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Disc one is the original theatrical presentation, without the extra stuff that was put in for the 2001 expanded edition. It's still a cleaned master, and it still plays just as well as it did when I was a kid.
The commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler is the major presence on this disc, that and the trailer, which is oft-talked about in the multitudinous documentaries. The commentary itself doesn't add too incredibly much to what we already know, it's basically Ilya being nostalgic about the process and what happened making the film. If that's what you like, you'll really enjoy it. I'm more of a "how the heck did they do that?" kind of guy, or I like to pry for little bits of trivia. The only thing offered here that's really great that I'll remember is that the voice on Air Force One talking to the pilots is Chris Reeve. That was neat to know.
I expected them to at least in some way address why Donner was fired, and to touch upon the feelings they had at the time (even if they're gone now), but was disappointed to find the typical "I love everyone, isn't this guy so great?" Hollywood attitude. A missed opportunity there.
Still, Salkind comes off as a nice guy, and it's somewhat entertaining.
As of press here I didn't have the 5.1, but it still sounded great from where I was sitting. I'll watch it again later when I get the replacement disc, which was pretty easy to get on its way.
Donner's commentary is a bit of the same, but there's a lot more humor and insight. You get little bits every now and again that make the commentary more fun and worthwhile, like when Clark and Lois are leaving the Daily Planet and Donner points out that you can see him in the glass, and pointing out the Donner cameo I didn't know was in there. He explains a little more what it was like to work with the actors, what the experience was, and the commentary is a bit more fulfilling. Sadly, the commentaries, both of them, are probably the least cool thing about the first four discs. BUT, that said, I'm hard to please with commentaries, and they were still worth a look.
This disc also has the "music-only" version of the film. I didn't watch the whole thing, but I skipped around to my favorite parts, mostly because there's a lot of dry quiet space, and that's just creepy without the dialogue. I feel like a drunk up late watching the TV with no sound on or something. But the approach to Krypton is incredible (despite lacking "THIS IS NO FANTASY"), as are watching the way Superman's costume and action scenes are cued up. Worth at least a look.
And hey, you can't beat the updated movie with a clean print.
Here's where the real meat of the extras come in. We get three newly designed extra documentaries about a half hour in length each, exploring the development of the film, filming the film, and finally the special effects.
The effects documentary is INCREDIBLE. The other two are quite interesting, but I don't really care too much about how organizing a movie is done, and filming the movie was less entertaining without seeing the special effects.
You see all kinds of things you haven't seen about the film in the documentary, stuff that seems so obvious once you know it's there, but which was seamlessly melded into the original film. There are a TON of tricks revealed here, and this is probably the best extra of the set.
There's a slew of screen tests, which are curious, and they pull out the restored scenes from the new cut and let you see them on their own. Like some of the Star Wars changes, it's odd how much you think was there before and are surprised to find is new. But then, maybe that's because some of it might have been in the TV cuts I saw as a kid? I don't know, but either way, they're neat.
There's a thirty-five minute collection of the new music cues, which is pretty great to listen to in the background while doing something. (Like eating in the middle of a marthon disc examination. Not that I did that. Okay, I did.)
This disc has the "making of" special I think I've seen before (maybe on the old discs?), but it's still neat. It's basically the material from the third disc, only put more in a PR setting, narrated this time by Chris Reeve. It's strewn with clips, which is annoying as you watch it, mostly because you want the extras and they're dwelling on selling the movie to you.
When I was a kid, that was cool by me, because it was the only kind of previews you really got without going to the theater, sans internet. TV specials with little preview scenes. Now, however, it'd just be annoying. And is.
Still, a lot of the new things shown there, behind the scenes stuff, is well worth a look.
Superman and the Mole Men is hilariously bad, and yet funny escapism at the same time. Clark and Lois go to examine a drilling rig that's dug into the center of the Earth, and out pop these short dudes with bald heads who are radioactive. The townsfolk go nuts and start chasing them with guns, threatening to (I kid you not) lynch them up. One gets shot, so Superman takes him to the human hospital...
They try to burn the poor guys, and chase them with dogs. It's very much a Twilight Zone kind of feel, showing the darker side of the Nazi mentality, and as a piece of sentimental work it's quite entertaining.
Less Superman-y, more just a neat story, but Superman pops in once or twice to bend a gun, stop bullets, or fly somewhere. It entertained me, anyway.
And finally, the Fleischer cartoons, which I don't have to really say much about, anyone who's seen them knows how great they are. They're one of the first things I ever insisted my mom pirate as a kid when I first discovered the VCR...and I watched the tape to death.
So far, so truly good. I mean, I pay ten bucks to go see a two hour movie in the theater, this is about ten hours for seventy bucks, so it's already almost paid for the entertainment time, and I still have ten discs to go.
I hate re-issues, and usually refuse to buy them on principle when I've already bought a set, as I have with the Superman movies, but there's so much in these sets I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I didn't get comped this set, I bought it, and that's because of what it's offered me, which so far has been a really great experience. I recommend it.