The Year of Superman (DVD Sets-2006)
Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski
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
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.
three other just-released sets in the series worth checking out:
Superman: The Theatrical Serials Collection
(Warner Home Video 4-Disc DVD set)
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).
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.
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)
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