Adventures of Superman, The Complete 5th & 6th Seasons (DVD) (Multi-Title)
The first super hero created for comic books, Superman leaped from radio to television when Adventures of Superman debuted in 1952. Produced by Robert J. Maxwell (who also produced the radio version) and Bernard Luber (a veteran of Hollywood serials), each episode screens like a classic crime movie, where danger and death lurk in the shadows. Seasons 5 and 6 are the final seasons of this classic TV favorite.
Superman's "never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way" on television actually did come to an end in 1957 with the cancellation of the Adventures of Superman series, but not before it completed its sixth season, which is presented in this five-disc set along with its fifth season from 1956. Story-wise, the fifth and sixth seasons trend a fine line between the "serious" tone of the first three seasons (which saw Superman take on gangsters, corrupt scientists, and other villains with roots largely planted in reality) and the more outlandish escapades of the fourth season; examples of the latter include "The Tomb of Zaharan," in which Lois Lane (Noel Neill) is kidnapped by Middle Eastern dignitaries who believe her to be their reincarnated queen; "Mr. Zero," with Billy Curtis (High Plains Drifter) as an alien pressed into illegal service by crooks; and "The Brainy Burro," which features a mind-reading donkey(!) used by nefarious types to commit crimes (the latter is one of three episodes directed by series lead George Reeves). Fortunately, there are plenty of exciting adventures on hand as well, the best of which might be "The Perils of Superman" (also directed by Reeves), which harkens back to Superman's comic book and radio serial origins in its tale of a gang of lead-masked hooligans who subject the Man of Steel and his pals to a series of cliffhanger-style dangers. It's hard to say if modern young viewers will take to these vintage escapades--the special effects remain decidedly primitive, and some of the plotlines will challenge even the most imaginative kid's suspension of disbelief--but for Superman fans and classic TV aficionados, there's still plenty of fun to be found in the Adventures of Superman.
Supplements include a charming chat with co-star Jack Larson in the featurette "Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olson," in which the still spry actor is joined by Neill, special effects expert Bob Burns, and several Superman experts (including actor Jim Beaver of Deadwood fame). A barrage of trailers for previous Superman-related DVDs, including Superman Returns, rounds out the extras. -- Paul Gaita
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