PictureWell, considering that these shows are over sixty years old, they look simply wonderful. Meticulously cleaned up, they look warm, rich and detailed. Obviously there are still some signs of print damage that couldn't be lifted - speckles of dirt here and there and those occasional wavering vertical lines - but nothing detracts from the sheer splendour of the shows. Presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect, these cartoons have probably never looked better. Shadows are evocative, fire and explosions have a fluid, flowing feel that is immediately entrancing and action is rendered perfectly with no smearing, juddering or frame-drag. Contrast is impeccable, capturing all the varied hues and vistas, from soaring clouds to the murky depths of the Metropolis harbour, from highly stylised castles and cityscapes to fiendishly intricate laboratories and vehicle interiors. The spruce-up has certainly allowed for an image that is consistently stable, eye-catching and imbued with distinction and accuracy.
What really shines, though, is the animation, itself. I mean, let's face it, these episodes have existed on old film stock for decades and could so easily have fallen into a deplorable state, yet now all the colours, shadings and iconic imagery on display feels vibrant, sinuous and literally alive. Outlines are crisp and clear, and no amount of kinetic violence or chaos depicted can mask or obscure the quality of the work that has gone into bringing Superman to life. The transfer really reveals the expertise that the animators brought to this show.
SoundPresented on this release with a superbly restored Dolby Digital mono track, Superman sounds almost as good as it looks. Voices cackle, bark and enunciate with energy and pride, only very occasionally lapsing in volume - and, even then, only slightly. Crackle and hiss is kept to an absolute minimum and, besides, with all the explosions and tumbling masonry and that strident, brass-filled heroic score propelling the show, you'd be hard-pressed to notice, anyway. With plenty of bass and a surging swell of effects work, Superman provides an exciting aural treat. I've heard about a version that has a 5.1 makeover, but I can't verify this. To be honest, I really doubt that this would be an improvement. The design of the show is purely up front and personal, wraparound sound would just not be convincing.
As it stands, this track is extremely clean and superbly clear. It'll do for me.
ExtrasAbsolutely nothing on this Anniversary release, unless you count the scrolling text introduction at the start of the first episode.
VerdictUnparalled brilliance, folks. Superman isn't my favourite superhero, not by a long way, but these adventures capture a time and a mood unlike anything else. America needed a hero and it certainly found one with Kal-El. These cartoons heralded advancement in the art, and indeed science of animation, bringing forth a boldness and excitement that still stands head and shoulders above a lot of 2D fare nowadays.
The spruce-up that these shorts have undergone is superlative, really bringing the art-deco backgrounds into fabulous relief and allowing the characters to literally spring from the screen. Different versions of these shows exist - Complete, Ultimate, Lost Episodes etc - and I don't really suppose it matters a great deal which edition you go for ... just so long as you do go for one. Whether you are a Superman fan or not, these cartoons are a landmark in animation history and certainly deserve a place on the shelf of any self-respecting genre collector or DVD-buff.
Super stuff, folks.
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