Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Superman (1948)

Based on the comic book superhero, and adapted from the Superman Radio Program Broadcast on the Mutual Network, Superman comes to life on the big screen.  So everyone knows the story of how Superman comes to Earth as an infant from a dying planet and is raised by the Kent's as their own son, blah, blah, blah, and so on ...  So this post is about the serial version of the superhero's adventures.

First thing is that I think Kirk Alyn was a great Superman.  I found him to be very believable as both Clark Kent and Superman, although I still can't understand how no one can recognize that they are the same person, but that's neither here nor there.  As a matter of fact I think everyone, including Noel Neill as "Lois Lane" and Tommy Bond (Butch from the "Our Gang" series) as Jimmy Olsen do a wonderful job.  The only issue I have is with Lois's hat, maybe stylish back then, but what the ... !!!  Actually all the costumes seem to be very similar from episode to episode, perhaps to keep costs down.

Second thing is the special effects, they're really, really good.  It's a nice mix of some stock footage of buildings collapsing, earthquakes, floods, etc. mixed with some effects using miniatures as well as the use of animation.  When Superman takes off, flies through the sky, comes in for a landing, or when bullets bounce ineffectively off of his body, it's all done in animation (again probably hand drawn). I find the animated sequences helps keep the serial tied-in with the character's comic book origin.

Maybe it's just me, but I love these old serials. I just think that they're a lot of fun to watch, a little dated perhaps, but they're fun.  There's lots of excitement and action.  Superman captures bank robbers, rescues a woman from a fire, prevents a train derailment and rescues miners trapped in a cave in.  And this is just in the first few episodes!  I think it's great that most of the time the men are all wearing suits and ties and hats, even the bad guys.  I guess we were a very civilized well-dressed society at one time ...

Another great thing is the music.  Musical director Mischa Bakaleinikoff is in charge of the music for the serial, and it is incredible.  Bakaleinikoff's musical scores can be heard in such films as "Ladies of Leisure" (1930) and "The Vampire Bat" (1933), to "The Big Heat" (1953) and "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (1956) and many. many, many more.

In the first 15 chapters Superman battles the "Spider Lady" (Carol Forman), and in the last 15 episodes it's "Atom Man vs. Superman" (1950) with Lyle Talbot as the sinister, evil and plotting "Lex Luthor."  I wish I could have been around when these were originally shown on the big screen in theaters, it must have been a great experience. 

So grab some popcorn and your favorite drink and prepare to be entertained.


  1. Dave, I've never had the pleasure of seeing the serials. They always sounded like a lot of fun to me. Kirk looks a little less buff than future Supermans (or should that be Supermen? LOL), but perhaps more believable. After all, you don't have to have muscle when you have superpower! Really fun post!

  2. Hi Becky -
    Yeah, the serials are a lot of fun ... I highly recommend watching them if you ever get the chance. I think I like Kirk because in the serials he still seems to be kind of naive, and not quite as sure of himself as the rest of the guys who've sported the suit and cape. I liked George Reeves in the TV version of Superman in the 50's because he was almost the opposite of Kirk. When the bad guys would try to shoot or stab Reeves he would give them a kind of cocky "Oh, cut it out", disgusted kind of look, where Kirk Alyn just kind of smiles and takes care of business ... Thanks for the kind words ...

  3. Great post I'd like to see some of this old Superman stuff!

  4. Hey Joel -
    These serials are great. I think I like them because you never get bored, there's action happening all the time. Of course some people think they're corny but I love 'em ...