Superman Screenshot of the Day postsMonday June 03, 2013
Superman Screenshot of the Day
There's something about a Superman outfit hanging in a closet.
The above screenshot is from Season 1, episode 13 of “Adventures of Superman” with George Reeves. It's called “The Stolen Costume” and it's justifiably famous. Or infamous. It's an indication of what you could get away with in a world before brand managers.
Johnny Sims (Norman Budd), AKA “T-Ball,” AKA “The Rope Burglar,” is on the run from the cops when he stumbles into an empty apartment that just so happens to belong to Clark Kent. He also stumbles upon a button that just so happens to open a secret closet that reveals .... well, you know. Getting away with the uniform, he's shot in the back by the cops (he should've put it on first) but makes it to the apartment of a gangster, Ace (Dan Seymour), and his hard-talking moll, Connie (Veda Ann Borg). He gasps out the address before expiring.
There's some mistaken-identity stuff. Connie and Ace think Clark Kent's friend, Candy Meyers (Frank Jenks), is Clark Kent, but he's actually investigating the case for Clark Kent, which is totally odd. Superman needs a private detective?
Eventually Ace and Connie try to blackmail Superman about his secret identity but instead he takes them for a ride. Literally. He tells them to put on warm clothes, then flies them to a high mountaintop where they'll stay until he can decide what to do with them. He warns them not to try to get down, either. But they do. And they slip and fall and die. The end.
I know. I burst out laughing.
Question: Is Superman guilty of kidnapping here ... or kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter? Either way, I doubt the show would be approved by the Comics Code Authority.
I've written about Dan Seymour before. Veda Ann Borg died young, 58, from cancer, in 1973, though her last screen credit is from 1963. And Norman Budd? The man in the above shot? He was born in Liverpool in 1914 and died in Studio City, Cal., in 2006, though his last film credit was from 1953: an uncredited role in Marlon Brando's “The Wild One.” He played one of Chino's boys.
The Kents Go for a Sunday Drive
1948: Martha and Eben (Virginia Carroll and Ed Cassidy)
1952: Sarah and Eben (Francis Morris and Tom Fadden)
1978: Martha and Jonathan (Phyllis Thaxter and Glenn Ford)
1996: Martha and Jonathan (Shelly Fabares and Mike Farrell)
2001: Martha and Jonathan (Annette O'Toole and John Schneider)
2013: Jonathan and Martha (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane)
Obama Isn't Coming for Your Guns; Superman Is
We watch old movies not only for what they say about their times but what they say about ours.
“Superman and the Mole Men,” the hour-long debut of George Reeves as the Man of Steel, which became forerunner to the hugely successful “Adventures of Superman” TV series, offers such an instruction.
This Superman is the one who fought for “truth, justice and the American way,” when, previously, Superman merely fought for truth and justice, and sometimes tolerance. Tolerance is big in “Mole Men,” too. Previous cinematic Superman villains include the Spider Lady and Lex Luthor, both of whom were out to take over the world, but the villain here is really small-town intolerance.
In Texas, the world's deepest well is drilled, six miles down, until it reaches a community of “mole men” (midgets with bald wigs and furry costumes), who rise to the surface, in pairs, and run into trouble. Old men have heart attacks, women scream, vigilante mobs form. At one point, in a forerunner to the courthouse steps scene of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the mob descends upon a hospital, where an injured mole man lies, intent on lynching him. But it's met by Superman.
Precursor to Atticus Finch: Stopping the lynch mob on the hospital steps.
On the way there, lead rabble-rouser Luke Benson (veteran character actor Jeff Corey), incites the people with a speech that wouldn't be out of place at a Tea Party convention:
Now them two reporters from back east … they’ll try to stop us, like as not, but we ain’t gonna be stopped. This is our town. We don’t need any strangers telling us what to do!
He even decks the Sheriff. This doesn't sit well with Superman, who's more no-nonsense than previous incarnations. He compares the mob to Nazi stormstroopers. When a gun goes off and Lois is nearly killed, Superman says the following:
Whoever fired that shot nearly hit Miss Lane. Obviously none of you can be trusted with guns. So I’m going to take them away from you.
Which he does.
Gun control from Krypton.
I laughed out loud. Think of it. An illegal alien confiscating the guns of Texas citizens under the guise of “the American way.” The GOP was right. The 1950s were the good old days.
Superman Screenshot of the Day
Nick: You can't repeat the past.
Gatsby: Why, of course you can!
-- The Great Gatsby
In a way, Gatsby's right here. You can repeat the past. It just doesn't measure up. Think of the lobster scene in “Annie Hall.” Or think of the whole of “Superman IV.” The magic ride around Metropolis with Superman and Lois in “Superman: The Movie” is here reduced to a farce. The special effects suck, the rationale for the trip is meaningless, and at the end, in a nod to one of the worst moments in the “Superman” ouevre, Supes kisses Lois and makes her forget it all. One wonders how often he's used this trick. And does he do it with women other than Lois? How many? Maybe he's done it with you!
“Superman IV” grossed $15 million in 1987 or 11% of what “Superman: The Movie” grossed in 1978. Unadjusted. Superman didn't need kryptonite to finally fall to earth. He just needed Golan and Globus.
Superman Screenshot of the Day
Superman's junk, believe it or not, was a matter of a huge debate during the making of “Superman: The Movie.” Apparently the suit Christopher Reeve wore was a bit revealing, even with the outside undies, and the debate was whether to minimize (with whatever) or maximize (with a codpiece). Producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind were definitely in favor of this latter approach. “Either he has a big one or he has nothing!” Ilya supposedly said.
They seemed to go both ways in the movie, didn't they? It's noticeable in some scenes, less so in others, but I haven't done extensive research. Volunteers?
The above shot, with codpiece, is from “Superman III.” Computer technician Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), at the behest of the villainous businessman Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn), has created a synthetic version of kryptonite, which acts upon the Man of Steel like red kryptonite. In this case, he turns evil, or at least mischievious, or at least horny. Webster's assistant, Lorelei (Pamela Stephenson), the booby blonde of this movie (replacing Valerie Perrine, to be replaced by Mariel Hemingway), then hangs out at the top of the Statue of Liberty to get Supes' attention. She gets it.
Question of the day: Would Richard Donner have approved of this shot? Would Geoffrey Unsworth? How about Jerry Siegel?