Superman III (1983)

PG | 123 mins | Adventure, Fantasy | 17 June 1983

Director:

Richard Lester

Producer:

Pierre Spengler

Cinematographer:

Robert Paynter

Production Designer:

Peter Murton

Production Company:

Dovemead Limited
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HISTORY

Superman III was the third of four films starring actor Christopher Reeve as Superman. The franchise kicked off with 1978’s critically acclaimed and commercially successful Superman and was followed by 1981’s Superman II (see entries). The Superman character is based on comic books published by DC Comics.
       Superman III was also the third and final Superman movie that father and son Alexander and Ilya Salkind produced, aided by their longtime producing partner Pierre Spengler. Director Richard Lester, who took over Superman II after director Richard Donner was fired, returned to direct this film. Writers David and Leslie Newman, who wrote portions of the Superman and Superman II screenplays, wrote the script.
       In May 1980, a full year before Superman II was released, the Salkinds announced plans for Superman III. The 16 May 1980 HR reported that during the International Film Festival in Cannes, France, the producers flew biplanes with banners touting the Superman films and announcing preproduction of Superman III. In the 22 May 1980 HR, Ilya Salkind announced a budget of $30-$35 million for Superman III, explaining that the first two Superman films had a combined cost of $109 million. Ilya Salkind attributed two thirds of that $109 million price tag to the first film, stating the “start-up cost” of developing the flying technique had been quite high. The 27 May 1980 LAT reported the Salkinds had discussions with Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis about taking over the franchise due to the high costs, but ... More Less

Superman III was the third of four films starring actor Christopher Reeve as Superman. The franchise kicked off with 1978’s critically acclaimed and commercially successful Superman and was followed by 1981’s Superman II (see entries). The Superman character is based on comic books published by DC Comics.
       Superman III was also the third and final Superman movie that father and son Alexander and Ilya Salkind produced, aided by their longtime producing partner Pierre Spengler. Director Richard Lester, who took over Superman II after director Richard Donner was fired, returned to direct this film. Writers David and Leslie Newman, who wrote portions of the Superman and Superman II screenplays, wrote the script.
       In May 1980, a full year before Superman II was released, the Salkinds announced plans for Superman III. The 16 May 1980 HR reported that during the International Film Festival in Cannes, France, the producers flew biplanes with banners touting the Superman films and announcing preproduction of Superman III. In the 22 May 1980 HR, Ilya Salkind announced a budget of $30-$35 million for Superman III, explaining that the first two Superman films had a combined cost of $109 million. Ilya Salkind attributed two thirds of that $109 million price tag to the first film, stating the “start-up cost” of developing the flying technique had been quite high. The 27 May 1980 LAT reported the Salkinds had discussions with Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis about taking over the franchise due to the high costs, but those talks fell through
       Although Christopher Reeve had insisted he would not don the Superman suit for a third movie, the 22 May 1980 HR reported the Salkinds had a signed option from the actor for the third film.
       A year later, in May 1981, a month before Superman II was released in the United States, the Salkinds again flew biplanes with banners touting the Superman franchise over Cannes during the prestigious film festival. The 27 May 1981 Var reported one of the banners stated “Superman III: Now in Production.” However, an investigation by Var showed the film was not yet in production, but rather in early storyline discussions. Only actor Christopher Reeve was signed for the film, although producer Pierre Spengler said they held options on most of the cast including Jackie Cooper as “Perry White” and Margot Kidder as “Lois Lane.”
       However, producers were considering dropping “Lois Lane” from the third movie. The 24 Aug 1981 People magazine said the Salkinds thought they had taken the Superman-Lois Lane relationship as far as it could go since Superman bedded Lois in Superman II. Kidder told People that she was being dumped from the series and thereby losing her $1.5 million salary because she had spoken out publicly about the way the Salkinds had fired director Richard Donner from Superman II. The 23 Aug 1982 DV said Kidder and the producers had a “mud-slinging match” over their respective differences and haggled over her salary for Superman III . Ultimately, Kidder agreed to appear in two bookend scenes at the opening and close of Superman III, a total of five days of filming.
       For a love interest, the writers used “Lana Lang,” one of Clark Kent’s classmates in high school. The “Lana Lang” character figured prominently in the comics books and had appeared briefly in 1978’s Superman during a scene with a teenage Clark Kent. The producers cast actress Annette O’Toole as “Lana” at the suggestion of husband and wife screenwriting team David and Leslie Newman, who wrote the part with O’Toole in mind after seeing her in a stage play in San Diego, CA, the 1 Sep 1982 Var reported.
       Actor Richard Pryor, who was a major box-office draw, campaigned to be a part of the film. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate Pryor announced during a summer 1981 appearance on the late-night talk show The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson that he was a “Superman freak” and even acted out scenes from the second movie which he had just seen. Pryor also told the 5 Jul 1981 Var that he hoped to be in the film. Writers David and Leslie Newman saw his Tonight Show appearance and told the Salkinds of his interest and soon Pryor was signed to play “Gus Gorman.”
       In an interview with writer Jake Rosen for his 2008 book Superman vs. Hollywood (Chicago Review Press, Inc.), producer Ilya Salkind explained they initially envisioned Superman III as a science-fiction extravaganza with the villainous android super-computer Brainiac seizing control of Superman’s psyche and splitting him into two halves, one good, one evil. Titled Superman vs. Superman, the movie would have also introduced the mischievous magical imp Mr. Mxyzptlk from the comic books as well as Superman’s super-powered cousin, Supergirl, preparing her for a spin-off movie. However, Warner Bros, which had exclusive distribution rights and also owned the character since it owned DC Comics, felt the scenario was too science-fiction heavy and used too many lesser known characters from the Superman comic book lore. Consequently, that storyline was dropped, but the idea of a good Superman fighting an evil Superman survived into the final screenplay, as did the super computer wreaking havoc on Earth.
       Principal photography began on 21 Jun 1982, according to the 2 Jul 1982 DV production chart. Interiors were filmed at Pinewood Studios outside London, England, the studio where the first two movies were shot. The automobile junkyard scenes were filmed on Pinewood’s backlot using demolished American cars owned by an American expatriate in Britain who specialized in finding spare parts for American vehicles. Beginning on 17 Aug 1982, the production moved to Alberta, Canada for five weeks of location shooting, the 1 Sep 1982 DV reported. Downtown Calgary doubled as Metropolis, while the nearly town of High River was used for the Smallville scenes.
       Superman III opened on 1,759 screens on 17 Jun 1983, earning $13.4 million in its first three days of release, according to the Box Office Mojo website. After seven weeks in theaters, the film had grossed $58.4 million.
       Reviews were mixed. The 17 Jun 1983 NYT commented, “anyone who has been following the Superman saga will find this installment enjoyable enough, but some of the magic is missing.” The 8 Jun 1983 Var said the film put its “emphasis on broad comedy at the expense of ingenious plotting and technical wizardry.”
       Christopher Reeve was not happy with the final movie, feeling it ventured too far into camp and slapstick comedy. He remained silent while the film was in release, but afterwards let his displeasure be known. The 3 Jul 1986 LAHExam reported that Reeve called Superman III “the Harvard Lampoon version” of the earlier movies, while Reeve told the 2 Jan 1987 LAT that the movie “parodied” the characters and that he “didn’t subscribe to the style of Superman III. ” In his 1998 memoir Still Me (Random House), Reeve complained that the writers wrote a movie that “became more a Richard Pryor comedy vehicle than a proper Superman film.”
       A fourth installment in the franchise, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (see entry), with Christopher Reeve playing the title role for the final time, was released in summer 1987, but the Salkinds were not involved with it.
       However, the Salkinds were the producing team behind a spin-off movie, Supergirl (1984, see entry), about Superman’s super-powered cousin. They were also responsible for the syndicated television series Superboy, about the teenaged Superman in college, which ran for 100 episodes between 1988 and 1992.
       Several other Superman television series have aired, but the Salkinds were not involved. A cartoon series, Superman: The Animated Series aired for fifty-four episodes between 1996 and 2000 on the WB (Warner Brothers) network. A live-action Superman series, Lois and Cark: The New Adventures of Superman starring Dean Cain and Terri Hatcher aired on ABC (American Broadcasting Company) from 1993-1997. Another live-action television series, Smallville, about a teenaged Clark Kent discovering his powers and becoming a superhero, aired from 2001 to 2011 on the WB network and later the CW network. Actor Tom Welling starred in Smallville, while Annette O’Toole played Clark’s mother, Martha Kent.
       In 2006, director Bryan Singer released Superman Returns (see entry), starring Brandon Routh as Superman/Clark Kent. In 2013, the Superman movie series was rebooted with director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (see entry), starring Henry Cavill in the title role. In 2016, a sequel, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (see entry), came out with Cavill reprising his role as the "Man of Steel."
       End credits state: “Made by Dovemead Limited at Pinewood Studios, London, England and on various locations including Alberta and Italy.”
       End credits acknowledge: “The producers wish to thank: the government of Alberta and the city of Calgary; and: British Petroleum; National Park Service – Glen Canyon; National Park Service - Statue of Liberty; Pentax; Time; American Express; Johnny Walker; Trans World Airways; Diversified Products; Schlitz; Trailways; Webster’s office furnished by Zarach; refinery resources by Turbo Southern Alberta Refinery; car muncher by Mono Pumps.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Jul 1982.
---
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1982.
---
Daily Variety
1 Sep 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1983
p. 3, 13.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
3 Jul 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 May 1980
Section VI, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jun 1983
p.1.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jan 1987.
---
New York Times
17 Jun 1983
p. 4.
People
24 Aug 1981
p. 84.
Still Me by Christopher Reeve
(Random House, 1998)
p. 202.
Superman vs. Hollywood by Jake Rossen
(Chicago Review Press, Inc., 2008)
p. 134-135.
Superman vs. Hollywood by Jake Rossen
(Chicago Review Press, Inc., 2008)
---
Variety
27 May 1981
p. 7, 33.
Variety
5 Jul 1981.
---
Variety
1 Sep 1982
p. 4, 32.
Variety
8 Jun 1983
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Alexander Salkind Presents
An Alexander and Ilya Salkind Production
An Alexander Salkind Presentation
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Flying and 2d unit dir
1st asst dir
Prod mgr
Prod mgr - Alberta
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
Focus
Aerial cam seq
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Scenic artist
Illustrator
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Const mgr
Const mgr
Const mgr - Alberta
Set dec
Prop master
Prop master
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Ward supv
MUSIC
Orig songs comp by
Orig Superman themes by
Mus ed
Mus mixed and re-rec at the Music Center by
SOUND
Dubbing ed
Sd mixer
Dubbing ed
Dubbing ed
Dubbing ed
Sd re-rec at Twinkenham Film Studios by
Sd re-rec at Twinkenham Film Studios by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Dir of spec eff and miniatures
Supv of optical & visual eff
Front projection by
Consultant, The Zoptic System
Spec eff
Flying eff tech
Main titles des by
Wesscam photog by, Process backgrounds
Asst, Process backgrounds
Prod mgr - U.S.A., Process backgrounds
Helicopter pilot, Process backgrounds
Process stills, Process backgrounds
Background photog, Process backgrounds
Balloon stunts arr by, Process backgrounds
Continuity, Process backgrounds
Helicopter services provided by, Process backgroun
Dir of photog, Process unit
Cam op, Process unit
Zoptic front projection supv, Process unit
Traveling matte supv, Process unit
Asst dir, Process unit
Video supv, Process unit
Continuity, Process unit
Focus, Process unit
2d asst dir, Process unit
Zoptic asst, Process unit
Spec lighting eff by, Process unit
Dir of photog, Model unit
Cam op, Model unit
Focus, Model unit
Art dir, Model unit
Continuity, Model unit
Optical printer, Optical unit
Optical printer, Optical unit
Optical and matte cam, Optical unit
Opticals and matte cam, Optical unit
Matte artist, Optical unit
Matte artist, Optical unit
Asst matte artist, Optical unit
Optical eff by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Financial services
Prod exec
Casting
Casting
Prod accountant
Prod supv - Alberta
Exec asst to the prods
Continuity
Unit mgr - Alberta
Unit mgr - Alberta
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst - Alberta
Personal asst to the exec prod
Personal asst to the prod
Dir's secy
Prod's secy
Casting asst
Loc accountant - Alberta
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant - Alberta
Accounts secy
Video game comptuer anim by
Film services in association with
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
LITERARY
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Based on the character Superman appearing in comics and magazines published by DC Comics Inc.
SONGS
“No See, No Cry,” performed by Chaka Kahn
“Rock On,” performed by Marshall Crenshaw
“They Won’t Get Me,” performed by Roger Miller
+
SONGS
“No See, No Cry,” performed by Chaka Kahn
“Rock On,” performed by Marshall Crenshaw
“They Won’t Get Me,” performed by Roger Miller
“Love Theme,” music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Keith Forsey.
+
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Title:
Superman 3
Release Date:
17 June 1983
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 June 1983
Production Date:
21 June--late September 1982
Copyright Claimant:
Cantharus Productions, N.V.
Copyright Date:
14 September 1983
Copyright Number:
PA188454
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo™ in selected theatres.
Color
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
123
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Canada, United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26948
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Metropolis, chronically unemployed August “Gus” Gorman answers an advertisement seeking a computer programmer when his federal unemployment payments run out. Even though Gus has no experience with computers, he has a knack for computer programming and does well at Webscoe Industries. However, Gus is aghast at how small his first paycheck is and writes a program that gives him an expense check of $85,789.90. Industrialist Ross Webster, who owns Webscoe along with his sister, Vera Webster, learns of the embezzlement and blackmails Gus into hacking into the computer controlling the Vulcan weather satellite. Ross Webster, aided by his “psychic nutritionist,” the buxom blonde Lorelei Ambrosia, has fantasies of world domination and wants to ruin the Colombian coffee crop via the weather satellite. Meanwhile, Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent convinces his editor, Perry White, to let him go to his fifteenth high school reunion in Smallville, and write a story about how things have changed in the rural Midwestern town. Clark, accompanied by photographer Jimmy Olsen, arrives in Smallville via bus to discover the town’s chemical plant is on fire. While Jimmy rushes to photograph the fire, Clark changes into Superman and rescues workers trapped inside. To help put out the fire, Superman flies to a nearby lake and freezes it with his super-breath, then carries the frozen lake to the chemical plant where it melts and douses the fire. At the Smallville High Class of 1965 reunion, Clark Kent sees many old classmates, including football star Brad Wilson, who is now a drunk, and cheerleader Lana Lang, who is now the mother of a ten-year-old named ... +


In Metropolis, chronically unemployed August “Gus” Gorman answers an advertisement seeking a computer programmer when his federal unemployment payments run out. Even though Gus has no experience with computers, he has a knack for computer programming and does well at Webscoe Industries. However, Gus is aghast at how small his first paycheck is and writes a program that gives him an expense check of $85,789.90. Industrialist Ross Webster, who owns Webscoe along with his sister, Vera Webster, learns of the embezzlement and blackmails Gus into hacking into the computer controlling the Vulcan weather satellite. Ross Webster, aided by his “psychic nutritionist,” the buxom blonde Lorelei Ambrosia, has fantasies of world domination and wants to ruin the Colombian coffee crop via the weather satellite. Meanwhile, Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent convinces his editor, Perry White, to let him go to his fifteenth high school reunion in Smallville, and write a story about how things have changed in the rural Midwestern town. Clark, accompanied by photographer Jimmy Olsen, arrives in Smallville via bus to discover the town’s chemical plant is on fire. While Jimmy rushes to photograph the fire, Clark changes into Superman and rescues workers trapped inside. To help put out the fire, Superman flies to a nearby lake and freezes it with his super-breath, then carries the frozen lake to the chemical plant where it melts and douses the fire. At the Smallville High Class of 1965 reunion, Clark Kent sees many old classmates, including football star Brad Wilson, who is now a drunk, and cheerleader Lana Lang, who is now the mother of a ten-year-old named Ricky. Clark and Lana dance and quickly fall back into a comfortable ease with each other. Clark confesses that he has not been to Smallville since his mother’s funeral, while Lana confides that her husband, Donald White, who was the student council president, left her and Ricky after just three years of marriage. Lana, who works as a secretary, recently had to pawn her engagement ring to pay bills and tells Clark she needs to get out of Smallville. He suggests she come to Metropolis and offers to help her find work. After the reunion, Clark accompanies Lana and her son to the Smallville bowling alley. When young Ricky does poorly at the game, Clark uses a burst of his super-breath to help him score a strike. Later, Clark takes Lana and Ricky on a picnic in a wheat field. However, when the boy disappears, Clark spots him unconscious as a wheat harvesting machine approaches. Changing into Superman, he flies to the boy’s rescue. Gus Gorman comes to Smallville and uses the computers at Webscoe subsidiary WheatKing to reprogram the Vulcan weather satellite to cause torrential rains and tornadoes in Colombia. However, Superman flies to the South American nation, stops the tornados and uses his heat vision to dry the land so the coffee crop will be safe. Ross Webster is upset that Superman has ruined his plans for destroying the Colombian coffee crop and worries than he will interfere with his plans for dominating the world oil market. When Lorelei Ambrosia mentions that Kryptonite can kill Superman, Webster orders Gus to use the Vulcan satellite to determine where Superman’s home world, the exploded planet of Krypton, was once located and determine what Kryptonite is made of. The computer analysis shows the exact chemical makeup of Kryptonite except for one element which it lists as “unknown.” Gus orders a synthetic Kryptonite rock made up, substituting “tar” for the unknown element. Once Clark Kent returns to Metropolis to write his story, Lana telephones saying that Ricky bragged to his friends that Superman was going to be at his birthday party in a week. Clark assures Lana that he and Superman are close friends and he will make sure Superman is there for the party. A week later, Ricky’s birthday party is transformed in to a huge ceremony at which Smallville gives Superman the key to the city. Posing as an Army officer, Gus Gorman arrives and presents Superman with a trophy made out of the synthetic Kryptonite, but it does not have any effect on the Man of Steel. However, a little later at Lana’s, Superman feels dizzy. Lana hears that a tractor-trailer truck has wrecked and the driver is trapped, hanging off a bridge. She urges Superman to go rescue the driver. Superman promises to get to it later, then starts flirting with Lana. She insists he help the driver, however, when Superman arrives, it is too late, but he does not seem to care. The synthetic Kryptonite had a delayed effect and Superman’s personality takes a dark turn. In the following days, he engages in mean-spirited pranks such as blowing out the Olympic flame and straightening Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa. The media covers the Man of Steel’s altered behaviors and United Nations votes to censure Superman. Ross Webster has Gus program all the world’s oil tankers to go to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and sit, awaiting his command. He also has Gus program oil rigs to stop pumping oil, thereby giving Webster control of the world oil. However, a British oil tanker does not follow instructions and heads for Metropolis. Lorelei Ambrosia meets the personality-altered Superman who flirts with her. Before Lorelei will do anything with him, she insists he stop the rogue oil tanker, so he flies to the tanker, punches a hole in its hull and causes a massive oil spill. Lana Lang and young Ricky come to Metropolis, but see Superman drinking in a bar. Ricky pleads with Superman to get better, but the drunken Superman ignores him and flies to an automobile junkyard where he breaks down and splits into two people – Superman and Clark Kent. The two fight each other, but as both are super-powered, neither can defeat the other. Finally Superman knocks Clark unconscious and puts him on conveyer belt to be chopped up. Clark regains consciousness and strangles Superman. As Superman passes out, the two are merged into one again and Superman is good again. He flies to the oil tanker, blows all the oil back into the tanker with his super-breath and patches the hole with his heat vision. Superman flies to Ross Webster’s penthouse apartment which has a ski slope. Webster leaves a message for the Man of Steel to come to a canyon in the Western United States. There, Webster has been constructing a super computer from Gus Gorman’s designs. Webster and his sister, Vera, fire missiles at Superman, but he eludes them. When Superman comes into the massive computer room, Lorelei is excited, reminding him of the night they shared. However, Superman does not know her and insists that she must have met someone else. Webster’s super computer fires a Kryptonite ray at Superman causing him to collapse. Webster congratulates Gus on creating the computer and says Gus will go down in history as the man who killed Superman. Gus is disturbed by the idea and turns off the computer, freeing Superman from the Kryptonite ray. But the computer turns itself back on and draws energy from the nation’s power grid, causing a nationwide blackout. The computer restarts the Kryptonite ray and Superman collapses again. However, Gus uses an axe to destroy the portion of the computer with the Kryptonite ray and Superman rushes out to recover. The computer captures Webster’s sister, Vera, and transforms her into a cyborg that emits a power beam to trap Lorelei. When Superman returns, the cyborg Vera also traps Superman, but he deflects the power beam back toward Vera and the cyborg collapses. The super computer attacks Superman with energy bolts. He releases a beaker of heated acid that emits a volatile gas and destroys the computer. Superman saves Lorelei and arrests Webster. He flies Gus to a mining operation and suggests they give him a job. Superman also grabs a lump of coal and squeezes it into a diamond. In Metropolis, Clark Kent goes to Lana’s hotel room and presents her with the diamond ring, saying it is a present from Superman who was upset after learning she had to pawn her engagement ring. Lana is speechless. Clark arranges for Lana to get a job at the newspaper as Perry White’s secretary. Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane returns from a three-week vacation in the Caribbean where she uncovered a corrupt government. Lois meets Lana Lang, but becomes jealous learning that the diamond Lana is wearing came from Clark. Superman flies to Pisa, Italy and pushes the Leaning Tower back to its leaning position. +

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

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