TAC Table of Contents
Adventures of Superman
by Allan Asherman
The Adventures of Superman feature-versions compiled and distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox during 1954 have not been seen since their original showings. Derived from episodes of the much-discussed, legendary filmed television series still in syndication and available on commercially recorded discs, these features have inspired many questions. Were they unique? In what countries were they shown in theatres? Were trailers created to publicize them? Did they include scenes not seen on television? Despite the questions, little has been written about them due to the lack of generally available information. Until they become available again for viewing, however, some questions about them can be answered by examining items pertaining to their origin and content that are preserved in private collections.
To begin with, they were not unique. During the 1950s feature versions consisting of combined Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok episodes were shown in theatres in English-speaking markets, including the United States. The same is true for feature versions of combined Ramar of the Jungle episodes with specially filmed opening and closing credits. More recently The Scarface Mob, a feature-version composed of footage from the pilot for The Untouchables TV series, was booked in theatres, possibly in international markets. Similarly, the two-part Mission: Impossible TV episode “The Council” was re-edited, retitled Mission: Impossible vs. the Mob and shown in theatres abroad. The two-part Bonanza episode “Ride the Wind” was also re-edited into a feature shown in foreign theatres. (In Mexico it was retitled Jinetes del Viento.)
Whitney Ellsworth recalled in a 1966 phone interview that the agreement between Twentieth Century-Fox and National Comics called for the Superman features to be shown only in those international markets in which the Adventures of Superman TV series was not seen. The final part of the introductory text ending with “the American way” was therefore changed to:
“…and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter…fights a continuous battle for truth, justice and humanity.”
Surviving documents indicate that Twentieth Century-Fox prepared prints and advertising materials in English, Spanish and Portuguese (with a note indicating the Portuguese translation was for use in Brazil). The potential markets for the Spanish translations include countries in Central and South America. Possible English-language markets include Great Britain and Australia. One sheet of title translations includes mention of Italian as well, indicating another possible European market.
A surviving sheet bearing a 1954 date written for Superman’s Peril by the Twentieth Century-Fox international department includes the following information:
"The Golden Vulture" translates into Spanish as "El Buitre de Oro," "O Urubu de Ouro" in Portuguese.
"Semi-Private Eye" in Spanish is "El Detective Privado," and "O Detective Particular" in Portuguese.
"The Defeat of Superman" becomes "La Derrota de Superman" in Spanish, and “A Darrota de Super-Homem" in Portuguese.
Another surviving sheet, this one for Superman and Scotland Yard, translates that title into Spanish as Superman y la Policia Secreta. The individual episodes are translated as follows.
"Ghost for Scotland Yard" becomes "El Fantasma de Scotland Yard" in Spanish, and "O Fantasma de Scotland Yard" in Portuguese.
"The Lady in Black" Spanish translation is "La Mujer en Negro."
"A Mulher de Preto" is the Portuguese translation
"Panic in the Sky" becomes "Pánico en el Cielo" in Spanish and
"Pâhico no Céu" in Portuguese.
Also surviving are carbon copies of trailer texts for use in publicizing the features. This is the final text of a 29-second trailer created for Superman and Scotland Yard.
"Can even Superman's mighty strength overcome the powers of darkness when he clashes with a mad magician? What can Superman do to save delicate art masterpieces from a vicious gang of thieves? Will he be able to save the Earth from crashing head-on into a runaway asteroid? Fly with Superman as he emerges from his disguise as Clark Kent, a newspaper reporter...and battles the forces of evil and injustice in Superman and Scotland Yard."
Next, a trailer for Superman and the Jungle Devil:
“Superman battles spies to protect a secret formula for a powerful explosive! Join Superman on a safari into the jungle where he wrestles a monster gorilla! Watch him use his colossal strength to create a perfect diamond from a lump of coal! Before your very eyes Superman changes from the mild-mannered newspaper reporter Clark Kent…into the mighty champion of justice in Superman and the Jungle Devil.”
Finally, the 29-second trailer copy written for Superman Flies Again:
“Superman! Flying higher than the tallest mountain…
Superman! Crushing metal stronger than the toughest steel…
Superman! Stopping a speeding bullet with his bare hands…
Superman! The stranger from the legendary planet Krypton…
Disguised as Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter for a crusading newspaper…overcomes the forces of evil in his tireless crusade against crime in Superman Flies Again.”
Yes, there were additional scenes filmed to “bridge” the conclusions of episodes to the beginnings of the ones that followed. It is not known how many were filmed, but at least one of the five feature versions contains added scenes.
Superman’s Peril is composed of “The Golden Vulture,” “Semi-Private Eye” and “The Defeat of Superman.” Surviving copies of some second-season Adventures of Superman production schedules reveal that four scenes, designated with an “X” to differentiate them from conventional episodic scenes, were filmed on Thursday, September 17th and Friday, September 18th, 1953 on the “int. Perry White’s office” set along with scenes for “Around the World with Superman.” The schedule describes these supplemental scenes:
Pages transcribed from a Twentieth Century-Fox Superman’s Peril dialogue and cutting continuity script provide the full text of these scenes.
The first appears following the conclusion of “The Golden Vulture.” The clothes worn by Clark and Lois are unkempt because of their involuntary swim of the previous night.
SCENE: INT. WHITE'S OFFICE. WHITE IS AT HIS DESK, FUMING ANGRILY AS HE LEANS TOWARD HIS INTERCOM BOX.
JIMMY, LOIS AND KENT
This added scene preceded the scene of Superman in flight during which he sees the chimney about to fall on Homer Garrity (but somehow does not notice the thug who causes the collapse).
The second scene follows the conclusion of “Semi-Private Eye,” in which Jimmy has again handcuffed himself, this time to a chair.
SCENE: KENT AND JIMMY IN NEWSPAPER OFFICE, LATER.
KENT GOES OUT.)
This leads directly into the scene of Clark rushing from the Daily Planet Building to keep his noon appointment, as per the note Happy J. King has sent to Superman in care of Clark.
These special scenes may have been written by Whitney Ellsworth, who either realized they would be needed for continuity purposes, or was asked by someone at Twentieth Century-Fox’s international division to create them for that reason.
Also discovered was one other bridging sequence designated “X1,” set in “ext. operations building,” including a sign reading “Blair Field” and described as “Kent, Lois and Jimmy – they exit building – talk – Kent exits.” The scene was therefore shot for inclusion at the end of “Jet Ace.” The dialogue is not known but could have been as simple as Clark saying he intended to go for a drive in the country, which would have led directly into the start of “The Dog Who Knew Superman.” There may also have been additional bridging scenes filmed for the other Superman feature versions.
There are other questions about the fabled Superman feature versions, any (or all) of which may be connected to their absence from, or any mention about, on the Adventures of Superman tapes and DVDs issued to date.
The Adventures of Superman music cue-sheets stipulate that the British Francis, Day and Hunter and Paxton Library cues used to score the second season are licensed for worldwide TV. There is no mention of the license allowing use of the music in other media. How, then, was it possible to use the library music in these features, which were exhibited in theatres? If no additional clearance was obtained, the oversight could account for their absence on videocassette or DVD compilations of Adventures of Superman.
Were the parties entitled to residuals paid for these feature versions, or did their contracts limit their residuals to television broadcasts?
Questions, some answers, and much speculation... but the features themselves have yet to resurface. Fans the world over would welcome the chance to see the five elusive compilations, with their altered credits and added scenes. The owners of the Adventures of Superman series may consider the feature versions mere repetitions of the episodes, but after so many years the chance to view any new footage at all would be like watching a hitherto undiscovered episode.
It is also possible that the features remain unseen on DVD or Blu-Ray simply because of the cost of restoring and converting them for use in digital media. This would also explain why the first season previews, the episode bridges, and any other additional surviving footage from the Adventures of Superman have not been included in previous releases. Could this change in the future? That’s up to the legal owners of the series, who should realize that the inclusion of any previously excluded footage would be a bonus that would add to the sales potential of any future Adventures of Superman compilation.
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"