Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Adventures of Superman seasons 5 and 6

The Adventures of Superman Seasons 5 & 6.

by Gary Emerald

TV series’ complete seasons release on home video is the gift of the DVD format to fans of episodic television. Could you imagine what the entire 12-season run of Bonanza would look like on VHS? The Adventures of Superman is one of those titles I was looking forward to; once Warner Brother Home Video announced it I was curious about what direction they would take. Season 1 featured 26 episodes, a retrospective documentary, the 1951 Superman feature film (the first production of George Reeves as Superman), a vintage short film “Pony Express Days” featuring George Reeves and audio commentaries over a few episodes. Even a rare Kellogg’s cereal commercial was thrown in, featuring Clark Kent, Perry White and Jimmy Olson at the breakfast table, enjoying a bowl of “Frosted Flakes”. Actresses in the “Lois Lane” role never got to participate in the TV promo as the question of “what is Lois doing at the breakfast table with those three” would be on the mind of any suspicious TV viewer of the 1950s.
Adventures of Superman Season 2, the last black and white season has the benefit of featuring one of my favorite Superman epsisodes “Panic in the Sky”, in which Superman suffers from amnesia. The best scene in the episode is when Clark Kent, who having lost his memory stumbles around his apartment looking for something familiar to jar his memory discovers his closet filled with his Superman costumes. Its funny to see multiple Super-suits hanging together, as each is valued at $150,000.00 these days.

The third release featuring the first look at Superman in color featured seasons 3 and 4 of the series. It was a smart idea to put both seasons on DVD together, and the extras keep on coming. Plus the additional 2 featurettes, A look at the color era of the show, and the special effects, profiling the man behind how Superman flew and all the other special effects on the show, one artist who is not talked about enough Thol “Si” Simonson. The latest Adventures of Superman release, Seasons 5 and 6 is really lacking in the extras department. The one nice bonus is that the last disc has a nice featurette about Jack Larson who portrayed Jimmy Olson. This documentary is important as it discusses Larson’s contributions to the Superman franchise, and his popularity at the time the show was in production. Viewers get a great glimpse of how Larson’s strong acting chops and a natural ability for comedy added greatly to the show’s formula and the popularity of the Jimmy Olsen character, which ultimately demanded a DC comic Book title of his own: “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen”.

Other than this worthwhile look at Jack Larson, the disc has no other special features, which is a bummer. There are several more details that should have been researched and incorporated into the packaging, such as original airdates of each episode and the episode production date. This set does contain three season 6 episodes that were directed by George Reeves. Reeves was aware of the fact that his future acting career could be compromised because of his possible type casting as Superman and wanted to try directing as a fall back plan if his career took a sudden turn for the worse. The three episodes that Reeves directed are “The Perils of Superman”, “The Brainy Burro” and “All That Glitters”, which were last three episodes of the season. In “All that Glitters” Lois and Jimmy end up with the powers of Superman. One could only imagine George Reeves’ delight in putting his co-stars through the same torturous special effects rigging that he endured on a weekly basis.

The upside to this release is that it is available, and it is beautifully packaged with individually silk-screened disks. The sixth season was the end of the series, sadly cut short due to Reeves’ controversial death, as The Adventures of Superman was ready to go into production for a 7th season. Contracts were signed with the cast including George Reeves, who was promised creative input, more opportunities to direct, and an impressive raise in salary. The down side to this release is that there is a lot more material that should have been be documented and included on the last DVD set of The Adventures of Superman.

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