Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Serial Week: The Batman

Hello all and a fine greetings to Day 1 of Serial Week. To start off this concept, we go to Columbia Pictures were they have reeled in a couple of characters that hail from the DC comics universe. A couple of caped crusaders hell bent on keeping the streets clean of crime. Yes I am talking of Batman and Robin. In 1943, 5 years after the release of the comic book series Detective Comics, these characters were believed to be hot property and an immediate calling for a serial was on the way. This is The Batman.

Commissioner Gordon? Do you have Prince Albert in a can?

Based on the Bob Kane creation, Batman operated a little differently than he did in the comics. At the height of World War II, some alterations were made as Batman operated as a secrete government agent rather than the vigilante as he was. This was mostly due to the censors not wanting the hero to be seen taking the law into his own hands. Yet they have no problem of a young boy in tights running head long into danger. Film censors are screwy.

Like most material of the time in American fiction it is very anti-German and heavily anti-Japanese as our villain of this piece Dr. Daka (J. Carrol Naish of Sahara, Annie Get Your Gun, Rio Grande and The New Adventures of Charlie Chan) a brilliant scientist and agent for Emperor Hirohito (or Emperor Akihito) has developed a device capable of taking over the minds of men and women leaving them in a zombie (a mindless automon controlled by a powerful drug, not the Romero flesh eaters) state of mind to do Daka's bidding.

Charlie Chan: Master Criminal.

Batman (Lewis Wilson of The Batman, There's Something About a Soldier, Once Upon a Time, Wild Women of Wongo and Craig Kennedy, Criminologist) along side his faithful sidekick Robin (Douglas Croft of The Pride of the Yankees, Kings Row, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Batman and River Gang) work tirelessly to thwart this threat and the growing crime rate as most of Gotham's menfolk are over seas... yet that lay about, good for nothing Bruce Wayne gets to stay home. Why, I'd give him some chin music I tells ya. Devoted manservant Alfred (William Austin of It, The Gay Divorcee, The Private Life of Henry VIII and Alice in Wonderland) keeps our heroes' secret and even fends off Bruce's lady friend Linda (Shirley Patterson of The Batman, World Without End, The Land Unknown, It! The Terror from Beyond Space and Frontier Doctor) so the boys can go biffing bad guys in their tights.

There were of course some complications with the character in the scope of a budget. An established shot of the manor on Hill Road in L.A. Most of the film location was around Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth... surprisingly enough there were no 8 foot high fences like several homes in Chatsworth now for more risque filming these days.   Several of the Bat Cave shots are found in my favorite place of Western and Sci-fi but Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park.  

These are also the days when actors did their own stunts for the serials and brother there are plenty of break away chairs and tables hurled at people and out windows. No budget for both a car and a Bat-mobile, a black Cadillac served as both and Alfred was chauffeuring them in both their duel identities. Hope Alfred smeared mud on the license plates. 

Dick, go play your PS4 and stop fidgeting.  Criminy.