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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Batman (1943)

Starring Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish, Shirley Patterson
Directed by Lambert Hillyer
(actor & director credits courtesy

The U.S. government hires Batman and Robin to defeat the schemes of a sinister spy ring, led by a villainous Japanese agent.

The first appearance of the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder on film comes in this 15-chapter movie serial from Columbia Pictures, which is a fairly decent chapterplay, marred a bit by its wartime propaganda with derogatory language aimed towards the Japanese.  Naish plays the villain, an evil scientist who turns his victims into mindless zombies with an electrical invention, and feeds interlopers to the pit of crocodiles beneath a trap door in his lair.  It's unfortunate with all the colorful villains available in the Batman comics of the period, they chose to go this route, although Naish at least doesn't try to overplay the stereotype he's cast as.  However, Wilson is well-cast in his dual role of Batman and Bruce Wayne, playing the lazy millionaire playboy convincingly, and he looks great in the costume, especially when engaged in fisticuffs.  Croft is capable as his youthful sidekick and William Austin is charming and an enthusiastic aide to the dynamic duo as butler Alfred.  An energetic score from Lee Zahler culled from a number of classical works brings excitement to the fight scenes.  This isn't a great adaptation of the comic book hero's adventures, with no comic book villains nor even a Batmobile, but it's a fairly entertaining serial.

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