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Batman

USA 1943
produced by
Rudolph C. Flothow for Columbia
directed by Lambert Hillyer
starring Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish, Shirley Patterson, William Austin, Gus Glassmire, Charles Middleton, Charles C.Wilson, John Maxwell, Robert Fiske, Michael Vallon, Jack Gardner, Billy Wilkerson, Ted Oliver, Warren Jackson, George Chesebro, Dick Curtis, Lester Dorr, Kenne Duncan, SAm Flint, Karl Hackett, Al Hill, Earle Hodgins, Jack Ingram, I.Stanford Jolley, Eddie Kane, George J.Lewis, Tom London, Bud Osborne, Frank Shannon, Anthony Warde
screenplay by Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker, Harry L. Fraser, based on the Batman-comicbook created by Bob Kane, published by DC Comics, music by Lee Zahler

serial
Batman, Robin, American World War II propaganda

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Martin Warren (Gus Glassmire), uncle of Bruce Wayne's (Lewis Gilbert) girlfriend Linda (Shirley Patterson), is released from prison - but to hert despair, he never arrives home, and it soon becomes apparent he has been kidnapped right at the prison gate. So what happened?

You see, Warren is a righteous man who has been in prison due to false allegations, but he knows where a large amound of radium is kept. You might also need to know it's 1943, and the USA are at war with the Japanese (and the Germans of course, but that's immaterial to this serial). Most of the Japanese in America have already been rounded up and incarcerated (as the film despicably proudly proclaims) - except for a certain Doctor Daka (J. Carrol Naish), who has put up headquarters inside the Cave of Horrors, basically an inconspicuous amusementpark ride, where he has developed means to zombify people as well as a raygun. But the raygun needs radium, and that's how Warren fits into the equation. As mentioned above though, Warren is a very righteous man, so it's unlikely that he gives out the location of the radium for free - no big deal for Doctor Daka, who just zombifies him, then has him tell him where the radium is kept.

Of course, Bruce Wayne takes an interest in the disappearance of Linda's uncle, and since he is secretly the crimefighter Batman, he and his sidekick Robin (Douglas Croft) - his ward Dick Grayson in real life - are on the job soon enough. And when Daka's henchmen try to steal the radium using his raygun, Batman and Robin not only manage to stop them but also take the raygun from them. Interestingly, Daka then has Linda kidnapped to get the raygun back - which doesn't make terribly much sense narratively, but oh well.

Of course, Linda is saved by Batman and Robin eventually, and from now on, Daka makes numerous efforts to a) get the raygun back, b) sabotage the US-American war efforts, c) get his hands onto large amounts of radium, or d) just kill Batman and Robin - but of course, the dynamic duo outsmarts him every step along the way. One story arc involves a very proficient radium miner (Charles Middleton), who proficiency, despite being on their side, almost costs Batman and Robin their lives on one occasion. Ultimately though, he accidently kills himself blowing up his mine, but takes many of Daka's men with him. In another story arc, Batman disguises as a small fry mobster to infiltrate Daka's gang, with quite a bit of success. Interestingly, Batman is unmasked once, but since they all know his mug as the small fry mobster, nobody makes the connection between him and Bruce Wayne.

After an abundance of the usual fights, chases, explosions and near escapes, Daka gets his hands on Linda and zombifies even her to lure Batman into a trap - but Batman sees through his opponents deceit and eventually sees to it that Daka is eaten by his own crocodiles, exactly those that were to eat Batman.

Of course, Linda and her uncle are restored to their old selves in the end, and the American war efforts are saved to live another day - thanks to a masked and caped man with pointy ears ...

 

Mostly regarded as one of the lesser serials due to its racist undercurrents and its very free and a tad sloppy portrayal of Batman and Robin as spearheads of patriotism, this one really isn't too bad. Sure, the serial's Batman and Robin do not really compare to later day portrayals in comicbooks and on the big and small screen - but then, when it was released, Batman the character was a mere four years old. And as for the accusations of racism: It's true that quite a few insults thrown at Daka and the Japanese in general make one feel uncomfortable and rightly so, but then one must not forget that in 1943 World War II was still in full swing, and besides the Germans, the Japanese were the USA's chief real life enemy. And as we know from much more recent conflicts, in wartime, even newsmedia usually shies away from putting the enemy under too detailed scrutiny. And Batman, after all, is a bloody serial, not news media ...

All of which of course leaves one question open: How good or bad a serial is Batman really?

Well, in terms of inventiveness and sense of wonder, it is not comparable with the big classics from one to two decades earlier, it's too blunt, too streamlined, and too rooted in realism to do so - but it's also fast-moving, full of action, and shows quite a few sadistic undertones to entertain and make it one of the more entertaining wartime serials at least.

No classic of course - but quite ok.

 

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD