Souped-Up Superman

Be sure to read our uncut, web-exclusive interview with Richard Donner.

Life rarely gives you a chance to go back and improve on something that you've done. This used to be especially true of the mov ies, where eco nom ic pressures and the audience's fond mem ories of favorite films combined to en sure that the version you saw during the first release would be the only one you'd ever see. But DVD is changing that, giving directors a chance not only to restore versions the studios had altered but even to rework their films and bring them up to date. One of the best examples is 1978's Superman: The Movie, which hasn't just been spruced up, but taken to a whole new level for its DVD release.

A perfect mix of miracle-performing Christ figure and boy next door, Superman was the first superhero, and he remains the most popular. Gaining worldwide success with the first comic books in 1938 and the newspaper strips that followed, the Man of Steel went on to spawn a radio show, a series of Dave and Max Fleisch er cartoons in the '40s, the George Reeves Superman movies and TV series in the '50s, four movies with Christopher Reeve in the '70s and '80s, and TV's Lois & Clark in the '90s. A new Superman film is now in the works.

Superman: The Movie was the most commercially successful of the superhero's many incarnations, grossing more than $134 million in U.S. theaters. (By comparison, Star Wars, which was still in its first run at the time, made close to $323 million, while Close Encounters of the Third Kind raked in about $128 million.) But the movie's res onance goes well beyond its appeal as escapist fun. Just con-

sider the way people reacted to the crippling blow dealt Christopher Reeve. Would they have found his accident as upsetting if he had become famous playing Sherlock Holmes, or even Batman?

The movie's popularity hasn't faded over time. One of Warner Home Video's most requested titles, the company was anxious to prepare the film for DVD. So director Richard Donner and DVD producer Mich ael Thau set out with a team of dedicated scientists on a quest to create an experience that would make the version people first saw in theaters pale by comparison.