May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Collection: Adventures of Superman   Music from the 1950s Television series    VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6093 [72:17] 

Much more so than many other film or television music releases, how much you get from this album with probably depend on how old you were in one particular year - 1953. This is a very unusual disc to come from Varese Sarabande, who normally specialise in new soundtracks and re-recordings, and comes with extensive notes explaining the complex background to the scores, and a generous 72 minutes playing time. The music here is from the first season (26 episodes) of the 1950's George Reeves' staring Adventures of Superman American TV series, originally broadcast in 1953. Although the cover adds that it features music from Superman & The Mole Men, this is from the rescored TV two part version, rather than the theatrical release. This opening season of Superman was styled after film noir, and that's where the music mainly came from.

Until 1950 American television music was live music, and is reputed to have been blandly nondescript. In 1950 David Chundnow, described in the booklet notes as "a feisty packager of low-rent film scores" took on the might of the American Federation of Musicians by forming Mutel, dedicated to the distribution of canned, or what we would now call 'library' music. The Mutel sound did not consist of newly composed music, but rather was taken from the scores of B movies from the poverty-row studios. Some of it was taken directly from the original sound elements, some was re-arranged and re-recorded in Paris (to avoid union problems), with various French sounding pseudonyms concocted to protect the composer's from the wrath of the American Federation of Musicians. This Mutel music ended-up on the soundtracks of such early 50's TV shows as Racket Squad, Sky King, Captain Midnight, Space Patrol, and most successfully of all, The Adventures of Superman.

From this murky history it has not always been possible to identify the composer of certain sections, but the music for the first season of the show was taken mainly from The Guilty (composer Rudy Schrager), a 1947 Monogram thriller, Open Secret (composer Herschel Burke Gilbert), PRC 1948, and a third, unidentified score. This last score sounds like a collision between Prokofiev, Honegger and American Indian rhythm, and is explosive, atmospheric, suspense-filled music. It is suspected that it may have been written by Lan Adomian or Richard Mohaupt, and it may have been composed for a documentary about American Indians.

What the disc offers is the main and end title music from the show, the former with voice-over introduction. There is a Monkey Mystery suite and a Superman on Earth suite, two dances - a waltz and a tango and 22 other tracks for assorted episodes. To those who grew-up enthralled by The Adventures of Superman, this must be a particular treat. For other, younger Superman fans, for whom Christopher Reeve will forever be the Man of Steel, and John Williams the man who wrote his music, this may well sound more like what it really is - bold, rousing film noir music, with a strong dash of Stravinsky and fairly good mono sound. It does though make clearer the tradition Williams was following in creating his score for Superman (1978), and while Williams score is vastly superior to anything here, comicbook fans and anyone with an interest in the development of television music should find this release of interest. For those of a certain age, and therefore harbouring a nostalgic affection for show, this release becomes something altogether more special, a wonderful nostalgia trip. Superman proves once again that he can even turn back time.


Gary S. Dalkin

- but add points depending on affection for the show


Gary S. Dalkin

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