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Superman (David Wilson) saves the world and especially his hometown
Metropolis pretty much on a daily basis - so why is it then that reporter
Max Mencken (Kenneth Mars) wouold hate Superman?
Because before Superman
came to town, he was the regional bigshot, was even planning on a
political career, and had the affections of fellow girl reporter Lois Lane
(Lesley Ann Warren). Now that Supie's here though, he's nothing but a
second rate writer ...
There is someone else who hates Superman, Doctor
Sedgwick (David Wayne), resident mad scientist of the local university and
10 time Nobel Prize runner-up, who quite simply wants to rule the world to
erradicate Sweden, so he can have his revenge on the land that denied him
With the help of a bunch of gangsters (Harvey Lembeck, Al
Molinaro, Malachi Throne, Lou Wills jr), Max and the Doc make up a cunning
scheme to break Superman, and because he is invulnerable, they decide to
break his spirit: First they let Superman save the city from a deathray
run wild - an easy task for the man of steel. Then they dedicate a wing of
the university to his name, but during the celebrations, they also blow up
City Hall, then see to it that Superman gets the blame for partying and
not doing his job as protector of the city. This throws Superman into an
identity crisis, only deepened by the fact that Doc Sedgwick uses a bit of
psychoanalysis on him - which leaves Superman so devastated he doesn't
even save Lois from being kidnapped, instead tries to drown himself -
which he can't because he has superlungs. Ultimately though, two hippies
(Stuart Goetz, Michael Lembeck) get him back on track, and he saves not
only Lois from an explosion that wrecks the university, but also Mencken
and Sedgwick, who have been tricked by their gangster friends. Superman
throws the gangsters into jail, but since both Mencken and Sedgwick have
suffered partial amnesia as a result of the university explosion, Superman
gives them jobs at his newspaper.
You might not have been able
to tell from my synopsis, but It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman
is a musical - and it should come as common knowledge that superheroes and
musicals don't mix too well (and yes, I'm talking to you, Bono) ... and
bearing that in mind, this film comes off as rather charming, as the
filmmakers haven't made the mistake of taking their source material too
seriously but have thrown in jokes throughout and given the whole thing an
intentionally campy feel - a bit like Adam West's run as Batman
from the 1960's, actually. This of course means that serious comicfans
will hate this film just like they hated West's Batman,
but anybody else with at least a trace of a sense of humour will at least
find something to chuckle about here.
All that said though, It's a
Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman is far from perfect, it's just way
too cheap, meaning it's evading any and all special effects by just having
them represented by panels from the comicbook, the cardboard sets that
look like straight out of comicbooks might be quite charming but they
could have been done better and used better, and at least some of the
actors could have done with a few more singing lessons.
All that said,
the film is still good fun.
By the way, this film is based on
an actual musical that ran on Broadway in 1966 - but audience response was
at best mediocre and it closed after merely 4 months ...