Monday, October 26, 2009

Movie Monday - Batman, 1943 Chapters 3-6

Well, I'm finally back.

So here's the spoileriffic continuation of "Batman," the 1943 Columbia serial that marks Batman's first screen appearance. This may seem overboard, but you don't see a lot of information about this serial. When it is mentioned, it is usually dismissed as racist nonsense and no time is spent actually discussing it on its own terms. Yes, it is propagandistic, but not nearly as bad as the comics of the time, and no worse than your average Michael Moore film, except that Batman doesn't pretend to be a documentary. We're going to cover several chapters at a time here, so buckle up, because we'll be at this a while. But I hope it'll be entertaining.

At the end of Chapter 2, Batman was tightrope-walking a cable with Linda Page over his shoulder while an electrical current chased him like a slow-burning fuse. He fell from the cable. At the beginning of Chapter 3, "Mark of the Zombies," Batman catches his bat-rope and descends safely. The crooks speculate that Prince-Doctor Daka will be angry, but head thug Forster declares, "I'm not afraid of any squint-eye."

When the thugs report their failure to Daka, he is furious. "Batman is a rank amateur," he declares, not like the members of his League of the New Order (which sounds like a superhero boy band). He then decides to give Warren the zombie treatment. In one of his best lines of the entire serial, Daka says, "Resistance is useless, Warren. I suggest that you adopt an attitude of fatalistic resignation."

Then he lowers a scary-looking diving helmet thing over Warren's head and activates his equipment. There is much smoking and zapping and Warren is zombified.

Forster enters the hideout past the caveman guard and shows Daka a newspaper ad that basically says, "Found: one ray gun." Daka realizes its a trap set by Batman, but tells his men to show up an hour early to catch Batman by surprise. Daka orders them to use the newly-retrieved ray gun to then destroy a railroad bridge before a supply train crosses. He also gives them a bomb to use as backup.

At 9:00, the thugs arrive. They send one man to scout the area. Robin follows him and gets conked on the head. It should be noted here that Robin has some muscular legs. They're also kind of stumpy.

Robin chases the guy who hit him up to the roof while the other thugs go to claim the ray gun. There, Forster confronts Alfred in disguise, while Batman lurks unobtrusively outside the window.

Robin and his guy crash in through a skylight, and the fight is on. The Dynamic Duo are getting the worst of it, but Alfred picks up a dropped pistol, closes his eyes and fires blindly all around the room. The crooks flee, but not before Batman strips Forster's coat off with the map showing where they're to blow the train bridge.

After the crooks have fled, we get a pretty amusing dialogue exchange:

Alfred: How many did I kill?

Batman: Seven.

Alfred: But there were only four.

Robin: You killed three of them twice.

Batman and Robin examine the map and race to the train bridge, where they fight the thugs again. Batman suffers much cape trouble (a recurring feature of the fight scenes in this serial). Forster doesn't finish setting the charge before Batman interrupts him, and has to flee as the train is bearing down on them. One of the thugs throws a wrench that hits Batman in the head, and he falls on the tracks as the train approaches. Oh no!

Chapter 4, "Slaves of the Rising Sun," opens with Robin saving Batman and jumping into the water just before the train passes. The thugs believe that the duo have drowned. They're wrong, of course.

Daka happily feeds his pet alligators, Ojonojo (I swear the first time I watched this, I thought he said, "Mojo Jojo") and Sakosako, who live in a secret pit beneath his meeting room. He is about to throw Warren in as well when he is interrupted by the arrival of the boy band. Forster arrives and proudly announces the death of Batman. Daka is not pleased however. The train got through unscathed, and he still has no ray gun. He castigates Forster, who replies that he's sick of working for a Jap anyway. He knows who's going to win the war, and it's not going to be the New Order. Daka calls in a couple of really paunchy zombies...

But Forster shoots one, so Daka calls Warren off. Forster holds his gun on Daka and says he's leaving. Daka says that of course he can leave. "That's the kind of answer that fits the color of your skin!" Forster says and heads for the door. Then he falls into the alligator pit. Bye bye, Forster.

Linda Page calls Bruce Wayne and tells him that there's a new radium shipment coming in to the Gotham Foundation, and asks Bruce if he wants to come along with her to pick it up. Only she has to stop off along the way to see a mystic swami at 1120 Front Street who claims to have information about Warren. Bruce is suspicious and heads to see the swami first.

And what do you know? The Front Street swami is actually a front for Daka's gang. Ironic! Bruce knocks out the swami and takes his place. When Linda arrives, he tells her to leave quickly. Unfortunately, there's a thug waiting in the lobby who grabs her and knocks her out. Bruce, Dick and Alfred find Linda moments later, giving Alfred a chance to feel up Bruce's girlfriend.

The thugs take off in an armored car and Batman and Robin give chase. Batman jumps onto the roof of the armored car and uses the radium gun to blow a hole in the roof. Then he attacks the driver, who comes from the "saw the steering wheel back and forth like you're playing the tympani" school of driving. The armored car goes off a cliff. Yow!

In Chapter 5, "The Living Corpse," we see that Batman jumped out of the armored car just before it rolled off the cliff.

Meanwhile, Daka gets a call from a Japanese submarine, and we learn that his first name is Tito. Man, that boy band thing just won't go away, will it? The sub has a package for him that it will deliver at Smuggler's Rocks.

Back at stately Wayne Manor, Bruce gets a special coded letter. In his lab, he demonstrates for Alfred, Dick and Dick's crazy hair how to make the invisible message show up. It's a special assignment from Washington to guard an experimental plane (yes, another reminder that Batman is actually a government agent, not some crazed vigilante).

At Daka's place, the special package turns out to be a coffin. Inside is the body of a Japanese soldier. In his lab (which is much cooler than Batman's, cause even in the 40's, the Japanese apparently made cooler tech), Daka explains that the soldier is not dead. "This brave Son of Heaven is under hypnotic influence, or what is commonly known as a state of Animated Suspension." I can't tell if that line is ridiculously inept technobabble or insanely marvelous satire. It makes me happy either way.

Daka reanimates the soldier, who tells him to steal the experimental plane and fly it to Pelican Island. He pulls a button off his uniform and says that details are in there. Then he dies.

That's it? They had to ship a coffin via submarine from Japan for that? They couldn't send a letter?

So anyway, Bruce and Dick go undercover as airplane factory workers, communicating by radios hidden in their pockets (worst wartime plant security ever), while Daka zombifies two mechanics from the plant and tells them to steal the plane. The mechanics beat up the pilots and Robin (who seems to grow six inches taller during his fight scenes, BTW--apparently there were no stuntment the size of Douglas Croft) and take the plane, with Batman riding along. He tells Robin via radio that he's just going to ride along to see where they take the plane, then he promptly gets into a fight with the zombies as the Army shoots the plane down. Crash!

In Chapter 6, "Poison Peril," Batman survives the plane crash without a scratch. Lucky! He grabs the zombie headpiece off one of the mechanics (this is never followed up, BTW) and runs away before the soldiers arrive. Daka reports the failure to the submarine, and says they'll try to steal the plans to the plane instead, but then the Navy destroys the sub, so oh well. Daka orders one of his men to plant a secret microphone at Linda Page's place. Linda seems to have some connection to Batman, so maybe they'll learn his secret identity. When one of the henchmen speculates that maybe Linda's boyfriend, Bruce Wayne, is Batman, Daka says, "Don't be absurd."

Meanwhile, Linda calls Bruce to say that an old friend of theirs, Ken Colton, is in town looking for Martin Warren. Bruce visits Colton at Linda's place, and Colton pulls a chunk of pitchblende out of his pocket. You see, Colton has discovered a radium mine (is it safe to just walk around with radium ore in your pocket?). Colton, by the way, is played by Charles Middleton, better known as Ming the Merciless.

Daka needs to know the location to the radium mine, so he sends thugs to Colton's hotel room, but Batman and Robin appear and fight them off. The thugs flee, and Batman and Robin give chase down the fire escape, where Batman's cigarettes accidentally fall out of a secret pocket in his cape.

But the thugs escape. Bruce calls Colton the next day to see how he is, and Colton mentions he has gotten a call from Martin Warren, asking to meet him. Bruce, knowing Warren has disappeared, tells Colton he will investigate to make sure it's not a trap. Poor Alfred gets pressed into service again, disguised as Colton this time. The thugs threaten to drop him in a vat of acid if he doesn't tell them where the mine is, and when that doesn't work, they try the age-old torture method of yanking his beard, which comes off. He's a phony! Batman and Robin attack (again) and get their asses pounded (again), though at one point, one of the thugs attempts the curious move of putting a chair in Batman's way, as if that will block his punches or something.

Stray bullets pierce the acid tank, and wires are ripped off the wall, and when the electricity gets into the acid, there's one huge Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of an explosion!

Whew! Let's take a break, shall we? See you next week with Chapter 7, "The Phoney Doctor."

(You can read the summary of the first two chapters here)

(Read the summary of chapters 7-10 here)

1 comment:

ryu said...

do you have the english subtitles? y need for trasladate to spanish people.