The Adventures Continue

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By Mr. X

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Tonight I scored a copy of TAOS Seasons 3 & 4 at Wal-Mart. For those of you who are thinking of buying a set, I've a preliminary review.

First and most importantly, imho, Warner did a first class job of restoring the color elements, surely a daunting task.

Everything keys on coloring Superman's costume properly, and Whit Ellsworth kept changing it faster than a speeding bullet. The early 1954 costumes were a very dark blue. See the scene with Superman in Perry White's office in Great Caesar's Ghost. It looks very good in color, but as originally aired in black and white, there was almost no contrast at all; Superman's costume looked black. (Refer to page 1)

So the costume colors were tinkered with for the duration of TAOS, getting lighter and lighter. By 1957, George's costume was almost turquoise.

I checked the running times of all twenty six episodes, and they run on average about twenty six minutes and six seconds, which I think is right on the money. There are no missing scenes in this set.
The audio is adequate, but I think Warner could have done better. It's a little tinny in spots, and they seem to noticeably raise the volume every time Superman's theme music is played.

The special features are the best produced thus far. More interesting subject matter than in the previous seasons, and, AND, Jim Nolt participates! There was also a brief interview with David Chantler! Sadly, no episode commentary this go around. I would have liked to hear Jim's comments or Gary Grossman's comments again.

The menus are the same as used in Seasons 1 & 2. Visually, I think Warner could have done much better; they're not particularly intuitive to navigate, and they suffer from the lack of the original theme music and its banal replacement.

On the brighter side, Warner did insert four chapters in each episode, making navigation much easier. In Season's 1 & 2, each episode was a chapter unto itself, so when you hit the chapter button, it was onto the next episode. Now we go from the opening credits to the title card, then to the second act (which follows the missing bumper), and finally to the closing credits. It's a big improvement.

My DVD set also came with a coupon good for a free ticket to Superman Returns. That's a nice premium!
For those of you who viewed "Look, Up in the Sky", Warner unearthed some outtakes from the TAOS color years. I'd really like to see many more of them! I hope they add them to Seasons 5 & 6!

In conclusion, this is by far Warner's best effort at a TAOS DVD release. They put much more work into this set than the others, and it shows. It's a great bargain for the price.

Mister X
June 2006



Warner Releases TAOS Seasons 5 & 6


On November 14, the final DVD installment of the Adventures of Superman, Seasons 5 and 6, was released by Warner Home Video. I purchased my copy from, on sale, $22.88, no tax, free shipping. A terrific bargain!

The five disc package is the same used in the three prior releases. It's a tad awkward to manipulate, but it does a good job of protecting the discs. The package artwork is rather drab. For some reason, Warner chose green for the background color. All the other releases are blue. The photos of George used on the front and the back are based on the same photograph, the one on the back of the box just has a different head shot. I have to think that I showed better judgment than Warner did, I engaged the services of Randy Garrett, who did an extraordinary job on our DVD artwork. Randy surely could have improved on Warner's artwork.

The photos on the discs are all black and white. I think color photographs for color episodes would have been a better choice. Also, this is the third time Warner used the same picture of John Hamilton, all the other cast members were represented by four different photographs.

It's obvious to us TAOS fans that the photographic quality of the last twenty six color episodes suffered mightily in comparison to the previous color episodes. Why? I don't know. I suspect that Whitney Ellsworth changed to another, more economical film laboratory. The graphic episode titles were also dropped, another cost saving measure. I suspect that a cheaper grade of film was used, but I've no way of proving any of this.

Speaking of film quality, check out The Brainy Burro. The color quality, the finishing, everything about this episode photographically is superb. It's always been that way. I wish I could say the same for its plot!
The source materials for these episodes are the digital restorations Warner made for Nickelodeon back in the early nineties. They're identical, no restoration at all. The Superman Silver Mine is missing the same scene that had gone AWOL way back when. Don't blame me. Lou Koza and I mailed a disc with the missing scene to Warner a long time ago.

Despite all my carping, these are certainly the best quality versions of these episodes you've ever seen. In the digitalization process, Warner corrected and enhanced the color, and the resolution is far superior to any broadcast or VHS versions.

Above is a comparison from The Mysterious Cube, showing how much better the resolution and color of the Warner release is. Note that the wall of the mysterious cube, and Superman's costume, are back to their original blue color.

Here is another color comparison from one of my favorites color episodes, The Tomb of Zaharan. Without being sacrilegious, this reminds me of the restoration of the Sistine Ceiling, untold soot and grime carefully removed to reveal the vibrant colors beneath.

I wish I could report that Warner made some attempt to clean up the audio, but they didn't. It's unchanged from the Nick restoration.

On the brighter side, other than The Superman Silver Mine, the shows are complete, unedited, and free of electronic compression; they run their full twenty six minutes and some seconds.

The one special feature include is Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen. I enjoyed it very much. I spoke to Noel Neill not long ago, and she asked me what I thought of her special feature that appeared in the Season 2 DVDs. I told her that it was very good, but I wished it ran longer. The reason why Noel's clip came in short is that Warner only had 1953 footage to work with. 1951 wouldn't do, and the color years weren't available yet. Jack's feature, however, employs footage from all six seasons. It makes for a much better presentation, and the clip runs several minutes longer as well. It was also a great pleasure to see Michael Hayde, a most knowledgeable and articulate TAOS historian, and a really good guy too.

All in all, while not perfect, this final set of TAOS DVDs is a great bargain for the price, and I give it a "thumbs up."

Mister X
November 17, 2006



Look, Up in the Sky!

Over the last several days I've visited Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, and FYE. They all have large displays, prominently placed, hawking various Superman DVDs. And the TAOS DVDs are right there. It does my heart good to see George Reeves as Superman as part of a major national marketing campaign. Warner is spending box car numbers ballyhooing Superman Returns; TAOS and George are in part the beneficiaries of all this hoopla.

One small thing that has puzzled me. In Look, Up in the Sky!, there was a brief snippet of a beautifully recreated version of the graphic used for the opening of the color TAOS episodes:

I thought that surely in the Season 3 & 4 DVDs Warner would scrap the old grainy color opening and assemble a new one. Well, they didn't. It's the same tired opening we've viewed in syndication for the last forty years.

I couldn't understand why Warner created this beautiful new graphic and discarded it. Then it came to me. It's the old background music bugaboo. Warner somehow lost the rights to TAOS' theme music. If they use the music other than in the episodes proper they're obliged to pay royalties to BMI, who acquired the TAOS music rights. That's why the DVD menus have such drab background music, and why all the TAOS theme music used in Look, Up in the Sky! was replaced. I'm virtually certain that if Warner recreated the TAOS opening footage, they'd be on the hook for the music royalties, so, we're stuck with the old opening.
I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I lifted the restored graphic and assembled a new opening sequence with it. The link to the file posted below will be good until June 28 and 100 downloads:

Mister X


Thanks for Watching.

Lou (March 26, 2011)   

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