ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN:
Superman... who can change the course of mighty rivers,
bend steel in his bare hands,
and who, disguised as Clark Kent,
mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper,
fights a never-ending battle
for truth, justice, and the American way!
To a young kid looking for a daily dose of after school television fare, those words sure sounded mighty impressive and I sure spent many a half hour watching the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, which was pretty much a fixture on a local New York City television station during my formative years. The series never failed to entertain thanks to its zippy pace that concluded each adventure in a thirty-minute time slot. Sure, the stories seem a bit corny and the special effects now look tattered to my adult eyes, but in my youthful innocence the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN was the greatest thing in the world that had me swallowing all of the show's cheesy goodness and looking for seconds.
However, watching the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN is still a world of fun and the series still holds up very well, thanks to its terrific cast. George Reeves was a perfect Superman and an even better Clark Kent. As Superman, Reeves cut a heroic figure in his wool tights, plus he embodied everything good and noble. As Clark Kent, Reeves portrayed his alter ego as a smart, no nonsense reporter who easily sidesteps any suspicions that he and the man of steel were one and the same. Noel Neill made for a good Lois Lane and brought her own charms to the role of lady reporter, but lacks that driven quality of her predecessor Phyllis Coates. Jack Larson adds the perfect level of naiveté and aw shucks enthusiasm to cub reporter Jimmy Olsen. And great Caesars ghost! There is no one quite like John Hamilton gruff newspaper editor Perry White. Also look for Robert Shayne as police Inspector Bill Henderson.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: THE COMPLETE FIFTH AND SIXTH SEASONS ($40) comes to DVD in a five-disc set that features the following twenty-six episodes that were aired during years five and six: Peril In Paris, Tin Hero, Money To Burn, The Town That Wasn't, The Tomb Of Zaharan, The Man Who Made Dreams Come True, Disappearing Lois, Close Shave, The Phony Alibi, The Prince Albert Coat, The Stolen Elephant, Mr. Zero, Whatever Goes Up, The Last Knight, The Magic Secret, Divide And Conquer, The Mysterious Cube, The Atomic Captive, The Superman Silver Mine, The Big Forget, The Gentle Monster, Superman's Wife, Three In One, The Brainy Burro, The Perils Of Superman and All That Glitters.
Warner Home Video has made all twenty-six episodes that comprise ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: THE COMPLETE FIFTH AND SIXTH SEASONS available on DVD in the proper full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. The presentations for these color episodes are inconsistent at best, sometimes looking tremendous and other times individual shots or sequences coming across as dupey, grainy or somewhat faded. Much of the time the colors appear bright and vivid, but again it’s all just a bit inconstant. Blacks are generally fairly deep and the whites are stable. The level of contrast is just fine. Grain is noticeable to varying degrees. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.
All of the episodes that constitute ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: THE COMPLETE FIFTH AND SIXTH SEASONS come with Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks that sound quite good for their age and production limitations. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves the tracks with a fairly smooth sonic quality. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and remains totally understandable. Fidelity has the expected limitations of half-century-old recordings, but the tracks holds up well enough most of the time. No other language tracks are provided, but French and Spanish subtitles have been included.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard episode selection and set up features, as well as a single supplement. Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olson is a nine-minute program featuring actor Jack Larson, actress Noel Neill, as well as Superman historians Jim Beaver, Gary Grossman, Michael J. Hayde, and Jan Henderson.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN was one of the delights of my childhood, one that retains all the innocent charm that I remember, thanks to earnestness of the performances of George Reeves and company. Warner offers the episodes in fairly solid presentations, although there are inconsistencies in the source materials. If you grew up with the series, or are a fan of the character, then you’ll want to check out ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: THE COMPLETE FIFTH AND SIXTH SEASONS.
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