Saturday, April 14, 2018
Atom Man Vs. Superman - 1950!
Atom Man Vs. Superman is the second of Columbia's serials with the Man of Steel and coming out in 1950 is among the last serials ever in a world in which television is fast changing the nature of entertainment. In fact there is more than a mote of self-awareness of this transformation in the story itself.
The "Atom Man" of the title is in fact Lex Luthor (Lyle Talbot) hiding behind an enormous helmeted mask, who for much of the duration of the serial pretends to be a reformed criminal helping the authorities. He is of course fraudulent and is instead in the guise of Atom Man leading a cadre of thieves use television trucks and the cover of a television operation to arrange and commit burglaries. One of the dopier details of this story is that Luthor's gang use equipment which is so high-tech that it seems way more valuable than anything they steal. One device is a coin which signals teleportation, another is deadly heat ray, and Luthor even has a rocket, a flying saucer, and a small space ship in his collection.
The first part of the story though involves a device called the "Main Arc" which can send someone into a nether dimension called the "Outer Dark". It's very much like the Phantom Zone and eventually Superman is sent there and becomes a ghost on Earth. Sadly this gimmick is abandoned half way into the serial.
Once again Kirk Alyn is Superman and Clark Kent. He seems a little better this time, less mincing and more virile. Noel Neill as Lois Lane is also good as is Tommy Bond, back as Jimmy Olsen. Pierre Watkin is Perry White and a joke about him trying to light a cigar extends through the whole serial. This one makes use of a lot of stock footage, especially near the end and as I've said seems to change gears half way through becoming more episodic and less of a singular story line.
Nonetheless it's quite an entertainment and well worth any Superman fan's time.