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Great Caesar's Ghost -- This DVD Set Is Super, Man!,
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This review is from: Adventures of Superman: Season 1 (DVD)
"Adventures Of Superman" premiered in American living rooms on Friday, September 19th, 1952 (when the first episode aired on Chicago's WENR-TV), and continued for a total of six TV seasons. 104 episodes of the series were produced and aired (via syndication), with all 26 black-and-white episodes of the series' first season represented within this classy-looking 5-Disc DVD boxed set that was released by Warner Home Video on October 18, 2005.
The scripts for "Superman" offer up a rather fun blend of fantasy, suspense, action-adventure, and noir-like crime-drama. Plus quite a bit of comedy, to boot (both the intentional and unintentional varieties of humor).
Nearly all of the above elements can be detected in the series right from the get-go in the debut episode "Superman On Earth" (which is one of my favorites from this batch of first-year episodes). "Superman On Earth" is a great pilot episode to launch the series, IMO. Within this single 26-minute program, the whole "Superman" backstory plays out -- beginning with planet Krypton's doomed fate, to Superman's arrival on Earth as an infant (via a prototype planet-hopping spaceship constructed by his father, Jor-El), and continuing with the story of mild-mannered Clark Kent's first exciting day on the job as a "Daily Planet" newspaper reporter.
When I watch the pilot episode, I'm always impressed by the amount of material and plot points that are covered in just this initial installment of the series. And it never really feels like the writers are "rushing" to tell us the story. It seems to evolve in a well-paced manner. I think it's an exemplary beginning to the series, and sets the tone just right for future "Superman" episodes.
There's a bit of unintended humor in that first episode as well, to be sure. It's difficult not to burst out laughing during a few portions of the "Krypton" scenes ... e.g.: when Jor-El states to Krypton's ruling Government leaders that he intends to build a fleet of spaceships to transport the entire planet's population off of the doomed planet -- and he, evidently, intends to accomplish this massive construction feat in just a matter of "days, or even perhaps hours" (which is the amount of time he says remains until the planet is likely to explode into millions of pieces). Holy Smokes! He'd better get a move-on then! LOL!
Plus: I kind of like the humorous angle provided in the pilot as a result of the real age of actor George Reeves ("Superman"). Reeves is supposed to be 25 years old during his "adult" scenes in the first episode (perhaps close to 26). Mr. Reeves' real age, however, was 37 at the time. :-)
But those parts of the pilot show, and other episodes in the series, that bring forth a chuckle or two are also part of the reason I like to watch "Superman". It's an entertaining TV show, unintended humor and all.
A First-Show "Did You Know?" Trivia Break --- Did you know that the actor who portrayed the very first person ever rescued by the amazing high-flying antics of "Superman" was Dabbs Greer? .... Yep, it was good ol' Dabbs alright. Dabbs, a veteran of literally hundreds of TV bit parts dating back to the early 1950s, was falling through the sky to a certain death in the final act of the pilot episode, when the caped super hero caught him in mid-air. For some reason, though, Greer doesn't get a screen credit for his part in the pilot show, despite the fact he has several lines to read at the tail-end of that program.
Another oddity re. that premiere episode's closing credits is the fact that Ross Elliott, another soon-to-be-veteran character actor who popped up in a great number of TV series in the '50s and '60s (like Greer), gets an on-screen credit for "Superman On Earth", even though his scenes were totally cut out of the show and he doesn't appear in the episode at all. It makes me wonder if Greer was a last-minute replacement for Elliott during the filming of the episode's last scene, but the end credits were never corrected. ~strokes chin and ponders~
It sure looks to me like some degree of restoration effort was put into these DVD transfers. For the most part, I think the video on these discs looks remarkably good, especially for a program that originally was made during the earliest days of television. These first-year Supermans were actually made an entire year before they were ever aired, being filmed between July 23 and October 13 of 1951. The back of the DVD box claims that these episodes were "digitally mastered from original film elements". Sounds good to me. :)
I was especially impressed by the clarity of the opening titles, which is a segment of many TV shows that oft-times looks much worse on DVD than the 'body' of the episodes. But in this set, the Main Titles look excellent. Just check out the close-up of the revolver when it turns sideways during the show opening (as we hear the famous voice-over, "Faster than a speeding bullet!"). The gun is crystal-clear here.
I think, however, that just a single (nicely cleaned-up) opening sequence was used for these DVDs and repeated for all of the episodes in this collection. This becomes quite noticeable in Episode #13, "The Stolen Costume", which features rather subpar video quality for the episode itself, with lots of dirt specks dancing around the screen (although it was quite possibly the best print WB had to work with when it came to transferring this ep. to DVD), but the opening titles still look very clean and clear.
I, myself, haven't really noticed any major edits or essential footage missing from these episodes. Run times that I've made a point to check clocked in at a healthy 25 to 26 minutes each. As an example, I checked every episode's precise running time on Disc #1, and here are the results of those "time checks":
"Superman On Earth" -- Run Time: 25:52.
"The Haunted Lighthouse" -- 25:53.
"The Case Of The Talkative Dummy" -- 25:49.
"Mystery Of The Broken Statues" -- 25:23.
"The Monkey Mystery" -- 25:24.
"Night Of Terror" -- 25:55.
So, if any originally-aired footage has been cut out here, it's certainly not very much, that's for sure.
I really like the packaging for this first "Superman" DVD set, too. It's colorful, bright, and just plain fun to open up and look at. There's an attractive outer slipcase box that slides easily and smoothly over the interior case.
The five DVDs are placed in a Digipak type of folding case, with an overlapping disc-storing system that is growing in favor with this writer and DVD collector. Many people frown at the sight of the "stacked" type of DVD trays, but I'm beginning to like them better all the time. Stacking the discs in this overlapping arrangement within multi-disc sets cuts down on the bulkiness of the overall packaging, reducing the number of Digipak panels required to house all the software. And there's a certain "eye appeal" to this type of storage method, too (IMO). Plus, with a stacked arrangement, you don't need a table (or other surface) a half-mile wide in order to uncoil all the panels/flaps of the DVD case.
I've also noticed that the DVD sets I have purchased that feature the overlapping discs also seem to have more user-friendly disc hubs (fasteners), i.e.: it seems to me that the stacked trays feature hubs that will release the discs more easily (without the need of a crowbar, or a stick of dynamite, to pry the darn things free from their clutching plastic homes, as with some non-stacked designs). ;)
When all five discs are removed from their trays, a very pleasant visual packaging treat is revealed -- A picture of Superman (in cartoon form) comes into full view; plus the word "SUPERMAN" is spelled out grandly in large colorful letters across two of the Digipak panels (in the familiar "Superman" font/style). It's a nice artwork/packaging touch that gives this DVD set more of a "collectible" feel to it. It's almost a shame to have to cover up the cool underlying artwork on the case with the discs themselves. ;)
Some pretty nice artwork adorns each of the five DVDs too, with a picture of a cast member on each disc -- e.g.: George Reeves (who occupies space on two of the discs, due to his dual role as both "Superman" and "Clark Kent"), plus Phyllis Coates ("Lois Lane" during Season 1 of the series), Jack Larson ("Jimmy Olsen"), and John Hamilton ("Perry White").
Another nifty little packaging touch is located on each of the two spines of the DVD case -- The Warner Brothers' "WB" logo has been situated in such a way on the case's spines to make it appear as if the logo itself is serving as Superman's "belt buckle". (This could have merely been a coincidence, that the "WB" logo lined up to double as the buckle on Superman's belt in the spine photos, but I thought it was kind of cute nonetheless.)
OTHER VITAL STATS & INFO ABOUT THIS DVD COLLECTION.........
>> Video is Full-Frame (1.33:1), as originally seen in 1952 and 1953.
>> Audio is English only (in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono).
>> There's a "Play All" option attached to each disc.
>> Subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.
>> No episode-guide booklet is included. Program info can be found on the inner DVD case.
>> The animated DVD Menus capture the fun spirit of the Superman series. Each disc's Main Menu is laid out in the guise of a Superman comic book. The Main Menu design is identical for all five discs. Menu items can be selected from a "page" of the comic book. Sub-Menu choices include "Play All Episodes", "Episode Index", "Special Features", and "Languages". ... No Scene Selection Menus are available for any of the shows (unfortunately, no Chapter Stops have been placed into any of the episodes, which is probably the biggest gripe I have with this DVD set).
>> No "forced" trailers or other ads are present on the DVDs, and the FBI Warnings and WB Logo that are seen upon initial disc load-up are able to be quickly bypassed. ~a big "thumbs-up" to this!~
BONUS DVD STUFF.........
Some fairly nice bonus supplements have been tacked on to Disc 5 of this Superman set, including Audio Commentary Tracks for 4 different episodes by two "Superman Chroniclers". These Superman experts/aficionados provide their Commentary in Dolby 2.0 Stereo.
>> The complete 1951 theatrical feature film "Superman And The Mole Men" (which was later re-worked into the 2-part, first-season Superman TV episode "The Unknown People"). ... This is a terrific bonus add-on. Very glad to see this included in this set. "Mole Men" isn't exactly "Citizen Kane", but it did introduce the world to George Reeves as "The Man Of Steel". The B&W "Mole Men", which made its theatrical debut on November 23, 1951, is fairly short for a "feature-length" motion picture, just 58 minutes long (it took a mere 11 days to shoot). It's presented here in its original Full-Frame video format, with audio in 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono. Excellent picture quality too. I'm amazed at how good this film looks here, in fact. I've certainly never seen it looking as good as it does on this DVD. ... No chaptering or subtitle options are provided for the "Mole Men" feature.
>> A 17-minute retrospective documentary entitled "Adventures Of Superman: From Inkwell To Backlot". ... Some very good stuff here, including on-camera interviews with "Jimmy Olsen" himself (Jack Larson) and movie critic Leonard Maltin. This is a short featurette, but it's jam-packed with show clips and fun information about the Superman TV series and its cast members. ... Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.
>> A vintage "WB short" called "Pony Express Days". ... This 20-minute short film, made in 1940 (and shot in Technicolor) stars a very youthful-looking George Reeves (who was 26 years old when he filmed this entertaining short subject). Reeves was a very busy actor in films early in his career, with his role as "Bill Cody" in "Pony Express Days" representing his 14th film appearance in less than a two-year period (1939-1940). Included among that 14 is George's role as "Stuart Tarleton" in the epic "Gone With The Wind". Reeves made appearances in 16 different movies in the year 1940 alone! (Gosh, maybe he really IS "Superman". LOL.) ... Tragically, George Reeves (who was born George Keefer Brewer in January 1914) died at a very young age (45), when an apparent suicide took the life of America's first TV "Superman", on June 16, 1959 (just a little more than one year after Reeves filmed the last "Superman" episode). ... A Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio track has been utilized for this "Pony Express" bonus. Video is 1.33:1 Full-Frame, and it looks outstanding too. Colors are very well-rendered. This is yet another excellent bonus item that makes this Superman set even a better bargain.
>> 3 Kellogg's cereal commercials that aired in the 1950s during the original run of the "Superman" series. ... This is actually kind of a mini-featurette, which includes a short history lesson about the Kellogg's "Superman" ads, followed by three complete B&W commercial spots, all for "Sugar Frosted Flakes". George Reeves stars in all these ads (as "Clark Kent", never as "Superman"). An early TV version of "Tony The Tiger" can be seen in these ads as well. ... Audio for this bonus is a mixture of DD 2.0 Stereo and DD 2.0 Mono (the latter for the actual ads). Picture quality for the commercials is a cut below all the other video on these discs, but still not all that bad. This is fun old-time (and hard-to-find) stuff. ... Total run time of this "commercial" bonus is 4:35.
So .... If you have a desire to re-live some of the earliest days in TV's history, then this 5-Disc DVD set of "Adventures Of Superman: The Complete First Season" should fill that requirement quite nicely. This show is just good, fun television -- brought back to vivid life once again thanks to this well-above-average collection of DVDs from Warner Home Video. A round of applause should go to WB for putting out a product that very nicely preserves and showcases the memories of this prized series from TV's Golden Era.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 21, 2011 10:47:26 AM PDT
Robert T. Asseng Sr. says:
Way too long and too much info! This is suppose to be a simple review, not a novella. Next time, try not to ramble on with senseless dribble.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2011 7:11:54 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2014 11:46:03 PM PDT
David Von Pein says:
Oh, cry me a river.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2011 2:12:36 AM PDT
J. ta says:
i like lots of talk sometimes, nice job, three cheers for you
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 10, 2012 3:12:12 PM PDT
I say Hoo-Ray to David for the very thoughtful and informative review.
If you don't wish to read long reviews, just skip past them.
I want to thank David Von Pein for taking the time to share his impressions with us on this release.
Posted on Jan 18, 2014 12:08:04 PM PST
Matt Santos says:
Thank you for the thorough and thoughtful review!
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2014 11:05:14 PM PDT
leslie eckhardt says:
A very professional review. I like long, informative reviews which give detailed and well thought out information which helps me to appreciate the release more. I care about details, and they are here very well presented. Thank you for a job well done.
Posted on Sep 21, 2014 9:06:09 AM PDT
Ronald L. Levao says:
Glad to see another Dabs Greer fan. Interesting insight about the credits. BTW--I just saw an amazing performance by Greer in one of his Rifleman appearances; in this one he is a malevolent gossip war vet who tries to get the town to burn down the McCain home because everyone fears he is nursing two yellow fever patients. Greer is filled with grimaces, smirks, twitches--a real actor's bag of tricks as resourceful as Lon Chaney's makeup kit!
Posted on Feb 28, 2015 6:12:38 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 28, 2015 6:16:31 PM PST
Magickal Merlin says:
I just wish that if Jack Larson 'knows' anything about the Lindbergh kidnapping caper,that he writes it down.And just squirrells it away,only for close associates and his family to safe-guard and muse over.Jack knew so many inside people,over the years.I wished Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg had also written down,their insights and knowledge,concerning the rationale behind the kidnapping.William James Sidis and Nathen Sharfman were close with Alfred North Whitehead.Did they have much input,concerning the kidnapping.And why? George Reeves could have discussed the kidnapping,with Desi and Lucy.Yet,they probably had long ago chin-wagged about it,and put the gruesome gossip to rest.Bette Davis,Joan Crawford.and Estelle Winwood surely had discussed the kidnapping and Lindbergh's politics.It was possible Charles Lindbergh could have ran against FDR,throughout the 1930s and 1940s.FDR was sickly and tired.FDR could have heard the inner kidnapping plot,from Averell Harriman and Walter Lippmann,most probably perhaps.The truth will probably remain buried,with the sands of time and history,for quite some time.(Excellent review and comments.Also check out www.charlesalindberghjr.com)
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