Rise of a Cult Classic: Fans Demand Extended Cut of Superman's Worst Flop
Christopher Reeve may be hailed as cinema's greatest Superman, but his final outing as the iconic hero was an absolute disaster. But there's an unreleased extended version that fans think might just redeem it.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was the final chapter of Reeve's Superman movies in 1987. It pitted him against archenemy Lex Luthor's newest creation: Nuclear Man.
It grossed $1.3 million less than its $17 million budget and received a 24/100 rating from Metacritic. It's been deemed as one of history's worst superhero movies.
While its direct predecessor Superman III wasn't received as well as the series' first two installments, the fourth was so reviled that it took almost two decades for Superman to grace the big screen once more. Even then, Superman Returns picked up where Superman II left off, completely ignoring the latter two movies.
According to the official Superman Homepage, director Sidney J. Furie cut 45 minutes of Quest for Peace due to poor screenings.
That would have made the film 2 hours and 14 minutes – shorter than the first Superman. Some of the cut footage was small details, but one subplot was big enough that fans think it would have severely improved the final product.
The scene in question involved a prototype of Nuclear Man, one that Lex created before perfecting the design. It would have delved deeper into the creation of the character, an underdeveloped part of the final script.
Mark Pillow, who played the Nuclear Man who made the cut, spoke about the cut footage in 2013. He said that it was "very disappointing" for Clive Mantle, who played Nuclear Man Mark I. He said that when he found out Mantle's scenes were cut, he realized things on set "were not quite right."
Mantle himself spoke about the cut footage at HooFest 2019, saying he barely remembers most of his scenes anyway but he did have a good time working with Reeve and Gene Hackman (Luthor).
Other scenes that were cut – reportedly to save $6 million on the budget – included Clark Kent visiting the graves of his parents and going on a date with Lacy Warfield.
Would 45 cut minutes really have saved a film that was described by the LA Times as "dying before our eyes, collapsing into smash pulp, ground down into big-budget Kryptonite ash"? Probably not. But fans crave it anyway, just for the sake of more footage of the classic version of Superman.