Superman III

Superman III

name =Superman III

caption =Original movie poster.
website = | amg_id =1:47871
imdb_id =0086393
writer =Screenplay:
David Newman
Leslie Newman
Comic Book:
Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
starring =Christopher Reeve
Richard Pryor
Jackie Cooper
Marc McClure
Annette O'Toole
Annie Ross
Pamela Stephenson
Robert Vaughn
Margot Kidder
music = Ken Thorne
John Williams
cinematography =Robert Paynter
editing =John Victor-Smith
director =Richard Lester
producer =Ilya Salkind
Pierre Spengler
distributor =Warner Bros.
released =June 17, 1983
runtime = 125 min.
country = UK
language =English
budget = $39,000,000
preceded_by = "Superman II"
followed_by = "Supergirl" ""

"Superman III" is a 1983 superhero film that was the third of five movies in the Superman film series based upon the long-running DC Comics superhero produced from 1978 to 2006.

Christopher Reeve, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure and Margot Kidder are joined by new cast members Annette O'Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Robert Vaughn and Richard Pryor. The film was the last Reeve/Superman film produced by Alexander Salkind and Ilya Salkind. It was followed by "Supergirl" (produced by the Salkinds) in 1984 and the non-Salkind produced sequel "" in 1987.

The film was less successful than the first two Superman movies, both financially and critically, but was still the fifth highest grossing film of 1983. Many fans of the series complained that there was too much emphasis on a comedic storyline, the main villains were not as strong as other villains in the franchise, and that Christopher Reeve essentially was put behind Richard PryorFact|date=August 2008] in the cast. Following the release of this movie Pryor signed a deal with Columbia Pictures worth $40,000,000. [ [ BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Comedian Richard Pryor dead at 65 ] ]

Series producer Ilya Salkind originally wrote a treatment for this film that included Brainiac, Mister Mxyzptlk and Supergirl, but Warner Bros. did not like it. [Ilya Salkind commentary, "Superman III" DVD, 2006 version] The treatment was released online in 2007. [ [ - s3_original_idea.pdf] ]


In this third installment, the unemployed Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) discovers a knack for computer programming. After embezzling large amounts of money from the company payroll (through a technique known as salami slicing), Gorman is brought to the attention of his employer, Ross Webster. Webster (Vaughn), a wealthy man who runs a large conglomerate called Webscoe Industries, is obsessed with the computer's potential in aiding him in his schemes for world domination. Joined by his sister Vera and his "psychic nutritionist" Lorelei Ambrosia, Webster blackmails Gorman into helping him.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent has convinced his newspaper to allow him to return to Smallville for his high school reunion. In Smallville, Clark is reunited with childhood friend Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole). Lana is now a divorcee with a young son named Ricky (Paul Kaethler). Clark and Lana begin to share affection for each other, though Lana's former boyfriend Brad (Gavan O'Herlihy), Clark's childhood bully and now an alcoholic security guard, is still vying for her attention.

In Metropolis, Webster attempts to monopolize the world's coffee crop. Infuriated by Colombia's refusal to do business with him, he orders Gorman to command an American weather satellite, Vulcan, to create a hurricane to decimate the nation's entire coffee supply. He is prevented when Superman flies into the eye of the hurricane, neutralizing it and saving the year's harvest. Perceiving Superman as a threat to his plans, Webster then orders Gorman to use his computer knowledge to create synthetic Kryptonite, remembering Lois Lane's Daily Planet interview from "Superman", during which Superman identified it as his only weakness. Gus creates the synthetic Kryptonite, but replaces an unidentifiable element in the process with tar.

Lana convinces Superman to make a personal appearance at her son's birthday party, but changes it into a celebration of himself. Gus and Vera, disguised as an Army general and a WAC officer, give Superman the chunk of kryptonite as a gift, and are dismayed to see that it appears to have no effect on him. However, the compound begins to produce symptoms: Superman becomes selfish, which causes him to delay in rescuing a truck driver from his jackknifed rig and to question his own self-worth. As the Kryptonite takes effect, Superman becomes depressed, angry, and casually destructive, committing petty acts of vandalism such as blowing out the Olympic torch and straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Ross, seeing this, creates new plans and orders a supercomputer to be built.

Superman sullenly assuages his depression with a drinking binge, but is overcome by guilt and undergoes a nervous breakdown. After nearly crash-landing in a junkyard, he splits into two personas: the evil, selfish Superman and the moral, righteous Clark Kent. The evil Superman and Clark Kent, the embodiment of Superman's remaining good qualities, engage in an epic battle. Although Clark is initially overpowered by his alter ego, he eventually takes the upper hand, feverishly strangling his evil identity until it fades from sight. Thereafter he is restored to his benevolent former self.

After defending himself from an MX missile, he does battle with Gorman's supercomputer, which, after attempting to suffocate him, severely weakens the Man of Steel with a ray of real Kryptonite. Gorman, guilt-ridden and horrified by the prospect of "going down in history as the man who killed Superman", manages to destroy the deadly weapon with a firefighter's axe, whereupon Superman flees. The computer begins to malfunction by becoming self-aware, defending itself against Gus, and draining power from nearby electrical towers, causing massive blackouts. Ross and Lorelei are able to escape from the control room, but Vera is pulled into the main entrance of the computer and transformed into a cyborg. Empowered by the supercomputer, Vera attacks her brother and Lorelei with beams of energy, which weaken and immobilize them.

Superman returns with a small vial of acid derived from a chemical plant; the intense heat emitted by the supercomputer causes the acid to turn volatile, destroying the machine and turning Vera back to normal. Superman flies away with Gus, leaving Webster and his cronies to face the authorities. After dropping Gus off at a West Virginia coal mine, where he gives him a job reference, Superman returns to Metropolis and reunites with Lana Lang, who has decided to relocate to the big city and finds employment as Perry White's new secretary. Flying away into outer space, he smiles to indicate that all is well.


*Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent / Superman: After discovering his roots and origins from his native planet Krypton, he sets himself to fulfill his destiny and help those on Earth. After beating former arch enemy Lex Luthor twice, Superman meets a new villain: Ross Webster, who is determined to control the world's coffee and oil supply.
*Richard Pryor as Gus Gorman: A bumbling computer genius who is forced to work for Ross Webster and destroy Superman.
*Robert Vaughn as Ross Webster: A villainous multimillionaire who is the head of his company. After failing to take over the world's coffee supply when Superman stopped him, Ross is determined to destroy the Man of Steel before he can stop his plan to control the world's oil supply.
*Annette O'Toole as Lana Lang: Clark's old high school sweetheart who reconciles with Clark after seeing him again during their High school reunion.
*Annie Ross as Vera Webster: Ross' sister and partner, both in his corporation and villainous plans.
*Pamela Stephenson as Lorelei Ambrosia: Ross' assistant and sweetheart. Lorelei acts unintelligent to fool people but is in fact quite smart, outwitting both Ross and Vera multiple times.
*Margot Kidder as Lois Lane: A reporter at "The Daily Planet" who has a long history with both Clark Kent and Superman through the first two films in the series.
*Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen: A photographer for "The Daily Planet".
*Jackie Cooper as Perry White: The head of "The Daily Planet".


"Superman III" was released on June 17, 1983 with a running time of 125 minutes. An extended cut was first shown on ABC in 1986 with an extra 16 minutes of added footage (thus, making the running time 141 minutes). Just like with the previous two Superman movies, the television edition of "Superman III" was produced by Alexander Salkind's company. Until recently, this version had been distributed in American television syndication as part of Viacom's Superman syndication package which also features "Supergirl" and "" (full rights have since reverted to Warner Bros). In the United Kingdom, the extended version has been shown about two or three times in the late 1980s.

The film was recut by several fans in 2007 and released online as "The Definitive Smallville Cut", [ [ Superman III: The Definitive Smallville Cut] ] removing much of the overbearing humour and adding alternative scenes and endings derived from "Superman II" and "".


Box office

The total domestic box office gross (not adjusted for inflation) for "Superman III" was $59,950,623. [ [ > Business] ] Thus, it was considered a major financial disappointment, since the first two movies each grossed over $100 million domestically. Despite a considerably poor feedback from the critics and the American audience themselves, hence the usage of the word domestic, the film was highly successful in international territories, much like the "Supergirl" film the next year. In fact, the film still became one of the highest grossing films of 1983. What also likely hurt the box office performance was the fact that "Superman III" was released during the same year of other sequels and very high profile movies, such as the sequel "", the James Bond sequels: "Octopussy" and "Never Say Never Again" and "Jaws 3-D".

In July 1983, ITV showed the Royal Premiere of "Superman III". This show included interviews with actors in the film, who had flown to London for the United Kingdom and European premiere. Some clips from the film were shown, including where Superman is flying Gus to the coal mine and explaining how he used the acid to destroy the supercomputer, thus revealing the ending of the film.

Critical reaction

A frequent criticism of "Superman III" was the inclusion of comedian Richard Pryor. Pryor, who initially came to fame in the 1970s as a profane observational comedian, had a string of hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s such as "Stir Crazy" and "The Toy" (directed by Richard Donner). After an appearance by Pryor on "The Tonight Show",cite web | title=The Superman Super Site - Superman III | url= | accessdate = 2008-01-10] telling Johnny Carson how much he enjoyed seeing "Superman II", the Salkinds were eager to cast him in a prominent role in the third film. [ [ Verdict on Superman III] , Accessed August 6, 2006.]

Audiences also saw Robert Vaughn's villainous Ross Webster as an uninspired fill-in for Lex Luthor.cite web | author=Wallace Harrington and Michael George O'Connor | title=Superman III - Film Review | url= | accessdate = 2008-01-10] Gene Hackman, along with Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), were angry with the way the Salkinds treated "Superman" director Richard Donner, with Hackman retaliating by refusing to reprise the role of Lex Luthor entirelycite web | title=The Superman Super Site - Superman II | url= | accessdate = 2008-01-10] (though he would later be persuaded to come back for "" in 1987, with which the Salkinds had no connection). After Margot Kidder publicly criticized the Salkinds for their treatment of Donner, the producers "punished" the actress by reducing her role in "Superman III" to a brief cameo. [ [ Article on Superman III] , Accessed August 7, 2006.]

In his commentary for the 2006 DVD release of "Superman III", Ilya Salkind denied any ill will between Margot Kidder and his production team and refuted the claim her part was cut for retaliation. Instead, he said, the creative team decided to pursue a different direction for a love interest for Superman, believing the Lois & Clark relationship had been played out in the first two films (but could be revisited in the future). With the choice to give a more prominent role to Lana Lang, Lois' part was reduced for story reasons. Salkind also denied the reports about Gene Hackman being upset with him, stating that Hackman didn't return due to prior commitments.

Fans of the Superman series also placed a great deal of the blame on director Richard Lester. Richard Lester made a number of popular comedies in the 1960s - including The Beatles' classic "A Hard Day's Night" - before being hired by the Salkinds in the 1970s for their successful "Three Musketeers" series, as well as "Superman II". Lester broke tradition by having "Superman III" open with a prolonged slapstick sequence with difficult-to-read titles (the first two movies opened up in outer space with big and bold credits). "Superman III" is commonly seen as more or less a goofy (albeit uneven) farce rather than a grand adventure picture like the first two movies.

On Richard Lester's direction of "Superman III", Christopher Reeve stated: [ [ Biography for Christopher Reeve - Personal Quotes] ]

The film's screenplay, by David and Leslie Newman, was also criticized. When Richard Donner was hired to direct the first two films, he found the Newmans' scripts so distasteful that he hired Tom Mankiewicz for heavy rewrites. Since Donner and Mankiewicz were no longer attached to the franchise, the Salkinds were finally able to bring their "vision" of "Superman" to the screen and once again hired the Newmans for writing duties.

Film critic Leonard Maltin said of "Superman III" that it was an "appalling sequel that trashed everything that Superman was about for the sake of cheap laughs and a co-starring role for Richard Pryor."

Despite such harsh criticisms, "Superman III" was praised for Reeve's performance of a corrupted version of the Man of Steel, particularly the spectacular junkyard battle between this newly-darkened Superman and Clark Kent. One of the film's few good reviews was from the fiction writer Donald Barthelme, who praised Reeve as "perfect" and described Vaughn as "essentially playing William Buckley - all those delicious ponderings, popping of the eyes, licking of the corner of the mouth." [citation |last=Barthelme |first=Donald |authorlink=Donald Barthelme |title=Not-Knowing: the essays and interviews |publisher=Vintage International |location=New York |date=1997 |pp=129-130 |isbn=0679741208]

Even in present times, "Superman III" is not well received by critics. At Rotten Tomatoes, only 23% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 40 reviews.cite web|url=|title=Superman III|publisher=Rotten Tomatoes|accessdate=2008-07-25]


As with the previous sequel, the musical score was composed and conducted by Ken Thorne, using the Superman theme and most other themes from the first film composed by John Williams, but this time around there is more original music by Thorne than the Williams re-arrangements. To capitalize on the popularity of synthesizer pop, Giorgio Moroder was hired to create songs for the film (though interestingly enough, their use in the film is minimal).

A video game for "Superman III" was planned for the Atari 5200 [ [ Atari 5200 – Atari – 1983 - Superman III] ] but was never released. The game (perhaps intended to be like "Missile Command") would've been loosely based on the plotline for "Superman III".

References to "Superman III"

*The computer program that Gus Gorman created, which took the fractions of cents left over from financial transactions and interest compounding and transferred them to a dummy account has been one of the most referenced aspects in popular culture. In the 1999 film "Office Space", the characters use the same computer program and mention how "they did it in "Superman III" and claim it's "an underrated movie, actually". However, the "concept" of what Gorman's program did had been around for some years before then.

*The salami slicing scam was also used in the "" episode "Confusion at the North End".

*An animated version of Brad Wilson appeared in "Superman Adventures" #26 and #33. Like the movie, he antagonized Clark in their teen years. In issue #33, he attempts to prove that Clark is Superman, only to be convinced that Lex Luthor might be the Man of Steel (with help from Batman). The issue ends with Brad accepting a job at WayneTech Industries (courtesy of a request by Clark).


External links

* []
*imdb title|id=0086393|title=Superman III
*rotten-tomatoes|id=Superman_iii|title = Superman III

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