Category Archives: Serial Chapter

Atom Man vs. Superman (1950, Spencer Gordon Bennet), Chapter 9: Superman Crashes Through

There’s a lot going on in Superman Crashes Through, starting with some power company guys beating up on the Atom Man’s thugs. The power company guys are out on a call about an explosion in the cave base. But when the cops get there (again), it’s empty (again).

It seems like another of the serial’s logic oversights, but then later on Pierre Watkin is talking with Kirk Alyn about it. Lex Luthor (Lyle Talbot) really is teleporting his equipment out of the cave and then back again. Why no one stakes out the cave–not just the police (who are always off screen in Atom Man vs. Superman) but maybe Superman? Only no. Alyn’s got more important things to do.

Like get Noel Neill fired. She’s happy with it–happy enough it seems like a plot twist waiting to be revealed–and goes to get a job at Talbot’s television station.

But before Neill can get fired, Watkin has to be wrong about something else (he’s majorly wrong twice in Crashes) and Alyn has to trick Talbot into reopening the dimensional portal. It’s not a particularly exciting escape for Superman, but it does get the serial moving again.

It’s nice to see Neill do something different. Though Alyn gets something different too; he gloats about Neill losing her job and teases her at her new one. After it was his fault she got fired.

Alyn’s a bit of a jackass here, which probably explains why he and Tommy Bond get on so well in this chapter.

Bond gets the cliffhanger, foolishly chasing down thugs by himself. So he deserves getting it. He doesn’t deserve the cliffhanger’s silliness however. Atom Man vs. Superman’s cliffhangers all seem to have been left laying in the Kryptonite too long.

CREDITS

Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet; screenplay by George H. Plympton, Joseph F. Poland, and David Matthews, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Kirk Alyn (Superman / Clark Kent), Noel Neill (Lois Lane), Lyle Talbot (Luthor), Tommy Bond (Jimmy Olsen), Pierre Watkin (Perry White), Jack Ingram (Foster), Don C. Harvey (Albor), Paul Stader (Lawson), George Robotham (Earl), and Fred Kelsey (Police Chief Forman).


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Atom Man vs. Superman (1950, Spencer Gordon Bennet), Chapter 8: Into the Empty Doom!

Maybe I was wrong about the desk swapping in the earlier chapters. Into the Empty Doom! is mostly a Daily Planet chapter–mostly Noel Neill’s chapter too–and she looks very comfortable at the desk I was sure used to be Kirk Alyn’s.

Both Clark Kent and Superman have disappeared–though Superman pops up occasionally as an immaterial ghost who can’t figure out why he’s unable to fight crime. Again, Superman being a doofus is really a hindrance to the serial. He doesn’t have some plan to stop Lyle Talbot’s scheme–the cliffhanger resolution leads directly into Talbot sending the Kryptonite groggy Alyn Into the Empty Doom. I thought Talbot’s plan was to teleport Alyn into outer space and atomize him, but apparently turning him into a ghost was intentional. At least based on Talbot’s later super-villain bragging (while in his Atom Man outfit).

Much of Neill’s time at the Planet is spent arguing with boss Pierre Watkin about writing a “Clark Kent is Superman”–the staff has figured, since Kent has disappeared too, he must be Superman. She eventually acquiesces, hoping Tommy Bond can convince Watkin otherwise.

Bond’s real annoying this chapter. He’s just hanging around and whining a bit, plus there’s a throwaway condescending moment about Neill’s electric typewriter being unplugged. It seems like it’s going to go somewhere, but no, it’s just Bond showing Neill she’s not so smart.

Also: the story confirms Talbot is in the same hidden cave base as before. He didn’t move anything. The filmmakers forgot the cops supposedly raided the place.

Still, it’s a decent chapter for Neill and she hasn’t had many. Besides the Planet stuff, facing off with Watkin, she also gets a great moment at the cliffhanger. It’s not a good cliffhanger–though there are at least explosions. Alyn’s occasional ghost appearances aren’t dramatic so much as frustrating. He’s such a doofus.

CREDITS

Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet; screenplay by George H. Plympton, Joseph F. Poland, and David Matthews, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Kirk Alyn (Superman / Clark Kent), Noel Neill (Lois Lane), Lyle Talbot (Luthor), Tommy Bond (Jimmy Olsen), Pierre Watkin (Perry White), Jack Ingram (Foster), Don C. Harvey (Albor), Paul Stader (Lawson), George Robotham (Earl), and Fred Kelsey (Police Chief Forman).


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Atom Man vs. Superman (1950, Spencer Gordon Bennet), Chapter 7: At the Mercy of Atom Man!

At the Mercy of Atom Man! has one of the serial’s laziest cliffhanger resolutions so far. And Atom Man vs. Superman, now seven chapters in, has had some really lazy resolutions. This one has the added bonus of Kirk Alyn not using his superspeed to catch the bad guy. Because of course not.

Later it has him defying Lyle Talbot’s threat of synthetic Kryptonite–ignoring Noel Neill’s questioning him about it too–only to be downed by the stuff. And kidnapped.

It’s not a terrible ending, actually. At least the kidnapping tries to be grand; Superman’s at the dedication of a new ship–Man of Steel–and the Atom Man’s gang takes him down. There’s stock footage for most of the crowd shots, but there are a handful of real ones. Scale helps Superman quite a bit.

Most of the chapter is actually Talbot telling Don C. Harvey the history of Krypton. Talbot was able to translate Jor-El’s journal transmissions about the planet’s demise. There’s flashback footage (from the first serial) while Talbot and Harvey wait for the Kryptonite to bake.

It’s far from a recovery for the serial, but at least it’s not terrible. And Alyn’s such an overconfident goof as Superman, his terrible planning is more than believable.

Also fun–this time Alyn’s got Lois Lane’s usual desk at the Planet. Sadly none of the shots are wide enough to see who’s name plate is on his regular desk.

CREDITS

Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet; screenplay by George H. Plympton, Joseph F. Poland, and David Matthews, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Kirk Alyn (Superman / Clark Kent), Noel Neill (Lois Lane), Lyle Talbot (Luthor), Tommy Bond (Jimmy Olsen), Pierre Watkin (Perry White), Jack Ingram (Foster), Don C. Harvey (Albor), Paul Stader (Lawson), George Robotham (Earl), and Fred Kelsey (Police Chief Forman).


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Atom Man vs. Superman (1950, Spencer Gordon Bennet), Chapter 6: Atom Man’s Challenge

Wait a minute, why does Lex Luthor (Lyle Talbot) still have a secret base? The cops found it last chapter and Talbot and company had cleared out. Does he keep remaking the same evil laboratory in a different cave?

Atom Man’s Challenge does not answer this question. Sadly, I don’t think it’ll ever be addressed.

There’s some more general villainy from Talbot before he cooks up another plan. He needs to steal some radium to make synthetic Kryptonite (with no help from Gus Gorman).

Talbot doesn’t have a tricky plan. He just announces he’s going to steal the radium and the Daily Planet reporters bungle protecting it. Noel Neill, anxious to scoop Kirk Alyn, loses the last batch.

Somehow Tommy Bond gets kidnapped again. Actually, I think the cliffhanger in this chapter is the same as in the first chapter of Atom Man vs. Superman.

Besides Talbot’s generally amusing performance, Challenge is the second weak outing in a row. I’m terrified it’s just going to be more of the goons stealing precious metals and the Planet gang failing to stop them. Or just plain enabling the thefts.

CREDITS

Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet; screenplay by George H. Plympton, Joseph F. Poland, and David Matthews, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Kirk Alyn (Superman / Clark Kent), Noel Neill (Lois Lane), Lyle Talbot (Luthor), Tommy Bond (Jimmy Olsen), Pierre Watkin (Perry White), Jack Ingram (Foster), Don C. Harvey (Albor), Paul Stader (Lawson), George Robotham (Earl), and Fred Kelsey (Police Chief Forman).


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