Monday, November 09, 2009

Movie Monday - Batman, 1943 Chapters 11-15

This is it, the final recap of the original "Batman" serial from 1943. Don't get too cocky, though, because we still have 15 chapters of "Batman and Robin" to do after this.

Last week in chapter 10, Batman died in a fiery car crash off a cliff. Except of course that as chapter 11, "A Nipponese Trap," opens, we see Batman jump out of the COCKADOODIE CAR!!!! just before it goes over.

Meanwhile, the thugs gloat over Batman's death and run off to fetch the radium, completely ignoring the unconscious Robin at their feet. Robin gets up, groggy, and runs back to Bruce Wayne's car with Alfred and together they fetch Bruce and head back to the Bat-Cave.

The thugs deliver the radium to Daka, who gloats that now he can build the full-size Atom Disintegrator, a weapon "more destructive than anything Man ever dreamed of." Remember that this was two years before Hiroshima, and the idea of a single bomb that could level an entire city was pure science-fiction to most of the general public.

Back at Wayne Manor, Robin eats a banana while Bruce does his make-up. You'll notice I haven't made any gay jokes this entire time, because in this serial, they're just too easy. Even though the gang now knows that Chuck White is not a dependable recruit, Marshall has never met Chuck White, so Bruce figures White can coax more information out of him. He has himself arrested and thrown into a cell next to Marshall, then tells about how he broke into a house and found a weird cave full of bats and stuff. Marshall asks if he can find the house again, and White says sure. So Marshall tells him where to go with that information if he gets out first.

Alfred and Dick go to a bail bondsman to free Chuck White. Shortly afterward, Daka gets a call that Chuck White is in jail. Daka, suspecting that White works for Batman, sends his own men to bail White out, and when White emerges, they crash into his cab with a big delivery truck. They drive off, chuckling that they've killed him "for sure."

And true to form, next scene, we see Chuck White getting out of the hospital with a bandage on his ribs, but apparently suffering no pain at all. Batman goes to a phone and calls Dick and Alfred to come meet him at the hospital, while the thugs report to Daka that White is dead.

Batman, still in his Chuck White disguise, changes into his batsuit as he directs Alfred to the address Marshall gave him. It's a cabin on a rural road. Batman and Robin bust into the place and fight the thugs, and finally win one, mainly because Robin picks up a dropped pistol and holds it on the crooks. Now Robin's packing heat! What kind of twisted universe is this?

But then Batman gets distacted by a shiny object, and the thugs overpower Robin despite the gun, and both of them are knocked out. The thugs debate whether to kill Batman right away or take him alive to Daka, but first, they unmask him. It's Chuck White!

Meanwhile Robin, COMPLETELY IGNORED YET AGAIN, runs to the next room and summons police on the thugs' shortwave radio. The thugs set a bomb to blow up the cabin, but before the last one leaves, Batman jumps up and fights with him. Robin comes in to help and they knock the guy out, then turn to run. KABOOM!

In chapter 12, "Embers of Evil," we see them dive through a trapdoor in the floor before the bomb goes off. They emerge outside the fence, near their car.

Daka receives a report that Batman is dead yet again, and that he was Chuck White. Daka is glad to hear the news, but worries that Chuck was just one member of a large force of Batmen (Bat-Force Forever!), so he decides to use Linda Page to bait a trap and see if he can lure another one out of hiding. Daka also learns that Marshall is still alive and in jail, so he sends Bernie from the Sphinx Club to deliver Marshall a pack of very special cigarettes.

Why not just call them "Deadly Poison Brand?" And why have a picture of the Sphinx if the brand is Medusa? The next day, Bruce sees Bernie leave the police station as he is entering. Captain Arnold has called Bruce in to see if Marshall is one of the men he saw earlier (remember Bruce checking mug shots in chapter 7?). Marshall is dead inside his cell, but Bruce identifies him anyway. Bruce finds a half-smoked cigarette on the floor and makes off with it.

Meanwhile, as Linda is leaving work, she sees a car drive by with her uncle as a passenger. She jumps in her own car and follows it to the Ajax Metal Works, where she is kidnapped. Other members of the gang spread clues to lead Batman to the factory, if he's still alive, that is.

Bruce determines that the cigarette was poisoned and calls Captain Arnold as Batman to tell him about the cigarettes and Bernie's involvement. And just in time, too, because Captain Arnold apparently routinely helps himself to the personal effects of dead prisoners and was just about to light up one of those Medusa cigarettes himself.

Next Bruce tries to track down Linda and goes to the Ajax Metal Works. Switching to Batman, he and Robin sneak into the basement. Batman sets off a smoke bomb to lure the crooks into his own trap. When they come down, Batman and Robin attack from the smoke!

In the fight, a cigarette (not a Medusa?) is dropped onto oily rags and a real fire starts. Batman sends Robin to call the fire department while he searches for Linda. The fire spreads, and he is crushed under flaming debris.

But no! In chapter 13, "Eight Steps Down," the wreckage narrowly misses Batman, and he manages to escape the big stock footage montage of flaming building and firemen that ensues. He calls Captain Arnold to ask about Bernie, but the captain says that when they raided the place, no one there knew any Bernie. So Batman visits the abandoned club himself, and quickly finds a secret room where Bernie is holed up.

Meanwhile Daka, happily working on his Atom Disintegrator model, gets a report that yet another Batman has been killed.

He's whittling them down! So he's in a good mood when Linda Page arrives, and we get this exchange.

Daka: Welcome to my humble abode, Miss Page.

Linda: A Jap!

Daka: Please to say, 'Nipponese.' That is the courteous way of addressing one of the future rulers of the world.

See, he's evil, but polite.

It must be noted at this point that Shirley Patterson, playing Linda Page, is rocking the Big Wall O'Hair.

Martin Warren, Zombie Uncle, gets an illustration of just how big that hair is when she buries her face in his neck and pokes him in the eye with her hair.

Batman and Robin, having no clues to work from, go back to the house where Daka looked out from the painting. After a bit of searching, they find the secret passage (somehow--we see them looking for it in one scene and walking through it the next). They come to the dead-end that is the back-door to Daka's secret HQ. Batman sends Robin for a crowbar while he searches for another secret door. He steps on a switch in the floor and Daka is signaled that someone is in the tunnel.

He turns on a monitor and sees Batman. But he has the place riddled with traps, so he moves to a bank of wall switches. Linda shouts a warning at the TV, but Batman somehow doesn't hear it. Daka berates her for being stupid, then takes a moment to savor his victory before giggling and throwing a switch. Batman falls into a pit! With walls that close in! And big knives embedded in the walls! While Daka is turning Linda into an electrozombie! Awesome!

In chapter 14, "The Executioner Strikes," Robin gets back with the crowbar just in time! He opens up the pit door and Batman uses the crowbar to wedge the walls apart long enough to escape. They decide to grab some sounding equipment to test the walls and find the secret entrance.

In Daka's lab, Linda is now an electrozombie (without screaming once, Ken Colton). And to compound the horror, the zombie headpiece completely flattens her wall of hair.

Daka goes to the pit to gloat over Batman's dead body, but finds him gone. "The Batman must be a magician or a devil," he exclaims, then blows up the mines he has planted in the tunnel, collapsing it completely. A few minutes after Daka blows the mines, Roin blows his lines as he and Batman investigate the wreckage. They decide to check city blueprints of the entire neighborhood to see if they can find another way into the secret heaquarters.

When they get back to their car, thugs see Robin getting into the car (but they don't see Batman for some reason, who just appears in the car without running to it). They follow the car and stop it, but by that time, Bruce has changed into civvies. He has Dick hide, and talks to the thugs, who admit they must have been mistaken. Stupid, stupid thugs. As they drive away, Bruce changes back into Batman and chases them down. Big fistfight, with even Alfred throwing down! Batman wins, finally.

He takes the thugs back to the Batcave where he has Bernie tied up. But before he can question them, Alfred calls down with news of a mysterious note from Linda, asking Bruce to meet her at a certain address. It's a trap (whose purpose is unknown, because the scene that sets it up was apparently cut out or something), but Batman decides to spring it.

He goes into the building alone, telling Robin he'll call on his "Batman radio" if he needs help (in a belated nod to the comics--up to now, they've just called it a pocket radio). He finds Zombie Linda sitting in a chair, unresponsive. Thugs club Batman from behind and they toss him into a crate (figuring that since he's so strong, Daka will want him as a zombie). They haul the crate back to Daka's headquarters, where Daka has the zombies throw it into the alligator pit (it lands on one of them, pissing him off righteously). Screams! (oh, and by the way, I get a kick from this scene every time, because the two zombies are named Warren and Brown, and every time Daka gives them an order, he prefaces it with, "Warren, Brown"--so happens I know a guy named Warren Brown).

And finally here we are at the last chapter, chapter 15, "The Doom of the Rising Sun." Turns out, Batman used his "Batman radio" to send a Morse code signal to Robin, who freed him from the crate. They knocked out the thug guarding it and put him in the crate in Batman's place. Then they followed the truck to the Cave of Horrors. Batman and Robin sneak in with Alfred's help and defeat the caveman guard. Then they hide while the Cave of Horror gate attendant rings the doorbell and places his ring against the sensor.

So if you're Batman, what do you do next? Call the police? Use some scientific gadget to defeat the secret lock and sneak inside? Or walk up and ring the Evil Doorbell and use your batshaped ring to warn everyone inside of who you are?

Daka tells the boy band that this is their last chance. He sends them out to take Batman alive. Batman and Robin fight a bunch of them at once and finally win one (in continuity news, Robin's gloves jump on and off during the fight). Batman leaves Robin to tie them up while he goes in to find Linda. He is grabbed by zombies Pat and George and brought to the secret lab, where Daka plans to turn him into a zombie. What does Batman finally say when he meets the criminal mastermind he's been fighting for 15 chapters? You got it. "A Jap!"

So Daka has Batman strapped in the zombie chair and takes a few minutes to gloat over his victory, COMPLETELY FORGETTING ABOUT ROBIN YET AGAIN. The zombie guards ignore Robin as he walks by, also. No wonder Dick Grayson ended up with a complex.

So it ends up being Robin who captures Daka by lassoing him from behind. He frees Batman, who forces Daka to help him de-zombify Linda (and as Batman removes his gloves, it looks as if he's weaing a wedding ring--is Linda just his little floozy on the side? ).

The big Wall o' Hair is saved!

But Daka escapes his bonds and threatens Linda with a knife! He backs toward the door, planning to escape. Batman tells Robin to push the button that closes the outside door, but Robin pushes the wrong button and drops Daka into the alligator pit.

Got that? Robin captured the villain and then killed him. Batman did nothing and gets title billing.

There's a quick wrap-up as Alfred shows up with the police. Captain Arnold wants to arrest Batman, but Alfred sneaks over to the button panel and figures it out instantly, opening another secret door to distract the cops, then opening the alligator pit to keep them from pursuing our heroes as they make their escape. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson show up moments later, and nobody makes the connection. I can sort of understand them not making the connection between Bruce and Batman, since everybody seems completely convinced by his half-assed fop act.

But nobody ever notices that both Robin and Dick Grayson have exactly the same crazy mess of hair, even when seeing them mere moments apart?


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

(Read a summary of chapters 3-6 here)

(Read a summary of chapters 7-10 here)

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