Making the Grades
For nearly 70 years, Superman has been part of American pop culture. What little boy hasn't pasted a super-sized S on his chest or tied a towel around his shoulders and jumped off the couch in an attempt to get airborne? Our own household assortment of Superman figures and paraphernalia attests to the fact that this 1930's comic book crusader for "truth, justice and the American way" still captures the imaginations of children in the new millennium.
This 1978 movie version of the Superman story begins when Jor-El (Marlon Brando) and his wife, Vond-Ah (Maria Schell) realize their planet, Krypton is about to be destroyed. Devising an escape for their infant son, they encase him in a protective pod and send him hurtling through space. Landing on Earth, he is discovered by the Kents (Glenn Ford, Phyllis Thaxter), and given a loving home in Smallville, Kansas. Named Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve), the orphaned alien must hide his extraordinary powers of strength and speed from the local residents while facing the normal challenges of teen life and high school bullies. Only after the death of his adoptive father, does Clark leave the family farm to discover who he really is.
Twelve years later, he returns as the red-caped superhero, taking on the disguise of a Daily Planet news reporter in the bustling city of Metropolis. During his first day on the job, he stumbles into the lovely Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), a fellow journalist who immediately captures his attention. Meanwhile, hundreds of feet beneath the city's pavement, the diabolical Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) hides in his palatial, underground headquarters and refines his plan to increase the real estate value of the Californian desert. Using his Kryptonic powers, Superman must try to avert Luthor's villainous plot while protecting the people of Metropolis.
While the movie includes extended and intense earthquake scenes and one brief shot of childhood nudity, this mild mannered reporter proves once again that you should never judge a man by his glasses. With values like truth, kindness and common courtesy, this enduring superhero is the reason why I just smile to myself, and fold the towels... again.