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In anticipation of the television series, 'The Adventures of Superman',
this third 'live-action' Superman was the first 'feature' film (the
previous entries had been serials). Replacing serial 'King' Kirk Alyn
as the 'Man of Steel' was George Reeves, a gifted 37-year old actor who
had been impressive in such 'A'-list productions as 'Gone With the
Wind', 'The Strawberry Blonde', 'Lydia', and 'So Proudly We Hail!'
Returning from the war, however, his career, as was the case with so
many other young actors, had stalled. Reduced to supporting roles, or
leads in 'B' films and serials, 'Superman and the Mole Men' represented
yet another minor film, but Reeves hoped the exposure from both film
and television might jump-start his flagging career...
He little anticipated what impact Superman was about to have on his life!
A cautionary tale, with elements 'lifted' from 'Frankenstein' and 'The Day The Earth Stood Still', begins as miners drill the world's deepest shaft, and break through to an underground world. Two of it's inhabitants, bald, radioactive midgets, decide to secretly investigate our world. Doing a feature story on the well for the 'Daily Planet', reporters Lois Lane (Phyllis Coates, inheriting the role from the serials' Noel Neill), and Clark Kent (Reeves), finds a town gripped with fear and prejudice, as an old man had suffered a heart attack after seeing the 'visitors'. Despite pleas for tolerance, the residents arm themselves, and plan to 'shoot first and ask questions later', particularly after the ball of a little girl who sees them (and has an innocent encounter), has enough residual radioactivity to glow in the dark. Shots are fired, the aliens bring up their own weapons, and it's up to Superman to 'save the day'!
Reeves' interpretation of 'Clark Kent/Superman' was far less jovial and buoyant than Alyn's; decisive, serious, and nearly combative, this was a 'Superman' you didn't mess with (the characterization would be toned down, for television). Square-jawed and more muscular (aided by a tee shirt with sewn-in shoulder pads, beneath the costume, to make him even more formidable-looking), the greatest variance between his interpretation and the comic books' was in his 'take' on Clark Kent. Reeves gave the reporter courage and integrity, as opposed to the 'meek, mild-mannered' geek that readers were familiar with (and who would be revived by Christopher Reeve, 26 years later). While some critics complained that he made Kent and Superman's personalities too similar, Reeves and the producers wisely realized that as budgetary restraints kept Superman's presence in the movie (with the FX required to show his 'super powers') to a minimum (there aren't ANY flying sequences in 'Superman and the Mole Men, only cast comments..."Look, up in the sky"... and a close-up of his 'catching' a falling alien), Clark Kent would be on-screen more, 'standing in' for the Man of Steel. Kent 'had' to be stronger, to fill the void.
Phyllis Coates was fabulous, as Lois Lane. No longer the serials' air-headed girl reporter who kept getting into trouble, Coates' Lois was strong, smart, and every bit Clark Kent's equal. She redefined the role, and when Noel Neill returned to the part, on TV several years later, she had big shoes to fill!
Aided by an excellent supporting cast (including screen veterans Jeff Corey, Walter Reed, and J. Farrell MacDonald), 'Superman and the Mole Men', despite its small budget, offered excellent performances, and a theme of tolerance that still rings true, today.
With the success of the film, 'Superman' moved on to television...and history was about to be made!
It must have been several years after it was released, so don't know why it was at the movies. But as a kid I enjoyed it. I just found a VHS tape of Superman and the Mole Men at the flea market and decided to watch it again (it's been a lot of years). I wasn't expecting much, now knowing how the B movies were made at that time. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie very watchable and the acting by all outstanding. Usual acting in these type movies leaves a lot to be desired. Surprisingly, the writing wasn't bad either. Forget the fact that Superman went from sequence to sequence and could have kicked all their butts in the beginning, because then the story would have ended, right?! OK, the mole men costumes were hokey and not very scary (they didn't even scare me as a kid). However, making allowances for the probable low budget for background and costumes, it was a job well done by all. I recognized the sheriff right away as The Old Ranger from Death Valley Days and plenty of supporting roles in TV westerns. J. Farrell MacDonald played old Pop and was always a great supporting actor in more movies than I can count. Walter Reed and Jeff Corey were familiar faces as well from other movies. Did you recognize the old doctor as the captain of the ship that went to get King Kong? Did you recognize the little girl rolling the ball to the mole men as Lisbeth Searcy in Old Yeller? Some of the mole men were famous too. Jerry Maren has played Mayor McCheese for McDonalds, Little Oscar Mayer, was the Munchkin that handed Dorothy the lollipop, was on a Seifeld episode and a wealth of other work. Billy Curtis played an unforgettable part with Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter, was one of the friends met by the star in Incredible Shrinking Man, he had a part in a movie I just luckily grabbed at a flea market titled My Gal Sal with Rita Hayworth, Wizard of Oz and plenty of other parts - great actor. John Brambury was also a Munchkin. Phillis Coates, who played Lois Lane in this movie, was without question wonderful in the part and George Reeves as Superman/Clark Kent WAS Superman. He did a great job of playing the strong man. Bottom line to all I've said is that this movie is worth watching because of the cast and writing in dealing with a pretty flimsy idea for a movie. But it was the 50's and anything was possible from intruders from outer space to mole men from inner space. It is definitely worth seeing, there isn't a bad actor in the group. Whomever put the cast together was very, very fortunate to get so many gifted actors into a B type film. Some already had a wealth of experience and some were about to obtain a wealth of experience - but all were gifted. So if you get a chance to see the film, forget the dopey costumes and just enjoy the excitement and acting. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, just a good, old fashioned movie to enjoy!
Considering it was shot in 11 days; considering its "special effects" are
something less than primitive, George Reeves and this film still pack a
Mysterious Mole-Men emerge from "the world's deepest oil well," and scare the inhabitants of the nearby town of Silsby. Despite pleas for tolerance and patience, Superman must disarm the town and protect the aliens while hard-headed Luke Benson repeatedly tries to kill them.
FACTOID #1: Despite other accounts, this film was NOT a "pilot" for the eventual series. In fact, there WAS no pilot. The day after shooting wrapped, the company spent another 12 weeks shooting 24 half-hour episodes. The comic book company decided to include a feature film as part of the schedule, so they'd be sure to recoup their investment at the box office in case no one bought the series. Lucky for us, that didn't come to pass.
FACTOID #2: Although the two-part TV version, "Unknown People," had been edited and packaged with the other 24 half-hours, it had to be withheld during the series' original run. It had been produced in 1951, and SAG rules forbade films copyrighted after 9/48 to air on TV without residuals. Not until 1960, when the rules were revised, did "Unknown People" appear.
"Superman & The Mole Men" tells a story that's way ahead of it's time for 1951. Clark Kent & Lois Lane go to the small town Silsby to do a story on "The World's Largest Oil Well". When they arrive they find out the well is being shut down due to complications that have come about. They had drilled 6 miles down, & realized the earth's center is hollow, & there may be life down there. Their suspicions are correct when small (possibly radioactive) "mole men" start coming up & roaming around the town. (They aren't very frightening, but may have been by 1951 standards). One old man, at the well, sees them & has a heart attack & dies. Lois sees them too & describes them as having, "the bodies of moles with big human heads". A child encounters them in her bedroom & plays ball with them. She demonstrates the innocence of unjaded youth who sees someone without prejudice. The majority of the small town goes ballistic & wants to destroy the unknown "visitors". This is an excellent portrayal of small town ignorance ready to snuff out something that they don't understand, is different, out of the ordinary, or "strange" in their opinion(s). These "mole men" not only signify 'out of this world' beings, but people in one's own society as well (ridiculed for one's race, sexuality, etc.) The movie "Powder" represented the same premise in 1995! I can't write this review without mentioning that Phyllis Coates was the BEST actress to play Lois Lane! She portrayed her as feisty, sassy, independent, & resilient.
Superman and his supporting cast of characters have been portrayed on the silver screen, the small screen and the stage by a number of actors and actresses. However somehow no one can play the man of steel and the Daily Planets star female reporter Lois Lane quite like George Reeves and Phyllis Coates. Certainly no one can portray Superman's alter ego Clark Kent like Reeves did. This film has probably been seen by many as the two part "Unknown People" episode on the classic TV series but if you haven't seen the feature film of this story do so. Coates gives a great performance as Lois Lane and seems to come the closest of any actress who has portrayed this character to being the Lois that was depicted in the comics. (When she called Clark Kent a Pantywaist she meant it!) During one scene Clark almost gives away his true identity when he advises terrified townsfolk about the subterranean visitors "Go to your homes lock your doors and windows let me handle this". He then bolts away and Lois turns to the Oil well boss and exclaims "He always does that, gets himself into a jam and then runs away" Classic Lois Lane! While the effects by today's standards seem antiquated and the Mole Men/Unknown People aren't as scary as alien characters that frequent TV shows today they aren't to be missed.
My father grew grew up watching George Reeves as Superman and when I
was a little kid he had episodes on VHS and let me view them including
this movie (passing them down in the family if you will), and I loved
Clark Kent and Lois Lane get sent to a small town with and oil mine and from the mine emerge mole men radioactive and targeted by the town assumed to be deadly and it's up to Superman to stop this mayhem.
It's just so wonderful and fun to view. The old style special effects and sound - the crew pulled off such a beauty with such little technology. George Reeves was my hero when I was a little kid, and I'm 16 now, it just goes to show how timeless and classic these adventures are.
I rented this film from Netflix for two reasons - I was in the mood for
what I thought would be a silly '50s sci-fi-asco and because it is the
first feature-length Superman film. Needless to say, after about 15
minutes I found myself thoroughly engaged and very pleasantly
An experimental oil well has penetrated about six miles into the earth and is being shut down by the sponsor. Lois and Clark show up to get the scoop but are disappointed that the deepest well ever drilled will no longer be in operation. A day later, strange events at the well make for a story more appropriate for Superman than Clark Kent. It seems that the radioactive Mole Men have invaded from their six-mile deep home near the earth's core.
Supermen and the Mole Men is a simplistic but well-made piece of social realism. Released in 1951, starring a lead actor who served in World War II, the moral of the story seems to be that Americans are just as capable of becoming fascists as anybody else. To drive this point home in a typically straightforward Superman manner, Reeves even accuses the lynch mob hunting the Mole Men of being 'Nazis' at one point.
Even in the 1950s, the science underlying this film was nonexistent. Six miles of drilling through continental crust would not have even penetrated the upper mantle, let alone the "hollow center of the earth" - which, in any case does not exist. Forgivable - keep in mind that this film is based on a golden age comic book.
The film is a little unevenly paced. Although the Molemen are interesting, a bit creepy, and nicely portrayed, there are several Corman-esquire scenes which spend too much time redundantly showing us their odd behavior. The script is intelligent and economical. By today's standards, the costuming is poor to fair, but for its time, this film's special effects and costuming were quite good. The cinematography is also generally very good, and the acting is much better than one might expect. I was particularly impressed with Reeves, Jeff Corey and Walter Reed.
We got our first television in 1951, the year that this movie "Superman and
the Mole Men" came out. I was 7 years old at the time and of course we
always glued to the kids programs especially all the cartoons etc on
One of my favorite programs that aired every Wednesday night at 7:00PM, sponsored by Kelloggs cereals, was Superman. We watched every episode religiously.
At the end of each episode there were a few scenes from what was going to be shown the following week. A few times they had some scenes from this movie, "Superman and the Mole Men" but for some reason it was never shown. Reading some of the other people's comments about this movie explained to me what the reason was.
However, the scenes that were shown really had me interested in seeing this movie. One of the scenes that was shown was the little girl in bed reading her book and then all of a sudden the two mole men peer in through the window and she eventually starts to play ball with them.
Another scene was the two mole men on top of the dam and Luke Benson and his cohorts trying to shoot them.
The third scene really scared me. It was when the mole men had that weapon (looks like a modified vacuum cleaner) and were firing it at Luke Benson.
This movie reminds me quite a bit of when "War of the Worlds" was aired on radio in the 1930's. Everybody was scared out of their wits because they couldn't understand anything else except the human race. Well this movie basically reveals the same message. People are afraid of the unknown.
I have always associated George Reeves with Superman. It bothered me when Christopher Reeve was give that honorary position in his full length features of Superman. I didn't even know, until 4 or 5 years ago that Kirk Alyn was really the very first Superman, even before George Reeves.
As has been said, this movie is in its own way is a classic and will be forever etched in movie history as ONE G-R-E-A-T MOVIE!
Superman and the Mole Men is quite possibly Superman's toughest adventures
Lois Lane and Clark Kent are sent to Silsby, home of the world's deepest oil well. While there, some radioactive mole men come up through the oil well and explore the town. Jeff Corey and many other townspeople try to dispose of the invading mole men. Can Superman change the people's ways in time to save the mole men? Can Superman warn the people in time about the radioactive danger the mole men bring?
In my opinion, Superman and the Mole Men is a very intelligent, well-written and well-acted movie. Even though we only get to see Superman fly once briefly, It still makes a great Superman adventure. A must see for anyone.
'Superman & the Mole Men,' was filmed immediately prior to 'The
Adventures of Superman' TAS) weekly TV series. This film was then
released into theaters so as to insure that the producers recouped at
least some of their investment in the TV show: at the time season 1 was
filmed, there wasn't a sponsor yet, and in fact it took 2 years before
Kellogs Cereal Co. took on the role and the show was finally broadcast.
'Mole Men' was filmed just 1 year after the movie serial 'Atom Man Vs. Superman,' but 'Atom Man' is so primitive by comparison that it could have been made 30 years prior.
Besides being enjoyable as an atmospheric and suspenseful B/W cold war scifi/horror pic (a la the original 'The Thing'), this little film is interesting since it engages in a little social commentary. Almost without exception, TAS never touched any of the burning social issues (bigotry, war, pollution, etc.), but 'Superman & the Mole Men' is, very obviously an allegory about prejudice.
This makes 'Mole Men' a kind of bridge between the Superman radio show, which, starting after WWII, did a long series of award-winning social message programs, directly addressing issues such as race prejudice, war-mongering, and social welfare, and TAS, which stayed completely clear of social relevancy.
(The Superman radio show, which ended in 1950, was produced by Bob Maxwell, who also produced the 1st season of TAS. I've never read anything that explained why TAS dropped the social relevancy of the radio show, but one could speculate it had something to do with the impact of various 'witch hunts' on the political and media spheres...)
'Superman & the Mole Men,' is the story of about some funny-looking little men who emerge into view after the world's deepest oil well is dug. The funny-looking men, who are not evil and whose world has been invaded by oil exploration, become victims of prejudice and eventually a mob forms with the intent of killing the funny-looking men. If you think about it, this might remind you of a contemporary real-life situation.
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