Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

PG | 93 mins | Adventure, Drama | 24 July 1987

Director:

Sidney J. Furie

Cinematographer:

Ernest Day

Editor:

John Shirley

Production Designer:

John Graysmark

Production Company:

Cannon Films
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HISTORY

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was the fourth and final movie in the Superman franchise starring Christopher Reeve. The series began with 1978’s successful Superman, and was followed by Superman II in 1981 and Superman III in 1983 (see entries). The Superman character is based on comic books published by DC Comics.
       Plans for Superman IV were announced in 1983, as Superman III was released. The 22 Jun 1983 Var reported that Alexander Salkind, who had executive produced the first three movies with his son, Ilya, intended to make a fourth installment in series if Superman III made at least $40 million at the box office.
       While Superman III did not do as well as hoped, the Salkinds proceeded with plans for another movie. Alexander Salkind told the 4 Aug 1984 Screen International that the project was not contingent on Christopher Reeve’s participation, as several actors had played Tarzan and James Bond through the years without damaging those franchises.
       By 1985, the Salkinds’ finances were strained. The Superman spin-off Supergirl (1984, see entry) earned back only $14.2 million of its $30 million budget, and Santa Claus: The Movie (1985, see entry) ultimately took in just $23.7 million on a cost of $50 million. The Salkinds needed money and feared the Superman franchise was no longer lucrative. During the 1985 Cannes Film Festival, they courted Cannon Films to take over, and on 19 Jun 1985, DV announced that Cannon had purchased rights for Superman IV and any ... More Less

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was the fourth and final movie in the Superman franchise starring Christopher Reeve. The series began with 1978’s successful Superman, and was followed by Superman II in 1981 and Superman III in 1983 (see entries). The Superman character is based on comic books published by DC Comics.
       Plans for Superman IV were announced in 1983, as Superman III was released. The 22 Jun 1983 Var reported that Alexander Salkind, who had executive produced the first three movies with his son, Ilya, intended to make a fourth installment in series if Superman III made at least $40 million at the box office.
       While Superman III did not do as well as hoped, the Salkinds proceeded with plans for another movie. Alexander Salkind told the 4 Aug 1984 Screen International that the project was not contingent on Christopher Reeve’s participation, as several actors had played Tarzan and James Bond through the years without damaging those franchises.
       By 1985, the Salkinds’ finances were strained. The Superman spin-off Supergirl (1984, see entry) earned back only $14.2 million of its $30 million budget, and Santa Claus: The Movie (1985, see entry) ultimately took in just $23.7 million on a cost of $50 million. The Salkinds needed money and feared the Superman franchise was no longer lucrative. During the 1985 Cannes Film Festival, they courted Cannon Films to take over, and on 19 Jun 1985, DV announced that Cannon had purchased rights for Superman IV and any future sequels for $5 million. The Salkinds had paid Warner Bros. $3 million for Superman rights ten years earlier in 1975, the 2 Jan 1987 LAT reported. Cannon intended to begin production on Superman IV in 1986 with a $30 million budget, hoping for a summer 1987 release date. At that time, Cannon claimed that Christopher Reeve had already agreed to reprise the role, but his option with the Salkinds had expired after Superman III, and the actor told the 22 Jun 1983 HR that he was not interested in playing Superman again. In 1984, he backed out of a cameo role in Supergirl.
       On 16 Sep 1985, DV reported that Cannon had offered Reeve $6 million for Superman IV and the actor was considering the deal, on condition he approved the script and director. Reeve suggested Ron Howard, who had just finished directing Cocoon (1985, see entry), and finally agreed to the role when Cannon approved his pitch for a nuclear disarmament storyline, and agreeing to finance his side project, Street Smart (1987, see entry), the 2 Jan 1987 LAT reported. On 5 Feb 1986, DV announced that Reeve had signed a two-picture deal with Cannon for Superman IV and Street Smart, and the 12 Mar 1986 HR noted he was paid $5 million, plus a percentage of the profits. Cannon briefly considered Reeve as director, but he decided he was not sufficiently experienced. Reeve directed several second unit scenes for Superman IV.
       Cannon also secured actors Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman, to reprise their roles of “Lois Lane” and “Lex Luthor.” The 11 Jun 1986 LAHExam noted that Kidder had a dispute with the Salkinds, since she publically criticized them for firing director Richard Donner from Superman II, but she had no problems with Cannon. The 14 Mar 1986 DV noted that Gene Hackman had not played “Lex Luthor” in almost a decade, since his scenes for Superman II were filmed during production on Superman.
       Principal photography began on 29 Sep 1986 at Elstree Studios in London, England, according to the 7 Oct 1986 HR, with a $32 million budget, the 16 Sep 1986 HR reported. Shortly before production began, however, Cannon suffered a financial crisis, and reduced the budget to $17 million, as stated in Superman vs. Hollywood (2008). Christopher Reeve explained in his 1998 memoir Still Me that the production was “hampered by budget constraints and cutbacks in all departments. Cannon Films had nearly thirty projects in the works at the time, and Superman IV received no special consideration.”
       Cannon’s business model, as detailed in a 24 Aug 1986 LAT business profile, was to pre-sell ancillary rights for television and home video across the globe, and use that money to finance film production. The strategy only worked well when the company kept budgets below $5 million.
       In an effort to stay afloat, Cannon arranged a distribution deal with Warner Bros. for Superman IV and the Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling drama Over the Top (1987, see entry). The 29 Jul 1985 DV reported that Cannon secured a $65 million line of credit with First Bank of Boston, once the Warner deal gave the studio new credibility. However, the funds were filtered among all Cannon productions, not just those with the greatest potential for box-office success. By late 1986, Cannon had not had a substantial hit in several years. With loan payments due, the studio was on the verge of bankruptcy. Warner Bros. came to the rescue with a $75 million cash infusion, in exchange for distribution rights to Cannon’s upcoming films and part of their film library, the 15 Jan 1987 LAT explained.
       Because of the depleted Superman IV budget, location shooting was kept to a minimum, and special effects personnel from previous Superman films were replaced by less expensive crews from Israel. Cannon used a lower-cost optical system for flying scenes, a system which had been rejected by the Salkinds ten years earlier. In the 11 Jan 1987 LAT, visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw stated that traveling mattes and a blue screen allowed the filmmakers to capture eight to ten shots per day, as opposed to two or three shots a day with the front projection system used for the previous films. Christopher Reeve noted that Cannon did not want to risk a lawsuit from Zoran Perisic, who held a patent on the front projection system, and director Sidney J. Furie claimed that an optical effects company in London could complete blue screen effects more efficiently.
       Production concluded in early Jan 1987, according to the 6 Jan 1987 DV. Although Warner Bros. had planned Superman IV for a Christmas 1987 release, the company moved it up to summer. The 28 Jan 1987 HR announced that the company believed the film had “family appeal” and would do well in the summer.
       After a poorly-received test screening, Furie was ordered to trim thirty minutes from the two-hour film, eliminating a major subplot about a failed prototype of “Nuclear Man,” as well as scenes of “Lacy Warfield” on a date with “Clark Kent.”
       Superman IV: The Quest for Peace opened on 24 Jul 1987, on 1,511 screens, taking in $5.7 million in its first three days of release, according to the 28 Jul 1987 DV box-office report. After a month, the film grossed $15.3 million, the 26 Aug 1987 DV reported.
       Reviews were generally negative. The 27 Jul 1987 DV complained the film had a “second-rate look” and the 23 Jul 1987 HR reported the production was “stale.” The 25 Jul 1987 Screen International said the film “lack[ed] a sense of purpose; comic scenes, flying sprees and battles in space seem[ed] to follow one another almost at random.” Christopher Reeve wrote in his memoir: ”Superman IV was simply a catastrophe from start to finish.”
       Although Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner are credited for writing the screenplay after collaborating with Christopher Reeve on the story, the writing credits were subject to a lawsuit. The 26 Apr 1987 LAT reported that Barry E. Taft and Kenneth P. Stoller had filed a $45 million lawsuit against Reeve, Cannon Films, and Warner Bros., claiming that Reeve stole their idea. The pair had submitted a story outline titled “Superman: The Confrontation,” registered with the Writers Guild of America, to Reeve, Reeve’s agent, and Warner Bros. in 1985. Their narrative involved the hero hurling the world’s nuclear weapons into the sun, addressing the United Nations, and showed the deathly ill Superman being cured by an energy device from Krypton that could only be used once. The lawsuit contended the pair had an implied contract with Reeve after a telephone call from the actor to Barry E. Taft, promising to take the story idea to the studio. The 1 Feb 1990 LAT reported Reeve’s deposition: He said he received the outline, but never read it, and phoned Taft to get him to stop pestering his secretary. During that telephone call, Reeve briefly glanced over the script and offered a few encouraging words.
       A judge ruled Reeve did not steal Taft and Stoller’s idea, the 7 May 1987 LAHExam reported, but the writers appealed. That case was set to go to trial in May 1990, the 5 Arp 1990 HR noted, but instead went into arbitration. The pair were ruled to have no claim on the writing of Superman IV and a judge dismissed the lawsuit, as stated in the 24 Oct 1990 HR.
       Another lawsuit, filed by a stuntman whose career ended after being injured on the Superman IV set, resulted in an award of 251,000 British pounds. Stuntman John Lees fractured his left ankle and both heels when harness wires broke during a simulated flying sequence, the 1 Feb 1990 issue of The Times (London) reported.
       In 1990, producer Ilya Salkind announced plans for a fifth installment of Superman. The 4 Mar 1990 Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale) reported that a $35 million project, tentatively titled The New Superman Movie, would begin shooting in Oct 1990 for a Christmas 1991 release. Ilya Salkind said he wanted Christopher Reeve to reprise the role for the fifth time, despite the actor’s reservations about being too old for the role. Reeve told the 2 Jan 1987 LAT that Superman was eternally thirty years old, and he was aging out of the character. He was thirty-four years old when Superman IV filmed, and wore a hairpiece to mimic the character’s youthful hairline.
       The Sun Sentinel did not explain how Salkind obtained Superman film rights back from Cannon, which had been purchased by Pathé Communications. However, the Salkinds had retained television rights to the character, and produced a live action Superboy syndicated series, about the adventures of a young Superman during his college years, which aired 100 episodes between 1988 and 1992.
       In the mid 1990s, Warner Bros. purchased Superman rights back from the Salkinds, just a few years before their twenty-five-year lease on the character was set to expire, and started planning a movie with the producing team of Jon Peters and Peter Guber. That project, with actor Nicholas Cage set to play Superman, was well into pre-production when Warner Bros. pulled declined to move forward.
       Superman returned to theaters in 2006 with director Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (see entry), starring actor Brandon Routh as “Superman/Clark Kent” and Kevin Spacey as “Lex Luthor.” In 2013, the series was rebooted with director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (see entry) starring Henry Cavill in the title role. Three years later, a sequel, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) came out with Cavill again playing Superman.
       Opening credits state: “Superman motion picture series initiated by Alexander Salkind,” “Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster,” and “Superman appearing in comic books published by DC Comics Inc.”
       Actor Malcolm Bullivant is credited as "Malcom" Bullivant.
       End credits state: “Made by London Cannon Films Ltd., at Cannon Elstree Studios, London, England and on location in England and the United States of America.”
       End credits also state: “The Producers gratefully acknowledge the assistance and co-operation of Acco Europe; C-A; Diversified Products Corp.; Inspectorate UK Holdings; Jewellery by Ken Lane; JVC (UK) Ltd; Mag Instruments, Inc.; Volkswagen; Leather Goods by Elegance Leather Goods Inc, Toronto, Canada; Milton Keynes and its residents; Post House Hotel Milton Keynes; Trusthouse Forte; CEGB; Didcot Power Station; Art Homer; Elaine Corman and the children of the Croughton Middle School.”
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Oct 1987
p. R-92.
Daily Variety
19 Jun 1985.
---
Daily Variety
29 Jul 1985
p. 1, 7.
Daily Variety
16 Sep 1985.
---
Daily Variety
5 Feb 1986.
---
Daily Variety
14 Mar 1986.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1987.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jul 1987
p. 3, 10.
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1987.
---
Daily Variety
26 Aug 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1987
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Arp 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 1990.
---
L.A. Businesss
Jun 1989
p. 6, 19.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
11 Jun 1986.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
7 May 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Aug 1986
p. D-1, 6-7.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jan 1987
Calendar section, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
11 Jan 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Jan 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Apr 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1987
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1987
p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
1 Feb 1990.
p. F-5.
Los Angeles Times
24 Oct 1990
p. F-2.
National Enquirer
11 Feb 1986.
---
New York Times
25 Jul 1987
p. 13.
Screen International
4 Aug 1984.
---
Screen International
25 Jul 1987.
---
Still Me by Christopher Reeve
(Random House, 1998)
p. 225, 228.
Sun-Sentinel
4 Mar 1990.
---
Superman vs. Hollywood by Jake Rossen
(Chicago Review Press, Inc., 2008)
p. 166, 168.
The Times (London)
1 Feb 1990.
---
Variety
22 Jun 1983.
---
Variety
14 Mar 1986.
---
Variety
29 Jul 1987
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
And
as Lois Lane
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. Presents
A Cannon Group, Inc. Golan-Globus Production
A Sidney J. Furie Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Flying unit dir
Unit prod mgr (U.K.)
Unit prod mgr (New York)
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir, Flying/2d unit
2d unit dir, Flying/2d unit
2d unit dir, Flying/2d unit
1st asst dir, Flying/2d unit
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Stills photog
Focus puller
Elec supv
Dir of photog, Flying/2d unit
Cam op, Flying/2d unit
Cam op, Flying/2d unit
Computer cam
Cam & anamorphic lenses
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Conceptual artist
Art dir
Art dir (Models)
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Decor artist
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Cutting room asst
Cutting room asst
Cutting room asst
Cutting room asst
Cutting room asst
Cutting room asst
Cutting room asst
Cutting room asst
Cutting room asst
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop buyer
Prop master
Const mgr
Asst const mgr
Const buyer
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Ward consultant
MUSIC
Mus adpt and cond by
Mus ed
Mus rec eng
Mus rec eng
Mus performed by
Mus rec
Mus adv
Addl source material comp by
SOUND
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Supv re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Addl sd eff
Graphics
VISUAL EFFECTS
Model eff supv
Spec eff supv
Wire eff specialist
1st asst spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Senior speci eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Dir of photog, Model eff
Cam op, Model eff
Senior spec eff tech, Model eff
Senior spec eff tech, Model eff
Senior spec eff tech, Model eff
Senior spec eff tech, Model eff
Senior spec eff tech, Model eff
Model maker, Model eff
Model maker, Model eff
Visual eff (U.S.)
Prod supv, Olsen, Lane & White
Prod coord, Olsen, Lane & White
Anim supv, Olsen, Lane & White
Vis eff art dir, Olsen, Lane & White
Element control supv, Olsen, Lane & White
Anim, Olsen, Lane & White
Anim, Olsen, Lane & White
Anim, Olsen, Lane & White
Anim, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff cam op, Olsen, Lane & White
Element control, Olsen, Lane & White
Element control, Olsen, Lane & White
Element control, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope scupv, Olsen, Lane & White
Airbrusher, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Rotoscope/Ink and paint, Olsen, Lane & White
Motion control cam, Olsen, Lane & White
Motion control cam, Olsen, Lane & White
Asst anim, Olsen, Lane & White
Tech support, Olsen, Lane & White
Roto cam op, Olsen, Lane & White
Aerial photog (Gyrophere), Olsen, Lane & White
Aerial photog (Gyrophere), Olsen, Lane & White
Aerial photog (Gyrophere), Olsen, Lane & White
Aerial photog (Gyrophere), Olsen, Lane & White
Eff art, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff staff, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff staff, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff staff, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff staff, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff staff, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff staff, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff staff, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff staff, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff staff, Olsen, Lane & White
Photo graphics, Olsen, Lane & White
Cam system, Olsen, Lane & White
Cam system, Olsen, Lane & White
Cam system, Olsen, Lane & White
Unit mgr, Olsen, Lane & White
NASA liaison, Olsen, Lane & White
NASA liaison, Olsen, Lane & White
Visual eff accountant, Olsen, Lane & White
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.), Ray Mercer and Company
Opticals (U.S.), Ray Mercer and Company
Opticals (U.S.), Ray Mercer and Company
Opticals (U.S.), Ray Mercer and Company
Opticals (U.S.), Ray Mercer and Company
Opticals (U.S.), Ray Mercer and Company
Opticals (U.S.), Cinema Research Corporation
Opticals (U.S.), Cinema Research Corporation
Opticals (U.S.), Cinema Research Corporation
Opticals (U.S.), Cinema Research Corporation
Opticals (U.S.), Cinema Research Corporation
Opticals (U.S.), Cinema Research Corporation
Opticals (U.S.), Cinema Research Corporation
Opticals (U.S.), Hollywood Optical Systems, Inc.
Opticals (U.S.), Hollywood Optical Systems, Inc.
Opticals (U.S.), Hollywood Optical Systems, Inc.
Opticals (U.S.), Hollywood Optical Systems, Inc.
Opticals (U.S.), Hollywood Optical Systems, Inc.
Opticals (U.S.), Hollywood Optical Systems, Inc.
Opticals (U.S.), Buena Vista Studios Visual Effect
Opticals (U.S.), Buena Vista Studios Visual Effect
Opticals (U.S.), Buena Vista Studios Visual Effect
Opticals (U.S.), Buena Vista Studios Visual Effect
Opticals (U.S.), Buena Vista Studios Visual Effect
Opticals (U.S.), Buena Vista Studios Visual Effect
Opticals (U.S.), Buena Vista Studios Visual Effect
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.), Lookout Mountain Films
Opticals (U.S.), Lookout Mountain Films
Opticals (U.S.), Lookout Mountain Films
Opticals (U.S.), Lookout Mountain Films
Opticals (U.S.), Lookout Mountain Films
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.), Van Der Veer Photo Effects
Opticals (U.S.), Van Der Veer Photo Effects
Opticals (U.S.), Van Der Veer Photo Effects
Opticals (U.S.), Van Der Veer Photo Effects
Opticals (U.S.), Van Der Veer Photo Effects
Opticals (U.S.), Van Der Veer Photo Effects
Opticals (U.S.), Van Der Veer Photo Effects
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.), Praxis Film Works
Opticals (U.S.), Praxis Film Works
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.), Howard A. Anderson Company
Opticals (U.S.), Howard A. Anderson Company
Opticals (U.S.), Howard A. Anderson Company
Opticals (U.S.), Howard A. Anderson Company
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.), Image 3
Opticals (U.S.), Image 3
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.), Magidson Films
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.S.)
Opticals (U.K.)
Opticals (U.K.), Elstree Filmoptic
Opticals (U.K.), Elstree Filmoptic
Opticals (U.K.)
Opticals (U.K.), Optical Film Effects Ltd.
Opticals (U.K.), Optical Film Effects Ltd.
Opticals (U.K.), Optical Film Effects Ltd.
Opticals (U.K.), Optical Film Effects Ltd.
Television/Computer & electronic eff, Opticals (U.
Matte painting supv (U.K.), Opticals (U.K.
Matte cam (U.K.), Opticals (U.K.)
Matte artist (U.K.), Opticals (U.K.)
Spec eff ed
Graphics
Graphics
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairdressing supv
Chief makeup artist
Chief hairdresser
Chief makeup artist, Fying/2d unit
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod controller
Loc mgr
Prod accountant
Prod coord
Prod coord
Scr supv
Unit pub
Casting consultant
Accounts secy
Casting
Prod secy
Prod secy
Prod secy
Financial advisor
Scr supv, Flying/2d unit
Blue screen consultant, Flying/2d unit
Prod runner
Prod runner
Prod runner
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Flying stunts
Spec stunts
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the comic strip "Superman" by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, copyrighted by DC Comics (1933--1988).
SONGS
"A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," by Jerry Lee Lewis (courtesy Charly Records).
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Superman 4
Release Date:
24 July 1987
Premiere Information:
World premiere at Ohio Theatre in Cleveland, OH: 23 July 1987
Los Angeles and New York openings: 24 July 1987
Production Date:
29 September 1986--early January 1987
Copyright Claimant:
Cannon Films, Cannon International & Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 July 1987
Copyright Number:
PA336834
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in selected theatres.
Color
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Reporter Clark Kent returns to Smallville, preparing to sell the family farm now that his parents are dead. He goes to the barn where the Kents hid the spaceship that brought him to Earth from Krypton. As he opens the tiny spacecraft, the voice of his Kryptonian mother, Lara, points out an energy module crystal in the craft, the one remaining remnant of his home planet. Lara tells him the power in the module can only be used once. Clark puts the crystal in his pocket, then meets with the real estate agent, instructing him not to sell the farm to a land developer, only to a farmer. When Clark returns to Metropolis, he learns that tabloid newspaper mogul David Warfield has purchased The Daily Planet, which has not made any money in the past three years. Warfield puts his daughter, Lacy, in charge of the paper’s budget and she immediately cancels star reporter Lois Lane’s investigative trip to Paris, France. Clark tells Lacy that they will help her watch the budget, but adds, “a reporter’s first allegiance has to be to the truth. The people of this city depend on us and we can’t let them down.” Lacy is smitten by Clark, but Lois tells her that Clark is “the oldest living boy scout” and would not be attracted to her. Meanwhile, the jailed Lex Luthor works on a chain gang in a gravel quarry when his young nephew, Lenny, helps him escape. Luthor’s only thought throughout his time in prison has been to “Destroy Superman.” Luthor and Lenny go to ... +


Reporter Clark Kent returns to Smallville, preparing to sell the family farm now that his parents are dead. He goes to the barn where the Kents hid the spaceship that brought him to Earth from Krypton. As he opens the tiny spacecraft, the voice of his Kryptonian mother, Lara, points out an energy module crystal in the craft, the one remaining remnant of his home planet. Lara tells him the power in the module can only be used once. Clark puts the crystal in his pocket, then meets with the real estate agent, instructing him not to sell the farm to a land developer, only to a farmer. When Clark returns to Metropolis, he learns that tabloid newspaper mogul David Warfield has purchased The Daily Planet, which has not made any money in the past three years. Warfield puts his daughter, Lacy, in charge of the paper’s budget and she immediately cancels star reporter Lois Lane’s investigative trip to Paris, France. Clark tells Lacy that they will help her watch the budget, but adds, “a reporter’s first allegiance has to be to the truth. The people of this city depend on us and we can’t let them down.” Lacy is smitten by Clark, but Lois tells her that Clark is “the oldest living boy scout” and would not be attracted to her. Meanwhile, the jailed Lex Luthor works on a chain gang in a gravel quarry when his young nephew, Lenny, helps him escape. Luthor’s only thought throughout his time in prison has been to “Destroy Superman.” Luthor and Lenny go to the Superman Museum in Metropolis where they steal a strand of Superman’s super-strong hair. Luthor plans to use the DNA in the hair to clone Superman and create a being loyal to him. The President of the United States announces that nuclear disarmament talks have broken down. Consequently, the U.S. must increase its nuclear arsenal and be “second to none in the nuclear arms race.” In school, twelve-year-old Jeremy is upset by the news and writes a letter to Superman, asking him to intervene. When word gets out about Jeremy’s letter, Lacy Warfield brings him to Metropolis so The Daily Planet can publish a story, hoping to increase circulation. Meanwhile, David Warfield’s tabloids attack Superman for not responding to Jeremy’s request. Upset by the controversy, Superman flies to his Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic and asks advice from his Kryptonian computer, which projects images of Kryptonian elders. They warn that Earth could suffer the same fate as Krypton and explode. However, Earth is much more primitive than Krypton, and Superman should not interfere. Lois Lane comes to Clark’s apartment, disturbed that he missed their date for a journalism awards ceremony. Clark takes Lois to the balcony and jumps, pulling her with him. However, he changes into Superman midair, and flies her around the world. Back at Clark’s apartment, Superman thanks Lois, saying that she is the only person he can talk to, and sometimes he does not know the right thing to do. Superman kisses Lois and she forgets everything. Switching to Clark, he puts on a tuxedo and takes her to the awards ceremony. The next day, Superman meets with Jeremy, then addresses the United Nations. He declares that Earth is his home, too, and he cannot allow nations to stumble into nuclear war. He will rid the planet of nuclear weapons, since governments cannot. Superman collects all nuclear weapons, puts them in a giant net in space, and hurls it into the sun. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor meets nuclear weapons experts, proclaiming they now have a black market. Taking genetic material from Superman’s hair, Luthor creates a “genetic stew” and places it in the tip of nuclear weapon. When Superman hurls the missile into the sun, the genetic protoplasm is ignited and grows into “Nuclear Man,” who has all of Superman’s powers. Nuclear Man flies to Luthor’s penthouse, intent on destroying Superman. Nuclear Man’s one weakness is that he must constantly be exposed to the sun. Luthor, who calls himself Nuclear Man’s “father,” installed a special switch in Nuclear Man’s genetic mix, allowing him to control the superhero with a ring on his finger. Meanwhile, Lacy Warfield and Clark Kent are scheduled to have a double date with Lois Lane and Superman. When Clark Kent arrives, he makes an excuse to leave, then returns as Superman. A few minutes later, Superman leaves and Clark returns. The date ends when Luthor sends a super-sonic message to Superman, inviting him to his penthouse. Luthor announces he is going to make a fortune rearming the world, and introduces Nuclear Man. Luthor’s creation attacks Superman and the two fly over the city, continuing their fight. Nuclear Man destroys the Great Wall of China, but Superman quickly rebuilds it and chases his nemesis into space. Nuclear Man uses his super breath to freeze Superman in a block of ice, then hurls him deep into space. As Nuclear Man returns to Earth and sets off volcanoes in Italy, Superman breaks out of the ice block and returns to Earth, plugging the volcano and freezing the flowing lava. In New York City, Nuclear Man drops the Statue of Liberty in midtown Manhattan, but Superman catches the monument and returns it to its base. As the antagonists struggle, Nuclear Man cuts Superman’s neck with his long fingernails. Superman falls to the ground, and Nuclear Man kicks him into space. Meanwhile, David Warfield makes his daughter the new publisher of the Daily Planet, and his tabloids proclaim that Superman is dead. Lois Lane does not believe the news, but worries when someone brings Superman’s cape to the newspaper. Lois goes to Clark’s apartment, where she finds him sick with fever. He pretends to have a mild cold. Lois admits she loves Superman and gives Clark the cape, asking him to if give it to Superman. When she leaves, Clark uses the Kryptonian energy crystal to restore his power. As Nuclear Man amuses himself by scaring Metroppolis residents, Superman challenges him. Knowing the villain is obsessed with Lacy Warfield, Superman leads him into a Daily Planet elevator, slams the doors shut, and confines him from sunlight. Superman flies the elevator into outer space, and drops it on the moon. As the sun rises, however, shafts of light shine into the elevator and Nuclear Man’s powers return. The two fight, but Nuclear Man knocks Superman unconscious and buries him on the moon. Returning to Earth, Nuclear Man kidnaps Lacy Warfield and flies her into the atmosphere. Superman digs out of his lunar grave and pushes the moon out of orbit, blocking the sun’s rays from Earth. Nuclear Man fades and drops Lacy, but Superman catches her midair. He drops Nuclear Man’s lifeless body into a nuclear power plant, and it is charged with enough energy to power the nation. Daily Planet editor Perry White stages a hostile takeover of Warfield Publishing after convincing city bankers to fund him, and Warfield becomes a minority shareholder. Superman holds a press conference at the United Nations, declaring it was impossible to rid the world of war. There will only be peace when citizens demand it of their governments. Lex Luthor and his nephew Lenny try to drive out of town, but Superman stops them, taking Lenny to the Boys Town Remedial Home of Metropolis, and returning Lex Luthor to his prison chain gang. +

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.