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(Two-Disc Special Edition)

After experiencing The Richard Donner Cut, of SUPERMAN II ($27) I donít see the Theatrical Version of the film in the same light. Original Director Richard Donner and Creative Consultant Tom Mankiewicz were definitely on the right track with their intentions for SUPERMAN II, which would have ultimately resulted in a more epic film than what replacement Director Richard Lester ultimately delivered. The elimination of the Marlon Brando footage proved to be a tremendous loss to the film, not to mention, the mythology Donner and Mankiewicz were trying to establish. Also, the flaws in the Theatrical Version of SUPERMAN II become more glaring in the light of The Richard Donner Cut, with all the unnecessary camp humor sucking the life out of a number of key sequences- especially the climatic battle between the Man Of Steel and the three Kryptonian Super-villains. Of course, I donít want to make it seem that I no longer like or enjoy the Theatrical Version of SUPERMAN II, its still a highly entertaining film, but there is a gnawing feeling it could have been something greater.

The plot of SUPERMAN II reintroduces the three Kryptonian criminals exiled into the Phantom Zone by Jor El at the start of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. After Superman (Christopher Reeve) saves Paris from a nuclear bomb by launching the device into space, the resulting explosion cracks open the Phantom Zone allowing General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran) back into our universe. Landing on Earth, these three criminals are now imbued with the same invincible powers as Superman. Quickly taking over the planet, the three Super-villains find recent prison escapee Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) on their doorstep, with the greatest criminal mind of our time offering them a proposition to deliver the only being on Earth capable of challenging their rule- namely Superman. Although Superman has to overcome a few personal hurdles on his way to the battle, he does arrive in the nick for his showdown with Zod, Ursa and Non on the streets of Metropolis. The cast of SUPERMAN II also features Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Susannah York, Clifton James, E.G. Marshall and Marc McClure.

Warner Home Video has made SUPERMAN II available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is the best that SUPERMAN II has looked in the home venue- this side of high definition. Image sharpness and detail are generally quite good, although there is some softness that is inherent in the original photography. Colors are strongly rendered and stable, while flesh tones appear pretty natural. Both blacks and whites are accurate and contrast is very good. The film elements are free from significant defects. A grain structure is noticeable across the board, but it is never problematic. Digital compression artifacts are not a concern.

SUPERMAN II comes with a fairly well remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Considering the filmís age, the remixed track sounds pretty darn good. The forward soundstage does tend to dominate the sound mix, although the rear channels do supply a good deal of atmosphere and musical fill, in addition to active sound effects, which are relative to the action sequences. Channel separation is pretty good across the front, which enhances both the sound effects and Ken Thorneís reworking of John Williams musical themes. The music isnít as full-bodied, as modern recordings, coming off as a bit thin sounding in comparison. As for the bass, the track has a decent bottom end, but it isnít quite ground shaking. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. An English Dolby Surround track and French monaural track have also been provided, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice dose supplements included on the two-disc set. Disc one features a running Audio Commentary with Producer Pierre Spengler and Executive Producer Ilya Salkind, as well as a Deleted Scene. Disc two features two nearly hour long Vintage TV Specials- first The Making Of Superman II and the second, Superman 50th Anniversary. First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series looks at the Dave & Max Fleischer animated shorts that first depicted the Man Of Steel on the silver screen. Eight of the Famous Studios Superman Cartoons from the 1940ís close out disc two. The Famous Studios cartoons have been re-mastered from superior film elements and look better in this collection than I have ever seen them. The featured cartoons are as follows: Japoteurs, Showdown, Eleventh Hour, Destruction, Inc., The Mummy Strikes, Jungle Drums, The Underground World and Secret Agent.

SUPERMAN II is an entertaining sequel that I continue to enjoy every time I see it. However, as I stated above, in the light of The Richard Donner Cut, SUPERMAN II now leaves me with a gnawing feeling it could have been something greater. Warnerís new DVD is the best the film has ever looked or sounded under the NTSC format. I you are a longtime fan, youíll want to add the Two-Disc Special Edition of SUPERMAN II to your collection.



Superman II (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Theatrical Cut)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2006 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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