For my money, the best Superman feature film to date, remains SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN from way back in 1951. Produced by Barney A. Sarecky, written by Richard Fielding and directed by Lee Sholem, this little B-Movie was distributed by Lippert Pictures Incorporated. And it introduced the world to George Reeves in the role of Superman. With no Jimmy Olsen. And Perry White only briefly mentioned in the dialogue this black and white film seemed almost like an extended live-action version of the animated shorts the Fleischer Brothers produced for Paramount back in the 1940s.
The movie jumps right into the action.Clark Kent and Lois Lane arrive in the town of Silsby to cover the story of the world's deepest oil well. The drill however has penetrated into the underground home of a race of "mole men" who come to the surface to investigate what's going on. The town's people on first contact with the strange visitors from the center of the Earth form a mob intent on killing the creatures. Luckily Superman is around to prevent a tragedy.
More or less a sci-fi flick the movie's limited budget (estimated at 275,000 dollars) is obvious. George Reeves does some pretty effective Peter Pan take-offs.But his actual flying scenes are limited to two. One is a pretty cool overhead tracking shot where the viewer never actually sees Superman in flight.But at the same time you don't feel cheated.The other is a brief animated flight scene. It's pretty bad. But we still "believed a man could fly". And of course there is the infamous vacuum cleaner/ray-gun that the Mole Men use. Something Irwin Allen might have tried on LOST IN SPACE. But it works.
What really works is the tightly written script.And George Reeves and Phyllis Coates as Superman and Lois Lane.Reeves is the perfect Superman. Even without a wind curl on his forehead. And his Clark Kent is even better. Though some purists might argue he's a far cry from the Clark Kent that Siegal & Schuster created. I've always preferred Reeves' mild-mannered reporter to the wimpy Kent played by other actors. And Coates was the perfect Lois Lane. Independent and gutsy.
You probably have seen this movie in it's edited form that was shown in two parts on THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN television series where it was titled THE UNKNOWN PEOPLE. But if you've never seen the 58 minute movie version I suggest you search it out.Those missing 15 minutes do make a difference.