Adventures of Superman - The Complete First Season
  • Adventures of Superman - The Complete First Season
  • Adventures of Superman - The Complete First Season

The Adventures of Superman - The Complete First Season

4.8 5
Director: Lee Sholem, Thomas Carr, Tommy Carr

Cast: George Reeves

     
 

This release of Adventures of Superman: The Complete First Season was originally intended to appear in late 2004, but it was delayed, reportedly by problems in finding suitable materials, a difficulty that -- as of this release in October of 2005 -- is still an issue for the later seasons. The series got most of its complete run issued on VHS through Columbia House,…  See more details below

Overview

This release of Adventures of Superman: The Complete First Season was originally intended to appear in late 2004, but it was delayed, reportedly by problems in finding suitable materials, a difficulty that -- as of this release in October of 2005 -- is still an issue for the later seasons. The series got most of its complete run issued on VHS through Columbia House, but it had a hard-luck history on laserdisc as well. The only one of the 1950s television series owned by Warner Home Video to be chosen for issue in that format, it eventually made it out on four 12-inch platters representing eight episodes plus four of the early 1940s Fleischer/Paramount-generated animated Superman shorts, and even one of those laserdiscs was delayed because of source problems involving one of the second-season episodes. This DVD set has overcome most of those difficulties and then some. Most of the 26 episodes are transferred from sources so clean that the space-scape opening almost looks 3-D, and the transfers are so sharp that on episodes such as "The Haunted Lighthouse, one can now very clearly see the shadows of the actors cast on the backdrop representing the sky over Moose Island. As author Gary Grossman points out on his commentary for the episode, on a 1952 or 1953 television screen that would not have happened, or otherwise have been an issue. Grossman is one of two commentators who participate in the bonus audio tracks for this set (the other is George Reeves biographer Chuck Harter), and they both have a fair amount of fun reminiscing about the show, but they also miss opportunities; no one seems to have bothered researching (and certainly not discussing) the careers of any of the supporting and guest actors in the series. Additionally, the half-hour format of the episodes limits what they can say, and they really should each have done at least one more, which could have allowed them to be more expansive. They do make some important and valid points about the early episodes of the series being, in effect, "mini-movies" (and mostly mini-film noir productions) and intended for general audiences, not just kids, which explains -- along with producer Robert Maxwell's association with the radio series that preceded it -- the very high body count and levels of violence in many of these episodes. A lot of these shows look and feel like miniatures of the kind of hard-boiled crime movies that Eagle-Lion was releasing in profusion during the late '40s. But they miss opportunities to discuss the gradual evolution of the series into a pure kids' show in more detail. Each episode looks about as good as it ever has or, likely, ever will, with the exception of what is probably the best episode of the season, "The Stolen Costume." Clearly transferred from a less-than-first-generation source, it is the only episode marred by significant scratches and other blemishes. It's still watchable, as the best episode of the season, but it's a disappointment. One or two other episodes, such as "Treasure of the Incas, look a little flat in visual tone, but they're not deficient in any serious way. And everything else is a delight to the eye and ear. Some of these programs may still give viewers chills almost 50 years after their initial broadcasts, with "Mystery in Wax" leading the way with Charles Chaplin alumna Mira McKinney as a mad sculptress faking the deaths of prominent citizens to build up publicity for her wax museum. There are also a fair number of blacklistees turning up in these shows as well, which predated the shutdown of television to many alleged communist sympathizers (series co-star Robert Shayne was investigated by the FBI for his union activities, and that's one reason he was missing from some shows in the first season). Each of the first four discs contains six episodes, presented in the order in which they were broadcast; each episode gets a single chapter marker, and there are "play all" and individual access options available on all of the discs, accessible through a cleverly designed and very entertaining menu, which also allows two routes of access to the commentary tracks where available. The last disc contains the two-part episode "The Unknown People, which was recut from the 1951 feature Superman and the Mole Men -- the latter appears as a bonus feature on the disc. The pairing of the overlapping material gives viewers the chance to compare the two productions, which was never possible (or, at least, easy) to do before. The fuller development and dramatic content of the feature-film version is very satisfying, but the tighter editing and much more intense scoring of the television version makes for a more engrossing and emotionally involving experience, and the decision to recut the movie for television was the correct one, although the feature-film edit does give viewers the chance to see more footage of one of the very last appearances by John Ford/Preston Sturges alumnus J. Farrell MacDonald. Also present on the last disc is the feature documentary "Adventures of Superman: From Inkwell to Backlot," which includes interviews with surviving co-star Jack Larson and also expert Allan Asherman and others (including the creators of the current series Smallville), which reveal some information about the series and its creation, as well as some of the high points of the season at hand. Surprisingly, there is no use made of footage from either later seasons or from the two Columbia-produced serials (both of which are now owned by Warner Home Video) that preceded the series, which would have better illustrated the virtues of the special effects in the series (one never saw Superman fly in the serials) and the casting of George Reeves in the title role. The producers have gone to the trouble of locating uncut, original versions of the episodes, including "Crime Wave, which exists in two very different cuts. One would like to see the alternate, censored version as well, and it would have been nice to have included the coming attractions (alluded to at the end of part one of "The Unknown People") that originally accompanied the end credits of each show (and which do exist), as well as one complete version of the opening with the original sponsor's credit. On the plus side, the producers have included a short string of Kellogg's cereal commercials featuring Reeves in character as Clark Kent and Superman. In all, the five-disc set is a better result than one initially expected from Warner Home Video, but still only about 40 percent of what it might have been with a truly concentrated and knowledgeable effort.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Having achieved success in various other media -- comic books, newspaper comic strips, animated cartoons, live-action serials, daytime radio, and hardcover books -- the Man of Steel whooshed his way into the hearts of TV viewers with this phenomenally popular series, first telecast in 1951. Starring then-little-known actor George Reeves as Krypton's favorite son, Adventures of Superman also featured Phyllis Coates as tough, occasionally abrasive newshound Lois Lane, Jack Larson as cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, and John Hamilton as perpetually exasperated editor Perry White. The first-season stories, many of them adapted from the radio show, are considerably more hard-edged and action-packed than later episodes, which were dumbed down for younger audiences. "The Haunted Lighthouse" still comes across as pretty darn spooky, "Riddle of the Chinese Jade" as mystifying, and "Crime Wave" as downright gritty and violent. One installment, "The Stolen Costume," actually ends with the deaths of two miscreants who've stumbled onto the secret of Superman's dual identity. The season-ending two-parter, "Unknown People," is actually a slightly edited version of Superman and the Mole Men, the short feature film that served as an unofficial pilot for the series. It's a real standout, with the Man of Steel trying to protect the peculiar-looking, diminutive residents of an underground community whose excursion to the surface world finds them targeted by narrow-minded, intolerant bullies. Adventures of Superman originally came to the small screen under the supervision of Robert Maxwell, the radio show’s majordomo, and Whitney Ellsworth, whose tenure at DC Comics made him qualified to oversee the adaptation of printed-page stories into live-action exploits. A nostalgic favorite of millions, this series holds up quite well in comparison to other shows of TV's early days.

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/18/2005
UPC:
0012569420021
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[B&W]
Time:
11:02:00
Sales rank:
18,443

Special Features

Closed Caption; Retrospective documentary -- "Adventures of Superman: From Inkwell to Backlot" featuring Jack Larson, Leonard Maltin, and others; 1951 theatrical feature Superman and the Mole Men, later to be televised as the two-part "The Unknown People"; Pony Express Days: Vintage Warner Bros. historical short starring George Reeves; Commentary on four key episodes by Superman chroniclers Gary H. Grossman and Chuck Harter; Original Kellogg's cereal commercials

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
George Reeves Actor
Allene Roberts Maria Moleska,Alice
Dan Seymour Lou Cranek,Ace,Rocko
Frank Richards Sully
Fred E. Sherman Dr. Oscar Jessup,Insp. D.K. Sims
Houseley Stevenson Pop Polgase
Howland Chamberlain Dr. Albert Fisher,Schumann
Isa Ashdown Cathy Williams
Jeff Corey Luke Benson
John Eldredge Walter Canby
Leonard Penn Pedro Mandoza
Lucien Littlefield Horatio Hinkle
Mabel Albertson Kate White
Malcolm Mealey Wayne Winchester,Alvin Godfrey
Mira McKinney Mme. Selena Dawn
Paul E. Burns Lu Sung
Paul Fix Ollie
Peter Brocco Dr. H.L. Orr
Phyllis Coates Actress
Rhys Williams Macey Taylor
Robert Rockwell Jor-El
Sarah Padden Aunt Louisa
Stanley Andrews Sam Garvin
Trevor Bardette Bet-a-Million Butler
Tris Coffin E.J. Davis aka Al Roselli,Paul Martin
Veda Ann Borg Connie
Aline Towne Lara
Ben Welden Curly
Dennis Moore Conway
Henry Corden Johnson (Legbo)
Jack Larson Actor
Jane Adams Babette DuLoque
John Doucette Slugger
John Farrell MacDonald Pop Shannon
John Kellogg Mitch
John Maxwell Tommy Dinelli
Jonathan Hale Col. Brand
Larry Blake Rausch
Lester Sharpe Andrew Dawn
Martin Garralaga Chief of Police
Maudie Prickett Mrs. Carmody,Mrs. Matilda Teazey
Michael Vallon Organ Grinder,Owner of Bonelli's
Philip Van Zandt Nick Marone
Richard Reeves Bad Luck Brannigan
Russell Johnson Chopper
Sid Saylor Mr. Marco
Victor Sen Yung Harry Wong
Al Eben Big Ed Bullock
Ann Doran Mrs. King
Anthony Caruso Luigi Dinelli
Cecil Elliott Elsa
Edmund Cobb Peter Godfrey,Lafe Reiser
Frank Jenks Candy Meyers
Gloria Saunders Lily Sung
Griff Barnett Dr. Edward Stanton
Harry Lewis Harold Crane
Helen Wallace Mrs. Wallace
Herbert Rawlinson Rozan
John Hamilton Actor
Juan Duval Dr. Cuesta
Leonard Mudie Masters
Lou Krugman Jacques Loviler
Marshall Reed Deputy Insp. Hill
Maurice Cass Owner of Ellie's
Pierre Watkin Harry Green
Ray Bennett Stan Hocker
Richard Elliot Sam Bleaker
Selmar Jackson Col. Redding
Virginia Carroll Mrs. Williams
Walter Reed Bill Corrigan
Frances Morris Sarah Kent
Hal Gerard Prof. Laverra
Harold Goodwin Railroad Engineer
Herb Vigran Mortimer Murray
James Craven John Greer
James Seay Sen. Taylor
Jimmy Ogg Chris
Joel Friedkin Herman
John Harmon Mousey
Joseph Mell The Professor
Lou Lubin Henchman
Milton Wood Berharier
Norman Budd Johnny (T-Ball) Sims
Paul Marion Cusack
Phillip Pine Dorn,1st Safe Man
Ray Walker John Craig
Richard Benedict Baby Face Stevens
Robert Kent Usher
Roy Gordon Postello
Rudolph Anders Dr. Rudolf Albrecht
William Challee Max
Almira Sessions Miss Bachrach
Anne Tyrell Miss Walton
Barbara Fuller Sally
Bob Williams Uniformed Officer
George Hamilton Dr. Simon Jerrod
Hal K. Dawson Weber
Harry Hayden Al
Jimmy Dodd Jake
Joey Ray Dart
Julian Rivero Taxi Driver
Milt Kibbee Harry Hansen
Nan Boardman Maria Douvail
Robert Easton Marvin
Stephen Carr Lt. Harris,Movie Director,The Cook,Train Doctor
Ted Ryan Off. Riley
Tito Renaldo Swami Ram
Tom Fadden Eben Kent

Technical Credits
Lee Sholem Director
Thomas Carr Director
Tommy Carr Director

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The Adventures of Superman - The Complete First Season 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This collection of 26 episodes may quite possibly be the best television ever produced. The stories are well written, intelligent, dramatic, and at times, startling. (Originally targeting the kids, the episodes will entertain any adult). And the MUSIC! I defy anyone who grew up as a fan of this show to NOT get goose bumps or a welling up in your heart when you hear the harp glissando as Superman flies to the rescue. The cast is first-rate with the positively stunning Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane, Jack Larson as Jimmy Olson, John Hamilton as Perry White, and Robert Shayne as Inspector Henderson. But the real treat here is George Reeves. No matter how many portrayals of Superman have been attempted over the years, this will always be the standard by which they are measured. No one, and I mean No One, has ever matched the dynamic athleticism with which Reeves portrayed Superman. From the takeoffs to the landings, that big wonderful smile, and square-jawed determination - everything is top notch. A generation of people is grateful for George Reeves' contribution and now a new generation will get to see the true gem. I'm putting together my Christmas list...
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a treat! Season one in stunning first run movie quality prints. The television show that enthralled millions of children in the 50's and rerun 60's now available to bring back so many fond memories of a softer time. A must for any fan of nostalgic good times. George Reeves really is the standard Superman and his Clark Kent is the only version that portrays a warm,strong and all around likable guy. For those only aware of the Chris Reeves Kent, this is no bumbler or fumbler. It is someone we would all want as a friend - even without the S under his shirt. A great collection!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! How memorable! how riveting! The first season DVD gives us the extra delight of commentaries by producers Gary H. Grossman and Chuck Harter which add flavor, focus and an inside glimpse into the production of this first great season. Even though these episodes filmed in 1951 were shot at a furious pace, nothing is lost. Every episode is masterfully done even though they were much more violent than later seasons. The acting, the camera work, the lighting and all aspects of production were top notch. For us baby boomers, George Reeves, who was a great actor, was the best Superman ever and really the only one. Bravo!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago