Superman on Television
Adventures of Superman: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 1: "Superman On Earth"Reviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Date: September 19, 1952
Writer: Richard Fielding
Director: Tommy Carr
Robert Rockwell as Jor-El
Aline Towne as Lara
Herbert Rawlinson as Rozan
Stuart Randall as Gogan
Stuart Holmes as the Krypton Council Member
Tom Fadden as Eben Kent
Frances Morris as Sarah Kent
Joel Nestler as Teenaged Clark Kent
Sam Flint as the Kent's Family Doctor
Danny Sue Nolan as Miss Bachrach
Dabbs Greer as the Rescued Man
"Superman On Earth"
Scientist Jor-El has been unsuccessful in convincing the ruling council of Krypton that the planet will face its own destruction very soon. In spite of the laughter and jeers of his peers, Jor-El continues to test the prototype of a rocket that he has invented. Should the model work, he can leave Krypton with his wife Lara and son Kal-El in a full sized version. Unfortunately, massive tremors from a gigantic quake predict the death of the alien world sooner than Jor-El had expected. He and Lara have been forced to place their child into the small spacecraft. Magnificent buildings crumble as the ship is launched, and Krypton explodes into thousands of fragments as the vessel carrying Kal-El hurtles through the blackness of space.
Eben and Sarah Kent are on what appears to be a Sunday drive when they hear a whistling in the skies of Smallville, Kansas. A rocket has crashed in a nearby field. The craft has also caught on fire. Eben puts out some of the flames in order to save the crying infant inside the vessel. Both he and Sarah are surprised by two things shortly afterwards. Neither the baby nor the blanket in which he is wrapped are burned in any way, and the ship that had brought Kal-El to Earth has exploded into nothingness. The Kents raise the child as if he was their own and name him Clark.
Clark Kent, now in his early teens, wonders why he's stronger and faster than other boys his age. He tells his mother that he can even see through things like an X-ray machine. Sarah then proceeds to tell Clark of how she and Eben found the ship that brought him from Krypton. As she speaks, the lad begins to understand why he has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.
It's been twenty-five years since the Kents found Clark. They are preparing for a celebration when Eben has a heart attack. The family doctor is called, but he has done all he could for his patient. Eben Kent is dead.
Clark and Sarah Kent are waiting for the bus to Metropolis to arrive at the Smallville station. Clark is clearly worried about his mother, but she reassures him that she'll be okay. The world needs his special gifts more than she needs her son. Sarah then reminds Clark of a uniform that she had made from the red and blue blanket in which he was found as a baby. The material is impervious to fire, acid and other elements. This suit will help Clark in his mission to help those in need.
Clark has arrived in Metropolis and has been trying to see Daily Planet editor Perry White about a job. Unfortunately, White has told his secretary Miss Bachrach that he would rather fire some reporters instead of hiring them. This does not stop Kent. He sneaks out a window and walks across the building's ledge to secretly enter the chief's office, where he meets reporters Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Despite Clark's intrusion, Jimmy gives Perry and Lois a news flash. A dirigible is flying out of control and unable to land. Most of the crew has evacuated, but one man is hanging onto a rope. Seeing this as an opportunity, Clark asks White to give him work if he provides the Daily Planet an exclusive.
The man is literally hanging on for his life. Gradually, he loses his grip. As he plummets to his doom, he is caught by a flying being in a red and blue costume. The next thing the man knew, he had passed out. He later awakened to find Clark Kent waiting for him to tell his story. Now, the Daily Planet has the scoop on Superman's first rescue in Metropolis. The article was written by new reporter Clark Kent. This makes Lois wonder how he got the exclusive before every other news person in the city even though he had left the Planet building after Lois and Jimmy had gone.
"Maybe I'm a Superman, Miss Lane," Clark replies with a smile.
Rating - 5 (out of 5): It was often very common for popular radio shows to make the transition to television. The Jack Benny Program and Lights Out were among such series to do so, and Robert J. Maxwell, who had produced The Adventures of Superman on radio, wanted to make sure the Man of Steel had made it to the small screen. Clayton "Bud" Collyer, who had provided the voice for a majority of the character's audio adventures, did not have the physique to play Superman, and Kirk Alyn had turned down the part for fear of being typecast after wearing the cape and tights for two successful movie serials. Thus, George Reeves was chosen to play the Last Son of Krypton.
Every person from the past seven decades has their quintessential Superman outside of the comic books. For Generation X, Christopher Reeve flew high as the alien hero. The Baby Boomers had George Reeves. Reeves had first portrayed the Man of Tomorrow in the 1951 theatrical release Superman and the Mole-Men. This lead to his playing Clark Kent and Superman in 104 TV episodes until his mysterious death in 1959. Had Reeves not met an untimely demise, he would have also directed episodes for a seventh season of The Adventures of Superman.
I had first discovered The Adventures of Superman in syndicated reruns when WPXI in Pittsburgh aired them on weekends back in 1986. I was only thirteen at the time, and now, here I am reviewing the first episode twenty-three years later. Now, read on. I promise you that the trip down Memory Lane was just a brief one.
Normally, a pilot for a television series spends a lot of time letting the audience get to know the characters, and as a result, the overall story itself can sometimes be very thin. This is not the case with the first episode of The Adventures of Superman. A lot of effort was put into the execution of this version of the origin of Superman, and it shows. The special effects may seem campy or cheap by today's standards. However, they work well to give the show a classic and timeless feeling. That's one of the many things that makes "Superman On Earth" so fantastic.
The acting in "Superman On Earth" is superb. When a series is based on a comic book character, sometimes, as was the case with Adam West in Batman, it's difficult to take the main actor seriously. The opposite is true with George Reeves and the rest of the cast. Everyone from Robert Rockwell to Dabbs Greer does a marvelous job of telling the story without making it look ridiculous. The Adventures of Superman might have been labeled as a "children's show," but it was written and performed in a way in which adults could also enjoy it. This is perhaps one thing that makes the series so wonderful.
With a well written story, remarkable performances and tremendous execution, "Superman On Earth" gives The Adventures of Superman television series a very strong beginning. Watching it made me look forward to reviewing the remaining episodes of the show. Let's hope they're all as great as this one was.
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