Friday, June 7, 2013

The Superman Movie Serial

Since I'm doing the movie serial blog thing over at Continued Next Week!, I figured it behooved me to watch some more serials that sounded interesting. One of those was the original SUPERMAN serial from 1948. It's not bad, but I wouldn't call it great either. I do like the unusual structure in telling Superman's origin before we get into the plot itself. I don't really mind the animated effects - it's a rather distinctive and innovative touch that prefigures the CGI revolution, even if it's almost distracting in how jarring it is. And Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill are both top-notch as Superman/Clark and Lois, with Tommy Bond and Pierre Watkin also great as Jimmy Olsen and Perry White (respectively).

It's not the acting or the admitted cheapness of the serial that bothers me. No, it's the fact that people do the most amazingly dumb things in it. I understand this is to some degree inevitable in serials, but SUPERMAN abuses the privilege. Both the good guys and the bad guys are huge morons. I found myself screaming at the TV all the time. If I had one of those foam bricks they used to sell, I'd have thrown it a lot.

Let me give you an example. It is a SPOILER, if you care. The cliffhanger of Chapter 4 finds Lois being placed on the huge electrified web of the head villain the Spider Lady. We have already seen one luckless soul fried on this contraption. The juice is turned on! OH NO! Will Lois be electrocuted?! Find out in the next chapter!

Chapter 5 recaps the pertinent predicament and resolves it by...having the Spider Lady turn off her death trap? Hmmm? Her reasoning is as follows:

Spider Lady: "I don't plan to finish her here. I just want her to realize my power."
Thug: "You're not gonna turn her loose?"
Spider Lady: "Certainly not! Have two of the men take her to the warehouse in the city."

The thug protests this plan, pointing out quite reasonably that Superman can never find them due to the lead walls of their cave headquarters. Spider Lady retorts:

He won't find her at the warehouse either, in time. I'll see to that. Now do as I say!

OK, let's review. The Spider Lady has Lois doomed to a certain death in a lead-lined cave, and Superman doesn't know where they are. The Spider Lady removes Lois from her death trap just to prove she can. Then, she orders her men to drive Lois out in the open to the warehouse. And then to shoot her, I guess. Obviously, this doesn't happen, and Superman rescues Lois from the car before it ever makes it to Metropolis.

Spider Lady, just how dumb are you?!?


  1. I'll place them in an easily escapable death trap and not make sure they are dead.

    it's a movie staple.

  2. I know, I know, but this was somehow worse because SHE TOOK HER OUT INTENTIONALLY.