Monday, January 30, 2017

Superman And The Mole-Men

Before George Reeves starred in the first season of the syndicated ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, Lippert Pictures produced this 58-minute feature that was later cut into a two-part episode, “The Unknown People.” SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE-MEN was not a pilot per se, but was a vehicle to release in theaters as publicity for the TV show, which premiered in 1952.

Reeves (RANCHO NOTORIOUS), who became a television star in the dual role of Clark Kent and Superman, is terrific in it — confident, intelligent, tough, and compassionate. He’s almost matched by the feisty Phyllis Coates (PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO), who remains the screen’s pre-eminent Lois Lane.

Daily Planet reporters Kent (Reeves) and Lane (Coates) travel to little Silsby, home of the world’s deepest oil well, which drills more than six miles below the surface. Unfortunately, it has drilled a tunnel to the underground home of a race of “mole people”—phosphorescent midgets with hairy backs and big foreheads—who crawl to the surface and run around accidentally frightening humans to death. They may also be radioactive, spurring the hotheaded citizens, led by rabble-rousing bigot Luke Benson (Jeff Corey), to form a lynch mob to murder the strange creatures. Superman (Reeves in a padded suit) shows up in time to rescue the invaders and teach Silsby a lesson in tolerance.

Welcome exterior filming and a strong story — both of which the TV series generally lacked — as well as its short running time, help this minor science fiction film go down easily. Reeves doesn’t appear as Superman until the 24-minute mark and dominates from then on. Harry Thomas’ special mole man makeup is unconvincing. Discounting serials and cartoon shorts, SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE-MEN was the first feature to star Superman or any other National Periodicals character. No Jimmy Olsen or Perry White in it though. Corey, ironically, was blacklisted in 1952 by people very much like Luke Benson.

1 comment:

Bill O said...

I do think the literal lynch mob mentality parallels here intentional. As Rod Serling proved, you can get away with a lot in that genre. Tho Robert Shayne's daughter yelled at me for stating this - she prefers to read it as just a general plea for tolerance and "The Other".