Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ten Statements About....SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN (1951)

"Don't make me play 'upsy-daisy' with your ass."
"It's men like you that make it difficult for people to understand one another. You were warned nothing would come of this but trouble."

1) This is the pilot for the George Reeves Superman series that was released theatrically, and I marveled at how close-to-intact that series open was, with the still of Reeves-as-Superman fading into the still of Reeves-as-Clark and back. The only thing that seems to be missing is the narration and the distinctive theme.

2) Boy, Phyllis Coates is hardcore film noir in her portrayal of Lois Lane here. I almost expected her to take a couple of baddies down when she bars the entrance to the hospital.

3) It's interesting how it seems like the Reeves Superman barely tries to keep up his Clark Kent disguise. The one moment where he basically says that if he doesn't know where Superman is, no one does could only be more overt if he did the shirt rip in front of her.

4)...but then, that's sort of keeping in tune with the Superman we see here, who seems a little too self-confident, almost superior, in the way he interacts with us mere mortal. Hell, there are moments where he's downright smug.

"Look, Supes, we appreciate your help and all, but
if you're not going to put our pal down, we gotta shoot you
with the coffee urn of radioactivity..."
5) I know this is the only time where we get to see Reeves take off, but I'm almost grateful--that one moment seems a little goofy, especially given the way Reeves seems to sway a bit as he's lifted up off the ground.

6) Far more effective is the way the films goes to a POV shot during the sequence where Superman flies over the town to intercept the maddening crowd. It's a low-tech, but effective way to convey this super-power.

7) I know that these Mole Men were just short people in--I dunno, monkey suits? Bear suits?--with the head off and a special unibrowish mask on, but these three performers make the most out of their screen time. I'm particularly struck by the way the initial two have this sort of loping side-to-side walk that makes them seem animalistic and alien. And one of the performers manages to wring some emotion from the otherwise emotionless masks during the lengthy chase through the brush that is one of the main action sequences.

Because nothing says heroic quite like a cartoon Supes
rushing to catch a dummy dressed as a Mole Man...
8) I'm really surprised at how much the Silby authorities seem to rely on Clark/Superman and Lois for guidance. They take their advice so much that you have to wonder what they do when a crime occurs and there are no East Coast reporters around to give them a clue.

9) Boy, that moment where one of the village mob, in an effort to get his hands on a weapon, pulls a barber pole off the wall, is unintentionally hilarious...and director Lee Sholem holds on that moment for what seems like forever!

10) I know I said it before--but man, there are moments when the Reeves Superman isn't afraid to be a dick. The moment when the main bad guy has his moment of clarity and tells Supes 'you saved my life,' his 'It's more than you deserve,' is positively dripping with contempt. You could not possibly see the Christopher Reaves Superman deliver a line like this.

Overall...a short sprint at 57 minutes, this is actually a pretty effective little B-movie I could see on the bottom part of a double bill. It's also pretty effective as a set-up for the television series as it existed during its second season, with its hardass Supes and Lois getting involved in serious situations as opposed to the goofiness that became the series raison d'etre in other seasons.

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