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Atom Man vs. Superman (1950, Spencer Gordon Bennet), Chapter 12: Atom Man Strikes!

Most of Atom Man Strikes! is Noel Neill’s. After an awesome cliffhanger resolution–awesome in terms of the Superman special effects (easily the best in the serial thus far)–Neill starts secretly investigating her coworkers. Kirk Alyn finds the secret compartment in the TV van, where the bad guys spy on everyone and get safe combinations. Because Lex Luthor’s criminal empire is built on money from retail story robberies.

There’s one silly scene where Neill introduces Alyn (in his tights, not spectacles) to her stunned coworkers and just beams at him. George Robotham plays Neill’s cameraman; he doesn’t have a lot to do, but he’s a fine enough sidekick for her. Better than Tommy Bond for sure. Even if Robotham is in on some of Lyle Talbot’s scheming, though seemingly not all of it.

The cliffhanger has Talbot ready to kill everyone at the Daily Planet and probably on the city block to hide the truth about his burglary ring.

There’s a second action sequence for Superman involving a burning building. Despite a little more effort than usual as far as dynamically integrating the flying animations, it doesn’t impress. Not like the opening. Because the opening mixes the flying animation with actual optical effects, not stock footage.

Overall, it’s a rather strong chapter. Neill getting to play reporter is great. Even director Bennet wakes up a little for when the goons are chasing her down the streets of Metropolis and through various buildings. And the cliffhanger is solid. Though the Atom Man doesn’t strike. Talbot strikes. Luthor strikes. No Atom Man visible. Not since Alyn broke the bedazzled planter serving as Atom Man’s head a few chapters ago.

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 11: Luthor's Strategy

About the last third of Luthor’s Strategy is Superman trying to save people during a big flood. The sequence is a mix of composite shots, flying shots, newsreel footage of actual floods, and then some connective shots. Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill, separately, driving to the flood location. They just happen to be in an obviously mountainous area while the flood is on flat land.

But it’s pretty exciting stuff, especially since the previous special effects extravaganza in the chapter was Lyle Talbot setting off timed sparklers in his office to throw suspicion from himself.

The cliffhanger resolution is all right, with the “Lois works for Lex” plotline far more diverting than some of the previous ones in Atom Man. Neill doesn’t get much to do this chapter–except tough it out during the flooding while her cameramen run; instead, it’s Pierre Watkin yelling at Alyn about how Talbot’s really a good guy.

Speaking of Talbot, Strategy has some of his worst acting so far in the serial. He’s not terrible, he’s just not good opposite a bunch of nondescript reporters. No personality.

And the Tommy Bond and Alyn Daily Planet dynamic is kind of interesting. Far better than the Neill and Bond dynamic, as Bond’s not a condescending jackass to Alyn. Though Alyn is a condescending jackass to Bond.

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 10: Atom Man’s Heat Ray

Atom Man’s Heat Ray does not feature a heat ray. Unless it’s the machine Luthor (Lyle Talbot) uses the pump smoke into the room where he’s trapped Noel Neill, Kirk Alyn, and Tommy Bond.

Now, it turns out Neill is only working for Talbot’s TV station to get the goods on him for Superman (and the Daily Planet, presumably). Alyn reveals it, aloud, only for a goon to overhear. For whatever reason, no one thought to tell Bond about Neill’s secret mission. They catch the goon, so he couldn’t report back. Meaning Talbot just decides to kill Neill along with Alyn and Bond; it’s almost like he’s not interested in her journalism skills (he just wants her to make him look legitimate).

There’s some brief, fun Superman action–though the cliffhanger resolution seems to be a process shot reused from the first serial, which I suspected at the setup last chapter–and, again, it’s great to see Neill get so much to do. Besides mooning over Alyn in his long johns.

Heat Ray, with Neill’s subterfuge and Talbot’s attempts at looking legit, has some of the serial’s best ideas for plotlines. Shame it’s the tenth chapter of the serial (and the subplots seem resolved, one way or the other, by the cliffhanger).

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 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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