Review - The Year of Superman (DVD Sets-2006)
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The Year of Superman (DVD Sets-2006)

Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski


Truly, 2006 is the year of Superman with a happy plethora of releases on DVD: motion pictures, movie serials, TV series, animated series etc. Indeed, the earlier-released Bryan Singer two-hour documentary Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman conveys the unbelievable number of notable and richly rewarding incarnations the character has had.  


The climax occurs with the end-of-the-year DVD debut of the newest film, Superman Returns, issued along with all four previous Superman films (including the never-before-seen Richard Donner cut of Superman II), all loaded with extras. 


Here are three other just-released sets in the series worth checking out:



Superman: The Theatrical Serials Collection (Warner Home Video 4-Disc DVD set) 


Before George Reeves, before Christopher Reeve, before Dean Cain et al, there was Kirk Alyn who played Clark Kent / Superman in the 1948 (15-chapter) live-action motion picture serial Superman and also the 1950 (15-chapter) serial Atom Man vs. Superman.  Both are included complete in this set.  The serial also features Noel Neill as the first actress to portray Lois Lane (a role she would reprise on The Adventures of Superman TV series several years later).  


Within a limited budget, the problem of showing Superman in flight was solved by going from live action to animation whenever Superman had to fly.  Since the character originated as a cartoon in a comic book, audiences were able to accept this solution and the two serials became the most financially successful ever produced.  Both are better than you would expect and are entertaining.  A nice bonus feature is “Saturdays with Superman,” in which present-day Noel Neill reminisces with several historians about the making of the two serial adventures.



The Adventures of Superman: The Complete Fifth and Sixth Seasons in Full Color (Warner Home Video 5-Disc DVD set)


It is impossible to convey the impact George Reeves had (on both the country as a whole and baby boomers in particular.) with his portrayal of Superman during the 1950’s.   To many he was, and remains to this day, synonymous with Superman.  The combination of his square-jawed Romanesque profile, serious yet warm and kind demeanor, winning smile and confident air along with the strength he brought to both the character of Kent and Superman makes an indelible impression.  It is no small wonder that he had difficulty getting other acting roles, so strongly was he identified with Superman for all time to come.


The previous seasons of the TV show were released earlier on DVD.  The first two seasons (in black and white) have a more serious film noir tone.  They appealed to adults as well as children.  Starting with the third season, the series was produced in color and moved toward more family-oriented fare (with an unfortunate cut in budget for special effects to offset the cost of shooting in color).  The current set comprises all twenty-six episodes (thirteen episodes each) of the fifth and sixth seasons, thus completing the entire series. 


As with most series, these final episodes constitute a watering-down in many respects.  But there is much to admire here—unusual episodes such as “The Mysterious Cube,” “The Magic Secret” and “The Perils of Superman,” to cite just a few.  And there’s Reeves, grayer, heavier (reportedly due to the type of costume needed for the brighter lighting for color photography) and with more gravitas, but always clearly Superman.  The bonus feature in this set, “Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen focuses on Jack Larson’s role as Jimmy Olsen.  Present-day Larson recalls how he too was type-cast by his portrayal in the series.  


As a final personal observation, it is interesting to note how two performers coexist in their interpretations of Superman: George Reeves and (in the Superman films) Christopher Reeve – two different approaches, yet each completely committed, claiming and inhabiting the role.



Lois and Clark – The New Adventures of Superman: The Complete Fourth Season (Warner Home Video 6-Disc DVD set)


The action/comedy blend found in Lois and Clark emphasized the romance between the two and gave Clark Kent a fuller character. Fans really love this series.  In this, the final season (22 episodes worth!), after much consideration and anticipation, Clark and Lois finally tie the knot.  How this turn of events affected the series (and a planned but never realized fifth season) is debated to this day.  But whatever one’s verdict, the final season sparkled with dazzle and rich entertainment amid the controversy.  Following the series’ end, Dean Cain (Clark/Superman) is managing a career that has survived the Superman typecasting, and Teri Hatcher (Lois Lane) found new heights of fame in TV’s Desperate Houswives.  Both display admirable flair and splendid chemistry in Lois and Clark.  As a bonus feature, Dean Cain introduces the segments of “Kryptonian Kronology which traces the amazing career, in art, movies, TV, animation, radio and even the musical stage that Superman has enjoyed in his spectacular career.


2006 Dennis Kwiatkowski/Celluloid Dreams



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