Back in the days before a television set adorned every American living room, parents would drop their kids off at the local movie theater on a Saturday morning. There, wide-eyed brats would be held entranced by various action serials. These were usually about twenty minutes in length and invariably ended with a ridiculous cliffhanger, ensuring the kids would return in a week's time. The most popular of these was "Flash Gordon", something of a phenomenon in the serial world. By 1948, Superman was already a cultural icon thanks to his appearance in comics, cartoons and a successful radio show. If ever a character was deserving of it's own Saturday morning serial it was this one.
I have to confess I'm a sucker for the sort of trashy fun that pervades forties cinema. I love the classic Universal horrors of the thirties but I equally enjoy their black sheep cousins, the forties knockoffs which cashed in on the characters of Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman and their ilk. These films might be brain dead but they're thoroughly enjoyable and always have a heart. You invariably come out the other end with a smile on your face and that's the case with this fun serial.
The characters here are all portrayed by likable if not entirely convincing actors. Alyn is thoroughly charming as Superman and particularly as his alias Clark Kent, schlubby and loveable with his winks and smiles behind the backs of unsuspecting colleagues. Neill is feisty as Lois Lane and plays the role like a B-movie Katherine Hepburn, constantly berating Kent for his seeming cowardice. She was so impressive she would later repeat the role in the fifties TV version. Journalists apparently weren't paid very well back in the forties as she wears the same outfit through the entire series. As Jimmy Olsen, Bond is frankly terrible yet still manages to be an affable presence.
The biggest problem faced in the production of the seventies Superman movie was how to make the audience believe a man can fly. In 1948 it was obviously a lot more difficult to pull off. This issue was skirted by basically turning Alyn into an animated version of the character whenever he needed to take flight. It takes you aback the first time you witness the technique but after a couple of episodes you won't even think twice about it.
Modern cynics should avoid this but if you're a fan of the innocent charm of the forties I highly recommend it. The total running time of all fifteen episodes is roughly four hours so I wouldn't attempt to watch it in one sitting but an episode or two a night is a good way to approach it. I guarantee you'll fall for those crazy cliffhangers.
But the problem with this film is that you can spot errors that it seems the film makers didn't check twice before putting the film into final cut. Such as seeing the animated Superman flying into a burning building. It would appear that Superman is suppose to enter the building by going in the window but instead he went through the wall without even damaging it.
Their are some confusion like how would a scientist call Superman's home planet Krypton.
There's also a bad camera shot on Superman and a Professor. When the Professor asks Superman to use his X-Ray vision to see what's inside his closet. He turns to a wall and there is no sign of a closet door.
Other times we see a close up shot on Clark Kent/or Superman's eyes. This lets us know he's using his X-Ray vision but with the close up shot of is eyes you can tell that the actor is wearing makeup.
While its interesting to see an adaptation of Superman in the 40's on what the character appeared to be in the comics at the time you'll hear two of his catchphrases: "This Looks Like a Job..For Superman!" and "Up, Up and Away" more than once.
And there's a cheesy moment when someone discovers Superman's weakness and puts it in an ad.
After watching six chapters I barely wanted to see the rest of this film because it was hard for me to take seriously.
Overall "Superman" is not a bad movie its just a decent film that's difficult to get by the errors, how cheesy it can be and sometimes it can be unconvincing