“Faster than a lightning bolt, more powerful than the greatest locomotive, Superman, man of tomorrow!”
A rash of robberies have been happening in Metropolis. The arch villain Lex Luther (Lyle Talbot) and his minions are responsible. Lex tries to hold the city hostage by threatening to destroy the Metropolis bridge. His demand is all the money in the Metropolis Trust Company. When the demand is not met Lex uses a weapon that sends sound waves to the bridge with his “Sonic Vibrator”. Superman follows the waves to Lex’s hideout. He is arrested and put in jail.
When another crime wave begins the police are in the dark as to who is responsible. Lex is in solitary confinement. Unknown by the police and Superman (Kirk Alyn), Lex has created a teleportation devise that he can use over short distances. He can beam himself in and out of his cell as well as beam his minions in and out of crime scenes. He uses a special coin that contains a secret element. Lex uses the alter ego The Atom Man for his new crime wave. His plan as Atom Man is to, of course, rule the world. Atom Man wears a black robe and a glitter encrusted, tiki god, lobster pot on his head.
Lex manages to get paroled. He buys a Television station and says he is going straight. In reality he has many tricks up his sleeve as Atom Man.
“Atom Man vs Superman” was released in 1950 and was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet. As with The first Superman serial, because of the difficulty and cost of creating special flying effects, all the images of Superman flying were animated. There is also a reader’s digest version of the origins of Superman, narrated by Lex Luther, complete with footage from the “Superman” 1948 serial.
This serial has the same cast of characters as the first Superman serial. Lois Lane is Noel Neill, Jimmy Olsen is Tommy Bond and Pierre Watkin is Perry White along with Kirk Alyn as Superman/Clark Kent. Lois is again causing more problems than she is solving, but Tommy Bond has more to do this time around. His character Jimmy comes up with some rational theories and he is more than willing to jump into a fight whenever he is needed. Not to mention he can fly a plane. OK, OK, so Superman does look a little bit like a pansy, but he’s Superman for crying out loud. As least he’s not an idiot like Lois Lane.
There are a couple neat twists to this serial. Luther, as Atom Man, manages to send Superman into what he calls the “Empty Doom”. Superman appears as an apparition that no one can see and tries to communicate with Lois via her typewriter. It looks pretty cool. Also Lois quits the paper and goes to work for Luther as a television reporter at one point.
This serial was just as much fun to watch as the last one. It got criticized a lot, but I’m not looking to compare it to other serials or to even good film. These things were churned out by most of the major and not so major studios for years. I understand that there is a lot of stupid in it. I basically just look to see if it’s entertaining and this one was.
Lex Luthor was in neither the animated shorts nor the later TV series starring George Reeves; Lyle Talbot was the first actor to ever play the character. The mask Luther wears as Atom Man, is part of the Metallogen Man costume from “The Monster and the Ape” 1945.
The stock footage used for the bridge that Luthor destroys is of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State. The bridge, known as “Galloping Gertie”, was opened in July 1940. It collapsed November 1940. The part that collapsed into the water is now used as an artificial reef. The stock footage used for the flood sequence was actually quite good. I heard it came from “Mandrake the Magician”. Not having seen that serial yet I couldn’t say for sure.
Episode titles: 1. Superman Flies Again 2. Atom Man Appears! 3. Ablaze in the Sky! 4. Superman Meets Atom Man! 5. Atom Man Tricks Superman 6. Atom Man's Challenge 7. At the Mercy of Atom Man! 8. Into the Empty Doom! 9. Superman Crashes Through 10. Atom Man's Heat Ray 11. Luthor's Strategy 12. Atom Man Strikes! 13. Atom Man's Flying Saucers 14. Rocket of Vengeance 15. Superman Saves the Universe.