SUPERMAN, the serial Unrated, 1948, B&W, Volumes 1 and 2, 248 minutes, Warner Home Video, $99.95. SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE-MEN Unrated, 1951, B&W, 58 minutes, Warner Home Video, $59.95.
Editor Perry White: "I need an article on the women's page. Dream up a new way to cook a roast, or toss a salad together." Reporter Lois Lane: "How thrilling." Things have changed a great deal since the 15-chapter "Superman" serial was released. Low-budget and sub-tech, it stars Kirk Alyn as a pleasantly chumpy Supe forced into battle with the Spider Lady, a surly babe in a black evening gown, for possession of the dread Reducer Ray, which has nothing to do with dieting. Alyn does a wonderful swooning faint when confronted with a dollop of power-draining Kryptonite from his home planet. The "Mole-Men" feature, later edited into a two-parter for the TV series, stars TV's George Reeves in a surprisingly grim "Fury"-like parable about small-town bigots running roughshod over the civil rights of radioactive Keebler elves who pop out of a drill shaft. Though cheap, slow and minimal (the flying effects are done with cartoon animation), both these "Supermen" are funny minor examples of Hollywood camp noir. -- Tom Shales
A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION G, 1987, 90 minutes, Walt Disney Home Video, $29.95
Seems to me that a videotape of a radio show is beside the point, particularly when that show is hosted by a master storyteller like Garrison Keillor, the gentle, down-home humorist who used the magic of radio to create the mythic Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon. Keillor's voice, comfortable as a well-worn quilt, wove Wobegon with words, while our minds' eyes saw it so clearly that tourists sometimes asked Minnesotans for directions to this Lutheran Shangri-La of macaroni casseroles, ice fishing and church socials. This video of the final broadcast, which saw Keillor headed with his new wife to her native Denmark, is the first in a series of shows that picture the gangly radio host, his sound effects man and the "Home Companion" band going about the business of building dreams. The staid, straightforward presentation strips the show of its rustic eloquence; it shows us the plumbing, preventing that respite from the restrictions of imagery that the radio "Companion" gave us. We are woebegone indeed. -- Rita Kempley
SID & NANCY
R, 1986, 111 minutes, Embassy Home Video, $79.95.
This Alex Cox film, starring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, is the unlikeliest of things: a punk comedy about a doomed affair between junkies. It's Romeo and Juliet on smack. Based loosely on the life of the fabulously self-destructive Sex Pistol Sid Vicious and his American girlfriend Nancy Spungen, its first half is audaciously, darkly funny. Then it just turns dark. The movie isn't a thesis on punk -- it makes no attempt to define its age -- but it takes a punk attitude. (It assumes prior knowledge and disdains those without it.) As Spungen, Webb is both hilariously, grotesquely caricaturing and genuine, and she gives some of the most profanely inspired line readings since Bette Midler in "The Rose." And, as Vicious, Oldman is way back in there, lost, a man trying to draw a line through himself. From a script by Cox and Abby Wool. Cinematography by Roger Deakins. -- Hal Hinson
WISDOM R, 1986, closed-captioned, 109 minutes, Warner Home Video, $79.95.
Definitive proof that life is not fair: Past generations get Garbo and Gilbert, Hepburn and Tracy, Bogey and Bacall; we get Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore. Estevez wrote, directed and stars in this modern variation on the "They Made Me a Criminal" theme, and, as vanity productions go, it could conceivably have been worse. Still -- quite literally -- it plays like something Estevez dreamed up one afternoon in the tub. Estevez is John Wisdom, a bright, ambitious 23-year-old Los Angeles man trying to find a job. Only problem is that he's a convicted felon, and prospective employers keep slamming the doors of opportunity in his face. Law clerk, fry cook, janitor, nothing works, so he and his girlfriend (Moore) start knocking off banks. The wrinkle is that they don't take money from the banks; they destroy their mortgage and loan records, thereby liberating the average working family from the grip of its tyrant creditors, and as a result become popular heroes. What we have here is a sort of yuppie Bonnie and Clyde story with Estevez and Moore as Tofutti bandits. But, though the film has a shimmering look and a clean style, the whole project has a here's-what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation feel; it's kids with a movie camera, and I recommend that, next time, they give a little more thought to how they spend their allowance. -- Hal Hinson
THE DOORS: LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
Unrated, 1987, 65 minutes, MCA Home Video, $24.95
If Jim Morrison were alive today, we probably wouldn't have to put up with this awful concert film recorded in the summer of 1968, when the Doors returned to L.A. as America's incipient Rolling Stones. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of Morrison's better nights, and not only are his vocals flat and uninspired, but his stage presence is surprisingly static. The concert was unimaginatively shot with four cameras (seems like two) and recorded on 16 tracks, digitally remastered and remixed for the film. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who has been living off the memory of Morrison for 16 years now, "directs." The major showcases -- "The Unknown Soldier," "Light My Fire" and a sloppy "The End" -- are rather horrendous, and Morrison's poetry seems particularly self- and semiconscious. However, this is the 20th anniversary of "Light My Fire" and the summer of the Doors CDs, so consider this just an opening salvo, with sound track album to follow. The Moral: When the music's over, don't lose the rights. -- Richard Harrington