Superman and the Mole Men (1951) Movie Review

By: Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool,

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I hate to admit it but I had never seen a George Reeves Superman show before.  At least not in it's entirety.  I had seen snippets, of course, of the iconic 1950s Superman, but the television series was way before my time.  Still, I know that George Reeves was Superman to an entire generation of fans so it was with some expectation that I watched the movie feature that launched the series Superman and the Mole Men from 1951.

When It Was Cool has already reviewed the two Superman movie serials from a few years before including Atom Man vs. Superman from just one year prior.  These Superman adventures were fun and, honestly, not too bad.  So I was expecting a similar sort of vibe from Superman and the Mole Men but didn't really get it.

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This movie lacked the fun of the film serials from 1948 and 1950.  There was little action and the Mole Men were very underwhelming and not even the antagonists of the movie.

The movie was slow, lacked action, and just wasn't as much fun as the 1948 and 1950 film serials.  George Reeves, at least in this film, played a pretty serious Superman.  Notice that the title of the movie is Superman AND the Mole Men not Superman VERSES the Mole Men.  That is intentional because the Mole Men aren't the bad guys in the movie.  The antagonists are the towns people who are attempting to drill the deepest well on Earth and accidentally drill into the center of the Earth or the layer of the Mole Men (it changes throughout the film and the science is pretty stupid) letting a few of these underwhelming creatures loose.

The Mole Men (I suppose there aren't any Mole Women because if there are we didn't see any) are curious but apparently very intelligent as they have created weapons, one of which we will see late in the film.  This is a movie about trying to understand the differences of others, although it has no subtlety what-so-ever.  The towns people are frightened of the Mole Men and Superman's role in the film is to stand between them and the Mole Men.

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Superman did a lot of standing around and being very serious in the movie.  Lois Lane (Phyllis Coates) also played things very straight.

Superman and the Mole Men was produced by Barney A. Sarecky and directed by Lee Sholem. The film was released by Lippert Pictures Inc.  

The "strangers aren't all bad" theme of the movie was so ham-fisted that I figured it must be in reaction to something going on at the time.  This was post-World War 2 and into the Cold War era so I wondered if that had anything to do with the screaming message of the film and it appears I was right.  Wikipedia has this to say about the plot of Superman and the Mole Men:

The sympathetic treatment of the strangers of the film, and the unreasoning fear on the part of the citizenry, has been compared by author Gary Grossman to the panicked public reaction to the peaceful alien Klaatu of the feature film The Day The Earth Stood Still, which was released the same year. Both have been considered retrospectively as a product of (and a reaction to) the "Red Scare" of post-World War II era. Grossman also cites the later film The Mole People (1956).

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The Mole Men did possess a weapon though it seems that all the weapon does is make someone think they're going to die.  It also looked ridiculous.

Superman and the Mole Men was filmed in about 12 days on a studio back lot and runs for 58 minutes. It originally served as a pilot for the syndicated Adventures of Superman TV series starring George Reeves. It was later edited into the only two-part episode, "The Unknown People" with some of the original film trimmed when converted including some portions of a lengthy chase scene and all references to "Mole Men".  Yeah, that chase scene went on way too long.

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George Reeves as Clark Kent.  He is taking it very serious.

Overall, I found the movie boring, ham-fisted, and not very much fun.  I presume the George Reeves television series lightened up a little bit since it is so fondly remembered by a generation.  We may have to revisit George Reeve's Superman at some point to try and get a different view of him but if the entire Adventures of Superman series was as droll as Superman and the Mole Men then I have a hard time understanding it's appeal. I have a Patreon only podcast special on this episode which you can listen to- here.

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