Superman Extended TV Cut (1978) Movie Review

Title: Superman.
Rated: PG.
Director: Richard Donner.
Story by: Mario Puzo.
Screenplay by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton & Tom Mankiewicz (uncredited).
Release Date: 1978.
Runtime:  188 min (Extended TV Cut).
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama.
Cast: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Margot Kidder, and many more!
Budget: $55,000,000 (estimated).
Gross USA: $134,451,603.
Cumulative Wordlwide Gross: $300,451,603.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.


You can’t help but wonder what makes Superman the iconic hero we all know and refer to in our lives. Is it the way he flies? The way he stands? The costume he wears? The forehead curl? For some, he is Christopher Reeve and no one else, an actor who knew how to embody the klutz and jittery journalist but also the impressive and stage-stealing Superman. His full-hearted performance as the Man of Steel has paved the way to numerous movies that explored the classic superhero’s world and one can only feel reverence for his depiction of this God that shines hope on the lives of people. It was now time for me to revisit the first installment in the Superman series that I was lucky enough to view as kid on television. On top of the theatrical cut (143 minutes) that I couldn’t watch in theaters (I was born yet), a special edition cut known as the director’s cut (151 minutes) was later released as well as an extended TV cut (188 minutes) that I had now decided to revisit to discover all the countless scenes (useful or not) that were shot for one of the most iconic Superman movies of all time.

What is Superman (1978) about? The story follows Clark Kent, a little boy from the planet Krypton who crash landed right into the lives of Jonathan and Martha Kent. As he grows up to become a reporter at the Daily Planet in Metropolis, he also embraces his powers to become the mysteriously heroic Superman. However, the obstacles he faces doesn’t limit themselves to him having to learn the ropes to living among humans while hiding his superpowers, but to also make difficult decisions implicating countless lives. To make matter worse, the criminal mastermind Lex Luthor refuses to allow such a person to bask in glory, glory he dreams to obtain for himself only, and looks to put into play an evil plan that will rid the world of this Superman but also to rise in fame and success through the destruction of land. It is thus up to the Big Blue Boy Scout to find a way to save the innocent lives that are bound to be casualties due to Lex Luthor’s twisted mind.

Superman (1978) - GIF on Imgur

I grew up identifying Christopher Reeve as Superman. His charisma is unrivaled. His smile is hopeful. His core values are honorable. What director Richard Donner achieves with this movie is a complete, engrossing, and tactfully-told origin story that fully depicts Superman’s lore, from the destruction of Krypton to his reveal to the world as the Man of Steel. This cinematic journey follows Clark Kent/Superman’s growth, allowing viewers to vicariously experience his dilemmas and grievances as an extraterrestrial being who only physically looks like humans. Throughout the story, viewers are given the opportunity to watch Clark Kent/Superman learn about his place in this world, the boundaries he must impose on himself, and the purpose of his existence among humans. Although he is challenged on various levels (whether it’s his emotional resilience, his control over feelings of vanity or his superpower limitations), the movie serves as a baptism, an opportunity to establish the extent of one of the world’s greatest heroes’ abilities, especially when pushed to his limits, his place on Earth, as well as his moral and ethical stance.

While Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent/Superman is perfection, the rest of the cast also largely contribute to the success of this movie by offering an original Golden Age depiction of their respective characters. We have Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane who captures the inquisitive and seduced journalist who inadvertently gives Superman countless opportunities to be a superhero but to also discover love. We also have Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor who offers viewers an alluring depiction of one of the greatest criminal mastermind of all time. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by some of the most quirky and odd simpletons (yes, I’m especially looking at Ned Beatty’s Otis) who offer comic relief, however, inviting you to wonder how such a villain could even hang around people like those. I’m guessing it exponentially distorts his God complex. Who wouldn’t stick around such crowds in that case? Anyhow, it is with these central characters that director Richard Donner beautifully establishes Superman on the big screen.

Best Superman 1978 GIFs | Gfycat

It should be noted that with this extended TV cut, the company released it to the public with the sole purpose to make more money for every additional minute aired. It clearly doesn’t reflect director Richard Donner’s vision of the movie. This can be easily noticed throughout the movie, making several sequences awkwardly overdrawn and often completely inefficient in terms of story-telling and pace. Nonetheless, what truly allows this movie to exceed expectations and capture the audience’s attention is its ground-breaking visuals (probably more difficult to appreciate with today’s advanced cinematic technology but still holds its ground) and masterpiece score by John Williams. The truly perfect synchronization between visuals and score allow several scenes to become iconic, always leaving an emotional and unforgettable impression on the audience. If anything, it would be near impossible to finish this movie without the seminal Superman main theme in your head.

Superman (1978) is a classic and beloved origin story for the Man of Steel charmingly delivered through an unparalleled performance by Christopher Reeve, a striking and ethereal score by John Williams, and a passionate direction by Richard Donner.

Superman (1978) is available for purchase and on select streaming services.

Have you read any Superman comics?
Have you seen Superman (1978)? Will you? What did you think about it?
Share your thoughts with me!



37 thoughts on “Superman Extended TV Cut (1978) Movie Review

    1. The Director’s cut is worth watching. It expands on some of the characters, including a great extra scene between Superman and Jor-El, and gives us a bit more action. The TV cut has its fans, but it’s basically an unrefined work print and isn’t worth watching. But I would argue that the Director’s Cut is the better version of the movie.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Great review sir, I’m just glad you’ve seen the other versions of this classic because anyone going into the 3 hour TV cut uninitiated might wonder what the heck the fuss over Donner’s Superman. It was literally an unrefined work print, whilst containing some interesting little pieces there are too many sequences with over-long scenes that needed tightening editorially.

    As for Ned Beatty, watch “Deliverence” and you may have a different view…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Chris. That’s true. Good thing this TV cut is harder to get your hands on. I never had the chance to see it before and thought it’s a cool idea to revisit this cut. I’ll definitely check out the Director’s Cut the next time I do a rewatch but now I’ll move on to the Donner Cut of the 2nd movie next month. It did sadden me to learn that this TV cut of the first movie was only released to make more money instead of respecting the movie’s soul.

      I haven’t seen Deliverance but it sounds fantastic. I’ll add it to my watchlist. I imagine he has a less “comedic” role in it. He was pretty fun in Superman as Otis though. It’s just so funny that a mastermind supervillain would keep such sidekicks around. Definitely not like the Lex Luthor we get nowadays!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Though my first exposure to Superman was through George Reeves, I was so young at the time that when Christopher Reeve came on the scene I quickly re-identified him as “The” Superman. I remember loving all the movies, and likely watched them multiple times. Not sure I’d rewatch them now, so I admire your dedication to doing so, and I’m glad to see you’re enjoying them even when extended beyond what might be best for the story. I do sometimes miss those earlier days when there was a lighter feel to the superheros and not so much need to turn them dark and broody and full of self-loathing. There’s certainly a place for that, too, but it’s refreshing to have these less dark visions once in a while.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I honestly didn’t know about George Reeves till recent years. My first Superman was Christopher Reeve and I don’t think anyone else managed to do better. Sure, Henry Cavill’s physics makes his Superman pretty cool but it’s a modern take and doesn’t have the same charm as Reeve’s Superman. And Reeve’s Clark Kent is just perfect. Exactly how I always conceived the character in any format!

      I’m having fun working my through the remaining DC live-action movies that I haven’t reviewed on my blog. I’m only missing a couple more but since I’m just keeping it at 1 movie review a month, I should be fine for the upcoming months! 😀 I can’t wait to check out Superman II though. Actually, the rest of the Superman saga pre-Nolan is a blur in my memory.

      That’s true. Good thing we can always revisit these for the lighter take on these heroes. I honestly have a hard time imagining them making a more comedy-oriented live-action Batman or Superman anymore. That would be a hard sale.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love all the actors in this.
    Poor Christopher Reeves…
    Hey, be nice to Ned Beatty! Goofy sidekicks need love too!
    There is something about the old school manner of special effects that is charming, and cgi just cannot capture that charm.
    Up, up, and awaaaaaay!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We lost so many great actors from this movie in the past years. It really is sad. Time flies… Hahah I have nothing against Ned Beatty! Otis was a fun addition to the movie. All-around silly! And I agree. The old-school effects, just like in Batman (1966) give this movie its own charm.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The extended TV cut is basically a look at an unedited, unrefined version of the movie. I could see it being interesting for film students, and it does have its fans, but it doesn’t add anything of significance that isn’t already in the Director’s cut. I would recommend the Extended Director’s Cut over the Theatrical Cut though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It indeed is. A huge, unedited, and unrefined cut. It sort of makes some plot elements seem dumb (e.g. when Superman just stares at his solution to saving a town from drowning while Lois drowns in dirt; him basking in glory for countless minutes because of the length of that sequence makes him seem so silly when Lois is dying around the corner). I’d probably revisit the Director’s Cut the next time I rewatch this movie though.


  5. Great review, Lashaan! I haven’t seen it, but I’m pretty sure I would find it very entertaining, and maybe even more entertaining than the “new” versions of this story!

    Liked by 1 person

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