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The Batman
(1943 Serial)

Batman

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About This Film
Cast
Coolest Things

Go to "Batman (1943) Gallery" Page 1
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The above link goes to the official release of this serial, which is far superior to bootleg releases.  If you'd like to see this serial in all it's great, restored glory, this is what you should buy.



Cast:
Lewis Wilson (Bruce Wayne/Batman)
Douglas Croft (Dick Grayson/Robin)
Shirley Patterson (Linda Page)
J. Carroll Naish (Dr. Tito Daka)

The Batman (1943)
:  This fifteen-chapter movie serial marks the first live-action appearances of Batman and Robin!  Although it's a straight adventure film, not purposely campy, it's a bit different than we know Batman in the movies today and was a big departure from the comics...even back then.  Due to certain movie serial regulations, changes had to be made to the characters of Batman and Robin.  For instance, Batman and Robin were not vigilantes; they were FBI agents.  They also didn't have the wacky villains from the comics.  Their major nemesis was a Japanese mad scientist.  Also keep in mind that this was made in the middle of the WWII-era.  It's filled with anti-Japanese propaganda that may not settle well today with all audiences. 

    Columbia Pictures made this serial.  They had enough of a budget to create exciting sets, stage incredible fight scenes, hire good actors, and have camerawork comparable to the feature films of even bigger studios like Warner or Paramount.  In other words, Columbia had the money to make better serials than smaller studios like Republic, which automatically makes this more fun to watch than most serials.  The special effects work is worth mentioning, especially for 1943.  The editing and transitions between scenes is even a treat!  A lot of what goes on in this movie WILL look funny to most people because of the way it was made, but anyone who likes the character of Batman will enjoy watching this movie.  It holds up well for being as old as it is.

    Lewis Wilson makes a good Batman visually, and has the charm of a playboy.  He doesn't have the darker mood of today's Batman, but back in the 40s, 50s, and even 60s there was more levity in Batman stories so Wilson's portrayal was pretty true to form at that time.  Douglas Croft makes a good Robin.  He has that same spunk and overeagerness that the Robin character has always had.  J. Carrol Naish is amusing as the Japanese mad scientist Dr. Daka.  If you didn't know he was white, you would assume he really was Japanese.  He speaks with a broken English accent that makes him sound so silly that you can't take him SO serious when he's plotting his diabolical plans.  He also looks overly shifty.  At that time, with anti-Japanese propaganda being what it was, it was customary to make Japanese villains look and act incredibly creepy.  Naish really made a masterful portrayal of a WWII-style villain.  Last, but not least, is the lovely Shirley Patterson as doctor's assistant Linda Page.  It's sometimes unclear in the serial just what she does:  Linda Page is a lab assistant/secretary for Dr. Borden at the Gotham City Foundation.  She's Bruce Wayne's love interest and has a lively, friendly way about her.  In the serial, though, Linda Page is the typical damsel-in-distress role.

    There are certain things about this film that make it distinctive in the world of Batman media.  Here is a list:

1.  Batman has baggy tights and cone-shaped ears.

2.  Robin has curly hair.

3.  There is no Batmobile.  They ride in a normal, limousine convertible.  In their Bruce Wayne/Dick Grayson identities they ride around with the top down.  When going into Batman and Robin mode they put the top up and enter a deserted alley for cover.

4.  There is no Commissioner Gordon.  The police official Batman and Robin deal with most is named Captain Arnold (an uncredited appearance by Charles C. Wilson)

5.  Alfred is primarily comic relief; a jittery idiot.  The whole English thing is a bit forced.  He is also more of a chauffeur than a butler.  In addition, his last name in this movie is Beagle.  In all other Batman media, Alfred's last name is Pennyworth.  INTERESTING FACT:  Actor William Austin, uncredited in this serial, played Alfred.  Up to this time, the Alfred in the comics was pudgy and balding with black hair.  Due to the popularity of this serial, the comic Alfred was slimmed down to look more like William Austin!

5.  The Batcave is called "The Bat's Cave".  INTERESTING FACT:  It was the "Bat's Cave" in this popular serial that inspired the Batcave a little later in the comics.

6.  Batman marks the criminals he captures with a bat stamp on their foreheads.

7.  There is no distinctive bat-gadgetry.  The villain Dr. Daka, however, has many clever inventions.  Batman's crime-fighting tools are limited to:  grappling hook & rope, radio tranceiver, and in Chapter 13, Batman uses a flashlight.  In Chapter 9, Robin uses a Bat-Signal flashlight, but that's about as exotic as it gets.

8.  Batman and Robin get hit a lot.  They fight like amateurs and are definitely not martial artists.

9.  Our heroes get knocked out more than the villains!  Batman, Robin, Alfred, and Linda Page all spend a good amount of time in dreamland.

10.  Batman and Robin's feats of daring are typically:  smashing through windows, climbing ropes, and walking on highwires.

11.  Batman never, ever uses his utility belt.

The Coolest Things to Watch For in This Serial:

Chapter 1:  The bad guys' color-changing car.  It changes from black to white!  Everyone ducks down in the car except for the driver, who makes himself look like a chauffeur by putting on a chauffeur's hat!  They outwit Bruce, Dick, Alfred, and Linda who are in pursuit.

Chapter 2:  Linda Page gets knocked out by sleeping gas in a trick phone booth!

Chapter 9:  Robin shines a flashlight through a window which shows the Bat-Signal on a wall!  It makes the bad guys think Batman is outside, when he is really inside with them, posing as a gangster.

Chapter 13:  Batman falls through a trap door into a pit with spiked walls.  The walls move dangerously close together...