Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve take flight
SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987). Director: Sidney J. Furie. (Based on a story by Christopher Reeve).

The Daily Planet, where Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder of Black Christmas) work as reporters, becomes the casualty of a hostile takeover by a sleazy tabloid king (Sam Wanamaker) and his pretty daughter, Lacy (Mariel Hemingway of Manhattan). In a more significant development, a young boy writes to Superman that he should make the world safe by getting rid of all nuclear missiles. The Man of Steel complies, sending the missiles hurtling into the sun, but then has to face a solar-spawned nightmare in the form of Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), created by the nefarious Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman of The Firm) and his zany nephew, Lenny (Jon Cryer). Upon its initial release, Superman IV was excoriated by fans and critics alike, but it's always been a fun, entertaining movie that truly resembles an eighties (or perhaps a seventies) Superman comic book. Hackman and Cryer dumb down the story, yes, but are not too intrusive, Kidder and Reeve are fine, as always, and Mariel Hemingway scores as Lacy, the "rich bitch" who turns out to have both a brain and a heart. Mark Pillow certainly looks menacing and turns in some highly effective pantomiming as Superman's nuclear adversary. One amusing sequence has Clark/Superman using his speed powers to date Lois and Lacey at the same time. But the highlight of the film is the protracted battle between Superman and Nuclear Man (as well as the magical sequence when Superman takes Lois for a flight). The film's special effects work came in for criticism, which I have always found perplexing, as I find the numerous process shots in the film to be seamlessly done and very striking. Superman once again reveals his true identity to Lois, and once again he hypnotizes her into forgetting it (this is a fine romance!) There are signs of post-production tampering, as the continuity is confusing, and it's never made clear exactly why Nuclear Man kidnaps Lacy at one point. John Williams' score is excellent and there is top-notch cinematography from Ernest Day, including one especially good shot when Nuclear Man spirals his way down into an active volcano. Although this, like the previous films, is supposed to take place in "Metropolis," this is clearly New York City.

Verdict: Great battle and a lot of comic book style fun. ***.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - This is another one I have not seen for years. I remember it was panned by the crititcs at the time, but your review leads me to believe that the years have been kinder to it and that it is a very gun watch. Kidder and Reeve always had wonderful chemistry.
(I also love Kidder in the depalma film Sisters, in which she plays that wonderful dual role.)

Now I want to watch all these Reeve Supermans - are they available as a Blue Ray set yet?

William said...

I imagine that they probably are at this point. The Reeve-Supermans get knocked because they aren't as "serious" as most of the grim comic book movies of today, but taken on their own terms they were eye-popping fun. Kidder always made the perfect Lois Lane.