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Atom Man vs. Superman

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Title: Atom Man vs. Superman  
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Subject: Noel Neill, Superman in film, Superman, Batman and Robin (serial), Batman (serial)
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Atom Man vs. Superman

Atom Man vs. Superman
Promotional poster
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet
Produced by Sam Katzman
Written by David Mathews
George H. Plympton
Joseph F. Poland
Based on Characters 
by Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
Starring Kirk Alyn
Lyle Talbot
Noel Neill
Tommy Bond
Music by Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Cinematography Ira H. Morgan
Edited by Earl C. Turner
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • July 20, 1950 (1950-07-20) (United States)
Running time
15 chapters (252 minutes)
Language English

Atom Man vs. Superman (1950), Columbia's 43rd serial and the second live-action Superman screen appearance, both featuring Kirk Alyn as Superman, finds Lex Luthor (Lyle Talbot), secretly the Atom Man, blackmailing the city of Metropolis by threatening to destroy the entire community. Perry White (Pierre Watkin), editor of the Daily Planet, assigns Lois Lane (Noel Neill), Jimmy Olsen (Tommy Bond) and Clark Kent (Kirk Alyn) to cover the story.


Lex Luthor, the Atom Man, invents a number of deadly devices to plague the city, including a disintegrating machine which can reduce people to their basic atoms and reassemble them in another place. But Superman manages to thwart each scheme. Since Kryptonite can rob Superman of his powers, Luthor decides to create a synthetic Kryptonite and putters about obtaining the necessary ingredients: plutonium, radium and the undefined 'etc.' Luthor places the Kryptonite at the launching of a ship, with Superman in attendance. He is exposed to the Kryptonite and passes out. Superman is taken off in an ambulance driven by Luthor's henchmen, and he is now under the control of Luthor. Superman is placed in a device, a lever is pulled, and the Man of Steel vanishes into "The Empty Doom" (which bears a similarity to the Phantom Zone of the comic books). Most of chapter 7 is a repeat of the origin story from chapter 1 of Columbia's first "Superman" serial, and this serial also finds a way to work in stock footage from Ken Maynard's 1936 Avenging Waters (also directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet[1]). The serial features several elements re-used in later Superman features: the Man of Steel is exposed to synthetic Kryptonite during a public function, as he is in the motion picture Superman III. When he escapes from "The Empty Doom", the headline of the Daily Planet proclaims: Superman Returns, the title of the 2006 Superman movie.



Despite their onscreen personas, Talbot (Lex Luthor), who wore a rubber scalp to create the impression of baldness,[2] and Alyn (Superman) spent much of their time, when not shooting, exchanging recipes; both actors shared an interest in cookery.[2]

Special effects

The final set piece shows Metropolis under attack by "poorly animated" flying saucers and a torpedo.[2]

The flying effects were somewhat improved in this film than in the original, by the simple expedient of turning the camera on its side. Kirk Alyn stood with arms raised in front of a cyclorama, while a wind machine and smoke pot were placed above him (out of frame). This gave an inexpensive illusion of flight. Longer shots continued to use cartoon animation of the Man of Steel.

Critical appraisal

In their book The Great Movie Serials, Jim Harman and Donald F. Glut describe the serial as "far more gimmicky and gadget prone" than the first Superman serial. In addition to this, they also found it to be "flawed by the same Katzman cheapness."[2]


Home media

In 2006, the Atom Man vs. Superman serial was still available for purchase on VHS videotape, where it was first released back in 1989 as a double tape box set. The serial was also offered available in two separate VHS tapes as Volume 1 (Chapters 1 - 7) and Volume 2 (Chapters 8 - 15). It was officially released on DVD by Warner Home Video, along with its predecessor, 1948's Superman, on November 28, 2006 as Superman - The Theatrical Serials Collection.

Chapter titles

  1. Superman Flies Again
  2. Atom Man Appears
  3. Ablaze In The Sky
  4. Superman Meets Atom Man
  5. Atom Man Tricks Superman
  6. Atom Man's Challenge
  7. At The Mercy Of Atom Man
  8. Into The Empty Doom
  9. Superman Crashes Through
  10. Atom Man's Heat Ray
  11. Luthor's Strategy
  12. Atom Man Strikes
  13. Atom Man's Flying Saucers
  14. Rocket Of Vengeance
  15. Superman Saves The Universe


See also


  1. ^ Avenging Waters at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ a b c d
  3. ^

External links

Preceded by
Cody of the Pony Express (1950)
Columbia Serial
Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)
Succeeded by
Pirates of the High Seas (1950)
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