'Supergirl' ('84) BD & DVD International & Director's Cuts: Saga of Kal-El Shows Everything's Relative
The Warner Archive July 24, 2018 Blu-ray release of the international cut of "Supergirl" (1984) that includes the director's cut on a separate DVD offers a good chance to glimpse in the mind of a film reviewer. Class acts focus on fairness and keeping expectations in check when evaluating Hollywood fare.
As a starting point, the incredible track record of Archive regarding both titles and quality of remasters is even better when it comes to releases tied into San Diego Comic Con. The must-see (reviewed) 2017 Blu-ray of "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" is a prime example of this trend that sets the bar a bit high for "Supergirl."
The bigger picture (pun intended) is that "Supergirl" rides the coat-tails of the phenomenal (reviewed) 1978 "Superman" movie that is the cornerstone of the Man of Steel film franchise of that era. This connection creates its own expectations regarding "Supergirl."
A combined aspect of the above is the exceptional (reviewed) Archive October 27, 2017 Blu-ray of the extended cut of "Superman." This release is desert island worthy.
The purpose of this lengthy prelude to a review is to provide proper perspective regarding the Archive release of "Supergirl," which tells the tale of the first earth-based adventure of Kal-El younger cousin Kara.
As mentioned above, the Archive release provides a Sophie's choice regarding whether to watch the international cut (which adds roughly 15 minutes to the 1 hour and 45 minute theatrical version) or the director's cut that adds roughly 15 minutes to the international cut. The main reason for choosing the director's cut is to see the film as the maker intends. The sad truth is that one can see the reasons for the theatrical version presumably cutting down some sequences.
The overall narrative of "Supergirl" is solid and the largely A-List cast plays its parts well, but the devil mostly is in the limited production values that literally pale in comparison to those of "Superman." This is obvious from the start in that the advanced civilization of the survivors of the destruction of Krypton in "Superman" does not look nearly as grand as the pre-apocalypse Krypton in "Superman." A similar flaw runs throughout "Supergirl" in that the effects either are a direct rehash of those in the earlier film or are the caliber of a sweeps-month made-for-TV movie, rather than a major feature film.
The trouble begins when wizard Zaltar (Peter O'Toole) "borrows" an orb that is equivalent to the Zed Point Module (ZPM) of "Stargate" lore in that it helps power the "Atlantis" in which mot of the last sons and daughters of Krypton reside. Kara subsequently taking a bite of this apple leads to it hurtling into space before landing on earth. A self-imposed exile from her Garden of Eden ends here in contrast to Zaltar voluntarily being cast out to a much less pleasant location.
The effort of Kara to put right what once went wrong leads to her donning the dual alter egos of the titular heroine and mild-mannered prep, school girl Linda Lee rooming with Los Lane wild child younger sister Lucy. Rather than copying her cousin in donning identity-concealing eyewear, Kara changes her hair color to prevent folks from suspecting that Linda Lee and Supergirl are the same person.
The quest of Kara also puts her on the radar of apprentice with Selena (Faye Dunaway), who is much more Wicked Witch of the West than Sabrina. Master warlock Nigel (Peter Cook) also being a teacher at the aforementioned "kids' jail" provides another connection.
In the grand tradition of comic book villains, Dunaway channels her portrayal of Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest" to steal all her scenes ala Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in "Superman." The only disappointment is Selena never orders dim-witted henchwoman Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro), who is the equivalent of the Ned Beatty character in "Superman," to bring her the axe.
The similarities between Luthor and Selena extend to having cool lairs. The literal funhouse of Selena is just as awesome as the subterranean headquarters of Luthor. A difference between the two nemeses of the Kryptonian cousins is that the justice that is imposed on Selena is much more apt than the punishment of Luthor.
Girl power similar to "Xanadu" of the same era (and of the '60s fantasycoms "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Bewitched") enters in the form of hunky but not-so-bright landscaper/love interest Ethan (Hart Bochner). Much of the film has Supergirl either trying to prevent Selena from capturing this stud or rescuing him from her clutches. The moderate bondage regarding this contributes an element of fun.
The special features include the theatrical trailer and a vintage 49-minute Dunaway-hosted making-of special that bring the band back together to discuss the film.
The good news regarding all this is that 2018 being in the eras of reboots and super hero films provides hopes for a remake that does one of the few female members of the DCU proud. Warner Prime certainly has the deep pockets and artistic talent to make it so.
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