Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jeannot Szwarc|
|Produced by||Timothy Burrill|
|Written by||David Odell|
by Otto Binder
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Editing by||Malcolm Cooke|
Pueblo Film Group
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Running time||124 minutes|
Supergirl is a 1984 superhero film directed by Jeannot Szwarc, and stars Helen Slater in her first motion picture role in the title role of the DC Comics superheroine Supergirl. Faye Dunaway (who received top billing) played the primary villain, Selena. The film was a spin-off from the Salkinds' Superman film series which starred Christopher Reeve. The movie also featured Marc McClure reprising his role as Jimmy Olsen from the Superman films.
The film failed to impress critics and audiences. Dunaway and Peter O'Toole earned Golden Raspberry Award nominations for Worst Actress and Worst Actor, respectively. Slater, however, was nominated for a Saturn Award for her performance by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for Best Actress. The film does contain some expansions on the Superman movie mythology, such as taking the viewer into the Phantom Zone itself (in the first two Superman films, it was merely represented by a spinning square mirror). The story uses sorcery (a noted Superman weakness, but less commonly utilized than kryptonite) as a counterattack on Supergirl.
Released on video over the years by different companies, the film's first DVD release was by the independent home video company Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2000, under license from StudioCanal. Warner Bros. recently acquired the rights to the film and reissued it on DVD late in 2006 to coincide with the reissues on DVD of the other Superman films. Although it is related to the Superman films produced between 1978 and 1987 with Christopher Reeve, it is not included in any of Warner Bros.' Superman DVD box set collections released in 2006.
Kara Zor-El (Helen Slater) lives in an isolated Kryptonian community called Argo City, in a pocket of trans-dimensional space. Zaltar (Peter O'Toole) allows Kara to see a unique and immensely powerful item known as the Omegahedron, which he has borrowed without the knowledge of the city government, and which powers the city. However, after a mishap, the Omegahedron is blown out into space. Much to the distress of her parents (Simon Ward and Mia Farrow), Kara follows it to Earth (undergoing a transformation into "Supergirl" in the process) in an effort to recover it and save the city.
On Earth, the Omegahedron is recovered by Selena (Faye Dunaway), a power-hungry would-be witch assisted by the feckless Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro) and seeking to free herself from her relationship with warlock Nigel (Peter Cook). Whilst not knowing exactly what it is, Selena quickly realizes that the Omegahedron is powerful and can enable her to perform real magical spells. Supergirl arrives on Earth and discovers her powers. Following the path of the Omegahedron, she takes the name Linda Lee, identifies herself as a cousin of Clark Kent, and enrols at an all-girls school where she befriends Lucy Lane (Maureen Teefy), a younger sister of Lois Lane who happens to be studying there. Supergirl also meets and becomes enamoured with Ethan (Hart Bochner) who works as a groundskeeper at the school.
Ethan also catches the eye of Selena, who drugs him with a love potion, however Ethan regains consciousness in Selena's absence and wanders out into the streets. An angry Selena uses her new-found powers to animate a construction vehicle, which she sends to bring Ethan back, causing chaos in the streets as it does so. Supergirl rescues Ethan and he falls in love with her instead while in guise of Linda Lee.
Supergirl and Selena repeatedly battle in various ways, until Selena uses her powers to put Supergirl in an "eternal void" known as the Phantom Zone. Here, stripped of her powers, she wanders the bleak landscape and nearly drowns in an oily bog. Yet she finds help in Zaltar, who has exiled himself to the Phantom Zone as a punishment for losing the Omegahedron. Zaltar sacrifices his life to allow Supergirl to escape. Back on Earth, Selena misuses the Omegahedron to make herself a "princess of Earth", with Ethan as her lover and consort. Emerging from the Phantom Zone, Supergirl regains her powers and defeats Selena. Free from Selena's spell, Ethan admits his love for Linda and that he knows that she and Supergirl are one and the same, but knows it is possible he may never see her again and understands she must save Argo City. The final scene shows Kara returning the Omegahedron to a darkened Argo City, which promptly lights up again.
- Helen Slater as Kara Zor-El / Linda Lee / Supergirl
- Faye Dunaway as Selena
- Peter O'Toole as Zaltar
- Hart Bochner as Ethan
- Mia Farrow as Alura
- Brenda Vaccaro as Bianca
- Peter Cook as Nigel
- Simon Ward as Zor-El
- Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen
- Maureen Teefy as Lucy Lane
- David Healy as Mr. Danvers
- Sandra Dickinson as The Pretty Young Lady
Christopher Reeve was slated to have a cameo as Superman, but bowed out early on. His non-appearance in the film is explained via a news broadcast (overheard by Selena) stating that Superman has left Earth on a "peace-seeking mission" to a distant galaxy. Director Jeannot Szwarc said in the Superman documentary "You Will Believe..." that [Reeve's] involvement in this film would have given the feature higher credibility and he admitted he wished Reeve had made a contribution to the film's production. A publicity photo of him as Superman, however, did appear as a poster in Lucy and Linda's shared dorm room.
Marc McClure makes his fourth of five appearances in the Superman films; he is the only actor to appear in all five films. Demi Moore auditioned for, and was cast as character Lucy Lane, but bowed out to make the film Blame It on Rio. Maureen Teefy was signed instead.
At the end of the film's end credits, dedications were made to the memory of Marguerite Green, Gary Evans, and Andrew Warne. Green was the film's production coordinator, Evans was a member of the junior special effects technicians, and Warne was an uncredited production assistant. All three died during the film's production.
Upon gaining the film rights for Superman, Alexander Salkind and his son, Ilya, also purchased the rights to the character of Supergirl, should any sequel or spin-off occur. The first major casting choices for the movie were Dolly Parton as Selena, and Melanie Griffith or Brooke Shields as Kara/Supergirl. These were Ilya Salkind's top choices but they were ultimately rejected by both Alexander and the film's director, Jeannot Szwarc, who wanted an unknown actress. In an interview taped to promote the original Anchor Bay DVD release of the film, Ilya Salkind stated that he thought Shields was the better choice. Dolly Parton turned down the role of Selena and a reported $7 million dollar salary, later stating that she couldn't play a witch no matter what amount was being offered. Goldie Hawn and Jane Fonda turned the role down before Faye Dunaway accepted.
Dudley Moore had been offered $4 million to portray Zaltar, but turned the offer down. However, Moore found himself working with the same producers and director the following year on Santa Claus: The Movie. At Moore's suggestion, his former TV partner Peter Cook was cast in the movie as Nigel. John Travolta was approached to play Ethan, as was former Spider-Man actor Nicholas Hammond.
Although the Salkinds financed the film completely on their own budget, Warner Bros. were still involved in the production as the studio owned the distribution rights to the film and its parent company, Warner Communications, was also the parent company of DC Comics, which held the original copyright. The entire film was shot, edited and overseen under the supervision of Warner Bros. However, shortly before the film's original Summer 1984 premiere date, Warner Bros. dropped the film in the US due to the disappointing critical and financial performance of Superman III the year before. The film proceeded to be released overseas, however, and received a Royal Film Premiere in the United Kingdom in July 1984.
|Supergirl: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Film score by Jerry Goldsmith|
|Length||39:35 (Varèse Sarabande)
77:37 (Silva Screen)
The film score for Supergirl was composed and conducted by veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith, who had been the initial interest of director Richard Donner to compose for the first Superman film. Goldsmith used a number of techniques to identify the music to the film, such as synthesizers simulating the sounds of take-off during the main theme. The soundtrack has been released twice, through Varèse Sarabande in 1985 and an extended version through Silva Screen in 1993. It has also been referred by critics as one of the only redeeming qualities of the movie.
1985 Varèse Sarabande Album
- "Main Title" (3:12)
- "'Where Is She?'" (1:05)
- "Black Magic" (4:06)
- "First Flight" (4:14)
- "The Butterfly" (1:34)
- "'Where Is Linda?'" (1:14)
- "The Monster Tractor" (7:26)
- "The Bracelet" (1:24)
- "Monster Storm" (2:55)
- "A New School" (2:08)
- "The Flying Car" (1:25)
- "The Map" (1:10)
- "9M-3" (1:41)
- "End Title" (6:05)
1993 Silva Screen Album
- "Overture" (6:07)
- "Main Title & Argo City" (3:15)
- "Argo City Mall" (0:56)
- "The Butterfly" (1:36)
- "The Journey Begins" (1:12)
- "Arrival on Earth/Flying Ballet" (5:36)
- "Chicago Lights/Street Attack" (2:23)
- "The Superman Poster" (0:52)
- "A New School" (2:13)
- "The Map" (1:10)
- "Ethan Spellbound" (2:13)
- "The Monster Tractor" (7:34)
- "Flying Ballet - Alternate Version" (2:13)
- "The Map - Alternate Version" (1:13)
- "The Bracelet" (1:44)
- "First Kiss/The Monster Storm" (4:35)
- "'Where Is She'/The Monster Bumper Cars" (2:57)
- "The Flying Bumper Car" (1:28)
- "'Where's Linda?'" (1:21)
- "Black Magic" (4:08)
- "The Phantom Zone" (3:42)
- "The Vortex/The End of Zaltar" (5:49)
- "The Final Showdown & Victory/End Title - Short Version" (12:10)
Supergirl earned extremely negative reviews from critics and fans alike. Today, the film currently holds an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 25 reviews with the consensus: "The effects are cheesy and Supergirl's wide-eyed, cheery heroine simply isn't interesting to watch for an hour and a half."
In the U.S. Supergirl was later picked up by TriStar Pictures for holiday release in November 1984, though Tri-Star executives decided to edit the film for its North American release, cutting it from 124 minutes to 105 minutes. Critical reviews in the U.S. were poor, and although the film took the #1 slot at the North American box-office during its opening weekend, it is widely considered to be a box office bomb after making only $14 million in North America.
The film has since been released several times on home video, laserdisc, and DVD. In 1985 the movie's first video was released by now defunct U.S.A. home video.  In 1990, the 105 minute version of the film was re-released on VHS by Avid Home Entertainment. By the mid-1990s, the rights to the film were acquired by Pueblo Film Licensing (successor-in-interest to the Salkind production company) and French production company StudioCanal and Anchor Bay Entertainment had assumed the video rights. For their DVD release in 2000, two versions were issued. The first of these was a 2-disc "Limited Edition" set (limited to 50,000 copies only) featuring the 124-minute "International Version" (never seen in the U.S.), along with a 138-minute "director's cut", which had been discovered in StudioCanal's archives. The second version was a single-disc version featuring the 124-minute "International Version". The "Director's Cut" DVD was made from the last print known to exist of the cut, which was apparently prepared for release before the film was edited into its various versions. In 2002, Anchor Bay re-issued the 138 minute "Director's Cut" separately.
Material that was cut for the 105-minute version of the film included the Argo City opening, which was originally longer.
Another cut scene is known as the "flying ballet". As Supergirl arrives on Earth, she is surprised to find herself capable of almost anything, especially flying. She can use her super-strength to crack rocks into dust, and use her heat-ray vision to help flowers grow.
Scenes concerning Selena, Bianca, and Nigel were also trimmed. In the U.S. version, Selena's introduction was merely a few lines long when the Omegahedron lands on Earth, and Selena takes it for use of magic. The full introduction establishes Selena as an impatient witch, who is sick of her mentor and lover, Nigel, who is himself, a warlock. Later scenes not seen before the 2000 DVD release from Anchor Bay Entertainment, include Selena using the Omegahedron for the first time, and realizing that she has no control of herself when under its influence. Selena later throws a party for all her followers, and deleted material shows Nigel insulting Selena after being dismissed. Nigel then gets friendly with another party member, on whom Selena pulls a vicious magical prank.
Other scenes involve Linda Lee making a temporary home in the city of Midvale, Illinois, and an extended version of the tractor sequence in which the possessed machine runs amok on the Midvale streets and kills a civilian. Another cut scene shows Supergirl unable to find the Omegahedron because Selena keeps it in a lead box, demonstrating that Supergirl's limitations are similar to those of her cousin. The Phantom Zone scenes are also longer.
The 2006 DVD release by Warner Home Video, whose parent company, Warner Bros., is the current rights holder to the Superman movies, is the International Edition, also called the "European Theatrical Edition".
The original 150 minute version is rumored still to be out there, in the vaults where all the Superman movie elements are (where they found lost footage which was used in Richard Donner's version of Superman II as well.)
Much of the deleted material appeared in DC Comics's one-shot comic book adaptation of the film, primarily the scenes that fleshed out Selena's character.
Broadcast television version
As previously mentioned, the American theatrical cut for Supergirl ran at 105 minutes. Supergirl originally ran at 124 minutes in its European version. HBO, which was unhappy with the pan-and-scan transfer that U.S.A. Home Video had done, ordered distributor TriStar Pictures to create a new pan-and-scan print for its cable showings. After it reached network television in 1987, ABC edited the movie down to 92 minutes. The 92 minute version that aired on ABC would become the version aired in syndication (as well as superstations such as TBS and WGN) by Viacom (as part of a Superman movie package that had included Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace until Warner Bros. took back the rights). Syndicated TV versions, though said to be the 105 minute version, includes the full "flying ballet" sequence from the international version.
The broadcast television version has a scene not seen in either laserdisc edition: After Selena's defeat, Nigel is standing on the street. He bends over to pick up the Coffer of Shadows, now restored to its original, small size and decides to keep it as a memento. In another broadcast-only scene, after Supergirl flies off to return to Argo City, Ethan gets into his truck. He then stops to say goodbye to Lucy and Jimmy. Both scenes can be found in the director's cut.
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- Supergirl at the Internet Movie Database
- Supergirl at AllRovi
- Supergirl at Rotten Tomatoes
- SUPERGIRL the Movie at Supergirl: Maid of Might
- Superman Homepage: Supergirl – Movie Synopsis/Review/Critique
- The Superman Super Site - Super Girl
- Original New York Times review
- 2009 interview with star Helen Slater about the movie