Superman - The 1948 & 1950 Theatrical Serials Collection
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Kirk Alyn sets the heroic standard for generations to come – as Superman, the Man of Steel – in these fun, multichapter cliffhanger adventures. The 15-chapter Superman from 1948 spans our hero's first arrival on Earth to his alter-ego as reporter Clark Kent of The Daily Planet alongside Lois Lane (Noel Neill) through his battle with the sinister Spider Lady and her "relativity reducer ray." Next, while the real world faced the dawn of the nuclear age, Metropolis's caped hero faced that menace and more in the 15-chapter Atom Man vs. Superman. Is archvillain Lex Luthor behind both the UFO and the atomic bomb that threatens to level Metropolis? Of course not. He claims to be a simple television repairman! Before George Reeves starred in the classic 1950s television series, these Superman serials truly started the superhero craze and set the bar for all future portrayals of the Man of Steel.]]>
- Includes the 1948 "Superman" serial and the 1950 "Atom Man vs. Superman" serial
- "Saturdays with Superman" - a look back at the first live-action Superman
Top Customer Reviews
That being said, this is a real delight to watch! The fanboys, to this day, continue to cry over the fact that in these serials, Superman's flying sequences were animated. Okay, so it wasn't the high-tech CGI of today's production capabilities. If you're able to get past that, you can enjoy these serials for what they are; pure escapist fun! It's a comic book that's come to life! Kirk Alyn's Superman is not like George Reeves' or Christopher Reeves' or anyone else who ever donned the cape and tights. You've got to see him and judge for yourself. His portrayal of Clark Kent is a little more "mild-mannered" in keeping with the character from the comics, and that's nice to see. Tommy Bond, who played "Butch" in the "Our Gang" and "Little Rascal" shorts is awesome as Jimmy Olson. For me, the real delight was Noel Neill as Lois Lane, the FIRST screen Lois Lane! She was about 27 or 28 when first cast as Lois and she is just too darn cute! She's absolutely adorable with her big hat that she wears in nearly every scene. She's assertive and risk-taking, just like the Lois in the comics of that era, while still remaining feminine. Her Lois Lane of these serials are night and day from her Lois Lane of the tv show and once again, it's very interesting to see both and make the comparison yourself.
The first serial, has Carol Forman, as the Spider Lady. The 1950 Serial, Atom Man Vs. Superman is a better serial than the first one in my opinion. The production values and the writing are a little better and more developed than the first. The flying sequences were still animated but there were "close-ups" of Alyn flying, which were actually him standing upright with his arms extended over his head and the camera laid over on its side to give a horizontal effect. Lyle Talbot's Lex Luthor/Atom Man is great! Talbot was a veteran screen and television actor and many fans will immediately recognize him as Police Commissioner Gordon from Columbia's 1949 chapter serial, "Batman & Robin." In fact, if you're a fan of old movie serials in general, you'll recognize some of the faces of the actors who play Luthor's goons and thugs from other serials. One of the Atom Man's chief lackeys is an actor who is Dr. Daka's henchman in Columbia's 1943 chapter serial, Batman...too cool!
These serials were made on shoe-string budgets in 1948 and 1950 and weren't meant to be more than what they were. They weren't designed to be big screen blockbusters, and they were made for the kids of that time. We've become so sophisticated and demanding of "our" superhero movies, that to me, it seems to quite unfair to deride these two works because of shortcomings with special effects, writing or even the acting. Indeed, how lucky we are to finally be able to enjoy these two classic Superman serials now available at long last on dvd! ENJOY!!!
Poor Kirk Alyn (Clark Kent/Superman) can't get any respect. First, he's unbilled in both the 1948 and 1950 serial (`We couldn't find an actor good enough to play Superman, so Superman's playing himself!' is how that lack-of-credit decision was made.) Then along comes this snotty little documentary clip to sweep his stuff into the dustbin. Yeah, these serial episodes are corny, made on the cheap, and geared towards a late 1940s 12-year-old's sensibilities, but neither were nearly as bad as that Reeve Superman with Richard Pryor was.
Besides, these are serials which, according to reliable sources, were among the most successful serials ever made. Serials are short (15-17 minutes in length) films that were a part of the Saturday matinee tradition from the silent era to the mid-1950s. There were usually about 15 episodes per serial, one played each week - the thought being that the kiddies would return week after week to follow the adventures of their heroes. To turn the heat up a bit, each episode usually ends with a cliff-hanger - Lois Lane is lying unconscious in a cave when the 10-gallon drum of dynamite explodes five feet away from her. The episode ends with a teaser - can Superman stop the evil Spider Lady from getting her hands on the all-powerful reducer ray? - as well as the possibility that Lois Lane was just blown to smithereens. Don't miss the next episode of `Superman' - playing at this theater next week.
In the first, 1948 serial, simply titled `Superman,' the Man of Steel battles the Spider Lady and her nefarious henchmen. In the second serial, `Superman vs. Atom Man,' he confronts his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor (who also plays Atom Man, for reasons too complicated to get into here.) The opening credits in each episode tells us Superman is based on the character credited in the comic books, and is adapted from the popular Superman radio program. Bud Collyer played Superman for a decade on the radio, and his show contributed mightily to the formation of the most popular comic book character of all time. It's easy to forget how much the radio program drove and helped to shape the Superman world. Betcha didn't know Perry White and Jimmy Olson both debuted on the radio. The 1948 serial has a couple of elements lifted directed from the radio program, elements they would wisely drop when they came around to filming the 1950 sequel. When Superman's fighting the Spider Lady, every time danger's a-brewing and Clark Kent has to do the quick change into tights and cape Alyn voice-overs a Collyer-ish "This looks like a job for Superman," dropping from a nebbish tenor to a super hero baritone when he got to the words "for Superman. Also, Alyn belts a hearty "up, up, and away!" every time he goes airborne - a nice vocal cue for a radio program, but a little much for a film. Oh, and in both serials the flying Superman is depicted through regular, old-fashioned cel animation. Not convincing, but really not all that much worse than some current CG animation. They'd hang Alyn from ceiling mounted wires and blow smoke past him in the sequel, while retaining the cel animation for the long shots and when they needed to show anime bullets bouncing off his chest.
By today's standards the special effects are almost laughably primitive - but this is the first appearance EVER of a live action Superman! How cool is that!?
Pretty darn cool, mister, and don't you forget it! If you can get into the rhythms of a serial this set shouldn't disappoint. Kirk Alyn was a professional dancer, veteran of other serials, and his graceful athleticism makes him a more than acceptable Man of Steel. Noell Neill is delightfully spunky as girl reporter Lois Lane. A brief digression - these serials were made for youngsters and there is no, repeat no, romance between Lois and Clark Kent or Superman. Even when Superman is about to rescue her (yet again!) and asks "Are you ready?" and Lois answers "I'm always ready!" Neill's reading is so gleefully innocent it takes a moment or two to figure out they might have been talking about Something Else. My favorite character of all is Lyle Talbot's Lex Luthor. He doesn't get the big buck dialogue given guys like Gene Hackman, or Kevin Spacey, but his sober, straightforward take on the character works well.
As kid safe and family friendly as these disks are I hesitate to recommend them for family night around the dvd. The coolest thing, a live action Superman on film, lost its novel appeal decades ago. These films have an innocent charm and are as corny as Iowa in August, but they probably won't appeal to many children between the ages of 6 and 20.
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