The Batman (1943)

Genres - Action, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Adventure, Superhero Film  |   Run Time - 30 min.  |   Countries - United States   |  
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Bob Kane's 1939 Detective Comics superhero The Batman came to the screens in serial form courtesy of Columbia Pictures and producer Rudolph C. Flothow. In time-honored serial fashion, Flothow chose Lewis Wilson for the title role, a relative newcomer, but one with an amazing facial resemblance to the cartoon character. Wilson's athletic ability, however, left a lot to be desired and Douglas Croft, cast as young sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder, looked too old for his role, especially when doubled by a hairy-legged stunt man. For censorship purposes, the serial Bruce Wayne was not a lone Gotham millionaire crusader but gainfully employed by the Unites States government. Said government is terrorized by evil Dr. Daka (J. Carroll Naish), an emissary from Emperor Hirohito complete with atom-smasher ray guns and a device that turns its wearers into zombies. (The device, placed on the skull of its victim, resembles something from a child's Erector set.) Batman and Robin are aided by lovely Linda Page (Shirley Patterson), whose uncle (Gus Glassmire) becomes one of Dr. Daka's first victims. From the Bat Cave, the three crusaders and Wayne's butler, Alfred (William Austin), venture forth to battle the forces of evil in general and a scenery-chewing Naish in particular -- travelling in a convertible and not the later so familiar batmobile. It takes them 15 chapters and a race through an amusement park to finally destroy the evil Daka and the title of the concluding chapter, "Doom of the Rising Sun," must have brought a ray of hope to a war-weary populace. The Batman was directed by Lambert Hillyer, a veteran who knew something about bats from having previously helmed Dracula's Daughter. The serial was popular enough to merit a sequel, although it would take six more years until Columbia debuted The New Adventures of Batman and Robin (1949).