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Superman and the Mole Men

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Superman and the Mole Men
Superman-molemenposter
Released November 23, 1951
Directed by Lee Sholem
Written by Richard Fielding
Music by Darrell Calker, Walter Greene
Duration 58 min
Studio Lippert Pictures Inc.
Budget $275,000

Superman and the Mole Men is a 1951 black and white film which later aired as two episodes of the Adventures of Superman TV series called "The Unknown People."

It was the first theatrical feature film based on the Superman characters (although two live action Superman films had already been shown in cinemas, they appeared in a serial format). With an original screenplay by "Richard Fielding" (a pseudonym for Robert Maxwell & Whitney Ellsworth), it was shot in 12 days on a studio back lot. It served as a trial run for the syndicated TV series Adventures of Superman, with George Reeves and Phyllis Coates reprising their film roles as Superman and Lois Lane, respectively.

The film was released on VHS video tape by Warner Home Video in 1987. Both the two-part episode and the full motion picture are featured on the first season DVD release for Adventures of Superman in 2005. The film is also included as a bonus feature on the 4-disc special edition DVD release of Superman (1978) in 2006.

Synopsis

Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent and Lois Lane are sent to the small town of Silsby for the inauguration of the world's deepest oil well. Unbeknownst to the drillers, however, the drill shaft has penetrated the underground home of the "Mole Men", a race of small, furry (though bald-headed) beings. The Mole Men come up through the shaft at night to explore the surface.

Their peculiar appearance, plus the fact that everything they touch then becomes phosphorescent and glows in the dark, scares the townspeople into forming an angry mob, led by the violent Luke Benson, in order to kill the "monsters". Superman is the only one able to resolve the conflict, saving one of the creatures from falling into the town's water supply after it's been shot by taking it to hospital, while the other is chased away. Later a doctor reveals that unless the creature undergoes surgery to remove the bullet, it will die. Clark Kent is forced to assist the doctor when the nurse refuses to out of fear of the creature. Soon after Benson's mob show up at the hospital demanding to have the creature turned over to them, leading Superman to stand guard outside the hospital. Lois Lane stands at Superman's side, until a shot is fired from the mob narrowly missing Lois. Superman sends her inside and begins to remove the mob of their guns, sending the mob away. Later several more mole creatures emerge from the drill shaft, this time bearing a weapon. They make their way to the hospital. Benson and his mob see the creatures and Benson goes after them alone, but when the creatures see him they use their weapon and fire on him. Superman sees this and quickly jumps in front of the blast, saving Benson's life, which Superman says is "More than you deserve!". He gets the wounded creature and returns him and his companions to the shaft, which they soon destroy so no-one can come up or down ever again.

Themes

As with many of the early episodes of The Adventures of Superman, the film is adult-themed, with a good deal of conflict and violence, or the threat thereof, and is played with total seriousness by all the actors; Reeves' Superman, in particular, is all business, displaying none of the humor that the character would develop over time in the TV series.

The sympathetic view of the aliens in this film, and the unreasoning fear on the part of the citizenry, has been compared by author Gary Grossman to the panicked public reaction to the peaceful alien Klaatu in the film The Day the Earth Stood Still, which was released the same year. Both films have been seen retrospectively as a product of (and a reaction to) the "Red Scare" of post-World War II. Grossman also cites a later film perhaps inspired by this one, called The Mole People.

Cast

Uncredited cast

Production notes

  • Some elements were trimmed from the film when it was converted into "The Unknown People," including some portions of a lengthy chase scene, and all references to the term "Mole Men."
  • The theme music used for this film had a generic "sci fi sound," with nothing suggesting a specific "Superman theme." The title cards were similarly generic, with low-grade animation of Saturn-like ringed planets and comets sailing by.
  • The score was also changed when the film was re-cut into its two-part TV episode. The film featured an original score by Darrell Calker, who scored many of Walter Lantz' Woody Woodpecker cartoons and other shorts. This was removed and replaced with music from the production music library used for the first television season.
  • The laser weapon shown in the poster, which the Mole Men brought up from their subterranean home in order to defend themselves and retrieve their injured comrade, was a prop constructed from an Electrolux vacuum cleaner.

References


Superman Films
Film Serials SupermanAtom Man vs. Superman
Theatrical Films Superman and the Mole MenSuperman: The MovieSuperman IISuperman IIISuperman IV: The Quest for PeaceSuperman ReturnsMan of SteelBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Upcoming)
Spin-off films SupergirlSteel
Made-for-TV/dvd films Superman: 50th Anniversary SpecialLook, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of SupermanSuperman II: The Richard Donner CutThe Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?
Animated Films Superman: Brainiac AttacksSuperman: DoomsdaySuperman/Batman: Public EnemiesSuperman/Batman: ApocalypseSuperman/Shazam!: The Return of Black AdamAll-Star SupermanSuperman Versus the EliteBatman: The Dark Knight ReturnsSuperman: Unbound
Justice League Justice League: The New FrontierJustice League: Crisis on Two EarthsJustice League: DoomThe Lego MovieThe Flashpoint ParadoxJustice League: War
Shorts The Joker's PlayhouseSuperman 75th Anniversary

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