Superman Homepage reviewer Micah Pickering reviews the Fleischer Superman animated shorts for those nostalgic for the 1940s.
Check out his review of the cartoon titled “The Underground World”.
This installment of the Famous Studios Superman series shows our hero encounter a secret world, a race of Hawk Men, and a statue with a dark secret. With all the trappings of a golden age adventure, let’s see where this story takes Superman and Lois.
Now on to the review!
Rating – 2 (out of 5): This is another installment that I felt had a great idea but would be better served in a longer format. Our story begins when Perry White is approached by Dr. Henderson. Henderson wants to continue his father’s work in exploring caverns that allegedly lead to a mysterious underground world.
In exchange for financial support from the newspaper, Henderson will allow Lois and Clark to accompany him to get the exclusive story. As a person that’s worked for a newspaper, I can tell you that it’s hard to get them to pay for your gas mileage, much less finance a cave expedition.
Nevertheless, Perry approves and sends his two best reporters to get the scoop. Lois and Clark are excited at the prospect of the story, and set off with Dr. Henderson to the caverns. Lois heads off with Dr. Henderson on the first boat with Clark set to follow them with the second boat.
As Lois and Doctor Henderson go deeper into the caverns they accidentally set off dynamite that was brought onto the boat. Clark rushes after them after hearing the explosion.
We are introduced to our villains when the fearsome Hawk Men emerge from the hole left from the explosion and capture Lois and Dr. Henderson.
When watching this short I wondered if the Hawk Men were inspired by the comics character Hawkman. Hawkman was created by Gardner Fox in 1940, and this short debuted in 1943. I think maybe there was some inspiration and instead of just making the Hawk Men humans with wings, they give them bird heads just to make them appear more menacing.
The Hawk Men make a gruesome reveal when Dr. Henderson sees what appears to be a golden statue of his father. Both he and Lois would find out that it isn’t a statue. The Hawk Men killed Dr. Henderson’s father by submerging him in molten gold, and they intend to do the same to him and Lois.
Clark quickly arrives on the scene and changes into Superman while hiding behind a nearby stalagmite. The Hawk Men quickly descend on Superman, and put up quite a fight. However, Superman comes out the victor in the struggle and swoops in for the rescue. The Hawk Men are determined and give chase to Superman. After getting Lois and Dr. Henderson to safety, Superman uses dynamite to cause a cave in, sealing off the underground world of the Hawk Men. When Lois and Clark bring the story to Perry, he doesn’t believe any of it is true. He burns the story and the pictures right in front of them as our story draws to a close.
It’s a bit of a strange ending that left me feeling that this short was a little anticlimactic. I will say that I’ve never seen Superman win a battle with dynamite before, so that’s a first. Also it’s a little hard to believe that Perry would publish stories about Superman in the newspaper (plus all the things Superman has come up against in this series), yet he would find Hawk Men too hard to believe.
This short is a fun watch, but doesn’t quite measure up to earlier entries. Its story potential is hindered by its run time.