Tag Archives: Richard Lester

A Nice Day for Superman’s Return by Kent Hill (PART 2)


In the early days of writing for PTS, I did a little piece on Superman Returns (which you’ll find here:https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/08/31/a-nice-day-for-supermans-return-by-kent-hill/). It was, if you like, a hymn of praise to a glorious afternoon, when the exaltation of the moment, combined with the wave of nostalgia – and the fact it was my birthday – all blended together on the day of the premiere of the first Superman movie in a really long time.

Of course, as is the case with a lot of films, a second viewing broke the spell. What I was left with was something of a mixed bag of emotions that I still ponder to this day. How did it all go wrong? What happened to the Bryan Singer who had recently made X2 (which was great)? Were there too many cooks in the kitchen? Was the whole thing a multi-million dollar rush job? Should they have rolled the dice and made Superman Lives? (Hell, YES!!!)


Since writing that initial piece I have had the good fortune to have a chat with a couple of the people who were there during filming. Composer/Editor John Ottman (our chat here:https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/10/28/chopped-and-scored-an-interview-with-john-ottman-by-kent-hill/), produced a beautiful score (one of the last I remember directly leaving the theatre and purchasing), as well as doing a fine job in the cutting room. And Robert Meyer Burnett assembled an excellent and comprehensive set of behind the scenes features, successfully documenting the making of the movie here in Sydney, Tamworth and also early stages of pre-production in the US (our chat here:https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2017/08/17/the-making-of-a-conversation-with-robert-meyer-burnett-by-kent-hill/).

Today I was sent another great behind the scenes glimpse from my friend, filmmaker and co-screenwriter Sean Ellis, who edited the footage (see here:https://vimeo.com/262035539/ea3164da85). There is even a moment when you can see Robert going about his stock-in-trade in documenting the making of the picture.

There has been more of Superman on the big screen since then. Admirable attempts, but, far from that iconic and wondrous unification of elements which saw the 1978 film explode onto screens, and into our hearts and minds for evermore. Now, I like Cavill in the role, and with the climax of Justice League there appeared a glimmer of hope. That maybe they buried the moody/brooding Superman, and with his resurrection would also be born a welcome return to form?

Only time will tell whether DC cinematic universe can recapture, in part, its days of honor. Lighting, as I once said, has already struck (circa 1978 with Donner’s film), now all we are left with is the thunder and its echoes. Do I hate Superman Returns? No. It was, in this man’s opinion, a valiant attempt to resurrect the Man of Steel after a long slumber – yet for all its magic, it didn’t cast a spell of significant longevity – though it wasn’t as silly as Superman’s CG shave in his most recent big screen outing.


I have a dream, as it was once uttered, that one day the grey clouds will part, the blue yonder shall emerge in all its heavenly brilliance and, there in the stillness, a figure traveling faster than a speeding bullet will rip across the vast firmament and we’ll look up in the sky – and maybe, just maybe, another magical retelling of the adventures of the most romantic of the superhero cast will descend –  there we’ll find another great Superman movie?




1I’ve long been a fan of the work of Richard Lester. Petulia, Juggernaut, Robin and Marian, Superman II, The Three Musketeers, and The Four Musketeers are films I adore, and I’ll admit to having a soft spot (mostly due to childhood nostalgia) for Superman III. He was a filmmaker who was always interested in mixing tones (especially comedy with action), and I love the chaotic, almost frenetic sense of mise-en-scene that his movies frequently exhibited. I’m eager to check out the films of his that I’ve missed; he was always a filmmaker you couldn’t truly pin down, and it’s no surprise that a subversive talent like Steven Soderbergh would hold Lester in such high regard. One of his most asinine pictures, the 1975 slapstick swashbuckler Royal Flash, is easily one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen. It’s wonderfully cheeky fun, super clownish at all times, very light and spastic, with a pricelessly funny lead performance from Malcom McDowell as Captain Harry Flashman, a sniveling and humorous Oliver Reed, and as usual, Lester totally filled the frame with so much detail and action and energy that it’s literally impossible not to enjoy yourself on some level with this bit of lunacy. It’s undoubtedly minor, but so entertaining and a further reminder that Lester was a filmmaker capable of balancing various qualities and ideas in his work. One minute, the film feels mildly amateurish, with weird sound work and sped up film processing and strange acting on the part of background extras, and then the next scene is one that’s gorgeously appointed, with terrific vistas and epic sweep and great use of light and composition (the great Geoffrey Unsworth was the cinematographer). McDowell plays a good-hearted rapscallion serving in the British army who blunders his way from one situation to the next, always appearing to be the victor, despite his oafish manner and continual stroke of good luck. Alan Bates shows up for some hearty laughs, and the film is just one gag after another involving duplicity, impersonation, revenge, sexual mischief, and tons of terrifically staged sword fighting and general fisticuffs. There’s also a gag atop a bridge that sort of defies technical logic, especially given the era that this film was produced during. The Twilight Time Blu-ray is crisp and clean and offers a solid assortment of extras. A true pisser of the likes we never get anymore, Royal Flash is tons of fun.