REVIEW: THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY (1961)

CAST

John Rockwell (Another Chance)
Bunny Henning (The Gnome-Mobile)
Ross Elliott (The Towering Inferno)
Robert Williams (Revenge of The Creature)
Stacy Harris (Dragnet)

 

Considering the era, it’s intended audience, and budgetary realities, this is a pretty good pilot film. The story is nothing profound, but is reasonable fare for a Superboy story, emphasizing human drama and subplot over super-heroics. Nonetheless, it treats Superboy and his world with far more dignity than many of the comic mag stories of the time. It’s dramatic value is on par with an average episode of George Reeves’ show, yet possesses none of the ‘camp’ tendencies associated with the color years.


The casting of John Rockwell as Clark/Superboy was fairly inspired, as this actor possessed looks similar to many teen idols of the era, yet was able to project sufficient earnest and heroic qualities so as to be credible as the boy of steel. Superman adaptations hinge upon the actor playing the man of steel, and I think Rockwell could have made this series profitable. If this show had been picked up, it could easily have had crossover appeal between kids and teens. Just prior to this there had been a series of successful teenage monster/scifi films, Teenagers From Outer Space, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Teenage Frankenstein, and Teenage Caveman to name but a few. Teens paid money to see those flicks at the drive-in, so it seems likely they would have watched Teenage Superman at home for free.

The other cast members are good, but they don’t, IMO, have the appeal of the actors who played Lois, Jimmy, Perry, and Inspector Henderson on George Reeves’ show. Nonetheless, they might have developed a chemistry had they been given the chance. Jake Rossen writes that Wheaties cereal was interested in sponsoring this show, but that Kellogs, which was still sponsoring reruns of the Reeves show in many markets, used their clout to keep this series from being picked up. This sounds plausible, and it is the only reasonable explanation I have heard as to why National Comics went to the trouble and expense to produce this only to have it shelved. This pilot is as good or better than many shows playing for the same markets in the early 1960’s.

Fans of the old time Superman, old time TV and movies, and of the George Reeves show should watch it, a decent enough pilot that could of spawned a great series.

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