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Anchor Bay presents
Supergirl (1984)

"I am set on nothing less than world domination."
- Selina (Faye Dunaway)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: October 09, 2000

Stars: Faye Dunaway, Helen Slater, Peter O'Toole
Other Stars: Brenda Vaccaro, Peter Cook, Simon Ward, Marc McClure, Hart Bochner, Maureen Teefy, Mia Farrow
Director: Jeannot Szwarc

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 02h:04m:32s
Release Date: August 08, 2000
UPC: 013131110999
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+A-A- A

DVD Review

Producer Alexander Salkind had been responsible for bringing the comic book world's most famous superhero to the screen in 1978 with the first of the Superman series, which garnered considerable aclaim, and was generally well received by audiences. However, when Supergirl was first released in 1984, it was pretty much panned by critics who had grown used to the Superman series. However, it is argued that much of the cause of these reviews was the 24 minutes cut from its original US release, which removed a good deal of development of the main characters. In true Anchor Bay style, it was a perfect candidate for an ultra special release, complete with not only a new THX-approved anamorphic transfer and 5.1 sound mix, but a complete second cut of the film (the never before seen director's cut), plus a wealth of extras. Since this was my first experience with Supergirl, and knowing the opinions held of the film, I wasn't expecting much. While I wouldn't go so far as to say I have discovered a new classic, I would say that the film is certainly not as bad as I had been led to believe, and if you can accept some of the cheese factor involved, it is very enjoyable.

The film starts out in inner space, in the city of Argos, where the remaining Kryptonites have fled. The city, a utopian society run by a brilliant artist named Zoltar (Peter O'Toole), is powered by the Omegahedron, which is the only thing holding this world together. When a freak accident expels the Omegahedron from the city, Kara (Helen Slater in her first film role), the girl responsible, sets off through a transportation device, and winds up on earth donning her trademark blue and red suit. Alas, the Omegahedron has also reached earth and is now in the hands of Serina, an apprentice witch, who has dreams of world domination. Recognizing the power of the Omegahedron, yet unable to fully control it, she begins her plot to take over the world, much to the chagrin of her mentor, a teacher at the local girls' school, and practicing warlock, Nigel (Peter Cook). Serina camps out in an old amusement park with her sidekick Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro), and sets forth with her scheming.

Meanwhile, after an encounter with a couple of rough characters, Kara realises prancing about in her leotard isn't the best idea, as she is quickly recognized as Superman's cousin. Transforming herself into less conspicuous attire and adopting the earth name Linda Lee, she infiltrates the girls' school and is introduced to her new roommate, Lucy Lane, sister of the infamous Lois. Miss Lee is trying to be inconspicuous as a student, but still manages to use some of her powers to thwart a prank on her grass hockey team, and vexes the math professor with her on-the-fly three dimensional calculating skills. However, she can sense when the Omegahedron is being used, and is drawn to the amusement park where Serina is busy trying to cast a love spell on a young gardener, which backfires, of course, when he falls in love with Linda instead. Since hell hath no fury like Serina scorned, the battle lines are drawn and Linda/Supergirl must fight Serina's powers and win back the Omegahedron.

The tone of this film is very different from the Superman flicks, which may have been part of the reason why it was panned so badly on its original release. The flying sequences are almost dainty by design, and some of the major action sequences do play out more like Saturday morning TV than a serious motion picture. Still, if one can accept the premise, the film does have its redeeming qualities, and is a fun little romp into the world of the feminine side of Krypton's most famous family. Helen Slater does a decent job playing the naïve young girl from inner space, and Faye Dunaway is worthy as her psycho witch nemesis. Peter O'Toole is interesting as Zoltar, and there are brief appearances by Mia Farrow and Marc Mclure (reprising his role from the Superman films as Jimmy Olson). Incidentally, Christopher Reeve was originally scripted to appear as cousin Superman, but he backed out at the last minute, causing several scenes to be rewritten to provide the family link, which ends up being only a poster. The cheese factor is definitely in place, but this is Supergirl, what did you expect?

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 2.35:1 image on both cuts of the film is well represented with only minimal source flaws. Film grain is rendered well, and colors are vibrant without oversaturation. The international cut is THX approved. The only downside to the presentation is that due to the clarity of the DVD, some of the effects shots are more obvious with the added resolution.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The theatrical version features a new 5.1 mix, which, unlike many remixes, actually enhances the presentation. While there is not a whole lot of directional information, the soundtrack is nicely enveloping. The extended cut features its original mono presentation, and is an interesting contrast to the 5.1 version. Both are free of any distractions in the audio quality, and Jerry Goldsmith's score is well rendered.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
4 Original Trailer(s)
4 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Jeannot Szwarc, consultant Scott Michael Bosco
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. 138-minute director's cut
  2. Still and poster gallery
  3. THX Optimode calibration
Extras Review: A 138-minute director's cut of Supergirl

What sets the limited edition (50,000 copies) apart from the regular release is the original 138-minute director's cut, which was discovered in a series of tins marked "do not use". This version is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 with a mono soundtrack, and makes a very interesting companion piece for the international version. Since this is the first time this version has ever been released, it makes for an opportunity to discover the film for the first time, again. This feature is exclusive to the second disc in the set.

Making Of Supergirl

There is a 58m:50s documentary covering the making of Supergirl, and this is actually pretty cool. It covers production from Helen Slater's casting and screen test to her being told she got the part, through shooting the film. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew cut in. We get to see how the flying sequences were achieved, many of the other special effects shots being created, and gain some insight into the philosophy behind the production.

Still Galleries

Broken into four sections, stills cover the posters and artwork for the film; a series on Helen Slater as Supergirl; a set of color stills and finally, a black and white set. There is a good range of subjects here and an extensive number of shots.

There are also cast bios and filmographies for Slater, Faye Dunaway, Peter O'Toole and director Jeannot Szwarc. There is also a commentary track with Szwarc and the disc's project consultant Scott Michael Bosco, who periodically questions Szwarc about different aspects of the filmaking process.

Trailers/TV spots/Storyboards

The disc also includes a number of trailers, all presented in anamorphic mode: teaser, international and US trailers (1.85:1), UK trailer (2.35:1) and a German trailer (1.33:1)—plus one 90-second and two 30-second US television spots. The six original storyboard segments are presented in montage fashion, set to Jerry Goldsmith's score. The disc also has the THX Optimode calibration tools present. A 16-page insert that contains a pair of essays from Scott Michael Bosco, in addition to poster art, a cast overview and several items from the film's original promotional materials.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

When this film was announced for DVD, some wondered why it deserved a release at all, yet alone a deluxe special edition. I think that revisiting the title in this presentation, especially with the expanded version, allows a fresh viewpoint to the picture. And while I would hardly classify it as a cinematic masterpiece, it is an interesting film, and pretty fun to watch. The supplements add a lot to the presentation, and Anchor Bay has done an extremely good job of giving the film a definitive release, as I don't know what else I could have asked for on this DVD. Love it or hate it, this disc gives viewers a chance to rediscover the film, and learn a lot about its production in the process.

This disc should also be a template for the type of treatment similar, smaller films should receive in a DVD release. While they may not be blockbusters, a disc like this will to go a long way to gaining the film a new audience, and it will certainly make fans of the film extremely happy.


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