Superman III (1983) (part 3 of 6)

Cut to that night at Clark’s high school reunion in Smallville. A banner outside reads “Class of 1965”, which messes with the original time frame, but I guess it was necessary for director Richard “I worked with the Beatles, remember?” Lester to be able to include the Beatles version of “Roll Over Beethoven” at the party.

Cut to a boozy jerk bragging about his exploits while he stands next to a huge blowup picture of himself in his high school football uniform. He’s Brad Wilson, and he will eventually be Clark’s romantic nemesis. Well, not really, but let’s go with that and get this over with that much quicker.

Various attendees wear those fugly gowns from the early 80’s which seemed to be made from living room curtains. Clark talks to one of his teachers and then spots Lana Lang (played by Annette O’Toole, who can now be seen on the WB’s Smallville. Coincidence?). Lana is wearing a lovely lemon number here, even if it is a little too “old” for her. Clark makes a beeline over to her, and they talk as Lana carries a stack of paper plates on top of a stack of LPs. She hands the paper plates to the DJ, and puts the LPs on the buffet table. Hah! Women!

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Clark mentions he heard Lana and her husband split up. Way to go, Supertactful. She shrugs it off and Brad sloshes his way over to the both of them. He puts his arm around Lana and says, “Remember when you were queen of the prom, and all these guys were waiting in line to get a dance with you? There’s only one guy on your dance card right now, honey!” She grabs Clark’s arm, saying that he already asked her to dance. She drags him out onto the dance floor and Clark does some hopelessly dorky moves. We get it, movie. Sheesh! Thankfully, the Beatles tune ends and “Earth Angel” plays, so he and Lana slow dance.

Back at Webscoe, Gus’ scheme has come to fruition. He receives his paycheck along with a “voucher for expenses.” Tentatively opening the envelope, he sees his misdeeds have earned him $85,789.90 dollars.

The morning after the reunion, Clark helps Lana clean up. It’s interesting to note that O’Toole creates a unique problem by actually giving a good performance here. With everybody else acting like poorly-defined cardboard cutouts trying to out-ham each other, her unaffected manner goes against the rest of the film, since she gives off the appearance of someone actually having put some thought into her character.

Lana talks about how hard it is being a single mother. She says that one winter, she had to pawn off her diamond ring to pay the heating bills, and don’t think this won’t be a plot point later. She’s plucky and enterprising, but she keeps wondering if she should stay in Smallville. In a moment of reflection she tenderly tells Clark, “I don’t know why, I feel like I can talk to you.” Clark says, “What?” See, it’s funny because he has superhearing and he should be able to hear Lana just fine. It’s funny, damn you!

Lana continues to expository about how she married the prom king and “three years after the royal wedding, the king abdicated!” A cheesy line, but O’Toole manages to sell it. I can see why they picked her for Smallville. She gazes longingly at a big blowup picture of Clark and says, “Years later, you can look at someone and think, ‘Well I guess that’s the one who got away’.”

At Webscoe, we see Ross Webster looking at a picture of himself in the newspaper. It’s the same picture Jimmy took of him accepting the “Humanitarian of the Year” award, but when we cut to another angle of Webster we see it’s in the Wall Street Journal [?]. Is Jimmy moonlighting on the side?

Anyway, a crotchety old man informs Webster of the theft of all that money that ended up in Gus’ paycheck, and his sister Vera walks in, incensed. The crotchety guy complains that in the old days, they had books to keep track of the finances, but “now they get those blasted computers to do their dirty work!” Yes, those blasted counting machines that those fiendish whippersnappers use to earn their money to go to the nickelodeon, accursed brigands!

However, Webster is impressed with the thief’s technical wizardry and says, “My old friend, you are yesterday. Whoever pulled this caper is tomorrow!” Yes, he said “caper”. Miss Ambrosia comes in and informs Webster it’s time for his massage. Ew, great mental image there.

Vera is angry at Miss Ambrosia for bursting in and the two get into an unspectacular catfight. Webster tells them to knock it off and wants to know how they’ll catch the crook. Crotchety Guy says they’ll just have to wait until he slips up. Webster doubts he’ll slip up, “unless, of course, he is a complete and utter moron!” Sure enough, he goes to the window just in time to see Gus pull up in his new expensive sport car. I try not to read too much into things, but having Gus be a moron who constantly tries to cheat his employer, and having him be black, too, is more than a little offensive. This is all very puzzling, since Pryor himself did some of the most biting commentary on racism. Maybe by taking these kinds of roles, he was trying to prove a point. Or, then again, while he was a great stand up, maybe it’s just that Pryor couldn’t pick scripts to save his life.

Anyway, while we try to digest this McNugget of comedy we cut to a Smallville bowling alley. A group of kids has split into two teams, and they pick Lana’s son Ricky last. A little ways away, Lana sighs, telling Clark that it’s not only because he’s small for his age, but because he’s growing up without a father.

Brad walks over from the snack bar with a beer in hand. Lana mutters to Clark, “Stewed to his gills in the middle of the afternoon!” Ricky gets up to bowl and throws a total gutterball. Brad goes over and tries to give the kid some pointers, but Clark stands up and insists they should just let Ricky try it himself. As Ricky prepares to throw, Clark trips over an ashtray, causing a cloud of dust that makes him Supersneeze. He turns his face in the direction of Ricky’s ball just as he sneezes, causing it to shoot down the lane and shatter the pins [!!]. Instead of being terrified by the seemingly paranormal abilities of an eight year old boy, Lana and the other kids just cheer. Yay, Superman.

Superman III (1983) (part 3 of 6)

Uhh…

Meanwhile at Webscoe, Gus is told “the boss” wants to see him. Gus says he can see his boss just fine from where he’s sitting, but his coworker clarifies that he means the boss, i.e., Ross Webster. Gus panics as he takes the elevator to Webster’s office and plays with his yo-yo on the way up.

Webster warmly greets him, and says he understands where Gus is coming from. “You want to be rich!” Webster brags about his wealth and that he’s “never worn the same pair of socks twice!” That’s a shame, because if you get yourself a nice pair of wool socks, and wash and wear them enough times, it’s pure bliss for your feet. Especially if you put them in the microwave a few seconds… Okay, yes, I’m stalling.

Webster tells Gus he’s been “naughty”, but that it’s alright, because he needs Gus’ help. Through a variety of companies, Webster owns almost the entire coffee industry in the world, but there’s just one country that wont play ball: Colombia. He wants Gus to destroy Colombia’s crop down to the last coffee bean. Apparently, there’s a weather satellite that, if reprogrammed, can control the weather. Which is baloney, but since when has this movie ever indicated that it gives a damn?

Over at the Daily Planet, the couple who’s won the “Jingo” game are photographed by Jimmy Olsen, now in a leg cast. The husband says it’s the first time he’s won anything, and his wife sourly notes he won her hand in marriage. He then says, “This is the first time I won anything valuable.” Ah the bitter, binding hell-hole that is marriage. Just a wealth of laughs, huh?

Mr. White again chews out Jimmy, saying he was at the biggest chemical fire in history and he returned with “twelve rolls of melted film”. You know, I think the closest Jimmy should ever get to photography is working at the one-hour photomat in a Wal-Mart, but even that may be overshooting his abilities. Anyway, the couple has won a trip to South America. Where in South America? Colombia, to be exact. Oh boy!

Cut back to Gus and Webster. Webster explains that he’s sending Gus to one of Webscoe’s subsidiary companies, that way he’ll leave less of a trail when he reprograms that weather satellite. Then we cut to Gus as he disembarks a bus in downtown Smallville. He briefly bumps into Clark in a dumb bit that’s not worth mentioning. Then Gus walks by a clothing store window, and in one of this film’s few funny moments, he gives a long stare to a baby blue leisure suit. He disgustedly walks away, but then looks back. “Jesus Christ,” he mutters to himself, shaking his head.

Meanwhile, Lana and Clark are having a picnic, and Ricky runs off to play with his dog. Clark takes out several plastic containers and tastes the contents of one. He exclaims, “Great paté!” Lana says that was food for the dog, though what it was doing in the basket with the regular food and packed in a similar plastic container, I don’t know. All in the name of comedy, I guess.

Superman III (1983) (part 3 of 6)

At least he didn’t ask her if she was finished with her chicken.

Anyway, Clark is just about to enjoy some splendor in the grass when he superhears the dog whining. He looks into the wheat field, and with his supersight, he sees Ricky lying on the ground next to a rock. And, wouldn’t you know it, a couple of yards away some threshers are getting closer and closer.

Clark tells Lana he’s going to look for Ricky and runs behind a fence and becomes Superman. He didn’t seem to be sitting all that far from where Ricky fell, but it takes forever for him to get to the kid, probably so that he ends up having to stop the thresher’s blades with his bare hands. He flies Ricky back to Lana and immediately takes off. Ricky wonders where his dog is, and Clark emerges from a nearby drainpipe with the pooch in his arms. Ricky excitedly tells Clark that he met Superman, but Clark plays it cool. He says living in Metropolis, he sees Superman all the time, and Ricky asks if he can get Superman’s autograph.

That night, Gus approaches an office full of computers, and wouldn’t you know it, boozed-up Brad is the security guard. Gus, clad in a blue check blazer and black bolo tie, tries to charm his way in. He then holds up a suitcase full of booze and Brad eagerly lets him in. Um, how would he know Brad is a drunk?

Jessica Ritchey

Born in Western North Carolina, Juniper was discovered in a filthy shack in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains, speaking a made up language to a tattered rag doll, her only companion. Her social skills have improved little in the intervening years. She is currently making flailing efforts at being a freelance writer. One of history’s supreme procrastinators she plans on writing a book about it someday.

Multi-Part Article: Superman III (1983)

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