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
|Music by||Darrell Calker
|Edited by||Albrecht Joseph|
|Distributed by||Lippert Pictures Inc.|
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, and starring George Reeves as Superman and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. The film was released by Lippert Pictures Inc. This is the first feature film based on the DC Comics character Superman. Previously, two live-action, multiple chapter Superman serials from Columbia Pictures (1948, 1950), starring Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill, had been shown in weekly installments in theaters. Superman and The Mole Men's original screenplay was by "Richard Fielding", a pseudonym for Robert Maxwell and Whitney Ellsworth, and was shot in a little more than 12 days on a studio back lot. The film was just 58 minutes long and 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".
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. Unknown to the drillers, however, the drill shaft has penetrated the deep underground home of the "Mole Men", a race of small, furry, though bald-headed and bald-faced humanoids. The Mole Men come up through the shaft at night to explore the surface world. When the creatures first emerge on the surface, their sudden appearance scares the elderly night watchman to death. 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 down 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, plus the fact that everything that they touch becomes phosphorescent, glowing in the dark. The townspeople form an angry mob in order to kill the "monsters", led by the violent Luke Benso. 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 creature will die unless he undergoes surgery to remove the bullet. Clark Kent is forced to assist the doctor when the nurse refuses out of fear. Soon afterward, Benson's mob shows up at the hospital demanding that the creature be 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 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 quickly jumps in front of the blast, 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's shaft. Soon after, from underground, the Mole Men destroy the 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
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 strangers in 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 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 era. Grossman also cites a later film, perhaps inspired by this one, called The Mole People (1956).
The central image of actors Reeves and Coates on the theatrical release poster (above) is a painting derived by reversing ("flopping") a publicity photo image of the two actors, with Superman's "S shield" emblem then reversed in order for it to be read correctly. The still (above) depicts the film's final scene.
Some elements of the theatrical film were trimmed when converted into the two-part "The Unknown People" episodes of the Superman TV series, including some portions of a lengthy chase scene and all references to the term "Mole Men".
The theme music used for the film had a generic "sci-fi 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 (Woody Woodpecker) 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 TV 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 an Electrolux vacuum cleaner body; for the ray's "gun barrel" a standard metal funnel was attached to the other.
Home video releases
The film was released on VHS by Warner Home Video on July 22, 1988, coinciding with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Superman character that year; the film was also released at the same time on LaserDisc. Both the two-part TV episode and the full feature film are on the 2005 first season DVD release for Adventures of Superman. In 2006 the film was released as a bonus feature on the 4-Disc Special Edition of Superman: The Movie. Subsequently, it was repackaged for the 2011 Blu-Ray box set.
In popular culture
During the DC vs. Marvel comics crossover event, Marvel super villain the Mole Man and his minions attempt to take over the Batcave, only to be opposed by the Incredible Hulk. Superman then joins the fight, prompting Hulk to comment "Superman versus the Mole Men. This should be interesting".
The Mole People (film) (1956)
Superman: Serial to Cereal, by Gary Grossman, 1976.