Title: Superman and the Mole Men.
Director: Lee Sholem.
Screenplay: Robert Maxwell (as Richard Fielding).
Release Date: 1951.
Runtime: 58 min.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama.
Cast: George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jeff Corey, Walter Reed, and many more!
My Overall Rating:
Who springs to mind when one wishes for a defender of truth, justice and the American way? The one alien who came from another planet, flies faster than a speeding bullet, showcases more power than a locomotive, and leaps tall buildings at a single bound: Superman! The first ever feature film to introduce the world to a DC superhero was a movie called Superman and the Mole Men, a black-and-white B-movie serving as a giant commercial for the subsequent television series. Filmed within twelve days, this movie looked to send Clark Kent on an investigative quest that will later require his supernatural and human skills to defuse.
What is Superman and the Mole Men about? The story follows Clark Kent (George Reeves) and Lois Lane (Phyllis Coates), off to the small town of Silsby to report on the world’s deepest oil well. As they learn of the closure of this terrain, they stick around till the next day only to run into a better story, one that introduces the sudden arrival of bald, large-headed, and furry little humans who have crawled their way out of the oil well from deep within Earth and are now terrorizing the citizens of this small town. The investigative skills of Clark Kent and the accidental discoveries of Lois Lane lead these two to understand that there might be something far more unusual going on than what humankind might be used to. This might be indeed be a task that only Superman can handle!
There’s no lying that this feature film wasn’t meant to break any kind of records. Considering when it was made, it still achieves some truly interesting cinematic feats, especially through its narrative and foray into light science-fiction. At the heart of this less-than-an-hour movie is a story that focuses during its first half on Clark Kent, investigative journalist, who eagerly hunts down for clues to get to the heart of the mystery and find the truth that needs to be shared with the world. Alongside him is Lois Lane, a fierce, independent, and curious lady who shares a passion for journalism but remains caged in by the ruthless mob mentality of men. It is only at the second half of the movie that Superman makes an entrance and serves as the mediator to a conflict that remains timely and relevant even today.
The aforementioned conflict is rooted in a question of xenophobia that allows viewers to reflect on their perception and reaction towards strangers, especially those that do not come from an environment they’re accustomed to. In fact, the mole men in this movie are beings who have been in Earth for countless years before the Americans but their strange physical characteristics and behaviour make them alien to humans, leading humans to react rashly without any room for communication. This is where Superman comes in and offers his open-minded mediation and showcases his superpowers, quickly establishing him as an authority that should not be taken lightly, to help both parties come out of this issue unscathed.
With a message of peace interlaced into this story, you’d think it would have it all, but, it has its fair share of cinematic flaws that might spoil the experience. Among these issues is the movie’s pacing that unnecessarily stretches out countless scenes, especially chase sequences, that might either play for or against the story depending on the viewer’s interest in the narrative. The climax of the movie was also a bit underwhelming when you could see everything coming a mile away. This forces the viewer to look elsewhere for their cinematic anchor throughout the movie, that one thing that might justify viewing this movie. The decision to focus each half of the movie to Clark Kent and then Superman also makes for a tough sale in the grand scheme of things, especially considering the short length and the disenchanting plot. Nevertheless, there’s a charm to finally visiting one of the earliest takes on Superman out there.
Superman and the Mole Men (1951) is an episode exploring humankind’s xenophobia portrayed through humans fearing strange little mole men with the Man of Steel’s mediation for both parties at the heart of it all.