Helen Slater as Supergirl
By Steve Vivona
Anchor Bay, $39.95, Widescreen, Two-Disc Set
As DVD fans wait with breathless anticipation for the original "Superman" and its three sequels to arrive on DVD, they'll have to content themselves with the adventures of his cousin Kara in 1984's "Supergirl." While the film is vastly inferior to the "Superman" films (except perhaps "Superman IV") Anchor Bay has served up an impressive DVD package whose virtues outweigh the film's flaws.
For starters AB has provided both the international 124-minute version as well as the never-before-seen 138-minute director's cut in this 2-disc set. We'll get to the rest of the supplements further down in the review.
With "Superman III" producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind opted to interject a fair amount of comedy into the series with disastrous results. They cast Richard Pryor opposite Christopher Reeve and while his bufoonery made for occasional chuckles it didn't belong in a "Superman" film.
The following year the Salkinds tried their hand at "Supergirl," a character who never came close to achieving the popularity of her Kryptonian cousin, and who would be killed off three years later in the classic DC series, "Crisis on Infinite Earths."
Originally Reeve was set to participate in "Supergirl" but bowed out at the last minute, which changed the whole complexion of the film. The film tells the story of Kal-El's younger cousin Kara (Helen Slater), a resident of Argo City, a surviving remnant of Krypton that exists in "Inner Space." Don't ask.
Amdist their idyllic existence the denizens of Argo City don't seem to do much but ponder the universe and make ridiculous sculptures. Chief artist Zoltar (a befuddled looking Peter O'Toole), an eccentric who Kara admires, unwittingly loses the Omegahedron, a spherical object that sustains Argo City. Faster than you can say "speeding bullet" Kara is on her way to earth to retrieve the Omegahedron. A red-and-blue costume is conveniently available in the ship she uses to travel to her cousin's adopted world.
The sphere falls into the hands of Selena (who would think Faye Dunaway could overact worse than in "Mommie Dearest?"). Selena is little more than a sideshow charlatan who aspires to seize control of the world by harnassing mystical energies (Lex Luthor she ain't!) Selena soon realizes the power of the sphere and sets about her plan of world conquest.
Kara senses the sphere has landed somewhere in the sleepy hamlet of Midvale, where she quickly establishes a secret identity as Linda Lee at a local prep school (thanks to a forged letter of recommendation from a cousin named Kent).
Kara meets Lucy Lane (guess whose cousin she is) and Jimmy Olsen (Marc McLure), the only member of the "Superman" troupe to appear in this film. She soon realizes the sphere has fallen into the wrong hands and Supergirl appears on the scene. Selena reigns havoc on Midvale in her attempts to destroy Supergirl, and Superman's absence is conveniently explained by his being on "a peace-keeping mission in another galaxy."
The rest of the film depicts Selena's attempts to kill Supergirl, a really dopey love interest subplot with lunkhead Hart Bochner, and some cheesy effects, which are only enhanced by the superb quality of this DVD. Of course good triumphs over evil and Kara returns to Argo City with the Omegahedron, still awaiting the sequel.
"Supergirl" is as technically proficient as "Superman I-III" ("IV" was made by schlock-meisters Golan and Globus and it shows!), but the cast simply cannot fill the shoes of Reeve, Hackman and Kidder. The screenplay is held together by a thin thread and filled with contrivances that only serve to move it forward.
Slater is solid in the lead, but she overdoes the fish-out-of water shtick and her Linda Lee persona is not clearly defined enough from her "secret identity." The less said about Dunaway's performance the better. Her career had hit the skids by now and she does nothing but ham and mug for the camera.
Supporting cast members include the completely wasted Peter Cook, the annoying Brenda Vacarro and "blink or you'll miss her" Mia Farrow, as Kara's mother. All obviously were phoning it in for the paycheck.
Having said all that Anchor Bay has really put on an impressive show that makes this DVD a must-have for any "Super" enthusiast. Supergirl historian Scott Michael Bosco appears on a commentary track with director Jeannot Szwarc, and their reflections on the film are more entertaining than their subject!
In addition to the two versions (the director's cut fleshes out already ridiculous characters) there is an impressive 50-minute featurette made at the time of the film's release, the kind of which that anticipates a huge blockbuster. Makes for an interesting curio. My only complaint is not hearing the reflections of Slater, Dunaway, et al, today. A large array of trailers and TV spots are also included as well as a 16-page booklet that reproduces some of the film's pressbook.
Despite the film's flaws I'd still highly recommend this DVD because it provides a wealth of insight into the creation of this flawed but fun film. Anchor Bay's widescreen transfer is terrific with strong vibrant colors. Kudos to Anchor Bay for another sensational effort.