SUPERMAN AND THE JUNGLE DEVIL (1954)
Article 3966 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by George Blair and Thomas Carr
Featuring George Reeves, Noel Neill, and Jack Larson
What it is: Superhero saga edited from TV episodes
Three adventures of Superman are recounted. In the first, Superman must contend with a bank robber who is using a computer to plot his crimes. In the second, he must rescue a jungle expedition held captive by a native tribe. And in the third, he must contend with a con man who has proof of Superman’s real identity.
I’m cheating again; I actually haven’t found a print of this Superman movie edited from three episodes of “Adventures of Superman”. However, I just can’t bring myself to letting it fall into my “ones that got away” list when the vast majority of its footage can be found in the extant episodes of the TV series. In cases like these, I keep the movie in my hunt list until it’s about to move on to the other list (in the hopes that the actual movie might show up), and then I’ll watch the three episodes and have done with it.
The three episodes were “The Machine that Could Plot Crimes”, “Jungle Devil”, and “Shot in the Dark”. As is usually the case in instances like this, I try to see if there’s any link between the three episodes that might warrant a thematic reason they would go together. My link is pretty weak this time; it could be argued that all three of the episodes have fantastic content other than that of the existence of Superman. In the first, we have a super-computer capable of figuring out how to plot crimes, giving us a bit of science fiction content. The second has some horror touches in the fact that Superman has to face off with the “jungle devil”, which turns out to be a white gorilla (I only wish I could find a credit for who is playing him). The third is admittedly a stretch; when the villain is identified, he is a man who is believed to be already dead, which gives us the possibility of a “return from the dead” subplot; however, the story uses it only as the most minor of plot elements, so it really is marginal. There is a real strong link between the first and last stories, though; in both of them, the plot ends up hinging on criminals claiming to know the true identity of Superman. Fortunately, the TV series was very well done; I like the way they compensate for the lack of super-criminals by emphasizing the creative ways that Superman uses his various powers, especially in the middle story where he uses them to replace a diamond stolen from the eye of an idol. The third story is the weakest here; it seems particularly far-fetched, especially when Clark Kent explains how he was able to survive a point-blank gun shot and manages to convince them. Still, I can’t help thinking if they had to edit this TV show into movies, I’d rather they pick three episodes than do what they could have done, which is just pick the middle episode, and pad out the middle with safari footage to produce a Double-Stuffed Safari-O; after all, I have seen jungle movies with no more plot than just this episode.