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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • French: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, French, Italian, Hungarian
  Extras
  • 7 Deleted scenes
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • 1 Storyboards
  • Interactive film trivia

Smallville - Season 1

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 882 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Superman was way at the head of the superhero comic strip pack, outstripping the competition by mighty leaps and bounds.

For almost 70 years, each generation has claimed Superman as its own, and has seen Superman moving off the comic pages onto radio, television and film. The first cinema Superman was Kirk Alyn, who donned the cape for cliff-hanging matinee serials in the late 1940s. Around the same time Superman appeared on Australian radio, with actor Leonard Teale chanting "Up Up and Away", his voice magically deepening as he shed his Clark Kent daks and persona inside a handy phone box.

But then came the real thing. In 1951 production started on the classic Adventures of Superman television series starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel, clad in what looked like hand-knitted woolen vests and trousers, with the famous underpants on the outside. There were 104 episodes produced, the later ones in colour and, for many people, George Reeves still is the genuine article.

Then there were the terrific Steve Reeve movies of the late 1970s, Superman and Superman II, with two weaker sequels in the 1980s. And Superman hit our TV screens again in the 1990s, with Lois & Clark, starring the very young and very hot Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher - a series which got off to a great start, full of sex and wit, but which trailed away into unabashed puerility.

Now the franchise is up and running again, with Smallville, and this set of six DVDs presents 21 episodes including the initial pilot. That pilot was screened on television here as a precursor to the series - it was effective then and still stands up well, as it traces the super-baby's arrival on Earth as part of a meteor shower caused by the destruction of the planet Krypton, and introduces key characters, particularly Jonathan and Martha Kent, Lana Lang and Lex Luthor.

I find Smallville pleasing in some ways; extremely frustrating in others. Lots of the episodes are repetitive - a boy or girl is hit by Green Kryptonite/swallows mysterious drug/is affected by radiation, and turned into a swarm of bugs/green monster/energy-sucking vampire etc etc. Yes, Superman is a fantastic concept, but some of these plotlines are just a tad too fantastical.

And Tom Welling and Kristin Kreuk as Clark Kent and his unobtainable object of lust Lana Lang, are just too too perfect. They're refugees from a toothpaste commercial. They're too slickly beautiful to be real; plucked from a commercial dream-factory without the slightest imperfection. And his parents? Well, the Kents are Hicksville personified. Jonathan Kent in particular is painted as dull and stupid. Immensely, irretrievably, boringly stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

But for much of the time Smallville is unassuming fun. And there is a real find here, in Michael Rosenbaum's portrayal of the young Lex Luthor, Superman's perpetual arch foe. Here he's portrayed as a fairly decent young man with an evil character inside struggling to escape. It's a convincing, rounded portrayal, and is quite the best thing in the entire series.

Smallville is a reasonably worthy entrant to the Superman franchise. It's not up to the standard of either George Reeves' The Adventures of Superman or the early episodes of Lois & Clark, but it does serve to keep interest alive in the Man of Steel until it becomes time to re-invent the character for the next generation.

  Video
Contract

This widescreen anamorphic presentation is in astonishingly good quality for a TV presentation. Colours are rich but not over-saturated, and definition is crisp. Outdoor scenes, though filmed in cold Vancouver, really do suggest the heat and golden textures of Kansas. Indoor scenes present very strong contrasts and detail even in the most dimly lit situations.

Considering that the series was shot on video, not film, the quality is everything we could hope for. The upcoming second series promises much more; it was shot on high-definition video.

  Audio
Contract

Although the audio tracks are in Dolby Digital stereo only, they are full and clear and with excellent room-filling effects and music. The music is a special feature of the series, with some great contemporary sounds presented each week as part of the presentation.

  Extras
Contract

This boasts pretty worthwhile extra features for a television series. They're not quite up to the standard of the Buffy special features, but then, neither is the show.

There are interesting audio commentaries on Disc One, both for the pilot episode, and for the first episode in the series proper, Metamorphosis. Director David Nutter and executive producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar discuss the genesis of the series, special effects, character development and other general and episode-specific points.

The other special features come on Disc Six, which houses only one (final) episode from the series. This is the only disc in the set which is not dual-layered. It contains seven deleted scenes of fair to reasonably interesting quality, again presented in widescreen. There's a very effective seven-minute pilot storyboard presentation. And finally, there's an interactive tour of seven Smallville locations - it's worth checking out once, but definitely of limited lasting interest.

  Overall  
Contract

If you're hooked on Smallville, then this complete first season package will have to be owned. I'd be happy with just the first disc (Pilot plus three episodes) as a remembrance of the series, while I wait for the real Superman to be released - the 104 episodes from the 1950s, with my generation's Man of Steel, George Reeves...


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      And I quote...
    "Smallville is more slick soap opera than superhero saga, but is still a good entrant in the long-running Superman franchise."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic A330
    • TV:
          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
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