‘Don’t Worry Darling’ and 19 other films with Rocky Productions

Superman (1978) – Super Rescue Scene (4/10) | Film extracts

Producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind had already had the chance to shoot films in a row. Jheir 1973 Three Musketeers film and its sequel had been a huge hit, so they decided to go this route with Superman, develop and then shoot two films simultaneously to save money. They commissioned a script from Godfather writer Mario Puzo who ran over 500 pages (which would usually be enough for four movies) before finally settling on a director: Richard Donner. There were problems early on, as Donner didn’t like Puzo’s campy, goofy tone and disagreed with the Salkinds regarding the casting :TThey wanted a big name, while Donner thought a lesser-known actor would win over audiences more easily. He brought in Tom Mankiewicz to rewrite the script, pretty much from scratch, before accepting the casting of Christopher Reeve. Thing is, Donner was right about just about everything, but the disputes escalated when the director went over budget and schedule, so the Salkinds basically took the second part of the production (for what would be Superman 2) away from Donner and brought Richard Lester to finish the project, refifilming much of Donner’s work on the second movie to restore some of their favorite campy tone.

After the first film was released to overwhelmingly positive reviews, box office smash and a handful of Oscar nominations, Donner’s view was confirmed, but the second film was already in the works. And this one turned out good too, despite all the problems. The third film, directed by Lester and entirely without Donner, offers a glimpse of what the series as a whole would have looked like had production gone more smoothly. In this case, the drama that resulted from the arrival of a director willing to upset the apple basket was almost certainly worth it.

Where to stream: HBO Max, the Roku channel

Marjorie N. McClure