Superman and the Mole Men
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|Superman and the Mole Men|
|Directed by||Lee Sholem|
|Produced by||Barney A. Sarecky|
|Written by||Richard Fielding|
by Jerry Siegel
J. Farrell MacDonald
|Edited by||Albrecht Joseph|
|Distributed by||Lippert Pictures|
Superman and the Mole Men is an independently made 1951 American black-and-white superhero film, produced by Barney A. Sarecky, directed by Lee Sholem, that stars George Reeves as Superman and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. The film, the first theatrical feature film based on any DC Comics character, was released by Lippert Pictures Inc.
The storyline concerns reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane arriving in the small town of Silsby to witness the drilling of the world's deepest oil well. The drill, however, has penetrated the underground home of a race of small, bald humanoids who, out of curiosity, climb to the surface at night. They glow in the dark, which scares the local townfolk, who form a mob intent on killing the strange visitors. Only Superman can intervene to prevent a tragedy.
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. The drill shaft has penetrated the deep underground home of the "Mole Men", a race of small, furry, though bald-headed humanoids. The Mole Men come up through the shaft at night, and when the creatures first emerge on the surface, their sudden appearance scares to death the elderly night watchman. Lois Lane and Clark Kent arrive at the oil well and find the dead watchman. Subsequently, help arrives. Clark Kent and the foreman are exploring the surrounding area for signs of intruders when Lois sees one of the creatures and screams. But no one believes her when she tells them what she saw.
The medical examiner is summoned, and he later leaves with Lois. Clark stays behind to confront the foreman, who confesses that the well was closed for fear that they had struck radium and not oil. The foreman proceeds to show Clark ore samples that were collected during different stages of drilling; all of them glow brightly.
The townspeople become afraid of the Mole Men because of their peculiar appearance and because everything that they touch glows in the dark (due to simple phosphorescence). They form an angry mob in order to kill the "monsters", directed by the violent Luke Benson. Superman is the only one able to resolve the conflict, stopping Benson and the mob. He saves one of the creatures after it has been shot by taking it to the hospital. The second creature returns to the well head and disappears down its shaft.
Later, a doctor reveals that the injured creature will die unless he has surgery to remove the bullet. Clark Kent is forced to assist when the nurse refuses to do so out of fear. Soon afterward, Benson's mob arrives at the hospital demanding that the creature be given to them, causing Superman to stand guard outside the hospital. Lois Lane stands at Superman's side, until a shot is fired from the mob, narrowly missing her. Superman sends Lois inside and begins to relieve the mob of their rifles and pistols, sending them away.
Later, three more Mole Men emerge from the drill shaft, this time bearing a strange weapon. They make their way to the hospital. Benson and his mob see the creatures, and Benson goes after them alone. When the creatures see him, they fire their laser-like weapon at him. Superman sees this and jumps quickly in front of the pulsating ray, saving Benson's life, which Superman says "is more than you deserve!". He fetches the wounded creature from the hospital and returns him and his companions to the well head. Soon after, from deep underground, the Mole Men destroy the drill shaft, making certain that no one can come up or go down it ever again. Lois observes, "It's almost as if they were saying, 'You live your lives ... and we'll live ours'".
- George Reeves as Clark Kent / Superman
- Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane
- Jeff Corey as Luke Benson
- Walter Reed as Bill Corrigan
- J. Farrell MacDonald as Pop Shannon
- Stanley Andrews as The Sheriff
- Ray Walker as John Craig
- Hal K. Dawson as Chuck Weber
- Phil Warren as Deputy Jim
- Frank Reicher as Hospital Superintendent
- Beverly Washburn as Child
- Billy Curtis as a Mole-Man
- Jerry Maren as a Mole-Man
- John T. Bambury as Mole-Man (uncredited)
The sympathetic treatment of the strangers of the 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 of the feature film The Day The Earth Stood Still, which was released the same year. Both have been considered retrospectively as a product of (and a reaction to) the "Red Scare" of post-World War II era. Grossman also cites the later film The Mole People (1956).
Superman and the Mole Men is the first theatrical feature film based on any DC Comics character. Previously, two live-action, multiple chapter movie serials from Columbia Pictures Inc., based on the Superman comics feature and radio program, featuring Kirk Alyn as Superman and Noel Neill as Lois Lane, had been shown in weekly installments in movie theaters. Two additional serials based on DC's Batman, the first featuring Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin/Dick Grayson, and the second featuring Robert Lowery as Batman and Johnny Duncan as Robin/Dick Grayson, were also made by Columbia (1943 and 1950).
The image of actors Reeves and Coates on the theatrical release poster is a painting derived by reversing ("flopping") a publicity photograph image of the two actors, with Superman's "S shield" emblem then reversed in order for it to read correctly.
Superman and the Mole Men was filmed in a little more than 12 days on a studio back lot and runs just 58 minutes. It originally served as a trial balloon release for the syndicated Adventures of Superman TV series, for which it became the only two-part episode, "The Unknown People". Some elements of the original film were trimmed when converted for television, including some portions of a lengthy chase scene and all references to "Mole Men".
The theme music used for the film had a generic "science fiction sound", with nothing suggesting a specific Superman theme. The title cards used were similarly generic, with low-grade animation of comets sailing by Saturn-like ringed planets.
The film's original film score by Darrell Calker was removed when Superman and the Mole Men was re-cut into the two-part Superman TV episode. It was replaced with "canned" production library music used in the first season of the Superman television series.
The laser-like weapon of the Mole Men, which they retrieve from their subterranean home in order to defend themselves and rescue their injured comrade, was a prop made by adding metal shoulder braces to one end of an Electrolux vacuum cleaner body; for the ray's "gun barrel" a standard metal funnel was attached to the other.
Home video releases
Superman and the Mole Men was first released on VHS and LaserDisc by Warner Home Video on July 22, 1988, coinciding with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Superman character that year. Both the two-part TV episode and the full feature are on the 2005 first season DVD release for Adventures of Superman. During 2006, the film was released as a bonus feature on the DVD 4-Disc Special Edition of Superman: The Movie. Subsequently, Superman and the Mole Men was repackaged for its 2011 Blu-Ray box set release.
- Grossman, Gary. Superman: Serial to Cereal, 1976.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009 (First Edition 1982). ISBN 0-89950-032-3.