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The Bootleg Files: Legend of Superman – Covid Response

BOOTLEG FILES 743: “Legend of Superman – Covid Response” (2020 fan film by Frank Palangi).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A fan film based on copyright-protected characters.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Unlikely at this time.

Fan films occupy a curious place in the movie universe. Clearly, these films are the ultimate in bootlegging because they borrow copyright-protected characters and put them into new films made without the blessings of their creators. On the other hand, they offer an affirmation of the popularity of the franchises being pilfered. For the most part, the makers of these films are rarely harassed by the lawyers representing the companies whose intellectual property is being used without permission.

One of the newest fan films now online is also one of the most enigmatically interesting. Frank Palangi, the Upstate New York actor/filmmaker who created the invigorating web series “Mr. Omar” has tapped into the Superman franchise for a provocative commentary about the on-going Covid-19 pandemic.

Palangi’s “Legend of Superman – Covid Response” opens with Superman (voiced by the filmmaker) offering a narration played against a sweep of stock footage of majestic aerials and inspiring landscapes. “For a long time now, I’ve been the strong one,” Superman intones. “The one who is supposed to save the day so you can see tomorrow.”

Now, however, Superman finds himself with “nothing I can fight, nothing I can reason with.” We find Palangi in Superman’s Clark Kent alter ego, quarantined at home during the pandemic, his room glowing a sickly pink hue. A box of face masks can be seen lying on a shelf as Clark Kent looks out a window with frustration while the narration talks about his “friends and enemies fall around me.” Clark opens a suitcase that has the Superman uniform and stares without expression.

This is followed by a montage of news photos and footage from the pandemic while voices and videos featuring members of the public beg for Superman to return. “We need you to come back,” intones one woman while Perry White (who is identified by a handwritten sign taped to his desk) insists that “we really need you, Superman.”

Clark is then visited in his apartment by Batman (played by Aaron Lambert, who was highly effective as a murder suspect in Palangi’s “Mr. Omar”). The superheroes socially distance while Batman says, “You didn’t fail. You’re the best of all us. We need you to fight. There is still a chance to win this.”

“How?” Clark asks. Replies Batman: “With hope.” Clark suits up as Superman and the soundtrack swells with inspiring music. Clark/Superman looks into the camera and…well, the film is only four minutes long, and it stops at that point, with the Superman narration telling us, “You’re all stronger than you think, and we’re still here to fight for you.”

Palangi made four other “Legend of Superman” fan film shorts between 2006 and 2009, but this is the most polished of these efforts. Having a superhero face a villain that is a virus and not a human or alien is intriguing, and the notion that the seemingly indestructible Superman could be hobbled by something that can only be seen through a microscope is a bold idea.

Palangi has the film on his YouTube channel, which includes his other ventures into filmmaking along with videos highlighting his work as a singer/songwriter. He is clearly one of the most inventive creative artists online, and hopefully in 2021 he can receive the level of attention and respect he deserves.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.

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