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Superman - The 1948 & 1950 Theatrical Serials Collection
Superman - The 1948 1950 Theatrical Serials Collection
Actors: Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill, Lyle Talbot, Tommy Bond, Pierre Watkin
Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television
NR     2006     8hr 38min

Kirk Alyn sets the herioc standard for generations to come, portraying Superman in these multichapter cliffhanger adventures that kept Saturday matinee crowds coming back for more. The 15-chapter Superman (1948) spans our ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill, Lyle Talbot, Tommy Bond, Pierre Watkin
Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr
Creators: Arthur Hoerl, David Mathews, George H. Plympton, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Joseph F. Poland
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television
Sub-Genres: Classics, Superheroes, Indie & Art House, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Classic TV
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Black and White - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 11/28/2006
Original Release Date: 01/05/1948
Theatrical Release Date: 01/05/1948
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 8hr 38min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaDVD Credits: 4
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

It's About Time...What took so long?
Robin L. Quinn | Charlotte NC Metro | 10/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"How lucky are we to finally be able to enjoy these two classic Superman serials now available on DVD. These have long been around on bootleg VHS or home-burned dvds, with poor picture quality and sound. The home-burned dvds I got off Ebay did not have the capability to fast forward or rewind, and were not formatted chapter-per-chapter. It's possible that only the die-hard Superman fans and fanboys alike have ever seen Kirk Alyn's portrayal of Superman. Most people think that George Reeves was the first screen Superman not realizing that there were two complete chapter serials starring Alyn as the Man of Steel long before the iconic tv show of the 50s.
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!!!"
First 'Live' Superman Appearances are Great Fun!
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 11/18/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The 'live' introduction of the Man of Steel, Kirk Alyn's "Superman" serials of 1948 and 1950 are often treated as 'poor relations' to George Reeves' television series, and the many subsequent incarnations of the character, which is unfair; these productions were, in fact, the most successful movie serials, EVER, and hugely popular, when released, which makes this DVD collection a 'must' for every Superman fan!

With the character firmly established in American pop culture (Supes had already been around for a decade in comics, a top-rated radio series, as well as the legendary Fleischer cartoons), audiences had a clear 'image' of what he looked like, and what he could (and couldn't) do. This proved a mixed blessing for Columbia Pictures, which produced the series; while it could pattern the 'look' after the previous versions (with the film serials building on the Bud Collyer radio interpretation of Clark/Superman), the very tight budgets and primitive special effects of the time kept his super powers at a minimum (although, in fact, the rotoscoped, animated 'flying' effects would have been VERY expensive to produce, today!) Fortunately, it was an era when audiences were used to using their imaginations to 'fill in' the gaps (thanks to radio), so what we see today as 'drawbacks' weren't major obstacles, at the time.

Kirk Alyn, 38, slender, mop-headed, and dynamic, offered a more two-dimensional portrayal in the lead than his successors, but had a sheer enthusiasm that is irresistible. He clearly loved his super powers, grinning as villains 'tested' his invulnerability, and handled the 'long-john' uniform with aplomb, even when his cape interfered with his fight scenes! Noel Neill, at 28, continued the 'look' of the cartoon Lois Lane, with more energy than she'd display in the television series; Tommy 'Butch' Bond, 21, a snap-brim fedora planted squarely on his head, was no threat to Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen, but Pierre Watkin, 59, was an excellent Perry White (and, in fact, was the choice to replace John Hamilton, who had passed away, had a seventh season of the "Adventures of Superman" been filmed).

While the first "Superman" serial was routine (if VERY successful), "Atom Man vs. Superman" was quite remarkable, with a few 'live' flying shots attempted, some of the cliffhanger endings are quite imaginative, and Lyle Talbot, one of film's best villains, makes a very convincing Luthor, laying the groundwork for Gene Hackman, Sherman Howard, Kevin Spacey, and Michael Rosenbaum's interpretations.

"Superman - The 1948 & 1950 Theatrical Serials Collection" finally gives this long-neglected chapter of the Man of Steel Saga it's due, and should be an 'essential' in your collection!

Up, Up, and Away!
Steven Hellerstedt | 04/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Well, I was enjoying all 8-plus hours of this set until I got to the short except of an upcoming documentary on the Man of Steel. The documentary, like this disk, was meant to coincide with and complement the release of 2006's `Superman Returns.' All's cool until one of the talking heads - I refuse to watch it again so I'll never know which head - says there "are good Superman movies and bad Superman movies." Clips are played under his voice, and when he says "good Superman movies" we see a clip of a Chris Reeve Superman (appropriately enough) and when he says "bad Superman movies" we see a clip from the 1948 `Superman serial' that we've just finished watching on disks one and two of this set. Boo! Hiss! And what's up with that!?

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.
A great time to be a Superman fan
A. Gammill | West Point, MS United States | 11/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Whatever the future holds for the world's greatest superhero, 2006 will surely be remembered as one of the greatest times in history to be a Super-fan. In addition to the terrific Superman Returns, we've seen a real "return" of the character to our t.v. screens as well. With the release of these serials, we now have ALMOST every filmed version of the Man of Steel at our fingertips (still M.I.A.: the cool 60's animated series).

I'm too young to have seen serials play in the theaters back then, but what a treat it must have been! These admittedly low-budget adventures were packed with action and interesting characters. Much has been said about the money-saving animated flying effects, but I still think they're cool. These things were designed for the big screen and aimed at kids. . .not for today's superior digital clarity and the ability to freeze a single frame of film with the push of a button.

Of the two serials, ATOM MAN is clearly better. For one thing, it affords Superman much more screen time. Often in the first serial, Supes would perform some heroic deed (like saving Lois or another character from the previous week's cliffhanger) and then disappear for the rest of the chapter. The other benefit of ATOM MAN is that it features Lex Luthor (though only his surname is used), something the (admittedly better) George Reeves series didn't manage in six whole seasons.

Since the Superman serials have been largely unavailable for years--and can now BOTH be purchased for less than what I paid for ONE of them on VHS some 10 years ago--this a great opportunity for fans to complete their collections.