In this age when every superhero presentation, from the recent Spiderman blockbuster to the Batman animated series
to the X-Men flick tries to add a dark undercurrent to the story, there is something really fun about the extreme naivete on
display in Max Fleischer's Superman, a series of shorts from the early 40's starring the man in blue tights. The disc contains
nine films, all of which follow a strict formula: Something bad happens, Lois Lane gets captured, Superman flies in and saves the day.
The only variation is whether the bad thing that happens is the result of a bad guy, like the Mad Scientist or the Mechanical Monsters,
or of some natural/semi-natural disaster, like a volcano or escaped King Kong-knock-off. Each episode is nearly identical, from the
pacing to the music to the jokes, and there's something comforting about that.
Mind you, these films never try to be more than they are. To criticize them for having stupid scripts is beyond the point. They are Saturday matinee filler with the heroic Superman triumphing over the brain-damaged villains time and time again.
The full-frame video here seems to have been restored. It is in pretty good shape, although some of the films seem overly soft. The
colors are pretty good, considering the age of the source material, and the cropping from overscan is only really a problem during the
The audio is available as 2.0 and 5.1. The 5.1 is too bassy (the bass sometimes just rumbles uncontrollably and without provocation)
while the 2.0 is a little muddy. Still, both sound pretty good, all things considered. The 5.1 mix includes newly recorded sound effects, which may add to the disorienting gap between the audio and video styles. A Dolby Prologic track is also available. Overall, the audio tracks are a nice try but they just don't sound that great.
Previews of three volumes of Cartoon Crazys are included, including several classic Bugs Bunny moments. Plenty of illegible text screens are also included, as is a restoration demonstration that, while impressive, doesn't take Superman as its source and is thereby useless in judging the work done for this disc. Something called a "Feel the Sound Demo" is also included, but it is nothing more than a few quick cuts from the Superman shorts.
As I said, these classic Superman shorts have none of the complexity of modern superhero tales but they don't need it. This set is a fine introduction to the Superman legend of its era. I'm not sure how it stacks up to other compilations of the same material but the picture and audio, while flawed, are pretty good. Overall, this is a set that most kids will love and that Superman enthusiasts will cherish.