Mar 7, 2018
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) (part 4 of 12)
Cut to lanky Clark lanking his way into the offices of the Daily Planet, where boss Perry White (once again played by Jackie Cooper), yells at Clark for being late. Yeah, see, uh, boss, I was saving a subway train full of people, and um… Actually, forget that one. I tried that excuse once, and believe me, that dog won’t hunt.
Clark notices the rest of Daily Planet staff has crowded into a conference room, where an old Stuffy McRichbanker type is flipping through the Planet and randomly tossing out adjectives like, “Boring! Tedious!” and “Abominable!” But is it “common-place“?
Clark sits besides Lois and asks what’s going on. Oddly, she, Perry, and Jimmy Olsen are the only ones sitting at the table. Everyone else is just silently loitering in the background. Wonder why. In a joke that’s too subtle to be picked up without the help of subtitles, Lois sarcastically says, “Regardez, voila monsieur David Warfield!” (See? She’s learning French! It’s hilarious!)
Yes! David Warfield! The “tycoon who owns all those sleazy tabloids,” as Clark helpfully super-expositionizes.
“Au contraire, mon ami,” Lois says slyly. “Who owns all those sleazy tabloids…” and then both Lois and Jimmy say in unison, “And the Daily Planet!” Well, this is satire at its finest, isn’t it? I think you’ll truly be missing out if I don’t pause to explain the joke.
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These days, we know Rupert Murdoch as an all-encompassing, worldwide, media mogul, the devoutly right-wing newspaper magnate who bought 20th Century Fox, created BSkyB and the Fox TV network, and founded cable TV’s one and only conservative mouthpiece, the Fox News Channel. But back in the ’80s, he was mostly famous for buying up newspapers like The News of the World and The New York Post and turning them into sensationalist tabloids. So that’s the joke here, essentially: Rupert Murdoch has bought up the Daily Planet. And he’s about to transform it into the same kind of conservative rag as the other papers in News Corp’s armada.
And just think, this movie was made long before the advent of Fox News. One can only imagine the thrashing Reeve would have given Murdoch had this movie been made today. Not that it’d be entirely undeserved.
Warfield is still leafing through the paper, and he again pronounces it “tedious”. If he uses “ghastly” next, then that means his vocabulary is exactly as rich as Simon Cowell’s. Perry yells, “Don’t tell me you only read the pictures!” Read the pictures? This awkward phrasing allows Warfield to come back with, “I only read the ledger.” Oooh, deep tissue burn. He declares that he bought the Planet “out from under” the previous owners, because the paper hasn’t been profitable in years. Huh. Guess all those exclusive interviews with Superman can only carry you so far.
A young woman sitting next to him stiffly declares that “the name of the game is making money!” Wow, who would have thought a story developed by Christopher Reeve would be chock full of scheming big business types who put profit above all else?
And the woman turns out to be played by Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest. She’s wearing an old favorite here at the Agony Booth, Big Giant Sally Jesse Raphael Glasses! Seriously, what was up with big SJR Glasses back in the ’80s? Even Clark is kind of wearing them. She’s also wearing a glittery blouse with pointy shoulders, but I already know what’s up with that. It’s 1987, after all. Anyway, boo hiss, capitalism, and then Warfield introduces Mariel as his daughter, Lacy Warfield.
Clark, continuing his role of a boy scout with a glandular problem, stands up and says how nice it is to meet her. But he’s only doing this because he’s a gentleman. If he were actually hitting on her, he’d have a much smoother line like, “Golly, would you like to go shop together at LensCrafters sometime?”
Warfield explains that Lacy will be helping design the Planet’s new layout, and Perry, wearing some pretty huge glasses of his own, is outraged. Lacy holds up a “mock copy”, which, predictably, carries a loud blaring headline about a summit, along with a picture of a topless girl. Oh, satire. It’s a delicate art, really. “The suit’s not right here [?],” she says, “But obviously we can change that!” No idea what she’s talking about.
Clark clears his throat and stands, pointing out that “the world isn’t really on the brink” and suggests the headline “SUMMIT KAPUT!” might be somewhat “irresponsible”. Warfield concedes that point, but says that regardless, it will “sell a hell of a lot of newspapers!”
Perry blows a fuse, refusing to let him turn the “grand old lady” that is the Daily Planet into “one of your bimbos”. Lacy counters that “Daddy” now owns “all of your contracts, which you will have to honor!” To demonstrate, Warfield holds up several sheets of big legal paper, all folded and wrapped up with red ribbons [??]. Okay, what is that, Perry White’s high school diploma?
Lois declares, “Excusez-moi, your spoiled-ness,” and number one, enough with the French, because we get it already. Number two, I guess the “your spoiled-ness” part is supposed to be spoken under her breath, even though she says it just as loudly as the rest of her line. Maybe she suffers from Voice Immodulation Disorder. Anyway, she announces that she has a plane to catch to Paris. And, um, didn’t she learn anything from Superman II, when she was trapped under an elevator in the Eiffel Tower and almost blown up by terrorists?
Lacy stiffly declares that “All trips are canceled!” (She stiffly declares just about all of her lines, by the way.) There’s no explanation for this, other than the Warfields’ innate, inherent eeeeeevil-ness, of course. Warfield demands to see Perry’s “books”. He then yells at “everyone” to “get back to work!” Now, is that any way to win friends and influence people?
Clark, the dork that he is, says, “Lois, I don’t think we’re being treated fairly! I’m going to speak to Miss Warfield!” He is not going to pay a lot for this muffler!
They both go up to her, and she takes off her Big SJR Glasses. Oddly, they’re both still able to recognize her. And all Clark does is make a dumb speech, something about how a “reporter’s first allegiance has to be to the truth,” and then he walks out. Something tells me this tirade will be about as effective as his little speech encouraging people to ride the subway again.
Lois and Lacy walk out, and Lacy asks, “Is he for real?” Sadly, we’ve all been wondering that for years. Lois gives her glowing assessment of Clark, and Lacy guesses Lois has “a thing for him”, and calls Clark “kind of cute”. Lois just scoffs at all of this, calling Clark the “oldest living boy scout”, and saying he has cooties and he wouldn’t like Lacy anyway, and whatever else she can come up with to throw Lacy off the scent.
Lacy laughs. “All men like me! I’m very, very rich!” Well, they’re certainly not after your ability to emote, or talk like a normal human being.
In Perry’s office, Clark is suddenly in there too, with new boss Warfield going over the “books”. Oh, those crazy books. You never know what kind of creative accounting they might hold! Just ask the folks at Cannon.
Warfield, for no real reason, other than to give us this lame joke that’s coming up, asks Clark why he has “no air travel expenses”. Clark fobs this off on easily getting “airsick”, yuk yuk! Let the good times roll! But even if he didn’t fly between assignments, he would still have to incur some kind of transportation costs, no? Wait, silly, dumb joke, no reason to spend as much time as I already have on it.
Perry calls Lois in to look at some random plot contrivance, then Jimmy runs in to say the President is on TV, then Lacy enters for no good reason, and thankfully, our entire main cast is now assembled in one room to witness the same important speech. Warfield hopes the President’s announcement will be “very terrible”, that way they can “double our circulation!” Call me crazy, but I think he’s supposed to be a money-grubbing sleaze bag.
Anyway, the President, who is definitely not E.G. Marshall like in Superman II, declares the “summit has failed”, and says the United States must now be “second to none in the nuclear arms race!” Wow, what… mildly disappointing news. Instead, I think he should have shouted, “Summit kaput!” The guy playing the President, Robert Beatty, also played Ronald Reagan in a TV movie that came out that same year, so no need to wonder what they were going for here.
Cut to a school classroom. Kids of roughly junior high age sit at their desks, looking glum as they, too, watch the President’s speech. Just as the President is about to really lay a massive bummer on everybody, the kids’ Hot Teacher stands up and shuts off the TV. She addresses the class, keenly noticing they’re all “upset” because of “the crisis”. Hope you’re not expecting a detailed explanation of this “crisis”, or really, any sort of insightful tidbit about the political climate of this movie. That would take a much finer brush than these screenwriters are capable of painting with.
The teacher wants her kids to “think positively” and come up with things they can do about The Crisis. She throws out the suggestion of writing to their congressman. Sadly, they’re in Tom Delay’s district, so I don’t see them getting very far with that approach. Oh, and for those of you who think random beakers of multi-colored fluids are strictly the domain of sci-fi B-movies, I encourage you to look to your right.
She turns her attention to one mop-headed kid striking the very picture of daydreaming, head in hand, staring pensively out the window, the whole bit. She calls on him. “Jeremy?” And another kid says, “He doesn’t even know what’s goin’ on!” If she’s referring to the current political situation in this movie, then I must admit, neither do I.
Jeremy turns angrily to the class and stands up. Oh no. Is he the “Jeremy” from that Pearl Jam song? Because this does not bode well for his continued survival. In his obligatory Bad Child Actor voice, he spits out, “I tell you who I’d write a letter to that would do some good!” It’s entirely possible the direction here was “emphasize every fourth word”. It’s also entirely possible that he sucks.
A voice off-screen laughs, “Who? Santa Claus?” Yeah, I mean. Tell me when he gets his sweaty ass unstuck from the Florida sand, then maybe we can talk about him resolving an international crisis. “No!” Jeremy yells, open hand outstretched, “Superman!” Hey, that’s, a, um, great idea? Because I’m sure Superman hasn’t heard about the situation? You’re right, Jeremy, we should totally clue him in!
Yes, I know the inspiration behind this plot point is probably Samantha Smith, the little girl who wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov, and then got invited to the visit the Soviet Union. And yeah, she touched off a lot of publicity, and it was a heartwarming story and all, but in the final analysis, it’s doubtful that her letter really accomplished much of anything. If only the letter soon to be written by our friend Jeremy here would accomplish just as much.
We immediately cut to a museum somewhere, and they’re running a Superman exhibit. Included is a ten-foot plaster Superman sculpture. And it seems the sculptor paid an amazing attention to detail—perhaps an unhealthy attention to detail—because here, Superman has what can only be described as, well, an enormous package. Either that, or we just found out where he keeps the rocket ship he came to earth in.
A tour guide is leading a group through the exhibit, and she does her plot point duty by explaining that Superman has “graciously donated a strand of his hair to the museum.” The hair is in a glass case, currently supporting a 1000-pound weight. How do we know it’s a 1000-pound weight? Why, because it’s a giant silver ball with “1000 lbs” painted across the front. Subtlety in action!
The guide explains that Superman donated the hair “so we can all have the fun of seeing how strong he really is!” Well, let me be the first to say, wheeeeeee. And you can barely see it behind all the pointy shoulder pads and perms, but there’s a Daily Planet headline on the wall that reads “FIRE DESTROYS CHEMICAL FACTORY”, and describing how Superman saved the day. Oh, you guys. Inserting your clever references to Superman III. (Actually, the headline’s probably just a coincidence, and not at all tied to anything in III, but just let me have this moment, okay?)
There are two guys in the back of the tour group who look somewhat familiar. Can you guess who they might be? The tour guide says the museum is about to close, and gets the group to hustle out. Those same two familiar gentlemen hang back and hide behind a flower bush, and yes, it’s Lex and Lenny Luthor. And this time, both of them are in gaudy clothes. It’s double the blinding fun! They both cruise across a catwalk in hideous plaid pants, while Lex explains what he can do with that strand of Superman’s hair.
Lenny guesses he could “make a toupee that flies”, and uh, what? That makes no sense. A toupee made from a single hair? Lex wisely ignores this comment, and explains that the hair contains Superman’s “genetic material”.
Showing that our current, real-world president is not the only man with an odd speech affectation, Lex says that if he used “enough nucular [sic] power to mutate the genes”, he could create “a being who’s more powerful than” Superman, and yet has “total allegiance” to Luthor. I’m not sure how that all works, but it doesn’t matter, because we’re obviously trapped in the dreaded quagmire of a “comic book movie”, where nothing has to make a damn lick of sense. Fortunately, nothing does make a lick of sense. So it really works out great for everybody. Except for the people who actually paid to see this movie.
Lenny hands over his trusty bolt cutters. Lex uses them to smash the display case and chop out the hair, sending that 1,000-pound weight crashing down to the floor. Hmm. Would you really be able to cut a hair that supported 1,000 pounds with a bolt cutter? And can you really cut the hair of Superman with bolt cutters? The guy is supposed to be indestructible, after all.
And, okay, it took me a couple of viewings, but I just now realized something. When the weight drops, it naturally leaves a big hole in the floor of the display case. But the big circular hole actually appears before Lex snips the weight loose. He smashes the case, an alarm sounds, a big circular hole opens up, and then the weight crashes down through that hole. Lest you think I’m being nitpicky, the hole is there for at least fifteen seconds before Lex snips the weight loose.
Back at the Daily Planet, Lacy is just hanging out in Perry White’s office. She spies Clark waking past, so she puts her legs up on the desk, while a sensual sax wafts through the scene. Then she decides this is not quite The Sexy enough, so she gets up on the desk [!] to show off her legs. Helpfully, Clark has magically backed up several feet between shots, and is now passing by the office again.
He enters and eyeballs her gams, while she tells him about a new idea she has for a series of stories called “Metropolis After Hours”. At that could almost be the title of the song we’re hearing right now. It’s like sluttiness now has its own theme music.
Lacy goes to a cabinet and pulls out a poster-sized sheet of glossy paper—sadly, it looks like somebody just casually tossed it in there—and shows it to Clark. We can only guess as to what’s printed on it, because they were apparently too lazy to insert a shot from the opposite angle.
Lacy says Clark would be “perfect” for Metropolis After Hours, which I’m guessing is a series of articles profiling Metropolis’ hot night spots. Yep, a 6’5″ dork in a three-piece suit. He’ll blend right in. She uses this as a segue to start coming onto him, and practically putting her knee in his crotch as she pulls at his glasses and suggests he try contacts. He says, “They make my eyes itch!” and quickly puts his glasses back on. I don’t know. With all the stupidity on display so far, would anyone recognize him as Superman even if he did take off his glasses?
Lacy wants to work together with Clark on the story, starting tonight at “the opening of the Metro Club”, which must be Metropolis’ premier nightclub for straight men who get manicures. Lacy says, “It’s a date!” This causes dorky Clark to immediately jump up and hit his knee on her desk. And if you want to amuse yourself (and lord knows anybody watching this is desperately in need of that) just imagine he’s really hitting his boner on the desk when you hear that thump on the soundtrack.
Lois is at the door. “A date?” Wow, was she eavesdropping? That’s so unlike her.
And here, she’s actually wearing a man’s business shirt, with the collar popped up, and a loose tie around her neck, almost like she’s an over the hill Charlie girl. You know, so far I’ve tried to avoid picking on how old Margot Kidder looks here, but… man, the nine or so years since the first Superman movie really were not kind to her. Especially when Christopher Reeve looks almost the same age in this movie as he did in the first. It seems Margot really hit a wall after the last film. I mean literally hit a wall. Like, walked right into it.
Lois says she received a letter for Superman that’s addressed to her. Lacy is all, “Superman gets mail here?” Yeah, I mean? What, is he paying us rent? Lois tells Clark “it’s more than a fan letter”, and for some reason, asks him to read it. Hey, now. Who said it was okay to read Superman’s mail?
Anyway, no surprise, it’s from Jeremy SpokeInClassToday. Talking about how “unhappy” he and his hot teacher are about the “arms race”. Clark reads aloud: “I said we should get Superman to rid the world of nuclear arms, cuz… only he could do it!” Jeremy says he doesn’t care if the other kids laugh at him: “Once you’ve destroyed all the nuclear missiles in the world, they’ll see I was right!” And then I’m gonna kick them all in the nuts and take their lunch money! And stomp on their stupid faces! I’ll show them who doesn’t know what’s goin’ on!
Clark continues to read: “Superman can make sure we don’t blow ourselves up, quick and easy!” Clark gets a big ol’ lump in his throat as he reads, and I’m proud of Christopher Reeve for being able to sell this, but c’mon. The way he’s getting choked up, he might as well just tell Lois and Lacy that he’s Superman. And after this emotional moment, all Lois can say is, “Oh well, I better get back to work!” Yeah, it was nice having this little chit chat with you! We really should do it again sometime!
Lacy stops her, and being the Conniving, Black-Hearted Capitalist that she is, she immediately points out the “angle” in this story. She says the public will eat it up, and promises to make “this kid a celebrity!” Well, if you really want to do that, just leave him alone with a video camera and a pole and let him go crazy as shit pretending he’s a Jedi.