Slater played the adoptive mother of “Kara Danvers,” Supergirl’s secret identity.
       End credits state: “Based on the character Supergirl appearing in comics and magazines published by D C Comics Inc.,”; “Made by Artistry Limited at Pinewood Studios, London, England and at various locations.”; and, “The Producers wish to thank: Alta Marea Productions Inc.; Delecluse Realisations; Diversified Products; Garrard & Co Ltd; Honda; Lee Jeans; Lee Lifting Services; Toshiba (U.K.) Ltd.; Oxford Scientific Films Ltd.; Synthesizer supplied by Yamaha.”
       End credits also include the dedication: “This film is dedicated to the memory of Marguerite Green, Gary Evans and Andrew Warne.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1983.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jul 1984.
---
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 1984
p. 3, 37.
LAHExam
16 Aug 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Nov 1984
Section H, p. 4.
New York Times
27 Apr 1983.
---
New York Times
22 Nov 1984
p. 15.
Screen International
24 Apr 1982.
---
Superman vs. Hollywood by Jake Rossen
2008
p. 134-135, 145-157.
Variety
9 May 1984.
---
Variety
18 Jul 1984
p. 16.
Variety
21 Nov 1984.
---
Variety
8 Jul 1987.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
as Zaltar
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Alexander Salkind Presents
A Jeannot Szwarc Film
An Alexander and Ilya Salkind Production
An Alexander Salkind Presentation
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
3d asst dir
Prod mgr--U.S.A., Process backgrounds
Asst dir, Model unit
Asst dir, Model unit
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Front projection
[Front projection] Consultant
Cam op
Cam op
Focus
Focus
Stills cam
Supv elec
Clapper loader
Clapper loader
Grip
Trainee cam asst
Changehand elec
Standby rigger
Standby rigger
Standby rigger
Standby rigger (Flying)
Photog, Process backgrounds
[Photog] asst, Process backgrounds
Cam op, Model unit
Focus, Model unit
Clapper loader, Model unit
Grip, Model unit
Video coord, Model unit
Video op, Model unit
Supv elec, Model unit
Aerial cam seq
ART DIRECTORS
Supv art dir
Art dir
Assoc art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Illustrator
Illustrator
Asst art dir
Research art dir
Research art dir
Research art dir
Sketch artist
Sketch artist
Sculptor/Modeller
Sculptor/Modeller
Sculptor/Modeller
Sculptor/Modeller
Modeller
Sculptor
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Sketch artist's asst
Art dept runner
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const mgr
Prop buyer
Prop master
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Prop master
Asst const mgr
Changehand dressing propman
Changehand dressing propman
Standyby propman
Propman
Propman
Propman
Standby carpenter
Standby carpenter
Standby carpenter
Standby painter
Standby painter
Standby painter
Standby painter
Standby stagehand
Standby stagehand
Standby stagehand
Standby stage op
Standby plasterer
Standby plasterer
Plasterer's labourer
Plasterer's labourer
Supv carpenter, Model unit const
Carpenter, Model unit const
Carpenter, Model unit const
Supv plasterer, Model unit const
Supv painter, Model unit const
Model des, Model unit
Model eng, Model unit
Mech model eng, Model unit
Model maker, Model unit
Model maker, Model unit
Model maker, Model unit
Model maker, Model unit
Model maker, Model unit
Tech model maker, Model unit
Trainee model maker, Model unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond by
Mus ed
Mus mixed by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Dubbing ed
Dial ed
Spec sd eff
Chief dubbing mixer
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd tech
Sd asst
Sd re-rec at
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Opt visual eff
Visual eff photog
Spec eff supv
Eff ed
Spec eff ed
Flying eff specialist
Travelling matte consultant
Main and end titles
Main and end titles
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Junior spec eff tech
Junior spec eff tech
Spec eff secy/Runner
Spec eff model supv, Model unit
Sr spec eff tech, Model unit
Sr spec eff tech, Model unit
Sr spec eff tech, Model unit
Spec eff models runner, Model unit
Opt printing supv, Opt dept
Opt printer, Opt dept
Opt printer, Opt dept
Asst opt printer, Opt dept
Matte cam op, Opt dept
Matte cam, Opt dept
Matte artist, Opt dept
Matte artist, Opt dept
Asst matte artist, Opt dept
Graphic artist, Opt dept
Graphic artist, Opt dept
Graphic artist, Opt dept
Opt assembler, Opt dept
Rostrum cam asst, Opt dept
Rostrum cam asst, Opt dept
MAKEUP
Chief makeup
Chief hairdresser
Makeup
Makeup
Makeup
Makeup--Miss Faye Dunaway
Hairdresser
Hairdresser--Miss Faye Dunaway
Hairdresser--Miss Faye Dunaway
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod exec
Casting
Prod accountant
Pub dir
Exec asst to the prod
Unit mgr
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Story ed
Prod asst
Prod asst
Personal asst to Ilya Salkind
Personal asst to Ilya Salkind
Secy to the exec asst
Secy to the exec asst
Dir's secy
Secy to the prod
Prod office runner
Prod office runner
Casting asst
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Accounts asst
Accounts asst
Accounts secy
Masseuse
Helicopter pilot, Process backgrounds
Helicopter for U.S. flying seq supplied by, Proces
Englewood, Colorado
Floor runner, Model unit
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt double for Helen Slater
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the comic character "Supergirl" by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, owned and copyrighted by D.C. Comic (Aug. 1958--).
SONGS
“New Song,” written and performed by Howard Jones, courtesy of WEA Records Limited.
“What Is Love,” written by Jones/Bryant, performed by Howard Jones, courtesy of WEA Records Limited.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 November 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 November 1984
Production Date:
18 April--11 August 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Saint Michael Finance, Ltd., Robert Flemming Leasing, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
10 October 1984
Copyright Number:
PA223866
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
105 or 124
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27352
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Teenaged Kara Zor-El lives in the isolated Kryptonian community of Argo City, which was transported into another dimension, called “inner space,” when the planet Krypton exploded. The city is powered by a paper-weight-sized orb known as the “Omegahedron.” Argo City resident Zaltar secretly borrows the Omegahedron for an art project, but a mishap hurls the orb into space. Argo City cannot survive without the Omegahedron, and Kara boards a single-passenger transport ship to retrieve it, much to the distress of her parents, Alura and Zor-El. The Omegahedron goes through a wormhole and lands on Earth where it is retrieved by Selena, a carnival fortune teller who wants to become a witch. Selena, who has been studying magic under the warlock Nigel, realizes the orb can assist her in casting spells and stores it away. She returns to the carnival where her assistant, Bianca, worries about getting the money to cover their bills, but Selena reports their financial problems are over and that she has plans for “world domination.” Meanwhile Kara is transported through the wormhole and arrives on Earth, transformed into "Supergirl," complete with a costume similar to her cousin, Superman, who is away in outer space on a peace-keeping mission. Kara discovers she has super-powers and flies around, amazed at the new world. Kara’s bracelet glows whenever the Omegahedron is in use, and follows the beacon to Midvale, Illinois. There, Kara enrolls in an all-girls school, claiming to be Clark Kent’s first cousin, an orphan named Linda Lee. The headmaster, Mr. Danvers, assigns her to be roommate to Lucy Lane, the teenage sister of Daily Planet ... +


Teenaged Kara Zor-El lives in the isolated Kryptonian community of Argo City, which was transported into another dimension, called “inner space,” when the planet Krypton exploded. The city is powered by a paper-weight-sized orb known as the “Omegahedron.” Argo City resident Zaltar secretly borrows the Omegahedron for an art project, but a mishap hurls the orb into space. Argo City cannot survive without the Omegahedron, and Kara boards a single-passenger transport ship to retrieve it, much to the distress of her parents, Alura and Zor-El. The Omegahedron goes through a wormhole and lands on Earth where it is retrieved by Selena, a carnival fortune teller who wants to become a witch. Selena, who has been studying magic under the warlock Nigel, realizes the orb can assist her in casting spells and stores it away. She returns to the carnival where her assistant, Bianca, worries about getting the money to cover their bills, but Selena reports their financial problems are over and that she has plans for “world domination.” Meanwhile Kara is transported through the wormhole and arrives on Earth, transformed into "Supergirl," complete with a costume similar to her cousin, Superman, who is away in outer space on a peace-keeping mission. Kara discovers she has super-powers and flies around, amazed at the new world. Kara’s bracelet glows whenever the Omegahedron is in use, and follows the beacon to Midvale, Illinois. There, Kara enrolls in an all-girls school, claiming to be Clark Kent’s first cousin, an orphan named Linda Lee. The headmaster, Mr. Danvers, assigns her to be roommate to Lucy Lane, the teenage sister of Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. Selena and Bianca are both impressed when they notice Ethan, the hunky groundskeeper at the school. Selena concocts a love potion and slips it into Ethan’s beer. Although the potion is supposed to make him fall in love with the first person he sees, instead, it makes Ethan dizzy, and he wanders through the town disoriented. With the help of the Omegahedron, Selena casts a spell causing a bulldozer to scoop Ethan up and bring him to her, but the unmanned bulldozer runs amok, wreaking havoc throughout town. Lucy Lane and her boyfriend, Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen, try to stop the bulldozer, but to no avail. Kara changes into Supergirl and stops the bulldozer, then changes back to Linda Lee just as Ethan regains consciousness. He gazes at Linda and instantly falls in love with her and kisses her. Observing through a magic mirror powered by the Omegahedron, Selena is angered and vows revenge, casting a spell to capture Linda. As a dark cloud comes for her, Linda changes to Supergirl, takes a street lamp post and flies into a thunderstorm where the pole is struck by lightning. This creates a lightning rod that repels Selena’s dark cloud. Because Selena used the Omegahedron to create the cloud, Supergirl’s bracelet glows. Changing back to Linda Lee, she goes to the carnival to investigate, but finds Ethan there with candy and flowers for her. The two chat while sitting on a stopped carnival ride, but Selena casts a spell causing the ride to race at top speed. Ethan is knocked unconscious while Linda changes into Supergirl to confront Selena. Supergirl throws poles to surround Selena in a make-shift cage, then rescues Ethan. Selena asks for warlock Nigel’s help, since he is more experienced casting spells. Nigel brings her a special magic wand that, when combined with the Omegahedron, creates powerful spells. In doing so, Nigel accidentally breaks the love potion spell, causing Ethan to fall out of love with Linda. However, Ethan meets Supergirl and is soon enchanted by her. Supergirl kisses Ethan just as Selena casts a spell teleporting Ethan to her lair. Selena also casts a spell creating a mountaintop castle just outside town. Supergirl flies there and finds Ethan in chains. Selena casts a spell banishing Supergirl to the Phantom Zone, the dimension where planet Krypton sends its criminals. Although she does not have super-powers in the Phantom Zone, Supergirl is reunited with Zaltar from Argo City, who exiled himself to the Phantom Zone as penance for losing the Omegahedron. Zaltar insists there is no way out, but Supergirl believes they must look for one. Meanwhile on Earth, Selena has begun her plan for world domination. She rules Midvale with armed soldiers, but faces protesters, including Lucy Lane and Jimmy Olsen, whom she takes hostage. Supergirl breaks out of the Phantom Zone and comes to Selena’s castle where the witch casts a spell creating a large demon to attack her. The demon tries to hurt Supergirl, but she breaks free and flies rapidly around Selena, encircling her in an energy field, and the witch is transported to another dimension. Ethan retrieves the Omegahedron and gives it to Supergirl, who he now realizes is also Linda Lee. Supergirl asks Ethan, Lucy, and Jimmy not to say anything about her existence, then tells them she must return the Omegahedron. Selena’s castle disappear as Supergirl flies back to Argo City. +

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

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