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Superman and the Mole Men

Poster from the 1951 release
Directed by Lee Sholem
Produced by Barney A. Sarecky
Written by Richard Fielding
Starring George Reeves
Phyllis Coates
Music by Darrell Calker
Walter Greene
Cinematography Clark Ramsey
Editing by Albrecht Joseph
Distributed by Lippert Pictures Inc.
Release date(s) November 23, 1951
Running time 58 min.
Country United States
Language English

Superman and the Mole Men is a 1951 black and white film starring George Reeves as Superman and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. It was the first theatrical feature film based on the Superman characters (although two live-action Superman films had already been shown in cinemas, they appeared in a serial format). Produced by Barney Sarecky, directed by Lee Sholem and with the original screenplay by Richard Fielding (a pseudonym for Robert Maxwell and Whitney Ellsworth), it was shot in 12 days on a studio backlot. Fifty-eight minutes long, it served as a trial run for the syndicated TV series Adventures of Superman, for which it became a two-part episode titled The Unknown People.



Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent and Lois Lane are sent to the small town of Silsby for the inauguration of the world's deepest oil well. Unbeknownst to the drillers, however, the drill shaft has penetrated the underground home of the "Mole Men", a race of small, furry (though bald-headed) beings. The Mole Men come up through the shaft at night to explore the surface.

Their peculiar appearance, plus the fact that everything they touch then becomes phosphorescent and glows in the dark, scares the townspeople into forming an angry mob, led by the violent Luke Benson, in order to kill the "monsters". Superman is the only one able to resolve the conflict, saving one of the creatures from falling into the town's water supply after he has been shot by taking him to hospital, while the other is chased away. Later a doctor reveals that unless the creature undergoes surgery to remove the bullet, he will die. Clark Kent is forced to assist the doctor when the nurse refuses to out of fear of the creature. Soon afterwards, Benson's mob shows up at the hospital demanding to have the creature turned over to them, leading Superman to stand guard outside the hospital. Lois Lane stands at Superman's side, until a shot is fired from the mob narrowly missing Lois. Superman sends her inside and begins to relieve the mob of their guns, sending the mob away. Later several more mole creatures emerge from the drill shaft, this time bearing a weapon. They make their way to the hospital. Benson and his mob see the creatures and Benson goes after them alone, but when the creatures see him they use their weapon and fire on him. Superman sees this and quickly jumps in front of the blast, saving Benson's life, which Superman says is "More than you deserve!". He fetches the wounded creature and returns him and his companions to the shaft, which they soon destroy so that no one can come up or go down ever again.


Frame from Superman and the Mole Men.


As with many of the early episodes of the Adventures of Superman, the film is adult-themed, with a good deal of conflict and violence, or the threat thereof, and is played with total seriousness by all the actors; Reeves's Superman, in particular, is all business, displaying none of the humor that the character would develop over time in the TV series.

The sympathetic view of the strangers in this film, and the unreasoning fear on the part of the citizenry, has been compared by author Gary Grossman to the panicked public reaction to the peaceful alien Klaatu in the film The Day the Earth Stood Still, which was released the same year. Both films have been seen retrospectively as a product of (and a reaction to) the "Red Scare" of post-World War II. Grossman also cites a later film perhaps inspired by this one, called The Mole People.

Production notes

Poster (flipped back) and publicity still used for the poster
  • The central image of Reeves and Coates, on the poster shown here, is a painting derived from flipping a publicity photo of the two, with the "S" shield flipped back in order to read correctly. The photo depicts the final scene, shown in the screen capture at right.
  • Some elements were trimmed from the film when it was converted into "The Unknown People", including some portions of a lengthy chase scene, and all references to the term "Mole Men".
  • The theme music used for this film had a generic "sci-fi sound", with nothing suggesting a specific "Superman theme". The title cards were similarly generic, with low-grade animation of Saturn-like ringed planets and comets sailing by.
  • The score was also changed when the film was re-cut into its two-part TV episode. The film featured an original score by Darrell Calker (Woody Woodpecker), which was removed and replaced with music from the production music library used for the first television season's presentation.
  • The laser weapon shown in the poster, which the Mole Men brought up from their subterranean home in order to defend themselves and retrieve their injured comrade, was a prop constructed from an Electrolux vacuum cleaner.

VHS and DVD release

The film was released on VHS videotape by Warner Home Video in 1987. Both the two-part episode and the full motion picture are featured on the first season DVD release for Adventures of Superman in 2005. The film is also included as a bonus feature on the 4-disc special edition DVD release of Superman (1978) in 2006.


  • Superman: Serial to Cereal, by Gary Grossman, 1976.

External links



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