The Magic Behind the Cape (2001)

Video   |    |  Documentary, Short

The Magic Behind the Cape (2001) Poster

The story of the development of the visual effects used in the first Christopher Reeve Superman film.


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Cast & Crew

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Michael Thau


Jonathan Gaines, Michael Thau

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20 October 2004 | Chip_douglas
Verisimilitude, part III (sort of)
After the very interesting look at the making of Superman (The Movie) in 'Taking Flight': The Development of 'Superman' and 'Making 'Superman': Filming the Legend', this final featurette may come as a bit of a disappointment, since it only features technical talk and experimental special effect footage (some of which we already saw in the other features). While the aforementioned parts were really one big documentary that should not have been split up, this one works well enough on its own. Still I'm sure director Michael Thau (who also edited the 2000 Superman The Movie expanded edition) could have found a way to combine all three of them into one big Super-docu-man-tary (excuse the lame pun).

Jimmy Olsen still narrates (but does not reappear) while effects guru Roy Field (who died a year after the release of this DVD) introduces special effect work of Superman, including some "very interesting tests and outtakes". It all feels like one of those old making of specials they used to show on ITV on Bank Holidays, only slightly more technical and boring. We soon miss the input from Richard Donner, Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve that made the earlier features truly special.

You can find nearly everything shown on this docu described on the trivia page for the 1978 Superman, so there is little point mentioning them here. Still it's worthwhile just to see the tests of Brando's disembodied head sprouting wisdom in many different colours and Peter Parks' macro photography of algies used for the space traveling sequence. Naturally the biggest problem facing the effects team was to sell the tagline "You'll believe a man can fly". It turns out they tried everything, including catapulting dummies, wire work and using a turquoise suit used for the blue screen shots (complete with special fluttering device under the remote control cape). We also get some trippy tests for Brando and Susanna York's death scene on a turntable and a totally psychedelic powerloss effect for part II. By strange coincidence, many of the (less far out) effect shots mentioned here were left out of the theatrical release but reinserted on this expanded DVD release.

6 out of 10

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