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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?
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
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.
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
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
No classic of course - but quite ok.