I've written often about the deterioration in quality of "The Adventures of Superman" after color was introduced, in 1954, and I'll still stand by the statement, for the last seasons of the series...But having just sat through this collection of the third and fourth seasons' color episodes, allow me to "eat crow"...these episodes are VERY entertaining, and certainly are far better than I remembered!
The decision to shoot in color was a bold move, by sponsor Kellogg's, producer Whitney Ellsworth, and the series' home studio, Motion Pictures for Television Inc,(MPTV), as the technology to even air color programming would not be widely available to local television stations for nearly a decade. Series like AOS, "The Cisco Kid", and "The Lone Ranger", in choosing to use the far more expensive process, understood that these programs would have a 'lifespan' far beyond the 1950s audience. Certainly, in the case of AOS, the continuing popularity of the show, and the sales of these collections prove their point!
Because of the expense of color, the seasons would be slashed from 26 to 13 episodes per season, which was a godsend to the cast, particularly George Reeves. Lighting for color was MUCH brighter and hotter than for black and white, and the costume department realized Reeves' original brown-and-gray, frequently sweat-stained "shoulder-padded longjohns" would be even more of a problem in future. A 'genius' decided to redesign the costume, creating a thicker, full-body red and blue suit of foam rubber, which would not 'show' perspiration (but would, sadly, make the actor appear much stockier). While in theory this was a great idea, in truth, it was a disaster, as the suit didn't 'breathe', with 'locked-in' sweat causing severe rashes and frequent heat exhaustion for Reeves. A half-hour stretch was the maximum he could wear it, safely, making for long 'shooting days'...and the physical torture of the suit would 'age' Reeves, rapidly, over the remainder of the series.
Knowing this, my respect for Reeves' professionalism has increased, and this collection offers some of his really terrific performances, as well as some of Noel Neill and Jack Larson's best work, as well. Among my favorites are "Superman Week" and "King For a Day" (which shows Reeves still willing to manhandle baddies...something that would soon be completely eliminated as Kellogg's bowed to parental pressure for less violence); "Jimmy the Kid", offering Larson a meaty dual role, as both 'comic relief' Jimmy Olsen, and a notorious gunman; and, best of all, "The Wedding of Superman", an acting tour-de-force by Neill, in a remarkably sensitive (and prophetic, for "Lois & Clark" fans) episode of Lois and Superman finally acknowledging their love. This episode is acclaimed as one of the finest episodes of the entire series, and shouldn't be missed!
So, if you harbor an illusion that the color episodes will be a disappointment, like I did, I strongly urge you to reconsider, and buy this collection...I think you'll be in for a VERY pleasant surprise!