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BATMAN (1943)

Batman is a 15-chapter serial, released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures and was the first DC Comics character to have his own serial. It starred Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin. J. Carrol Naish played the villain, an original character named Dr. Daka. Rounding out the cast were Shirley Patterson as Linda Page (Bruce Wayne's love interest), and William Austin as Alfred the butler. The plot involved Batman attempting to defeat the Japanese spy Dr. Daka (J. Carrol Naish), who has invented a device that turns people into pseudo-zombies. Because of the strict serial regulations, Batman and Robin were portrayed as FBI agents in the serial. In the comic strip at the time, however, they were vigilantes. Film censors, who would not allow the hero to be seen taking the law into his own hands. The regulations also prevented the writers from using the Batman's Rogues Gallery, so none of Batman's villains appear in this serial and the one made in 1949. Bob Kane's name did not appear on this serial's original credits. The source credit reads "Based On The Batman Comic Magazine Feature Appearing In Detective Comics and Batman Magazines".

The film is notable for being the first filmed appearance of Batman, and for debuting story details that became permanent parts of the Batman mythos. It introduced "The Bat's Cave", and its secret entrance through a grandfather clock inside Wayne Manor. Both departures subsequently appeared in the comics. The serial also changed the course of how Alfred Pennyworth's physical appearance would be depicted in later Batman works. At the time it was released in theaters, Alfred was overweight in Batman comics. After William Austin's portrayal in these chapter plays, however, subsequent issues of the comics portrayed him as Austin had: trim, and sporting a thin mustache. The serial was commercially successful, and spawned another, Batman and Robin, in 1949.

The film was made at the height of World War II, and like numerous works of popular American fiction of the time, contains anti-German and, in this case, anti-Japanese ethnic slurs and comments (in one scene, one of Daka's henchmen turns on him, saying, "That's the kind of answer that fits the color of your skin."). Early narration in the first chapter, referencing the U.S. government policy of Japanese American internment to explain the abandoned neighborhood of Daka's headquarters, sets the racial tone for the serial: "This was part of a foreign land, transplanted bodily to America and known as little Tokyo. Since a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs, it has become virtually a ghost street."

The film also suffered from a low budget, just like other contemporary serials. No attempt was made to create a bona fide Batmobile, so a black Cadillac was used by Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, as well as Batman and Robin. Alfred chauffeured the Dynamic Duo in both identities.

Several continuity errors occur in the serial, such as Batman losing his cape in a fight but wearing it again after the film only briefly cut away.

Press releases announced it as a "Super Serial" and it was Columbia's largest-scale serial production to date. The studio gave it publicity campaign equivalent to a feature film and was released in theaters on July 16th, 1943. The serial "gained good press notices" but some critics said it "scarcely deserves them." Others describe it as an "unintentional farce" or as "one of the most ludicrous serials ever made" despite these bad reviews it was, nevertheless, popular enough for a sequel, Batman and Robin (1949) to be approved.

Some elements of the serial that have drawn particular attention from these critics are the casting of Lewis Wilson as Batman, while his face resembled that of Bruce Wayne and he played his part with sincerity they found his physique to be unathletic and "thick about the middle" and his voice was both too high and had a Boston accent; both the actors and their stunt doubles lacked the "style and grace" of either the comic characters they were portraying or their equivalents at Republic Pictures. Both costumes are considered to be unconvincing in execution, and, although the Batman costume was based on his first appearance, it draws special criticism for being too baggy and "topped by pair of devils horns."

Will Brooker points out in Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon that, though the depiction of the Japanese characters is undoubtedly racist, Batman himself has little direct contact with them. However, when Batman does in fact finally meet Daka in the final episode (minute 10 of chapter 15), he immediately exclaims a racial slur ("Oh, a Jap!"). He soon after calls Daka "Jap murderer" and "Jap devil," and finally discusses a "Jap spy ring." Brooker surmises that these elements are likely to have been added as an afterthought in order to make the film more appealing to audiences of the time, and that the making of a nationalistic or patriotic film was not the filmmakers' original intent.


In the 1960s a silent abridged version of the serial was released. It was edited into six chapters (available in 8mm and Super-8) running 10 minutes each. A seventh three-minute reel titled "Batman's Last Chance" with action scenes was also issued. In the 1970s the complete 15 chapter serial (in its original unaltered format) was released in a Super-8 Sound edition. The serial was released on home video in the late 1980s in a heavily edited format that removed the offensive racial content. However, in 1989, the cable network The Comedy Channel aired the serial uncut and uncensored. The cable network American Movie Classics did the same in the early 1990s on Saturday mornings. Sony released the serial on DVD in October 2005 in an unedited version, with the exception of Chapter 2, which is missing its "Next Chapter" sequence.

In 1965, the serial was re-released in theaters as An Evening with Batman and Robin, in one complete marathon showing. This re-release was successful enough that it inspired the creation of the 1960s television series Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

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BATMAN AND ROBIN (1949)

Batman and Robin is a 15-chapter serial released in 1949 by Columbia Pictures. Robert Lowery played Batman, while Johnny Duncan played Robin. Supporting players included Jane Adams as Vicki Vale and veteran character actor Lyle Talbot as Commissioner Gordon. The serial was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and produced by Sam Katzman. The plot features the Dynamic Duo as they face off against the Wizard, a hooded villain with an electrical device which controls cars and a desire to set challenges for the Dynamic Duo. The Wizard's identity remains a mystery throughout until the end.

As usual on a Katzman production, the low budget showed everywhere in money-saving shortcuts, and inadequacies. The Batman costume had a poorly fitting cowl and the Robin costume added pink tights to cover the "hairy-legs" of both the actor and stuntman. The Batmobile is again excluded, but instead of a limousine, as in the first serial, the duo drive around in a 1949 Mercury convertible, but, in one instance, when the need arises, Robin shows up in a 1949 Mercury four-door sedan. Meanwhile, the Wizard drives a 1949 Mercury two-door sedan; Winslow Harrison drives a 1949 four-door Lincoln sedan; and the cops use a number of 1949 Fords. With all the Ford Motor Company products in the serial, could this be an early example of product placement in the movies? The Wizard's henchmen make a lot of use out of a 1941 Lincoln 8 passenger sedan, while Vicki Vale must make the best of it with a 1939 Plymouth convertible.

Vicki Vale (Jane Adams left) would become a common character in the Batman comics after this film. Vale first appeared in Batman #49 (Oct/Nov 1948), in a 12-page story entitled "Scoop of the Century!", written by Bill Finger, with art by Bob Kane and Lew Schwartz. Her look is said to have been modelled by Kane on that of young model Norma Jean Mortensen, who would later become known as Marilyn Monroe. She was frequently romantically attracted to Batman (and Bruce Wayne on occasion also), and repeatedly suspected they were the same person.
Robert Lowery's Batman costume seemed a bit ill-fitting and it's because it was originally tailored for Kirk Alyn, a bigger man. Alyn starred as Superman in both of Columbia's Superman serials.

Several mistakes and failures of logic occur in the serial. One example of this is that the film shows the Bat-Signal working in broad daylight. Another occurs when, despite the fact that the heroes' utility belts had been replaced by normal belts with no pockets or pouches for this serial, in order to escape from a vault, Batman pulls the nozzle and hose of an oxy-acetylene torch from his belt to cut through a steel door (the tanks for the torch are not shown); to compound this mistake, it is a full-sized oxy-acetylene torch that would have been impossible to carry unseen on his person. This was probably scripted to be a miniaturised 3-inch torch, as used in the comics, but the film-makers improvised in following the directions for a "blowtorch". They also got Robin's cape wrong. In the serial it is black (or, at least, a dark color) as opposed to the yellow of the comic books. The serial was released on DVD in 2005, timed to coincide with the theatrical release of Batman Begins.

Batman Begins starts with a young Bruce and Rachel running around the gardens of the Wayne mansion. Rachel states "finders keepers." To what item is she referring?

Marbles
A Book
An arrowhead
A coin

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Check out the SuperHero Stuff Batman merchandise page, your index to the finest assortment of Batman products online. They specialize in Batman tees, but have dozens of other awesome Batman products as well. Batman belts, hats, hoodies, pajamas, wallets, key chains, bags and more. They even have Batman underwear!

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Content intended for informational and educational purposes only under the GNU Free Documentation Areement.
All Batman and DC Universe characters and merchandise are copyright © and property of Warner Brothers, Dc Comics, or their subsidiaries and licensors.

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