By Gabriel Neeb
According to the packed room at the San Diego Comic Convention, yes.
Released on November 21, 1984 by Tri-Star Films, SUPERGIRL was the attempt by producers Alex and Ilya Salkind to squeeze more life and money out of the Superman character. They’d already produced three Superman movies to varying degrees of success, and were eager for another try. Audiences, who had already made GHOSTBUSTERS, THE TERMINATOR, and BEVERLY HILLS COP smash successes, disagreed.
However, 34 years later, the movie has retained a dedicated fanbase. Now, the Warner Archive Collection is set to release a new Blu-ray this Tuesday for purchase and decided to bring two of the film’s stars to tell the world about it. Warner Archive personnel showed up with SUPERGIRL star Helen Slater and Marc McClure, who played Jimmy Olson.
The panel began with a brief history of the 1978 to 1983 Superman movies before introducing what came next, by playing the Supergirl trailer.
Helen Slater was thrilled, as she hadn’t seen the trailer since 1984. SUPERGIRL was her first serious acting role after leaving school (her first being an ABC Afterschool Special). Casting and auditioning was intense and at some point involved the help of her mother who sewed a costume for one of the auditions.
She didn’t know very much about the character of the mythology behind Supergirl beyond what was on the script pages. And despite this, Matt Patterson (of Warner Archive) believes that Slater and McClure were perfect casting choices for their roles. The audience indicated through enthusiastic murmuring, that they agreed.
To actually become Supergirl, Slater had to train with Alf Joint, who had trained Christopher Reeve for the 1978 Superman. Among other things, Slater had to train in fencing because it was believed by Joint that such a character needed to have an “athletic look.” And as this was a several years before CGI emerged, she would have to make the flying believable.
The discussion soon veered over to director Jeannot Szwarc. Perhaps because Szwarc had worked with Christopher Reeve a few years earlier in SOMEWHERE IN TIME, he was hired for SUPERGIRL. He treated the material not as science fiction, but as fantasy. And he tried not to show us the wires.
The Warner Archive Collection, to its credit, will not be removing the wires that you’ll be able to see on the two cuts of the film- this is not a Special Edition level treatment.
To show off part of the Blu-ray, a scene involving two truckers attempting to attack Supergirl was shown. Because this was 1984, one of the truckers was played by future Max Headroom star (and occasional Zach Snyder player) Matt Frewer.
If he presented the same acting challenges that scenes with Peter O’Toole and Faye Dunaway, Slater didn’t mention. She did speak to working with such a high talent degree and related a story where, on a set tour, Peter O’Toole asked her “What do you think of the word ‘aware’?” Slater still, 35 years later, doesn’t have answer.
The panel played another clip, in which Jimmy Olson actually got some, I mean, got to do something.
Dan Ferranti (Warner Archive) then tried to explain the plot of SUPERGIRL. And… he succeeded. I think. You should probably watch the movie to see if he was right.
Since she made a mark in the role, Helen Slater has had a busy career since 1984 (audience members during the Q and A mentioned the film THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN a lot) including a role in the current CW SUPERGIRL show. Slater has nothing but laudatory things to say about Melissa Benoist, who she just saw performing as Carole King in BEAUTIFUL on Broadway, and the rest of the actors on the show.
Marc McClure also expressed his admiration for the show and mentioned that there are efforts being made to get him for a cameo role.
Perhaps the timing of a blu-ray release of SUPERGIRL is curious, there always seems to be a rumor of a new movie, in the air.
The disc itself will feature, in addition to the aforementioned wires, a copy of the US release and a copy on DVD if the 138 minute International Cut of SUPERGIRL. It will not feature the screen test of Helen Slater in the headband and frizzy hair of the 1980s Supergirl comic nor the Popeye’s Chicken commercials shot at the time.
In a better world, Dan Ferranti mused that Christopher Reeve, Helen Slater, and Marc McClure had played their roles in a movie together. Perhaps it even featured Matt Patterson’s idea of seeing Streaky the Supercat on screen. It’s an imaginary story, but aren’t they all?