on March 27, 2006
The third installment of The Adventures of Superman DVD series is due out June 20, and this time two seasons are combined in one package - seasons 3 & 4, originally shown in 1955 and 1956.
A quick bit of history - a few major changes happened to the show at the start of the third season. While seasons 1 & 2 both had 26 episodes per season, beginning with season 3 the number of episodes produced per season was cut in half to only 13. The show also went to color, which took up a large part of the show's budget. (As a side note, these episodes were originally shown on TV in black and white, first appearing in color in the 1960's.) Also, by the time of the third season, the focus on the show had really changed to more of a "kid's" show, with little of the violence that had defined the first season in particular. It certainly makes the show a very different show to watch from the previous first two seasons, but enjoyable in it's own right. And you might find this box easier to watch with the whole family.
Here's what you get in this set:
Season 3 includes:
Through the Time Barrier
The Talking Clue
The Lucky Cat
Great Caesar's Ghost
Test of a Warrior
Clark Kent, Outlaw
The Magic Necklace
The Bully of Dry Gulch
Flight to the North
The Seven Souvenirs
King For a Day
Season 4 includes:
The Unlucky Number
The Big Freeze
Peril By Sea
Jimmy the Kid
The Girl Who Hired Superman
The Wedding of Superman
The Deadly Rock
The Phantom Ring
The Jolly Roger
The extras include:
Adventures of Superman: The Color Era
Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Special Effects of Adventures of Superman
Look, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman (excerpts from the new documentary produced by Bryan Singer and Kevin Burns)
Another nice touch - there's also a ticket for Superman Returns included in this set!
I'm assuming Warner Home Video will do the same excellent job on this package that they have on the first two. And I give them kudos for including 26 episodes and not trying to gouge the fans by only including 13 episodes per set. Plus the free movie ticket! It all adds up to a great value, and 5 stars from me this time.
on June 29, 2006
I've written often about the deterioration in quality of "The Adventures of Superman" after color was introduced, in 1954, and I'll still stand by the statement, for the last seasons of the series...But having just sat through this collection of the third and fourth seasons' color episodes, allow me to "eat crow"...these episodes are VERY entertaining, and certainly are far better than I remembered!
The decision to shoot in color was a bold move, by sponsor Kellogg's, producer Whitney Ellsworth, and the series' home studio, Motion Pictures for Television Inc,(MPTV), as the technology to even air color programming would not be widely available to local television stations for nearly a decade. Series like AOS, "The Cisco Kid", and "The Lone Ranger", in choosing to use the far more expensive process, understood that these programs would have a 'lifespan' far beyond the 1950s audience. Certainly, in the case of AOS, the continuing popularity of the show, and the sales of these collections prove their point!
Because of the expense of color, the seasons would be slashed from 26 to 13 episodes per season, which was a godsend to the cast, particularly George Reeves. Lighting for color was MUCH brighter and hotter than for black and white, and the costume department realized Reeves' original brown-and-gray, frequently sweat-stained "shoulder-padded longjohns" would be even more of a problem in future. A 'genius' decided to redesign the costume, creating a thicker, full-body red and blue suit of foam rubber, which would not 'show' perspiration (but would, sadly, make the actor appear much stockier). While in theory this was a great idea, in truth, it was a disaster, as the suit didn't 'breathe', with 'locked-in' sweat causing severe rashes and frequent heat exhaustion for Reeves. A half-hour stretch was the maximum he could wear it, safely, making for long 'shooting days'...and the physical torture of the suit would 'age' Reeves, rapidly, over the remainder of the series.
Knowing this, my respect for Reeves' professionalism has increased, and this collection offers some of his really terrific performances, as well as some of Noel Neill and Jack Larson's best work, as well. Among my favorites are "Superman Week" and "King For a Day" (which shows Reeves still willing to manhandle baddies...something that would soon be completely eliminated as Kellogg's bowed to parental pressure for less violence); "Jimmy the Kid", offering Larson a meaty dual role, as both 'comic relief' Jimmy Olsen, and a notorious gunman; and, best of all, "The Wedding of Superman", an acting tour-de-force by Neill, in a remarkably sensitive (and prophetic, for "Lois & Clark" fans) episode of Lois and Superman finally acknowledging their love. This episode is acclaimed as one of the finest episodes of the entire series, and shouldn't be missed!
So, if you harbor an illusion that the color episodes will be a disappointment, like I did, I strongly urge you to reconsider, and buy this collection...I think you'll be in for a VERY pleasant surprise!
on June 29, 2006
It's Superman, back with his color episodes. I am 12 years old and I love the Superman series! With George Reeves as the man of steel, Noel Neil as Lois, Jack Larson as Jimmy, and John Hamilton as Perry White, who is my favorite.
I watched some old tapes of the show that my Dad had when I was six. I loved it from Day one. Now 6 years later I am 12 and Superman is on DVD. My Dad and I are so happy! We now have every season!
These seasons include real color! It also includes some funny and serious episodes. These seasons are a mix of serious and funny episodes. Some bad episodes such as the caveman and great episodes such as Jimmy the Kid! The special features reveal the secrets of how the special effects were made and Superman through the years. My favorite season in season 2 because it has some funny episodes but more serious, plus great story plots like the Professor.
I recomend buying all the Superman seasons. The only thing about this one is the color is sometimes perfect but in some senes it's washy. The TV show is much better than the movies and comics and the Lois and Clark and Smallville T.V shows.
I LOVE SUPERMAN!!!!!!!!:)
on June 26, 2006
I have to say that seasons 3 and 4 are different in tone than the first 2 seasons. One reviewer said that in many respects it looks like a different show. I have to agree. I'm not in favor of the decision made to shoot these subsequent seasons in color although I understand the economic reasons why the decision was made. Still the show remains fresh and top notch compared to other series and there are some more adult-like episodes to match the black and white seasons. "The Seven Souvenirs" is a prime example and is, to my mind, the most perfectly paced episode of the whole series. It glides along and George Reeves is at the very top if his game, acting-wise, throughout the episode. Watch his delivery during the climax when he is revealing what the thefts are really about. Jimmy Olsen playing a twin bad guy, in another episode, is a riot in that part. Many of the villians are played in a more Damon Runyon style and are very funny. There's plenty to enjoy from these episodes. After seasons 1 and 2, you just need to do a little adjustment and enjoy the shows on their terms. They're still an absolute joy.
on July 29, 2006
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of George Reeves and company. But if you're thinking about ponying up for this set like I did, there's two questions you need to ask:
1) How are the prints?
First of all, don't expect the same quality as the B&W season 1 & 2 sets. There's a stock 1957 opening that's a little rough. And luckily none of the episodes seem to have the excessive print damage that say "The Stolen Costume" had in the first season set. However, the colour isn't perfect. In many cases, the technicolour picture is perfectly sharp and crystal clear - amazing for prints that are 50 years old. But then the camera will quickly cut to a more soft, washed out shot or scene - from a 100% sharpness to about 80% resolution - and it gets very distracting at times. This happens constantly. I've read they had a lot of restoration work to do on this one and it's too bad they couldn't correct this so the print is uniformly sharp. You get used to the picture after a while. But it is disappointing considering what they were able to pull off with the first two season sets.
2) How are the stories? I heard they turned it into a kids' show!
Well, in terms of the storylines themselves, many of the shows have devolved to the standard two thugs "Whadda we do now, boss?" type of situations. Sure, it's still highly entertaining and George Reeves is still letter perfect. But the show has certainly lost a step in these seasons compared to the second and particularly the first season's harder edged radio serial leanings.
As for Lois Lane, Noel Neil has her moments. But at this point in the series, she seems far too sunny and perky for the role and has very little rivalry with Clark - although the softening of the scripts don't help her out here. For my money, Phyllis Coates just nailed Lois perfectly in the first season - she's the damsel in distress obviously (and what a screamer!) but still the feisty, business-like, tough as nails reporter (unlike Noel here). For instance, when Clark takes over the editor's chair from Perry White in "Peril By Sea", Noel's Lois couldn't be happier for Clark - while Phyllis' Lois would've torn a strip off him!
So to recap, it's still wildly entertaining - but the inconsistent prints and storylines make this Superman a little less than stellar.
on February 8, 2015
Show sponsor Kellogg's didn't like the tone of the first couple of seasons and insisted the series' creative team lighten the overall mood and make it more kid-friendly. The actors start taking their respective roles less seriously and there's a twinkle in their eyes now. And the bad guys? Whew! They are no longer much of a menace, to anyone, and goofball guest-star additions like Professor Pepperwinkle are brought in to give the whole affair a more comfortable feel for the younger kiddies. George Reeves had packed on a few pounds in the interim and Kent's glasses have real lenses in them now. Sadly, Lois Lane begins her downward spiral into the primo candidate for "most-dimwitted Ace Reporter in history" with each succeeding show. The repetition of stock footage starts to become glaringly apparent here as well. Every scene showing Kent slipping into that storage closet is the same two shots, recycled over and over and over again: one with and one without his hat. Sometimes they didn't even bother to make sure the right clip was used; showing him leaving his office with no hat on, then cutting to the clip of him headed to the closet WITH a fedora on, looking around quickly to make sure no one is watching, whipping the hat off and ducking inside! LOL.
The episodes were instantly dumbed down for S:3. Right out of the gate we get a goofy caveman episode "Through the Time Barrier" and other blatant nonsense, like the abysmally stupid "The Bully of Dry Gulch." Egad. And in this season the show's writers start utilizing Superman's Kryptonite weakness big time. It seems like every other crook in Metropolis has access to bucketfuls of the stuff. With this and the following three seasons of the show you have to check you brain at the door and just enjoy them as light-hearted fluff entertainment, on about a 3rd grade level. When viewed in that context, the show is harmless fun. Held up the first two seasons though, these later seasons simply pale in comparison. The episodes all look & sound good here, and there are 3 more bonus gimme features to add to the fun. 3 STARS for these later, lesser adventures.
on November 30, 2015
This was my favorite series when I was in elementary school. Well, this and the Twilight Zone. Now I have the complete collection of both and I'm loving every minute of it. Picture quality is much better than I expected! Love it!
on January 23, 2007
It was great to see these episodes again, but I guess I expected more
from WB. On many episodes, the color is washed out, at least for part of
the episode. Also, I realize that old films are not perfect, and light
flashes sometimes occur, but I though WB had the original films. Many of
these episodes have serious running flaws, where the film obviously
didn't run right. Didn't anyboby verify that the film-to-DVD transfer was
okay before trying to sell the item? Some of these episodes are worse than
the TV reruns, and WB is supposed to be working from the masters!!
on June 24, 2006
Having just read the other reviews, it seems to me that there's a blur between reacting to the quality of the picture and the stories themselves. So, I'm going to try here to put things in perspective.
In terms of the picture quality, i agree that the transfers could have been better. Although in color, the picture looks rather faded and washed out, and there are many imperfections. On the other hand, we're assuming here that Warners had the capability of cleaning the picture. Perhaps they did not, and were limited to less than perfect source material. So I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
As far as the episodes themselves, my fondness for them is mainly based on a sense of nostalgia, as I used to watch the show every day back in the 1960s. In terms of the stories, they can't compare to the first seasons. In fact, despite the same cast (with the exception of Lois Lane) it feels like two completely different shows. The first seasons scripts, which featured Phyllis Coates as Lois, were well written dramas, with a no-nonsense Superman acting as an avenging angel, ringing in the bad guys (who were actually quite menacing) The drama was tense, the dialogue crackled, the acting and direction was great, as was the background music. The second season stories were toned down a bit, but there were still some great episodes("Panic in the sky", "A Ghost for Scotland Yard", "The Face and the Voice", etc.) By the time the series went to color, the scripts were toned down even further. the bad guys were no longer punched out by Superman, and were more comic than menacing. Still, there were some good episodes in seasons 3 and 4, including "Great Caesars Ghost", "Test of a Warrior", and "the wedding of Superman". Basically, the episodes written by Jackson Gillis are the best (same goes for season 2)The episodes written by David Chantler are worse...some are downright boring. The dialogue and direction in season 3 and 4 also were vastly inferior to seasons 1 and 2. (I guess when Tommy Carr read the new scripts, he wanted nothing to do with them.) Having said all that, I don't want to seem hypocritical. I did buy the set, and have no regrets that I did.It was a great series, albeit one that went through many changes during its six year run. Unfortunately, the only change for the better was going to color. Otherwise, these episodes are still enjoyable, but pale in comparison with seasons 1 and 2.
on July 8, 2006
Warners/DC has now released seasons 3 & 4 of the 1950s classic "Adventures of Superman" series, this time in color for the first time.
One would like to say the overall collection is as good as
the black & white seasons one and two episodes, but that is not the case. The addition of color to the series created budgetary problems for the producers of the t.v. franchise that more than doubled the costs of each episode. In order to shoot in color, therefore, the t.v. crew had to slash the episode numbers in
half, from 26 to 13 episodes. This is why we have two seasons in one DVD collection.
Money woes were also behind a certain ongoing cheapness in set and properties construction that shows up on film. Walls shake when doors slam, "rocks" shudder when Superman drives a fist into them, and, in one episode wherein a submarine lurks off the coast and watches a beachfront house through its periscope,
the house and its surroundings are quite obviously not even a painted matte, but, rather, A PEN & INK DRAWING COLORED WITH WATERCOLORS!
This is truly indicative of how much cost-cutting has gone on here!
The tone of the series has changed radically as well. When AOS began , it was structured as a cinematic extension of the rough and tumble Bud Collyer radio series , with a touch of the old Fleischer cartoons of the forties for added flavor. But by the time the color conversion was getting readied a whirlwind had struck the world of comics. A psychiatrist named Frederick Wertham (called "Fabulous Freddie"....sarcastically...by comics insiders) had launched a campaign to "rein in" the "extravagant evils" of comic books and got congress caught up in his drive
to "clean up" this "depraved medium". The innocent minds of the little kiddies had to be protected from such corruptive rot. In the frenzy over "Werthamism", entire lines of comics folded, and
a new industry regulatory group, the Comics Code Authority, came into being. This was the comic book equivalent of the Hays Office in the film industry.
Comics had to, under the new guidelines, "shape up" or ship out.
Most of the EC titles...from "Tales From the Crypt" to "Vault of Horror" and "Weird Science"...did the latter.
Other titles, from "Superman", "Batman", and others, began to "tone things down" as well.
And what happened to the comics got tied to the AOS t.v. series.
The decision was made to "tone down" AOS too. Make it more "kid-friendly" and less "stress-inducing".
For this reason, the 3rd and 4th seasons didn't pack the kind of visceral punch the first two seasons did. Some of the episodes are just plain cornball stupid. Others, though, work pretty WELL. "The Big Freeze", "Joey", "Dagger Island", the superb "The Wedding of Superman", and "Test of a Warrior" (along with a few others) deliver the goods as "Super" entertainment. "Test of a Warrior" I strongly recall from childhood, wherein Perry White is given the Indian tribal name of "okeecheeboygan"..."He who writes with thundering machines".
Overall, the color is good in these transfers, if somewhat inconsistent. I don't think this is a film-to-DVD pixelation problem. I think it is a problem inherent in the original color photography. It took a good deal of light (key lighting, side
lighting, back lighting) to shoot good color in those days and I sense that the lighting set-ups in use weren't always sufficient to get the job done ideally. What one notices in various scenes is that the color in CLOSE-UP shots is vibrant and sharp...often simply gorgeous...whereas in medium shots and long shots it tends to have a yellowy , washed out look...and sometimes even looks overexposed. All in all, though, the color looks good and gives the production values some extra "Pizzaz".
The acting is first rate. The ensemble of Reeves, Neil, Larsen,and Hamilton hits on all cylinders, and Reeves, especially, simply "owns" this roll. His Clark Kent is also still the best...and toughest...of all Clark Kents, movie versions included.
One additional thing should be said here. The George Reeves Superman comes across, still, as the most POWERFUL Superman.
A special feature on Disc 5 involves the special effects of flying in AOS and reminds us of one thing; Superman is the essence of POWER, and his takeoffs and landings IN AOS remind us of that. Reeves utilized the mini-trampoline and coil springboard techniques pioneered at Republic Studios for their "Captain Marvel" and "Rocketman/Commando Cody" flying hero adventures for his takeoffs (and the jump-from-a-ladder or swing-out-from-a-suspended-bar techniques for his landings). Because of this, the Reeves take-offs and landings have an athletic "muscularity" to them that none of his successors have achieved. In fact, in the world of Reeves/Reeve landings, Chris's look positively wussy compared to George's. The screaming-wind sound effect of Superman in flight in AOS is still the best audio accompanyment to all versions, as is the whipping wind effect. Again, all these elements work together to enhance the effect of kinetic POWER here, something that has largely been missed in other versions. I have not seen "Superman Returns" yet, so I cannot comment on how well that film evokes the power sense I've been addressing . Hopefully it will do so nicely.
So is this collection 3 of AOS worth the loot you need to shell out for it. Sure it is. How could it not be ? The good features still outweigh the clunkers and you're still in for a super good time watching it all.