Upon first learning that The Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man was streaming free on Vimeo through Tuesday, April 6, I thought: “Wow, an unknown kitschy sci-fi film! Perhaps a sequel to Atom Man vs. Superman?”
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Begun by filmmaker Ron Rice in 1963, completed by one of the film’s co-stars, Taylor Mead, in 1981, and restored by New York’s Anthology Film Archives in 2018, The Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man is instead an experimental comedy. And since I don’t think I laughed once during the film’s 110 minutes, I’ll put the emphasis on the experimental part.
Mead plays the Atom Man, a thin white guy with eyeballs going in different directions, arms flailing madly and a diagonal mouth, sort of like Jerry Lewis on speed, if that’s even possible. Winifred Bryan is the Queen of Sheba, a full-figured Black woman often in various forms of nudity. With friends sometimes joining in, they explore New York City (when outside) and themselves (when inside).
In black-and-white and silent (except for an eclectic soundtrack added by Meade), The Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man can sometimes feel like a documentary. Meade’s habit of playing to the camera adds greatly to this effect (Bryan is definitely the better actor in this respect).
Whatever you do, don’t confuse this film with the 1950 movie serial, Atom Man vs. Superman, in which Lyle Talbot plays Atom Man (aka Lex Luthor).
(if you’d like more of the above, the complete serial and an earlier 1948 Superman serial are available together on DVD for $34.99)
For more on The Queen of Sheba meets the Atom Man, visit anthologyfilmarchives.org.
(Top image: Mead and Bryan. All photos from Anthology Film Archives)
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