“This looks like a job... for Superman!”
The planet Krypton is in imminent danger of exploding. Jor-El (Nelson Leigh), in a desperate attempt to save his infant son Kal-El, wraps the baby in a blanket and places him in a small spaceship. He sends the ship into the cosmos not knowing if his son will survive or not. Moments later the planet explodes. The tiny spaceship travels through the cold dark vacuum of space to a planet called Earth.
The small spaceship lands in a field, on Earth, in America. The spaceship and the tiny baby inside is discovered by farmer Eben Kent (Ed Cassidy) and his wife Martha (Virginia Carroll). Being childless they keep the infant and call him Clark (Kirk Alyn).
The baby grows and thrives. As Kent grows he begins to display strange powers. Unusual strength, speed, X-ray vision and super hearing. Once he is an adult his parents tell him all they know about where he came from. They also tell him he must use his powers for good. Not long after that his parents pass away. Kent then leaves for Metropolis to fulfill his destiny.
Before he even gets to the Daily Planet to apply for a job he saves a train from derailing, a woman from a burning building and rescues Lois Lane (Noel Neill) from a mine cave-in. After that the self described Superman is a one man crime fighting force. Perry White (Pierre Watkin) officially makes Kent a reporter for the Daily Planet along side Lois and cub reporter Jimmy Olsen (Tommy Bond). But when he comes up against a super criminal called The Spider Lady (Carol Forman) he is unaware that among her arsenal of weapons is the one thing that could destroy the man of steel, Kryptonite.
“Superman” was released in 1948 and was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Thomas Carr. This serial marks the very first live-action portrayal of Superman. Because of the difficulty and cost of creating special flying effects the images of Superman flying were animated. The animation is obvious but the way it is blended into the live action is well done.
Kirk Alyn was credited only as Clark Kent because the studio felt that no one should know who was playing the part of Superman. In fact, they spread the story that Superman was portraying himself in the serial.
This was a lot of fun to watch. I’m not one for origin stories especially since I’ve seen several concerning Superman before. This one, however, did not dwell on Superman’s origins or how hard it was for a super human growing up. You can run faster than a speeding bullet, you are more powerful than a locomotive and you can fly. So sad, boo-hoo. Gag me with a spoon. Everybody had a crappy childhood. I don’t want to see Superman alone trying not to cry because some jerk made fun of him because he can lift a car. I want to see him beat up bad guys. And he does. A lot.
Kirk’s performance was better than I expected as both Superman and Clark Kent. Tommy Bond as Olsen is fine for what we see. His character is not used as much as Lois Lane’s. Noel Neill is one of the two Lois Lane’s that appeared in the Superman television series. Unfortunately her character creates more problems than the spider lady does. Trying to out scoop Kent she ends up screwing up any chances Superman has to catch the spider lady and puts herself in a bind, time after time, that only Superman can get her out of. Although Noel does a good job, her character is quite annoying.
Chapter Titles: 1. Superman Comes to Earth; 2. Depths of the Earth; 3. The Reducer Ray; 4. Man of Steel; 5. A Job for Superman!; 6. Superman in Danger!; 7. Into the Electric Furnace!; 8. Superman to the Rescue; 9. Irresistible Force!; 10. Between Two Fires; 11. Superman's Dilemma; 12. Blast in the Depths; - 13. Hurled to Destruction; 14. Superman at Bay; 15. The Payoff.