Friday, July 07, 2006

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: The Complete Third and Fourth Season

Written by Hombre Divertido

In business, presentation is very important, and in the case of this set of DVDs, the first thing you notice is the presentation. Simple, colorful, comic book themed, and exciting. Excellent presentation.

The box cover contains simple side-by-side photos of George Reeves as Clark Kent and Superman. When you open the set, the insert unfolds to an exciting display of all five disks each featuring a picture of the key characters of the series (Clark, Superman, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry White.) You can’t help but be thrust into the classic era of comic books as the disks are flanked by a comic book themed layout that includes the title of each episode, the credits, and a brief synopsis.

The presentation of the show in the third and fourth season is wonderfully ahead of its time, as the producers had the foresight to film them in color. Though broadcast in black and white at the time, they were not actually televised in color until 10 years later. The story behind this and other interesting facts are revealed in one of the three special features: “Adventures of Superman: The Color Era”. Though this and the other major extra (“Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Special Effects of Adventures of Superman”) are quite brief (six minutes), they are full of interesting facts, extremely informative and entertaining, and certainly raises your anticipation of viewing the episodes. The third extra consists of excerpts from the new documentary by Bryan Singer and Kevin Burns: Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman.

When viewing the episodes in the set, you will again be amazed at how simple the production is, and yet how extremely effective it is. The color is great, and the special effects work well for the most part. George Reeves does a great job as Superman, but it was his confident Clark Kent that shows the range of this talented and underappreciated thespian. Reeves, who often looks more muscular in his classic suits than in his Superman garb, plays Kent with far more confidence and humor than recent incarnations, and it works.

Jack Larson sets the bar high as Jimmy Olsen, and no actor to date has come close to it since. His child-like innocence, subtle humor, and energy are an acting lesson in each appearance. He steals scenes one after another. The rest of the cast, including Noel Neill as Lois Lane, also establish the institution that is Superman with excellent performances, which other actors have and should continue to strive towards.

If there is any weakness here, it is the stories. Even geared towards children, these stories can be considered weak. Often the plots make little sense and the guests appear to be trying to figure them out. There are a few gems in the set, but for the most parts, it is the acting of our leads and the special effects that are the highlights here.

Recommendation: This set is a novelty, and makes for some great fun. The stories will eventually wear thin, but worth the investment. Kids will love it because it compares well to more recent super efforts. A must have for the true fan. Watch the extras first.