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SUPERMAN: THE THEATRICAL SERIALS COLLECTION ($40) is unequivocally a hoot and a half. Consisting of the SUPERMAN and ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN theatrical serials produced for theaters by Columbia Pictures in 1948 and 1950 respectively, these fifteen-chapter cliffhanger styled programmers were the first live action depictions of the Man Of Steel’s exploits- although Superman only flies on screen in animated form. Actor Kirk Alyn went uncredited in the dual role of Superman/Clark Kent, but he does bring off both parts well enough for Saturday afternoon cliffhanger fare, with his Clark Kent being a bit more memorable than his Superman. The fifteen chapter SUPERMAN serial is also notable for being the first time that actress Noel Neill essayed the role of Lois Lane, which she would do again for seasons two through six of the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN television series.

The earliest chapters of 1948's SUPERMAN recount the superhero’s origins on the Planet Krypton, his youth as the adopted son of Kansas farmers and his arrival in Metropolis, when he first becomes a reporter for the Daily Planet. The remaining chapters have Superman taking on a criminal syndicate headed up by the Spider Lady (Carol Foreman). ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN finds the Man Of Steel going up against an early incarnation of his archenemy Lex Luthor (Lyle Talbot), as well as Luthor in the guise of the Atom Man. ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN actually proves to be more enjoyable than the first serial, thanks to a more action packed storyline. In addition to the leading characters both serials also feature Tommy Bond as Jimmy Olsen and Pierre Watkin as Perry White.

Warner Home Video has made SUPERMAN and ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN available on DVD in nice looking black and white transfers that frame each of the fifteen chapter serials in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. Both serials have held up rather well, but SUPERMAN comes with a slightly stronger presentation than ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN. Everything usually appears is fairly sharp and reasonably well defined, although there is some softness here and there, but it is never too bad. Blacks are clean, whites appear stable and contrast is good. While film grain is noticeable throughout each, it never becomes excessive. Across both serials, there are some scratches, blemishes and other minor signs of damage; although, the film elements are in generally good shape for their age. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks are more than respectable. Most of the background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process. Dialogue is crisp and always totally understandable. Fidelity has its limitations, but the music manages to be reproduced without harshness or brittleness. No other language tracks have been included on the DVDs, but French and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extra features. Saturdays With Superman is a nine-minute program that looks back on the serials and features interviews with actress Noel Neill, as well as historians Bob Burns, Donald Glut, Gary Grossman, Jim Harmon and Jan Henderson. Excerpts from LOOK, UP IN THE SKY! THE AMAZING STORY OF SUPERMAN close out the extras.

As I stated above, SUPERMAN: THE THEATRICAL SERIALS COLLECTION is a hoot and a half. Warner’s presentations are just fine and should please all the diehard Superman fans out there. Recommended.



Superman - The 1948 & 1950 Theatrical Serials Collection



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2007 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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