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The Development Hell of the Cannon/Salkind Universe Sequel

Article by Rennie Cowan

     Like many other Superman movie ideas that ended up in development hell, SUPERMAN V was being planned as early as 1988 by Cannon Films. They once again would have been responsible for the story, production values and a possible release date for the summer of 1989. A screenplay was never written for this idea by Canon, but Superman V would have taken advantage of much of the 45 minutes stripped from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Yes, Superman IV is a shorter movie than it would have been if it was not for a screen test that happened in Orange County, California prior to its' release. You can watch a good majority of this cut footage on the released Superman IV Deluxe DVD available for purchase on

     The original cut of Superman IV was well over 2 hours, so for quite some time never-before-seen footage could have been recycled and inserted into a new cut of a Superman V - at least this was what Cannon was hoping for. This would have made Superman IV look like the better movie of course; Cannon Films appeared to have no respect for the previous Salkind produced Superman films in terms of the flying effects. For those who were familiar with Cannon's reputation this was no surprise. Cannon was prone to cutting corners and cheapening production values in any way possible to save money. Christiopher Reeve's sole reason for doing Superman IV was because Cannon promised him involvement with writing the story and to star in another unrelated movie called Street Smart. Oddly enough, to this day, Street Smart has the better reputation in terms of quality. Ilya Salkind actually told me once that this poor Mr. Reeve went into this movie with this high expectation but only Street Smart appeared to have any recognition as it started Morgan Freeman's acting career.  

     Of the 45-40 minutes of footage that was cut from Superman IVonly about 30 minutes of it was placed onto the latest Superman IV release known as The Deluxe Edition as extra material. For years fans believed the footage was completely destroyed, and they blamed theSuperman IV Editor for that one, but apparently a work print was found. Splicing pen marks could be seen on the footage added with campy temp music and unfinished FX. But - all the footage was found according to an official press release by Warner Brothers preceding the Deluxe Edition release. Fans of this film, or rather, fans of Reeve's Superman incarnation are still hoping for an extended cut by WB, one that will re-incorporate all the extra footage.

     One scene from Superman IV in particular would definitely have been used by Cannon for their Superman V sequel - it was a battle scene between Superman and Nuclear Man #1 (not Mark Pillow) which had been reported as costing Cannon $4-6 million dollars to shoot. The high price tag is a rumor, but more than likely all the extra money went to Golan-Globus Productions' 1987 release of Masters of the Universe. And what a let down that was. 

     When one watches the car-crushing scene on the Superman IV Deluxe Edition DVD, it is exciting how Superman and Nuclear Man #1 get into a pushing war. Literally. The scene doesn't look cheap by any measure, as they continue to smash the cars against one another. This scene gave Reeve hope, but one of the most expensive scenes of this movie was unfortunately scratched, and then, almost lost forever. The campy temp music lessons the value on the Deluxe Edition. And if you are not a big, big fan you might actually believe that was the real music used in Superman IV.      


Just above is the box for the 'Superman IV' Deluxe Edition which contains the extra 30 minutes of the cut footage from 'Superman IV'. 

     Judging by the production value in the car-crushing scene and the storyboards of this particular sequence, this car battle was, by all means, the best scene of any of the cut footage of Superman IV besides the last car scene with Clark and Lacy (no action in that one, just good intimacy). If the car crushing sequence had been kept in the final cut of Superman IV, it could well have been the most stunning battle of the movie. It might have even challenged the super-fight seen in Superman II

     Be careful not to confuse Superman V with Superman Rebornwhich was the sequel Ilya Salkind wanted to produce with Christopher Reeve. If interested, you only need to do a google search to find and read the full script to Superman Reborn. The script was written by comic book verterans Mark Jones and Cary Bates with story by Ilya Salkind. Cannon Films wanted to do Superman V first, with the bastardized left over footage from Superman IV. Later, the Salkinds made a moveto do their own sequel to Superman IV. Reeve would have done it according to Ilya Salkind. For Reeve, doing another Superman film with the Salkinds would have been the "saving grace" for his character's plight on the defunct world peace negotiationsHowever, due to the results of the test screening for Superman IV, Cannon's plans for Superman V would have been very different.

     Superman IV's test screening was conducted in Orange County, California, completely uncut. Reviews from that audience caused some major editing changes. Many believe those changes left important sequences on the cutting room floor. For example, what happened to Jeremy after he met Superman at the World Leader's Summit? The Editor of Superman IV, John Shirley, was told to destroy the master print of the 134 minute complete cut of 'Superman IV' (with all that extra footage). So that was the story and for a very long time, 45 minutes of the movie was believed to be NON-EXISTENT. As in GONE. FOREVER. There are still scenes that the fans have not seen from the cut footage, like the Metro Club scene (where Clark and Lacy are inside the club). It is up to Warner Brothers when these additional scenes will be released.  

     It is believed that the 45 minutes stripped from the picture was indeed destroyed until theSuperman IV Deluxe Edition was released by WB. There are a few fans today who believe the cut footage, if used in Superman IV, could have made the film better (even into an epic piece perhaps), one that would have matched Donner's Superman: The Movie. Donner, don't move over yet. Superman IV has grown a small fan-base of followers over the years because of the alternate style and edgy story/characters in the picture, despite the controversy over the FX problems. To these loyal fans, only a few of FX shots were messy. 

     Nevertheless, Superman IV was a failure at the box-office. Was it because the Salkinds didn't produce it? Many blame the editing for the failure; many blame the strikingly different and inferior FX work. Cannon certainly didn't have the budget to market this film properly, and if they did they used the money for their marketing on other films, not on Superman. Christopher Reeve eventually chose not to do a Superman V with Cannon. He felt it would not capture the spirit of the original as a blockbuster epic. And despite what he felt was wrong in Superman III, the Salkinds now were the far better choice. 

     And if we thought Cannon was bold back then, they went even further. A replacement was necessary for the reluctant and increasingly expensive Christopher Reeve. Cannon Films thought of using a different actor to continue the series, but eventually the idea was ditched all together and Cannon moved on from the project (and their company was eventually dissolved). And that left the Superman franchise once again into the hands of some old friends...Alexander and Ilya Salkind.

     The Salkinds gained back the rights to the Man of Steel; Cannon had an option for a limited time only and this gave the Salkinds some extra money but with a sour taste in their mouths. In their wisdom, Ilya Salkind wanted to bring Superman back with Christopher Reeve who was always the first choice, above all other actors. It was like Reeve was only glove that ever fit. Ilya Salkind actually had a lunch meeting with Christopher Reeve around 1991. To his memory, it was a wonderful lunch and Reeve took the idea seriously. According to Ilya Salkind in the interview On The Pool Patio With Ilya Salkind: "Reeve would have done it.". This was, according to Ilya Salkind, the last time he ever saw Reeve walking. And so what was left - Superboy, the TV Series. Ilya Salkind was already working in television with Superboy. He thought of his new and ever increasingly successful Superboy series which premiered in Northern America on October of 1988. But, according to Ilya in the documentary On The Pool Patio With Ilya Salkind Warner Brothers sabotaged both the Superboy seriesandSuperman Reborn. Leaving a scar on the Superman franchise. And this left the Salkinds out - for good.   

     Of course, the idea and rumor began to abound that a new Superman movie could be made from Gerard Christopher's portrayal as Superboy to Superman. The idea had been thrown around, according to Ilya Salkind from the same Pool Patio documentary Directed and Produced by myself. According to comic book movie sources, the film would have been calledSUPERMAN: THE NEW MOVIE. Though Ilya Salkind denies that Gerard Christopher was in the list of guys to play Superman (Gerard was too short, only 6 foot, according to Ilya), the rumor was that the new movie would star none other than Gerard Christopher, the star of theSuperboy franchise. The media and the hype, or what not to believe, Gerard would be an all new Superman, but not such an unfamiliar face. News on the development of this picture was sparse. It appeared to drag more feet than Lex Luthor had kryptonite to throw at Superman. One thing was intriguing--if the rumors had any truth to it then it would have finally married two popular, traditional Superman DC mythos and characters--Superboy and Superman! Much like the Silver Age of DC Comics, Superboy and Superman would be in the same universe.

     The Superboy TV Series ended the popular era of the Salkind Universe. The lack of script approvals for Superboy episodesby DC Comics made it difficult to continue. And as a result, Superboy was killed off faster than Lex Luthor ever could have done it. In 1993, WB completely regained the rights back to the Superman franchise, plus their lot of characters with only a new war over rights issues with the Shusters and heirs of the original Superman creators. The Salkinds were out for the long run. But WB spent over $50 million on the development costs to finally release Superman Returns. And 12 years later without a sequel. The character of course will live on forever, as do all powerful myths of the imagination.   



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