Superman III (1983) (part 4 of 6)

In the next scene, Gus is wearing a giant foam cowboy hat. [?] He’s feeding shots to Brad and complaining that “You never do pass out!” Brad says, “Nope!” and then passes out. I understand comedy is supposed to be the reversal of expectations, but it falters a little when we can see it coming several hundred miles away.

Superman III (1983) (part 4 of 6)

God, nothing is funnier than a giant foam cowboy hat.

Gus quickly gets about his business, telling the unconscious Brad that he fooled him. Gus claims he only pretended to be drunk, then he drunkenly staggers into the back room. It hurts so much, I can only frantically claw at my eyes in an attempt to end my misery.

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Gus tries to power up a computer, but two keys must be inserted at the same time for this to happen and the two keyholes are too far apart for him to reach both. Rather than just move one of the machines closer, he drags a still sleeping Brad into the room, then uses his well-established yo-yo to yank on Brad’s wrist and insert the key at the right moment.

Three sheets to the wind, he begins to type. At some unidentified location, a reel to reel unit begins to run, thus beginning a classical music-accompanied assault on the senses. Gus struggles to type in the correct commands, and then we cut to the hilarity [sic] caused by his drunken mistakes.

On a random city street, we see a guy make a withdrawal from an ATM, but the machine keeps giving him cash. At a random home, we see a couple having breakfast and the husband opens up a bill from Bloomingdale’s. It says the wife spent $176,784.50. He realizes it’s obviously a mistake and calls the billing department to straighten everything out. Oh, I’m sorry, actually he calmly puts down the bill and smashes half a grapefruit into his wife’s face. As James Cagney flops around in his grave, the viewer is left to wonder who thought spousal abuse was the next wave in comedy. Also, the viewer is left to wonder why it’s suddenly daytime, even though Gus clearly began his hacking activities at night.

Finally, at a city crosswalk, the walk/don’t walk signs go haywire and everyone walks and drives at the same time. This causes them all to immediately stop and get into fistfights with each other. Actually, this part I can believe. As the sign blinks walk, don’t walk, the two figures in the sign become animated and begin to fight with each other [??]. So I guess the execs who greenlighted this movie weren’t the only ones on drugs.

Superman III (1983) (part 4 of 6)

I’ll have some of what the screenwriter was smoking.

Cut to Colombia, where the Jingo-winning couple (who, like several other tertiary characters in this movie, are never given names) are gawking at a church in a village. And this might just be my cynicism talking, but “Colombia” seems less like a lush tropic country, and more like a threadbare, poorly disguised set. The wife happily cries, “A native wedding!” and these ugliest of Americans go into the church and point and stare at a traditional Catholic ceremony. Suddenly, thunder and lightning shake the church, and there’s the inevitable shot of wind blowing out the church candles. Then, chunks of plaster fall from the ceiling and onto our unlucky pair.

After viewing various stock footage tempests, we cut to a TV where an anchor for “MBS News” is describing the damage caused by this freak storm. Webster hears the broadcast and begins laughing. We see that he and Vera and Miss Ambrosia are lounging around on his own personal ski slope that’s been built on top of a skyscraper. And, believe me, the matte painting is even worse than that description.

Webster is pleased with how Gus manipulated the weather, but Vera has bigger plans. She asks what’s the one thing people can’t live without. Miss Ambrosia volunteers, “Diet soda?” This earns her a dirty look from Vera. No, as it turns out, people can’t live without oil, so that will be Webster’s next big takeover.

Gus enters and begins to explain it’s not his fault that Superman showed up in Colombia and undid all the damage. Webster is shocked to hear this, and Gus does a grotesque minstrel show, barely getting the words out as he describes how Superman flew in and twisted around a typhoon and dried up all the coffee berries. As he talks, we’re shown clips of Superman’s heroics, and let’s just say Superman was being very, very budget conscious that day.

Webster fumes that he’s been foiled again and wonders if there is any way to stop Superman. Miss Ambrosia immediately says, “Kryptonite!” but she catches herself, since she’s supposed to be a ditz and all. She drawls, “Or Kryptonham? Or Kryptoheimer?” Webster tells Gus to program that same satellite to go where Krypton used to be, then scan the area and transmit the exact chemical composition of Kryptonite back to earth. Well, that satellite sure is the Swiss Army knife of spacecraft, isn’t it? And I’m sure that the NOAA won’t be all that concerned that one of its weather satellites is leaving orbit.

Gus, predictably, has decided to put on skis for no real reason and walk halfway up the slope. He begins to voice reservations about the Kryptonite plan, when ruh-roh! He can’t ski. He rockets down the hill, goes over the edge, and plummets several stories. Landing on a sloped roof, he shoots down into the middle of the street where he comes to a stop, completely unscathed. This film has gone beyond insulting my intelligence and onto insulting the intelligence of any future children I may have.

Superman III (1983) (part 4 of 6)

“And it’s deep, tooooooooooooooo!!”

That night, Gus waits by a computer while the satellite scans the remains of Krypton. I guess the satellite just got there instantly, since it’s not like we learned in the first movie that it takes several years to get to Krypton. A computer then spits out the formula for Kryptonite. It turns out to be made up of several known elements, but is 0.57 percent “unknown”. Gus looks at his pack of cigarettes, and sees “low tar” printed on the side. Figuring what the hell, he changes the unknown element to “tar”. Oh, come on. Go look at the periodic table of elements and tell me if you see “tar” on there.

The next day at the Daily Planet, Clark gets a call from Lana. Ricky seems to have given his friends the idea that not only will he get Superman’s autograph, but Superman himself will make an appearance in Smallville. Clark assures Lana that Superman will be there. She’s ecstatic and says Superman will “get the best home cooked meal he’s had in a long time!” And that’s not all he’ll be gettin’, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, the Jingo couple barge into Mr. White’s office and threaten to sue because of the massive storm that hit during their trip to Colombia. He insists the Planet isn’t liable since it was an “act of God.” The wife says, “In a church?” Er, what better place?

Then we cut to Webscoe, where a lab technician brings a tray of Kryptonite to Gus. Okay, it’s not really “Kryptonite”, because it’s made with tar instead of that unknown element. So, I guess it’s sort of like the Kryptonite version of “Krab”. Let’s just call it “Cryptonite”. Gus gingerly picks up the Cryptonite, then laughs, saying, “What the hell I’m afraid for? I’m from Earth!”

Cut to Smallville, where a crowd is gathered for Superman’s appearance. The mayor gets up to give a speech and presents the key to the city to Superman. I imagine that with the number of locales he’s saved, Superman must have a king’s ransom in keys. It would be hilarious to see him whip out his Superkeychain, that thing must weigh a ton. Okay, it’s not that amusing. Okay, maybe I just found it funny. Oh, like this movie is any better, shut up.

Suddenly, Gus and Vera ride up in a jeep, both disguised in military uniforms. Gus takes the stage and gives a nonsensical speech about how Superman saved the chemical factory and how chemicals and plastics are the key to the country’s economy. He then presents the Cryptonite to Superman. You know, for an object that looks exactly like the substance that can kill him, Superman’s surprisingly non-reticent about taking it.

Gus leaves and he and Vera watch from a distance, trying to see if the Cryptonite has had the desired effect. Seeing that Superman is showing no signs of dying, they get discouraged and leave. Gus gets on a payphone trying to explain this to Webster, but Webster won’t hear it. “I ask you to kill Superman,” Webster says, “And you’re telling me you couldn’t even do that one simple thing!” Then he drops his phone receiver on the floor [?].

At Lana’s house, Superman looks over a photo album. They sit down to talk, and Superman asks why a pretty girl like Lana hasn’t found someone. Lana is little put off by Superjerk’s come-ons and leaves to take a call. She rushes back in, saying there’s been an accident. A neighbor told her that a sixteen-wheeler is dangling over a bridge, with the driver trapped inside. Superman, however, just stands there, saying there’s no rush because he always gets there in time. There is a wonderful moment of silence here, as Lana grows increasingly uncomfortable, and we see they’ve done a subtle job on Reeve’s makeup to make him look more sinister.

Superman suddenly comes to his senses and hurries out, but he’s too late. The truck plummets into the water, presumably killing the driver, just moments before Superman shows up. The rescue workers tell him he blew it and now he’s got a Superguilt-trip to deal with. Oh well, it’s not like we saw in the first movie that he has the power to turn back time or anything. I guess he saves that little trick for women he’s got the hots for.

Next, we find ourselves in Italy, or rather, we see two men standing in front of the crappiest green screen effect of Italy I’ve ever seen. Now, any Italian-American who complains that The Sopranos is the worst kind of stereotyping hasn’t seen this film. The two men are standing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and one gentleman is speaking and singing in gibberish Italian, and we see he runs a kiosk selling miniatures of the Leaning Tower. Superman flies up and straightens the Tower, causing the man to curse and smash one of his miniatures and give Superman an obscene gesture. And so begins Superman’s desultory reign of terror.

Vera reads all about it in Time magazine as a radio reports that a record number of countries have decided to censure Superman, with only Colombia abstaining. Hah! Webster has figured out that the Cryptonite turned Superman evil, and with him out of the picture, they can now get onto controlling the world’s oil.

At the Olympic Games, Superman blows out the torch carrying the Olympic flame just as the runner reaches the cauldron. He then Supersmirks and flies off. Not to be a critic or anything, but this is rather tame bullying considering the extent of his powers. Maybe the Cryptonite has turned him into a Supereighth-grader.

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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