SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE-MEN
Superman and the Mole-Men is an oddity when you come to it after a familiarity with the comic-book Superman, the Christopher Reeve films and especially the dark and grim Superman of Man of Steel (2013). Firstly, you have to understand that up until around the point of the Christopher Reeve Superman (1978), film and tv superheroics were limited. There was no such thing as CGI, while the films/shows were made on budgets that lacked much if anything for visual effects. Superpowers were limited to things like Superman punching through a wall or Lee Majors running in slow-motion accompanied by a cranking sound to represent his powers in The Six Million Dollar Man (1973-8). When Superman and Captain Marvel flew, all we would see is the respective actors pulled up off-screen on wires and then maybe a shot of them against back-projected sky. Wrinkles were readily visible in the tights of the costumes. With the exception of the madly over-acting guest stars in tvs Batman (1966-8), there were no such things as super-villains and the plots were mundane ones chiefly, one suspects, because the writers were not comic-book readers but came from backgrounds in writing crime and spy shows and simply adapted those plots to have superheroes tackling bank robbers and petty criminals as opposed to world-threatening menaces.
In the film here, Supermans exploits are limited he bends the barrel of a rifle, bullets bounce of his chest and that is about it. There are a couple of scene where he flies (where his takeoff and landing is accompanied by a jet engine sound!), which consists of the old trick of George Reeves being lifted up off screen on wires followed by some POV shots looking down at the street as he flies over. We get a single wide-angle shot where an animated outline of his figure flies up to the top of the dam to save a Mole Man after he is shot, although this is very brief and quickly cuts back to a medium shot of Reeves on wires catching the Mole Man in his arms.
Even as a superhero story goes, the first half is centred around the thoroughly mundane plot of Clark Kent and Lois Lane investigating a dead body at the local mine. In fact, this is the oddity of a Superman film where Clark Kent gets far more screen time than Superman does. Even then, the action is taken up by scenes that dont involve either, like where a lone Mole Man is pursued through the desert, culminating in a long scene where the locals corner him in a hut and set it on fire where you keep expecting that Superman is going to turn up and save the day, only for this to not to be the case.
Superman and the Mole-Men came along a little early for the great alien invader fad of the 1950s but it holds some interesting allegiances to it. It was released to theatres one month after The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). By contrast to almost all alien invader films, which took the view that their arrival was inimical and a deadly threat that must be fought off, both The Day the Earth Stood Still and Superman and the Mole-Men are among the few films of the decade where the arrival of visitors from elsewhere is not necessarily something threatening and that the greatest menace proves to actually be human prejudice. While The Day the Earth was about a trigger-happy soldier, Superman and the Mole-Men has Superman standing between the innocent child-like Mole-Men and a lynch mob of angry locals who are determined to kill them.
Lee Sholem was a director of B-budget Westerns and adventure films during the 1940s and 50s. He made his directorial debut with the first two Lex Barker Tarzan films Tarzans Magic Fountain (1949) and Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950). He directed Johnny Weissmuller in two of his non-Tarzan jungle adventure films Jungle Man-Eaters (1954) and Cannibal Attack (1954). Sholem also made several other B genre films with the robot film Tobor the Great (1954); the mummy film The Pharaohs Curse (1957); and the sf film The Doomsday Machine (1972).
Other versions of the Superman legend are:- seventeen Superman animated shorts produced by Fleischer Studios between 1941 and 1943; two serials made during the 1940s, Superman (1948) and Atom-Man vs Superman (1950) both starring Kirk Alyn; the film Superman (1978) starring Christopher Reeve, which led to three sequels with Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), as well as spinoffs like Supergirl (1984) and tvs Superboy (1988-91); Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-7), a popular tv series that focused more on the love triangle relationship between Clark/Superman (Dean Cain) and Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher); the excellent animated series Superman (1996-2000) where the superheroic exploits were rendered in a beautifully stylised Art Deco milieu; several spinoff films from the animated series with Superman: The Last Son of Krypton (1996), The Batman Superman Movie: Worlds Finest (1998), Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006), Superman: Doomsday (2007), Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009), Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010), All-Star Superman (2011), Superman vs. The Elite (2012) and Superman Unbound (2013), while Superman also appears in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II (2013) and as one of line-up of DC superheroes in the same creative teams Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (2001-6) and its film spinoffs Justice League: The New Frontier (2008), Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010), Justice League: Doom (2012), Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013), Justice League: War (2014), Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015), Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015), Justice League vs Teen Titans (2016) and Justice League Dark (2017), as well as in Legion of Superheroes (2006-8) from a different creative team, while Young Justice (2010-3) features Superboy, a clone of Superman, as a regular character; the tv series Smallville (2001-11) played by Tom Welling, which concerns Supermans teen years; Bryan Singers follow-up to the Christopher Reeve films Superman Returns (2006) starring Brandon Routh; Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006), Richard Donners edit of his original intended vision of Superman II, which had been subject to much in-fighting with the producers; and Zack Snyders reboot Man of Steel (2013) starring Henry Cavill and its follow-ups, the DC superhero team-ups Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017); and the tv series Supergirl (2015 ) starring Melissa Benoist with appearances from Tyler Hoechlin as Superman. Superman also turns up as an animated character in The Lego Movie (2014). Also of interest is The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (2015), a documentary about the aborted Tim Burton-Nicolas Cage Superman film of the late 1990s.