In this, our latest Superman 3 then and now series of photos, we look at some of the downtown Calgary locations that were seen in the opening minutes of that movie. The setting is Metropolis, but in fact Calgary Alberta was used as a backdrop for that fictional city in many of the scenes from that film – including the ones we’ll explore here.
Why was our municipality chosen to appear in the film can only be guessed at. Perhaps shooting here was cheaper or easier than using a large American city – who knows?
This third instalment in the Superman franchise is considered by many some to be one of the weakest of the series. Instead of the serious tone of the first two Superman films, this one is..well…silly. There is a lot of Three Stooges style slap-stick and sight gags and one ridiculous premise after another. The quality of production is clearly not up to the standards set by the earlier films and effects often look cheap and amateurish.
None the less it’s entertaining and we have even more fun searching out the locations seen.
Superman 3 dates from 1983. Wow, thirty years ago now!
Interspersed between the opening credits are a number of scenes which will be the ones we try and find the locations of. Some buildings we recognized from the movie – the old church for example – others we didn’t. For the latter we made no attempt to research their location but rather simply walked around downtown until we found what we were looking for. This in the end was easier than it sounded, as all the shots seen here were within a few block of each other and once we found one, the others followed quickly.
The first shot shows Lorelei, the attractive misguided sidekick of evil villain Ross Webster. She comes down some stairs and walks away. Those same stairs can be seen in our shot.
In the next capture she walks away and in no time mayhem and chaos will reign. A chain reaction has begun – her stunning looks distract a passer-by causing him to knock over a stand of wind-up toy penguins. At the same time, coming in from the right a person on roller skates looses her balance. Our shot shows that same spot and little has changed.
The pandemonium continues in the next screen capture and the still on-the-edge of control roller skater slams into a phone booth, knocking it and others over like a set of dominoes. We visited that corner and see that everything is as it was – save for the phone booths of course (which were only props anyway). The once common phone booth by the way, is now an endangered species so finding one anywhere is tough. This then begs the question, what does Superman use as a change room now?
Moving along to the next capture we see one of those toy penguins being set ablaze by the flame from a construction smudge pot. Our shot duplicates the one from the movie fairly well.
In the next scene, a small dog is seen running, and it narrowly misses some passing pedestrians. It’s being chased by a seeing-eye dog, who has just gotten loose from its handler. The building seen is easily found and it stands out given the arrangement of the cinder blocks – they make it instantly recognizable. The arched window treatment of the building behind help line things up too.
For the next scene we only need to turn around – in this shot we see a blind man, minus his guide dog (remember it got away from him). He wanders around, grabbing a running pavement line painter which he mistakes for his guide dog and as would be expected, more hilarity ensues (remember what I said about the movie being silly). Our shot shows that location.
In the next set, Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent picks up the still burning toy penguin and blows it out. This scene was shot in front of an old church. That building by the way, Knox United, has been at this spot since 1912.
Moving along to the next set, Superman is seen helping a motorist whose car has run over a hydrant causing it to fill with water. The Man of Steel of course rescues him. Our shot is from the same angle and as is the case with the other pictures so far, most if not all of what was seen in the movie is still recognizable today. In this dynamic city, oddly little has changed where the film was shot.
One thing that will change is the building seen on the left in the car filling-with-water scene. A sign on its side makes mention of an upcoming renovation it is to go through and the artists image of the new building shows the outside facade looking much different then it does today. Luckily, we got it in time before it changed.
In the final shot, Clark Kent’s co-worker Jimmy Olsen is seen watching Superman save that drowning driver. We duplicate that shot as best we can, however some obstructions prevent us from matching things as close as we’d like. All the main building seen are still there though and are recognizable from the film.
There may or may not be more Superman 3 then and now sets to come – I am not completely sure if we have explored all the scenes we can. If not, then there will be sets from other movies that were also filmed in Calgary or somewhere nearby. These then and now shots are just too much fun.
Images form the movie are copyright Warner Brothers.
To see some other Superman 3 then and now posts we done, click any of these links…
Superman 3 then and now – car and hydrant scene.
Superman 3 then and now – bar scenes.
Superman 3 then and now – Smallville.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: November, 2013.
Location: Calgary, AB.