BATMAN Columbia 1943.

BATMAN. Columbia, 1943. [Fifteen-episode serial.] Lewis Wilson (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Douglas Croft (Robin / Richard ‘Dick’ Grayson), J. Carrol Naish, Shirley Patterson, William Austin (Alfred), Charles Middleton. Based on the DC Comic characters created by Bob Kane. Director: Lambert Hillyer.

   Lightning Warrior [the 1931 Rin Tin Tin serial reviewed here ] was a gift from a friend, and it led to me watching a spate of serials, a pleasure I seldom indulge in because of the time consumed.

   But shortly after this, I started on Batman (1943) which I hadn’t seen since a marathon evening back in 1965 when all 15 chapters were screened back-to-back, accompanied by witticisms hurled from the audience, for a campy event called An Evening With Batman And Robin.

   Back then, Batman seemed closely linked to the myriad spy spoofs of the period but forty-odd years (in every sense) later, it has acquired a certain charm of its own.

   The characters and their baroque machinations seem like brightly-painted toy soldiers marching about to the caprices of a wanton child, and all the fights, chases and explosions merely excuses for fun. Batman keeps starting fights he can’t finish, leading to This Week’s Cliff-Hanger, as the bad guys repeatedly beat him up, push him off a skyscraper, down an elevator shaft, from a cliff, under a speeding train or what-have-you.

BATMAN Columbia 1943.

   Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft play the Dynamic Duo with admirably straight faces, and Charles Middleton livens up a few chapters as a colorful prospector, but J. Carroll Naish really steals the show with a hammy turn as the villainous Dr. Daka, complete with disintegrator ray, alligator pit, and an army of mindless zombies.

   Not much sense in it, but there’s lots of fun.