Movies That Never Were – Christopher Reeves in Superman V

When both Supergirl and Superman III underperformed at the box office Alexander and Ilya Salkind lost interest in producing any more Superman movies (bare in mind that this was before Warner Brothers had consolidated the Superman movie rights in-house).

This led to Golan and Globus of, you guessed it, Cannon Films (see our Spider-Man movies articles for more on them) buying the rights to the Christopher Reeves franchise in 1986. The problem with Cannon was that they wanted a massive budget feel to the film but didn’t have the money to pull it off. An instance in Superman IV is where Superman walks to the United Nations building. Rather than film in New York, at the actual UN Building as both Christopher Reeves and director Furie wanted, they filmed it in an industrial park in Milton Keynes. And it LOOKED like it was shot in Milton Keynes too.

Superman IV writers Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal admitted that even if they’d written the best script ever (and to be fair the script was a lot better than people give it credit for), the cuts in production budget would’ve made it an awful film. Baldock, Hertfordshire, England was used as Smallville. And again it looked it.

The film was 134 minutes long in it’s original cut and following some testing in front of screen audiences 45 minutes was cut from the film. Those 45 minutes will prove important in just a moment…

Suffice to say on release Superman IV The Quest for World Peace was a critical and commerical bomb and lost masses of money. The writers, the director, and even Superman icon Christopher Reeves himself all regretted ever being part of the mess.

However before Superman IV was released Cannon being Cannon had already began planning Superman V as their philosophy was to knock out as many films as possible, as cheaply as possible, in the hope that some of them stuck.

They thought that they could essentially rehash that 45 minutes cut and only need to film 45 minutes of new material. The audience wouldn’t be any the wiser. Thankfully, in this instance, Cannon went bankrupt and the rights reverted back to the Salkins thus saving the world from a truly awful Superman V: The Rehash of The Old.

The Salkinds, on regaining the rights, did move forward with Superman V, which by this point they were calling Superman: The New Movie, and some story details do exist. The story, written by Cary Bates and Mark Jones, had Superman die before resurrecting in the shrunken bottle city of Kandor. (Kandor, in the Superman mythos, was a Kryptonian city shrunk by Braniac and was stored in a bottle. Hence the name.) What’s interesting about this story is that a) it was going to be a big budget send off of Christopher Reeve giving his era of movies the ending they deserved and b) it was the first time Superman dying was considered to be a plot point anywhere as it predated the The Death of Superman storyline by two years.

However, after the Cannon fiasco of Superman IV, interest was soon lost and the film was dead in the water before it ever began.

As a final curious note apparently the missing 45 minutes from Superman IV was destroyed and no version of it survived. There is a community of fans out there searching for it in the hopes of making Superman IV more resemble the original plan for the movie rather than the mess it became.

I still love it though as that was my first big screen superhero movie so there you go.

If you ever see reference to Superman: The New Movie that’s the Salkind version of Superman V.

Next week things will get weird as Warner Brother finally get their hands on the Superman rights and Superman Reborn was the supposed outcome.