Superman: The Theatrical Serials Collection
Review by Zach Demeter "Bird Boy"

Announce Date: 8/31/06
Street Date: 11/28/06
Closed Captioning: Yes
MSRP: $39.98
Packaging Type: Digi-Pack
Subformat: Multi Disc
Media Quantity: 4
Disc Configuration: 1) 9-Dual Layer 2) 5-Single Sided 3) 9-Dual Layer 4) 9-Dual Layer
Soundtrack Language: English
Run Time: 518
Subtitles: Francais, Espanol
Aspect Ratio: Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33, Standard [4:3 Transfer]
Sound Quality: English: Dolby Surround Stereo 2.0

Special Features
Saturdays with Superman: Noel Neill and Historians Bob Burns, Donald Glut, Gary Grossman, Jim Harmon and Jan Henderson recall the making of these 2 Serial Adventures.

Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman: Excerpts from the new documentary produced by Bryan Singer and Kevin Burns.

Review
Hitting alongside Superman Returns and the Ultimate Superman Collection on November 28th is the long awaited Superman: The Theatrical Serials Collection. Collecting all of the weekly theater serials from 1948’s “Spider Lady” plot and 1950’s “Atom Man vs. Superman” story, these shows arrive on a four disc set a surprisingly robust package.

Starting out watching this show you can immediately tell a few things: first, it’s old (obviously) and second, it’s incredibly faithful to the original comics of the 40s. I didn’t dislike the portrayal of any one of the characters in this set (not even Lyle Talbot’s Lex Luthor), though Spider Lady seemed like a rather weak arch-villain for Superman to face (equal opportunities for ladies to get their plans thwarted by Superman though!) for his live-action debut.

The stories contained within these serials are nothing that will shock and amaze you, but they are great fun to kick back and watch. The cliffhanger ending for each one is a cheesy staple I’ve always liked about the older superhero shows and seeing the “Next week in this theater” at the end of each one of these episodes made me laugh a bit, as well as dwell on just how old these serials actually are.

Between the two years these serials cover, the Atom Man story was much better than the Spider Lady. With Luthor coming into the story and being as menacing as his comic counterpart of the time, it just made for a much more enjoyable series of stories. The show continues to hold up remarkably well in terms of story telling and directing, which just goes to show how strong something can be when you use the characters as they were originally conceived, instead of revamping them into something they were never intended to be.

There’s fun to be had for everyone in this set; whether its parents reliving memories of seeing these in their original run or kids and teens seeing them for the first time, with 30 episodes in all for this release, there’s plenty to watch (over 500 minutes worth) for everyone.

The DVD
Packaged in a foil reflective case and dual layer digi pak insert, the packaging is colorful and attractive to look at. Menus are clean and easy to navigate and the ever-present “Special Features” button is on every menu, even though only the fourth disc has any special features.

Video is nothing I can complain about, simply due to its age and the fact there’s really nothing wrong with it. It’s in black and white and there is a fair bit of shimmering found in every episode, but again, considering its age, I’m just impressed it held up this well. When you see the clips of the promos in the featurette, you appreciate how crisp and clean the image on this set looks.

While the video is strong, the audio is a bit weak. Despite the packaging stating it was “Double Surround Stereo”, I had audio coming only out of my center channel and it was very low. Turning up the volume caused hissing, but nothing that overshadowed the voices, sound effects or music when it came time for them to play.

There is only one special feature on this set (I don’t consider a preview for the “Look, Up in the Sky!” documentary a special feature, more like an extended trailer) and it includes interviews with film historians and Noel Neill (Lois Lane) about their experiences with this show, both working on it, seeing it and how it stands up now. This is a very interesting documentary to watch and it includes some clips of the promos for the Superman serials, which were neat to see as well. Those interested in this set will not want to miss this special feature.

Fans have wanted these serials on DVD for years and now that they’ve finally arrived, they can move onto complaining about other things. This set does have a few flaws (mainly just the low audio), but I refuse to dock points for the audio/visual department simply due to its age. Warner Bros. has done a remarkable job with getting these to DVD and I highly recommend it for fans of the Man of Steel.