Supergirl DVD Review
by Rupert Brown
Long considered the illegitimate and forgotten stepsister to the Superman franchise, "Supergirl" would seem to have been the last movie to get a special Limited Edition DVD release, and yet it has just that.
Limited to only 50,000 copies, the digitally remastered "Supergirl" DVD release is a two-disc complication.
Widescreen Presentation of the 124 minute International Version of
Never-Before-Seen 138 minute Directors Cut of the film, also in Widescreen Presentation.
This film has had three different "versions". The first, and probably most widely seen (In America anyway) is the U.S. version. Coming in at a Spartan 114 minutes, it is by far the shortest of them all.
When it was first released in the States the film met with mixed to negative reviews, most of which whose problems can be traced back to the horrendous editing that was done in this version. It was this mistake on the studio's part in shortening it for American audiences that left plot holes and other incongruities, which in turn made the movie seem "shoddy". It is this version that has perpetrated the most harm upon the film's enduring legacy. Mercifully it is not present in this DVD release, but it's continuing harm need be noted.
The second version is the International Version, which is what the *rest* of the world (Read: Outside the United States) saw. Coming in at 124 minutes it was much fuller and more textured than its American counterpart. That extra 10 minutes added much needed dialogue and scenes that served to move the plot forward and cleared up seeming "holes" left in the American version. It is by far the more complete of the two, and for the longest time the best we had. That is, until this DVD release.
The third and final version is the Director's Cut, never before seen and thought to be lost until found in the vault of some Englishman marked "Do Not Use". Coming in at whopping 138 minutes, this is the film the director intended us to see. Where the American version butchered the movie, and the International Version made up for some of it, the Director's Cut gives us the whole "unvarnished" look, sometimes quite literally.
DISC ONE REVIEW
Any "Special Release" worth its salt has an Audio Commentary feature, (Or "Mystery Science Theater Mode" as I like to call it) where you learn new and intriguing things about the film that you never knew before. This alone is worth the price of admission in most cases. And this one is no exception.
The commentaries here are by the director of the film, Jeannot Szwarc & Special Project Consultant Scott Michael Bosco.
At the outset it is clear that both are rather uptight and not sure as to how to work with one another. They don't have the fluidity that you might see on other audio commentaries like "Ghostbusters" or "Conan the Barbarian". It's also obvious that they haven't worked together, and that Mr. Bosco was just brought in for this DVD release. He represents the fan's point of view, which despite the initial stiffness is an interesting choice.
Over time they start to loosen up, but it's still somewhat disjointed in that it sounds like one large interview with a guy whose read up and obviously knows a lot about the production of "Supergirl" (Bosco) asking questions of someone who has obviously forgotten much of the movie. In fact, from some comments it is clear that Mr. Szwarc hasn't seen the film in many years, and *never* saw the American Version! It's a bit unsettling to see the "fan" know more about the movie than its own director!
But all that aside, you still learn tid bits of information you may not have known before. Such as Superman having originally been in the script, and only being taken out at the last minute when Christopher Reeve bowed out. In fact, one gets the impression that Superman was to have been a major part of the story, and his absence necessitated rewrites, which in turn made it a "weaker" film.
But even with its "workman like" feel it is still a hoot to hear people comment on the movie as its playing.
"MAKING OF" FEATURETTE
Unlike most "Making Of" specials these days, which are really nothing more than advance PR for whatever film it's promoting, this 45 minute featurette actually shows you footage taken from behind the scenes as they are being shot, and some that never made it into the final cut. (Though there should be a law against seeing Jeannot Szwarc without a shirt on. ;-)
You really *do* see the "making of" this movie. And also unlike its latter day counterparts, this featurette is 45 minutes long as opposed to the standard half-hour you get these days. The sincerity comes through here, even to the extent of seeing the "not so nurturing" side of director.
All in all this featurette was informative, which is the highest praise anyone can give a "making of" special.
A common occurrence in most DVD releases these days is a "Trailer" section where one can see all the various trailers that aired in the theaters promoting the then upcoming movie. "Supergirl" has these in spades.
Not only do you get the Teaser trailer, but you get the full U.S. version as well. In addition to that you also get the International trailer, the U.K. trailer, and the German trailer (Which the German speaking viewers might actually understand!
That's five different trailers, and it really gives you a feel for what elements work for what cultures. (Though should I be the only one disturbed by the constant use of the word "Supergirl" in the German edition? I'm not saying, I'm just saying.)
More than what we are used to and a welcome bonus.
U.S. TV SPOTS
Now this surprised me. It's basically like the trailers only that these are the "previews" you see on the television all the time.
Not only that but you get *three* of them. All different. A 90 second one and two 30 second ones. A very nice touch.
The storyboards, a feature very near and dear to any comic reader's hearts. They are basically comics themselves. Black and white comics drawn to depict how the scene should play out with the actors.
This release gives us an impressive 6 different scenes to choose from, each with multiple storyboards showing how it was to play out originally. Part of the fun (Besides seeing the characters in comics form) is seeing how the final product changed from the storyboards. In some movies the changes are so vast that you can hardly recognize them for being the same production. But in "Supergirl" the movie pretty much stuck with what was put down on the 'boards. Impressive.
In fact, one can actually watch an abbreviated version of the entire movie just by viewing the storyboards. And instead of making you manually click your mouse to essentially "turn the page" the DVD does it for you by presenting the storyboarded scenes as a slide show, showing each board for a set amount of time before going to the next one. The experience is heightened even more by the addition of the soundtrack while you read, the same pieces of music that are present in that particular scene when watched in the movie. Very classy. *Very*.
STILL & POSTER GALLERIES
This section of the DVD is broken down into four different parts: Posters and Artwork, Helen Slater as Supergirl, Color Stills, and Black & White Stills.
Now it's clear this release was intended for DVD players hooked up to TV's, as it is the PC using folks will need to use their pop up menu to navigate from still to still.
But other than that obvious bias, the section holds up fantastically. Lots of great shots of the characters and particular scenes as well as posters put out at the time. Even those in foreign languages.
Now this is where the release falls down some. Only a very skimpy four bios are given. Those for Helen Slater, Peter O'Toole, Faye Dunaway & the director Jeannot Szwarc. A bit of a let down there considering the amount of talent that worked on the feature. Undoubtedly it was added on at the last minute and its haste shows.
While up to date they are few, so one can't really call this section a "fountain of knowledge". But I suppose four is better than none.
DISC TWO REVIEW
The only thing on disc two is the extended Directors Cut of the movie. Clocking in at some 138 minutes it more than justifies its own disc.
Long lost only to be discovered, this disc fills in many "holes" that discerning comicbook fans may otherwise find jilting their viewing experience. A total "scene count" wouldn't be viable in this review, but suffice it to say that it is worth the price of admission alone.
Now, there are some anomalies, but the release is very good about letting you know this right up front before the film starts. At one point the dubbing doesn't match up with their lip movements, but it is only a brief stint and doesn't detract from the viewing pleasure.
WORD TO THE WISE
While this DVD release has much going for it, and it's clear that a lot of effort went into its making, there *are* definite problems with it on a technical level. Two really.
The first, and most minor, is the obvious slant this release has for straight DVD players with remote controls as opposed to PC's. A person using their PC to play this DVD release will need to utilize their pop up menus in order to get to the main title screen and also when going through the production stills.
The second, and most important is that on Disc One, it freezes every time the film reaches a certain point. Watching this on my computer as I was, I rebooted it several times in addition to utilizing at least two different programs to play the DVD, alas to no avail. The glitch was still there.
You *can* get around it by using the Chapter Select feature to skip that particular section and then rewind to just beyond the trouble point and take it from there, but it seems to be an inordinate amount of effort to circumvent a problem that shouldn't even be there. It would appear that in their rush to put it out some bugs were left unfixed, all the more grievous seeing how it is a *limited* edition. If something is to be "exclusive" it should be well made.
This is really an unforgivable error and really "ruins the mood". While the pros for this release are many, this is a very big con.
Regardless (Or because) of the release being limited to only 50,000 copies (Get yours today! They're going fast!) a tremendous amount of work has been done to make this "Collectors Edition" truly worth collecting.
Unlike most DVD releases you do not get one version of the movie but *two*. As mentioned Disc One contains the International Version as well as all the "goodies" one has come to expect from "Collectors Edition" DVD's. Disc Two is solely dedicated to the Directors Cut of the film.
But beware the above mentioned glitch. It may be isolated, but it may not. Buyer beware.
An overall grade is deceptive in this case. Everything is great, but its one flaw is enough to bring it down from a high B to a mediocre "C". It's sad that it had to be a technical detail and not relating to the quality of the presentation. If you can overlook the freezing glitch it really is an excellent release.
All things considered I recommend this DVD release, technical glitches or no technical glitches.
My vote: 6 out of 10
This article is © 2000 Rupert Brown
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