Lex Luthor was in neither the animated shorts nor the later TV series starring George Reeves; Lyle Talbot was the first actor to ever play the character. See more »
At the climax of chapter twelve, the villains turn their heat ray on the Daily Planet building, causing all the mechanical devices to spark. As Clark Kent, Kirk Alyn shields his face, but the radio on his desk fails to give off any sparks. See more »
A superior sequel and a fine example of filmed Superman
ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN (1950) is a 15-chapter follow-up that represents a vast improvement over the first Superman serial, SUPERMAN (1948). The original cast members who played Superman, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White all return, but they are joined by a new villain, Lex Luthor, Superman's archnemesis from the comic book. Luthor's evil genius gives Superman far more opportunities to use his superpowers than did Spider Lady, the stodgy femme fatale from the first serial who did little more than dress in black satin and sit at a table issuing orders from a desk via oversized mike to an army of standard-issue thugs in suits, ties and fedoras.
Luthor (played by Lyle Talbot) is quite busy here. Paroled early on, he supposedly goes straight and takes charge of a Metropolis TV station, in the early days of television, and even hires Lois Lane away from the Daily Planet at one point. By night, however, he sends robbery gangs to crack the safes of stores his TV trucks have cased. He also unleashes a variety of ingenious inventions including a "space transporter" which teleports his henchmen from police custody back to his cave headquarters (16 years before "Star Trek"'s "beam me up" technology) and a "directional cyclotron" which causes earthquakes in Metropolis. In the final chapters he unveils even greater stuff as the action heats up.
Every episode offers a new element and a clever twist or two to keep things interesting right up until the spectacular climax in outer space. While the first serial devolved into standard cliffhanger formula fairly quickly and gave Superman few superheroic things to do, this one gives him lots of super feats to perform. In addition to fending off Luthor and his thugs, he always pops up at various disasters to rescue people. These include a bridge collapse, a fire on a cruise liner, and a flood. Interestingly, all disasters depicted use actual newsreel film footage, including the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse of 1940.
As in SUPERMAN (1948), the effects of Superman flying are created through animation so that whenever Superman takes off he becomes a fluidly animated cartoon. The difference here is that the cartoon shots are intercut with live close shots of Kirk Alyn as Superman in flight. Also, the animation is used to depict a greater range of activities here. Superman is frequently seen carrying people (especially Lois) in cartoon form. In one spectacular shot an animated Superman lifts a live-action truck (shot in miniature) from a raging torrent of water on a miniature set. And there is one whole sequence in outer space that relies heavily on animation.
Having worn the same outfit throughout all 15 chapters of the first serial, Lois (played by Noel Neill) gets a lot of costume changes here. She's less spunky and less cheery, more determined and no-nonsense, and dressed and coiffed more severely. She doesn't plunge into fights as much, but when she's chased by crooks in one scene after grabbing a notepad containing evidence, she runs through streets, hallways, and alleys and up and down staircases and fire escapes like an old pro and eludes her pursuers. We also get to see Lois in a new light in a new job when she goes to work as an on-the-street TV reporter for Lex Luthor's TV station.
ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN is arguably one of the best serials ever made and certainly the finest example of live-action filmed Superman in the forty years preceding Richard Donner's SUPERMAN (1978).
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