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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 145 minutes
First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series featurette
The Man, The Myth, Superman featurette
Exclusive sneak peek at Green Lantern animated film
You will believe that a studio can double dip, albeit nicely.
Bud Collyer, Joan Alexander.
Tasked by Paramount with creating animated shorts of the new and popular superhero, Superman, the Fleischer brothers, Max and Dave, created a series of definitive representations of the Man of Steel that have endured for 70 years.
I’ll make this really easy for you. If you have the Superman Ultimate Collector’s Edition, you can move on to the next article. Because these are exactly the same versions of the Fleischer cartoons that were offered in that set. Same quality, same number of shorts per disc even. If you don’t have said Ultimate Edition, and don’t want to drop $75 to enjoy the Fleischer cartoons you enjoyed as a kid, then by all means buy this. Because these are truly iconic representations of Superman that many a fan think are the greatest animated versions ever. In terms of being timeless works of art with a distinctive look and sound and holding up well for close to 70 years, then yes I agree wholeheartedly. If you mean that these are the best narrative incarnations of Supes, well that’s something else entirely.
“Wait, you’ve been tied up how many times?”
Look, these shorts are definitely a product of their time and feature a Superman that’s quite different than what we’re used to with the Christopher Reeve or the more recent animated versions of the character. Are they the best stories of Superman? No. Generally, they either find him in conflict with
some version of mad scientist or low level thugs or wartime saboteurs. And the depth of
both Clark and Lois’ characters consists of her getting into as much trouble in nearly
every single episode and needing Superman to save her, and Clark saying he either fainted or it’s a job for you-know-who. Superman, is much less physically powerful, and most of his other abilities, including heat vision, super breath and X-ray vision are gone (except for one short).
“WTF? What do you mean you’re being saved by Aquaman tonight?!”
However, it’s not necessarily the stories that are the draw here, it’s the execution of them. The Fleischers incorporated a process called Rotoscoping, which meant that much of the animation was traced over live action, giving the shorts a look unmatched by anything any other studio – including Disney – was doing at the time. They had a film noir look that has been credited as influencing the work of such notable works as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. The shorts were also scored magnificently by Sammy Timberg. On the downside, there were are also wartime episodes featuring Superman tangling with badly stereotyped versions of the Japanese (buck teeth and glasses) and African tribesmen (big lips, red eyes, the usual shit). For my money, once the Flesichers were replaced after the first nine shorts, all of the vision went out of the character and Superman became just another adventurer battling the Krauts and the Japanese and thugs.
But you all know this already, because these cartoons have been around for friggin’ ever. The real question is whether or not this set is worth getting. See the aformentioned first paragraph heretofore therein per se.
These are the best versions of the shorts ever presented. While that’s true, that’s not to say that there’s some absolutely rough patches of footage at times. In certain places they look like they’ve been “Grindhoused” to get that old feel. Audio also drops out in places at times. Otherwise, they do look quite nice and will definitely be the best way to see them, not counting Blu-ray of course. Audio is English Dolby Mono with available English subtitles. There are two special features, one, First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series is another carryover from the Ultimate Edition and runs 12 minutes. The other is The Man the Myth, Superman, and is more a historical look at how myths have influenced the creation of Superman rather than about the hero himself. There’s also an exclusive look at the upcoming DC animated film, Green Lantern.
“You’re safe, now, Lois.”
“Thanks Captain Marv…uh, Superman.”
“What was that?”
“Nothing, forget it…”
This set is fine by itself, but if I were a true Superman aficionado, I’d want to have the shorts as part of the Ultimate Collectors Edition, because I personally always want to see other versions of Superman whenever I see one. If you don’t have the scratch for that, then feel safe getting this version. You won’t be disappointed.