Batman (1943) - "Lured by Radium"

Saturday Serials: “Lured by Radium” (Batman 1943, Chapter 8)

Batman (1943) - "Lured by Radium"
According to my calculations we’ve now passed the midway point on our journey through 1943’s Batman serial. It’s been a wild ride so far, hasn’t it? Well, no, it hasn’t really. But it has been a fascinating glimpse into a part of Batman history many fans don’t even know about.

So anyway, chapter 8 is here and it’s called “Lured by Radium.” If you’ve been watching up until now you know that radium is a key element in Dr. Daka’s quest to pave the way for a Japanese conquest of America in World War II. But every time he gets close, the Caped Crusader gets in his way once again.

Well that and colossal ineptitude. How else to explain the wise decision to send men wearing nothing but suits into a mine to gather a radioactive element? For the answer to this, and some other excellent decision-making, watch “Lured by Radium”!

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"The Phoney Doctor" (Batman 1943, Chapter 7)

Saturday Serials: “The Phoney Doctor” (Batman 1943, Chapter 7)

"The Phoney Doctor" (Batman 1943, Chapter 7)Just when you thought your heart couldn’t take one minute more of the 1943 Columbia Pictures Batman serial, we’re back with another chapter!

As we pick up the action from last week, Batman and Robin swoop in to save poor, addle-brained Alfred (William Austin), whom the Dynamic Duo bravely used as bait to lure Dr. Daka’s henchmen out into the open. Fists fly and office furniture takes a beating!

I love the rather casual attitude the police have toward vigilantism by private citizens. When Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson admit to personally investigating the case, they receive little more than a decidedly limp admonition from the police captain.

Of note is the part of Ken Colton, played by Charles B. Middleton. Middleton enjoyed a long and productive acting career, and is especially remembered for his portrayal of Ming the Merciless from the vintage Flash Gordon serials — which I imagine I’ll get around to showing one day.

Well anyway, if you’ve watched this far into the series you probably know what to expect in terms of plot and pacing. So let’s get to it — it’s Chapter 7 of Batman, “The Phoney Doctor”!

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Batman (1943) serial poster - "Poison Peril"

Saturday Serials: “Poison Peril” (Batman 1943, Chapter 6)

Batman (1943) serial poster - "Poison Peril"Can you stand one more iota of Bat-thrills and Bat-chills? Because here comes the sixth chapter in the 1943 Columbia Pictures Batman serial film, “Poison Peril”!

As we pick up the action this week, the stolen secret airplane Batman is aboard is shot down by stock footage of anti-aircraft batteries. You could probably guess that he escapes the crash, because if he didn’t then the last nine chapters of the serial would be pretty morose.

One confusing point in the chapter concerns geography. The stolen plane crashes just outside a town called Edgeworth. The thing is, I can’t find anything listing Edgeworth, California as a real place. Remember now, last week’s chapter firmly established Batman’s base of operations as Los Angeles, so why bother coming up with phony places now?

The only Edgeworth in the U.S. I could find is in Pennsylvania, and I doubt the plane got that far. Oh well.

Enjoy “Poison Peril”!

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“The Living Corpse” (Batman 1943, Chapter 5)

Saturday Serials: “The Living Corpse” (Batman 1943, Chapter 5)

“The Living Corpse” (Batman 1943, Chapter 5)

With the presentation of this chapter of the 1943 Batman Columbia Pictures serial, we’re one-third of the way through the saga. If you’ve been following the story to this point there’s no need for a recap. But in case you haven’t, the beginning of “The Living Corpse” should help. This one follows the basic structure of the first four — action scenes at the beginning and end, bookending a whole lot of talking. This is NOT Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight.

I noticed a few curiosities watching this chapter. For one, it shows Bruce Wayne as living in Los Angeles, and for another it explicitly states that Batman and Robin are working at the behest of Uncle Sam. They’re assigned to stop Dr. Daka from sabotaging a fancy new airplane motor.

And thirdly, Japan went to WAY too much trouble to deliver a rather simple coded message and piece of film. But you’ll have to watch chapter 5 of Batman — “The Living Corpse” — to see what I mean!

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Batman (1943) - "Slaves of the Rising Sun"

Saturday Serials: “Slaves of the Rising Sun” (Batman 1943, Chapter 4)

Batman (1943) - "Slaves of the Rising Sun"

It’s time for the fourth chapter in the 1943 Batman serial, “Slaves of the Rising Sun”! Kind of hard to mistake the implication in that title I suppose. But just in case you did, a slew of anti-Japanese epithets should clue you in.

So we pick up from the end of chapter 3, where Batman and Robin engage in a spirited round of fisticuffs in order to thwart Dr. Daka’s plan to blow up a supply train — which I guess was a vital cog in American’s war effort against Japan? — and retrieve his lost radium gun.

Aside from the opening action sequence, the absolute best part of “Slaves of the Rising Sun” is hearing Lewis Wilson’s atrocious Indian accent. If you ever wondered what it would sound like if Boston was in the middle of India, you need to watch this.

Batman (1943) Chapter 3 - "The Mark of the Zombie"

Saturday Serials: “The Mark of the Zombies” (Batman 1943, Chapter 3)

Batman (1943) Chapter 3 - "The Mark of the Zombie"We’re back for the thrilling third chapter of the 1943 Columbia Pictures Batman serial, starring Lewis Wilson as the Dark Knight! In this installment, Batman narrowly escapes death while rescuing Linda Page from Dr. Daka’s henchmen.

Page’s father — Dr. Martin Warren (Gus Glassmire) — still in Daka’s clutches, refuses again to join Daka and is turned into a mindless zombie through the use of one of the more complicated contraptions I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Batman tries to lure Daka’s men into a trap by placing an ad for the radium gun he captured from them earlier. The plan fails, and the Dynamic Duo must race to stop Daka’s men from destroying a supply train and a bridge. Can they stop them in time?

“The Bat's Cave” (Batman, 1943)

Saturday Serials: “The Bat’s Cave” (Batman, 1943)

“The Bat's Cave” (Batman, 1943)

Last week we started watching the 1943 Columbia Pictures Batman serial. So let’s keep it going with the second chapter, “The Bat’s Cave.” This chapter is notable in that it introduced, well, the Batcave. It had never been mentioned in the comic book — in fact, the only hideout of sorts for Batman/Bruce Wayne had been a tunnel between Wayne Manor and an old barn where he kept the Batmobile.

After a brief recap of “The Electrical Brain,” chapter two of Batman picks up with the Caped Crusader capturing one of Dr. Daka’s flunkies and bringing him to the Batcave for interrogation. Hmm, maybe not the greatest idea. Elsewhere,the Dynamic Duo make time to torment Alfred, Robin proves to be completely useless at surveillance, and Batman verrry sloooowly rescues Linda Page from captivity.

(Watch for a fun continuity error involving Batman’s cape in the big fight scene.)

Enjoy Batman — “The Bat’s Cave”!

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Batman (1943) "The Electrical Brain" movie poster

Saturday Serials: “The Electrical Brain” (Batman, 1943)

Batman (1943) "The Electrical Brain" movie posterOur first foray into the world of cinema serials begins with… The Bat. As we inch ever closer to the release of Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, it’s worthwhile to take a look at where it all began. No, not with Tim Burton’s movie, and not even with the Adam West camp-fest. We start simply with Batman, the original Columbia Pictures serial.

This film, released in 15 chapters, marks the big screen debut of Bob Kane’s legendary creation and was released in July 1943 — just over four years after Batman sprang to life in Detective Comics #27. For those with even a superficial knowledge of Batman, much of the first chapter (“The Electrical Brain”) will seem familiar.

The dynamic duo of Batman (Lewis Wilson) and Robin (Douglas Croft) display their crime-fighting prowess early in the film, rounding up some local gang toughs for the Gotham City police to haul in. Alfred the butler is also here, as is the Bat Cave — although that was created for the movie and subsequently added to the comic book. (Sorry, no Batmobile, just a period luxury car.)

The biggest change is in Batman’s role. He’s a government agent in this film, rather than a vigilante. I guess the filmmakers felt that the Dark Knight should be a team player, what with it being the height of World War II and all. Speaking of which, those of you who are easily offended might want to skip watching this.

See, the villain here is the mysterious Dr. Tito Daka (J. Carroll Naish), an evil scientist who wants to overthrow the U.S. and pave the way for Imperial Japan to run the show. Naish’s broad portrayal of Daka is bad enough, but there are heaping spoonfuls of period racism to add flavor to the proceedings. As the action cuts to Daka’s hideout in Little Tokyo, here is the narration:

“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 where only one buusiness survives, eking out a precarious existence on the dimes of curiosity-seekers.”

So yeah, there’s that. Can’t say I didn’t warn you.

OK, I’ve rambled on long enough. Enjoy the first chapter of Batman, “The Electrical Brain”! (Broken up into four parts on YouTube.)