Value of 1ST Superman comic book
ScreenCrush editor, comic-book lover, and undiagnosed masochist Matt Singer is systematically watching every single (American) comic-book movie ever made in the order in which they were released. This week in The Complete History of Comic-Book Movies: This looks like a(nother) job for Superman.
Superman and the Mole-Men (1951)
Director: Lee Sholem
Writer: Robert Maxwell
Starring: George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jeff Corey
Based on: Superman, created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, in Action Comics #1.
Onscreen Iteration: Third appearance.
The Best Special Effect: This feature puts Superman in the middle of a dispute between an angry mob and a group of “mole-men” from a civilization that lives at the center of the Earth (which, as science and Brendan Fraser movies have repeatedly proven, is completely hollow). The mole-men are simply curious travelers whose home gets disturbed by an oil-drilling team; they climb up the drill shaft to explore this strange new world, but their “frightening” appearance puts them at odds with the small-town hicks who live near the well. After one of the mole-men is shot, the others return to their underground society for some backup. The weapon they bring back blasts intense beams of energy; first, the mole-men turn it on Benson (Jeff Corey), the leader of the mob that’s been trying to kill them:
Then Superman steps in to protect Benson. He disagrees with lynch mob tactics, but Superman protects everyone, not just the people he agrees with. There’s a nice shot of George Reeves looking very Supermanly as the rays of the mole-men’s laser bounce harmlessly off his chest.
The mole-men’s raygun looks like an experimental vacuum cleaner, but its laser blasts seem plenty powerful and convincing, as does Superman’s nonchalant “Ooh, that tickles!” expression when he steps in to block it.
The Worst Special Effect: The mole-men themselves, though, are neither powerful nor convincing. Almost everyone that stumbles upon these weirdos, including Lois Lane (Phyllis Coates), scream as if they’ve bumped into Freddy Kruger. Do these guys look scary to you?
I am vaguely unsettled by their hairy hands. But that’s more of an “Ew, gross, they must swallow tons of their own fur when they eat a hamburger” kind of scary than a “Sorry Venkman. I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought” kind of scary. After her first encounter with these creatures, Lois claims they have “the bodies of moles [with] great big human heads.” No, they don’t; they’ve got black turtlenecks and obvious bald caps.
Most Dated Moment: Producers still hadn’t quite figured out how to make Superman fly in 1951. In the Superman serials, Kirk Alyn’s flight double was a cartoon; any time the Man of Steel took to the skies, he was replaced by an animated figure who swooped around and into buildings, and then always landed behind some sort of large foreground object because the filmmakers also hadn’t quite figured out how to make Superman land yet either.
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