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Max Fleischer’s Superman: 1941-1943 Blu-ray Review

“Max Fleischer’s Superman: 1941-1943” is the first great comic book adaptation.

“Max Fleischer’s Superman: 1941-1943” contains 17 theatrical shorts although the title is a little misleading. Max and Dave Fleisher (of Fleischer Studios) were only involved in the first 9 animated shorts (which are the best of the lot). The remaining 8 shorts did not involve the Fleischers and were released under the name Famous Studios. There’s a very different feel to the 2 sets of shorts. The first 9 shorts tend to be more sci-fi comic booky with plots involving a mad scientist with a death ray, robots, an earthquake machine, a T-Rex frozen in ice, a rocket car, a volcano, escaped circus animals (including a King Kong esque Gigantis), comets, and train robbers. The Famous Studios shorts are often more centered around real world events and wartime drama involving saboteurs, Japanese spies, Nazis, Superman sabotaging Japanese forces, and a Superman impersonator crook. There are two outliers with episodes containing mummies and hawk-men.

To this day, “Max Fleischer’s Superman” is an ahead of its time cartoon. Not only did it encapsulate the heroic character and his comic mythology in a visually distinct and glorious Technicolor fashion, but it established so much of the character’s enduring legacy. “Up in the sky, look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman” and “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”- that all came from this series. Both of those elements have been forever cemented in pop culture history because they are so iconic. 

In terms of the series of shorts themselves, it’s a simple collection of cartoons that adhere to a certain formula of the Man of Steel either facing off against adversaries or saving the day from disasters. Of course, he might save the plucky and courageous Lois Lane along the way too. Simplicity aside, there’s a real magic to them. Between the thrilling score by Sammy Timberg and the larger than life action, “Max Fleischer’s Superman” was a real step above the live-action serial adventures. The art-deco animation by Fleischer Studios in particular was majestic and breathtaking in virtually every respect. Whether Superman is facing a T-Rex or Clark Kent is changing into his Superman costume in a shadow reflection, the shorts really soar (pun intended). 


Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? As you may have heard, the Blu-ray transfer has been controversial to say the least. While a far cry better than the previous Blu-ray release by Gaiam, it’s not what it could have been. While the colors are rich, the print itself suffers from grain removal which makes it look rather unnatural. It’s a rare misstep from WB who has been crushing it with restorations lately. 

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? The audio fares better here with a nice clean 2.0 track.

* “Max Fleischer’s Superman: Speeding Toward Tomorrow”- A new 13 minute featurette on the ahead of their time cartoons.
* “First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series”- An archival 13 minute featurette that sheds light on the history of the Fleischers and their series.
* “The Man, The Myth, Superman”- A 13 ½ minute extra about Superman mythology.


May 14, 2023 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , ,

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