THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN STARRING GEORGE REEVES: SEASON 3 -6 EPISODE GUIDE AND REVIEWS

SUPERMAN WEEK

Under Kellogg’s sponsorship, the second season of The Adventures Of Superman began steering away from its adult audience. By the third season, the show was aimed almost solely at the pubescent. It was also shot in color, which made it an expensive production with less money allocated for actors or professional writers.  Oddly, it was only aired in black and white, not having its color premier for another decade. In this, Kellogg’s was ahead of its time, realizing that color, being inevitable, would assure the series a long syndication run.

%22Superman's Wife%22 Joi Lansing

With the third season,this is an entirely different series than the first two and, with few exceptions, it’s a dreadful affair. The series’ decline continued until its final, sixth season. Although officially cancelled, The Adventures Of Superman had been picked up for a seventh season with star George Reeves coming in as director (he had helmed three, late episodes in season six) and, reportedly, more money was going to be spent on better scripts. However, Reeves’ premature death put an end to a series which began high and should have bowed out on a better note. Alas, like its star, it was not afforded a happy ending.

Superman George Reeves

The cast still has charisma, but even they can’t save the worst episodes, many of which are excruciating and virtually unwatchable. Still, The Adventures of Superman, with I Love Lucy was the longest running series of the fifties and maintained its popularity (with reruns) for another three decades in syndication, which is almost remarkable given that its lead, who had presented something of a super boy scout image, had in fact been ousted as quite the colorful character, engaged in a sordid affair when he was found dead, allegedly by his own hands.

The third season opens with the godawful Through The Time Barrier (dir. Harry Gerstad) and the Daily Planet staff (all four of them) being teleported to the Stone Age via Professor Twiddle (Sterling Holloway in his last series appearance). The look on Reeves’ face (in stills below) speaks volumes.

Adventures Of Superman Through The Time Barrier

Adventures Of Superman Through The Time Barrier

Adventures Of Superman Through The Time Barrier George Reeves, Sterling Holloway

The Talking Clue (Dir. Gerstad) is marginally better. It’s about a bank robber named Muscles McGurk and focuses primarily on Inspector Henderson. Shane enjoys the spotlight and our enjoyment factors primarily from his.

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A BELA LUGOSI RETROSPECTIVE

13TH CHAIR (Tod Browning 1930) lobby card. Bela Lugosi

According to Bela Lugosi‘s official bio, before coming to America he had been a star on the Hungarian stage, appearing in major Shakespeare productions.  However, several biographers  have disputed Lugosi’s “star” ranking during that period.  It seems most of his roles had actually been small ones.  Regardless, Lugosi enlisted in the Hungarian army during the First World War, was wounded several times, and later had to flee Hungary during a tumultuous political climate which was unfriendly to his leftist leanings.  After a stay in Germany, Lugosi arrived penniless in the States.  Eventually, he made his way to the New York stage and began appearing in plays and silent films.  In 1927, Lugosi was cast in the role of Dracula in Hamilton Dean’s famous stage play. With that, Lugosi became a major star of the stage, and stardom brought him numerous female fans, including Clara Bow, with whom he had a brief affair.

13TH CHAIR (Tod Browning 1930) lobby card. Bela Lugosi
In 1929, director Tod Browning, shopping around for the lead of the film version of Dracula, cast Lugosi as a vampire-like inspector in The Thirteenth Chair (1929).  Although Lugosi was not a great actor in the conventional sense, he did have an undeniably magnetic screen presence and brought an air of European mystery to the most rudimentary melodramas. Browning capitalized on this as few directors could and it worked, leading to Lugosi landing the career-making role of Bram Stoker’s Count in Browning’s 1931 film, Dracula.  The 49 year old Lugosi was perfect for the part.  His idiosyncratic mannerisms, unique mangling of the English language (which, despite rumor, he did not deliver phonetically), and otherworldly persona made for a compelling figure, a point made all the more obvious when compared to Carlos Villarias’ laughable performance in the Spanish language version of Dracula (shot at the same time on the same sets as Browning’s classic). Years later, Lugosi bitterly complained about the typecasting which resulted from the film, but realistically, Dracula was the best thing that happened to the actor. With his limited acting skills and heavy accent, Lugosi never could have been successful  in the romantic matinee roles he desired.

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THE RAVEN (1935)

THE RAVEN . KARLOFF LUGOSI 1935 LOBBY CARDTHE RAVEN 1935 POSTER. KARLOFF LUGOSI

The Raven (1935) marks the second teaming of Universal’s dual horror stars: Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. It is also downright mortifying  in its pedestrianism. Director Lew Landers simply did not have the sense of style or vision with which Edgar G. Ulmer imbued The Black Cat (1934) .

THE RAVEN (1935) BELA LUGOSI lobby card

Worse, Landers lacked the foresight or directorial strength to shape or reign in Lugosi’s performance. Lugosi’s overacting is both the key to that which remains most fascinating about The Raven and, paradoxically, sinks the film into abject parody. It was Lugosi’s deliriously sadistic antics here which inspired the two-year UK ban on horror films. The ban significantly hurt Lugosi, causing his salary stock, never good to begin, to plummet. Seeing The Raven today through a decidedly more jaded contemporary lens, one wonders what all the fuss was about.  Still, one can easily imagine why 1935 audiences were nonplussed regarding the Hungarian ham.

THE RAVEN 1935 PROMOS INCLUDING LOBBY CARD

As the Edgar Allan Poe-obsessed, stark staring mad Dr. Vollin, Lugosi melodramatically throws up his arms, laughs maniacally, and screams: “Poe, you are avenged!” It plays like a scene out of a wretched comic book, with a Transylvanian Marx Brother in the lead role. The reason for Vollin’s madness is his unrequited love of the prettified Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware), which never seems feasible.  In gratitude for Vollin saving her life, Jean does a Poe-inspired ballet for him, but the dance is as dull as she is. Earlier, Vollin compares himself to a god, and that is ultimately the nagging problem with Lugosi’s screen persona. Karloff inspires us to identify with his suffering and outsider status: Lugosi, with few exceptions, distances himself from his audience. Continue reading