Columbia's 43rd serial finds Lex Luthor, secretly the Atom Man, blackmailing the city of Metropolis by threatening to destroy the entire community. Perry White, editor of "The Daily Planet", assigns Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson and Clark Kent/Superman to cover the story. Luthor invents a number of deadly devices to plague the city, including a disintegrating machine which can reduce people to their basic atoms and reassemble them in another place. But Superman manages to thwart each scheme. Since Kryptonite can rob Superman of his powers, Luthor decides to create a synthetic Kryptonite and putters about obtaining the necessary ingredients: plutonium, radium and the undefined 'etc.'(in order to keep viewers from trying this at home). Luthor places the Kryptonite at the launching of a ship, with Superman in attendance. He is exposed to the Kryptonite and passes out. Superman is taken off in an ambulance driven by Luthor's henchmen, and he is now under the control of Luthor. Superman is placed... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
In chapter one the shot of Luthor destroying the bridge is actual footage of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge that opened in 1940 (also known as "Galloping Gertie"). The footage used is that of the bridge in its final moments prior to its collapse on November 7, 1940, shot on 16mm Kodachrome motion picture film by Barney Elliott and Harbine Monroe of a Tacoma-area camera shop. See more »
At the Beginning of Chapter Six, the outline of the hole Superman's about to make in the barn door is already visible. See more »
Cheapo production but lots of fun because of lead performances.
I've always been a bit prejudiced against the serials produced by Columbia. They just seemed a little tawdry when compared to the production values of the typical Republic chapter play. Certainly "Atom Man..." is no exception especially in the special effects department. The animated version of Superman that takes over every time that character flies is simply laughable. The actual animation itself is fine, reminiscent of the old Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 40's in fact, but it just doesn't key in with the live action sequences. The rocket, featured in the final episode, from which Luthor plans to dominate the Earth is a joke. The model is very amateurish when compared to the ones produced by the Lydecker brothers over at Republic while the interior simply doesn't make sense. It wouldn't look out of place in an Ed Wood movie. What does save this serial however are the lead performances, particularly those of Kirk Alyn as Superman/Clark Kent and Noel Neil as Lois Lane. Alyn plays his role with almost total conviction and unbounded enthusiasm. As an actor he's clearly aware that this is all pure nonsense and there is a definite hint of a tongue in cheek approach in his performance but not enough to detract from the action. He seems totally unable to be embarrassed, for instance, being caught leaping around in an outfit that is clearly adapted from a set of mens long underwear. Noel Neil is equally enthusiastic in her portrayal of Superman's "girlfriend". Visually she is a dead ringer for the actual comic book Lois from the 40's and early 50's and I was almost convinced that she couldn't actually see that Superman and Clark Kent ("mild mannered reporter") where one in the same. As I catch up with more and more of the old Columbia serials I realise that it is with these lead performances that they score over the Republic product. Warren Hull gives colourful interpretations of both The Spider and Mandrake. Lewis Wilson is an enthusiastic Batman. Victor Jury brings a real touch of class to his role of The Shadow. With one or two exceptions the Republic heroes tend to be rather colourless. Dennis Moore, hero of "The Purple Monster..." virtually defines this. Even Kane Richmond in "Spysmasher", an undisputed classic, often does little more than look granite jawed and mildly concerned in the face of potentially fatal situations. Luckily Republic did have Ralph Byrd but simply not long enough due to his early death. So have a look at "Atom Man..." and revel in both it's weakness' (laughably cheap production values) and strengths (admirably enthusiastic performances) and simply have a good time.
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