Chances are that, had they not been resurrected for cable television in the early 1990's (and run regularly on AMC), the two Superman chapter-plays represented here -- Superman and Atom Man Vs. Superman -- would be complete anomalies to anyone under the age of 65 or 70. Owing to contractual restrictions on their distribution after their original releases, they were never revived for broadcast television in the manner of many of the Republic, Universal, and Columbia serials during the late 1950's and 1960's, nor were the re-edited as feature films in the way that most of the Republic serials and some of the Universal serials were; and unlike the two Batman serials of the 1940's, which were rushed back into theaters in 1966 to take advantage of the craze associated with the Adam West TV series, the Superman serials never saw another airing in theaters. Kirk Alyn's portrayal of the hero will still prove to be new to most people, and may take some getting used to -- he's not as physically imposing as George Reeves, or as good an actor as Christopher Reeve, but he brings a dancer and gymnast's approach to the role that is interesting and different, and does work; and within the limits of acting and portrayals that wer possible in serials, his Clark Kent is entertaining, if not as substantial as what George Reeves was able to do across six seasons of television. The film-to-video transfers -- all full-screen (1.33-to-1) -- are excellent, better than this reviewer remembers the serials looking on cable a decade earlier, and the sound is sharp and consistent; these serials, produced originally by Columbia Pictures, have been far better preserved than the same studio's two Batman serials of the same era. Each serial chapter gets a chapter marker on the DVD and the main bonus feature is a delight, a short entitled "Saturdays With Superman," telling of the character's leap to the big-screen, although they leave out the reason for the 10-year delay in bringing Superman to movies (which was partly a result of the Fleischer Studios' contract to do the Superman cartoons); they do convey the excitement that kids felt upon seeing the first serial, and some of the failed attempts at trying to show Alyn's Superman in flight (he basically turns into a cartoon when he takes to the air, but it's so well done -- reminiscent in many ways of the Fleischers' roto-scoping on their Superman cartoons -- that kids at the time forgave the "cheat"). And it's wonderful to see co-star Noel Neill discussing the two chapterplays in some detail, though one wishes that this featurette ran about 10 or 15 minutes longer and really delved into the pre- and post-history of the production. Still, these won't disappoint fans of the 40's (or even the 50's) version of the character, or the genre -- directors Spencer Bennet and Thomas Carr (who later helmed the first two seasons of the TV series starring Reeves) knew how to keep a plot moving, often like an express train barreing down a mountain, and some of the action sequences will still leave viewers breathless, especially as presented as well as they are here; it all makes one long to see how it really looked up on a 100-foot screen, the way kids saw it in 1948 or 1950.
Saturdays With Superman: Noel Neill and historians Bob Burns, Donald Glut, Gary Grossman, Jim Harmon and Jan Henderson recall the making of these 2 serial adventures
Look, up in th Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman: Excerpts from the new documentary produced by Bryan Singer and Kevin Burns
Superman: Blast in the Depths Superman: Superman's Dilemma Superman: Hurled to Destruction Atom Man vs. Superman: Atom Man's Challenge Superman: Man of Steel Superman: A Job for Superman! Superman: The Payoff Atom Man vs. Superman: Atom Man Strikes! Superman: The Reducer Ray Atom Man vs. Superman: Rocket of Vengeance Superman: Into the Electric Furnace! Atom Man vs. Superman: Ablaze in the Sky! Atom Man vs. Superman: Superman Meets Atom Man! Superman: Depths of the Earth Superman: Superman at Bay Atom Man vs. Superman: Atom Man Appears! Atom Man vs. Superman: At the Mercy of Atom Man! Atom Man vs. Superman: Atom Man Tricks Superman Atom Man vs. Superman: Atom Man's Flying Saucers Superman: Superman Comes to Earth Atom Man vs. Superman: Atom Man's Heat Ray Atom Man vs. Superman: Luthor's Strategy Superman: Irresistible Force! Atom Man vs. Superman: Superman Flies Again Atom Man vs. Superman: Into the Empty Doom! Superman: Superman in Danger! Atom Man vs. Superman: Superman Crashes Through Atom Man vs. Superman: Superman Saves the Universe Superman: Between Two Fires Superman: Superman to the Rescue