Monday, November 02, 2009

Movie Monday - Batman, 1943 Chapters 7-10

Welcome to part three of our visit to 1943's "Batman," the Caped Crusader's first depiction on film.

While we're waiting for the action to begin, let's pause a moment to listen to the theme music. A more random collection of notes and tics you may never hear in your life--the same 5-note progression played in about eight different keys over quivering strings meant to denote tension, I guess, and every now and then, a harp swoops in because, I don't know. It was the early 40's. Really, the best thing that can be said about the opening theme is that it's all uphill from there.

So okay, in chapter 6, there was a fight in some sort of chemical factory or something which ended in a huge explosion. As chapter 7, "The Phoney Doctor," opens, Robin and Alfred come stumbling out from the other room they got locked in during the fight to find Batman alive under a couple of ceiling beams that had fallen against one another to leave a space underneath. Robin, master of understatement that he is, tells Batman, "Boy, are you lucky!"

Meanwhile, Colton is upset that the male nurse assigned to watch him doesn't play cards. He gets dressed and decides he needs to start packing heat. He shoves a huge revolver down his pants and hides a derringer up his sleeve attached to an elastic cord. Then he tells the nurse to beat it.

Bruce has apparently reported to Captain Arnold that he witnessed the men assaulting Colton. He looks at mug shots and recognizes one of the men. Captain Arnold identifies the man as Fletcher, a disgraced civil engineer. Captain Arnold says he'll get a warrant issued for Fletcher's arrest.

Colton, meanwhile, knows where Fletcher is, because Fletcher is in Colton's room, posing as a doctor. He knocks Colton out with chloroform and takes him to Daka's secret base in a fake ambulance. When Bruce arrives a little later, the only clue is the handkerchief Fletcher used to drug Colton. Bruce examines the handkerchief in his lab and discovers it has a Japanese laundry mark, and by coincidence, there just happens to be one Japanese laundry in the city (and just to interject here, but whoever did the laundry markings wrote the best pseudo-Chinese characters I have ever seen--I thought they were genuine until I tried to look them up in my kanji dictionary).

At the secret base, Daka threatens Colton with death unless he divulges the location of his radium mine. Colton pretends to be cowed, then pulls his derringer and forces Daka to open the exit door. But as Colton is exiting the door, he is knocked out by the caveman standing outside, pretending to be a wax figure on exhibit in the Cave of Horrors. And considering they've been showing that guy in close-up every time somebody visits the base, in almost every chapter, it's about time they paid that off.

That night, Batman and Robin visit the Japanese laundry to look for clues, and by AMAZING COINCIDENCE, the thugs just happen to be visiting, too. Apparently, Daka keeps his mining equipment stashed at the laundry on the third floor. The Dynamic Duo drop in on the thugs from the skylight and launch into yet another fistfight that they end up on the losing end of. Robin is knocked silly, and Batman is dropped down an elevator shaft, three stories straight down to land face-first on concrete. Splat!

Then the thugs send the elevator down to crush him. Overkill!

In chapter 8, "Lured By Radium," the thugs leave before the elevator has finished its work. Robin comes to and stops the elevator just in time. Then he runs down to see if Bruce is all right. Well, not only did Batman survive a three-story fall onto concrete, he didn't even sustain a single bruise. In fact, come to think of it, these guys get into one or two brutal fistfights every chapter, and never suffer so much as a black eye, bloody nose, or split lip. They're nigh invulnerable, and yet glass-jawed.

They hear sirens and decide to beat it, because as Robin says, "We don't want the police to find us in these outfits."

Daka tortures Colton in the zombie chair. Colton, who acts like a huge tough guy, screams for mercy after about a second in the chair. Seriously, he's the only one in the entire serial who wusses out before the zombie procedure is complete. He tells Daka that he'll take the men to his mine the next day.

Linda visits Bruce, worried about Colton, and says she wants to visit the mine to see if he's there. Bruce agrees to take her there.

The next day, Colton rides to the mine in a clown car full of six thugs and him. Meanwhile, Bruce and Linda stop to talk to an old Indian at a trading post who offers to sell them pottery made from pitchblende. Seriously, it's radioactive pottery, y'all!

The thugs go straight to the mine, while Bruce, Linda, Dick and Alfred go to Colton's cabin. Bruce and Dick head up to visit the mine while Linda has lunch with Alfred. Bruce and Dick spot the crooks' car outside the mine and change into costume.

Meanwhile, Colton makes a break for it, heads down a secret shaft and emerges through a trapdoor into his cabin, ruining Linda's sandwich. He grabs some dynamite to blow up the mine. Batman and Robin fight the crooks in the mine, while others assault the cabin from outside. Linda flees down the trapdoor and into the middle of a raging fistfight. Someone falls on the plunger and the dynamite goes off. KABOOM!

In chapter 9, "The Sign of the Sphinx," Batman is once again saved by a lucky space left underneath a couple of support beams, and Linda with him. Colton dies in the explosion, along with one of the thugs. The other thugs think their buddy Marshall died as well, but he ended up on Batman's side of the rockfall and becomes Batman's prisoner. After a very lame scene where Bruce and Dick show up to pretend they were completely unaware of the fight, the group heads back to Gotham.

Daka meets with the boy band and says, "I guess we need some more FBI guys," or words to that effect. He tells one of the men to start recruiting.

Meanwhile, Batman has Marshall tied to a chair in the Batcave, only Marshall doesn't scare as easily as the first guy. So Batman leaves him alone in the cave. Marshall quickly slips his bonds and runs to the phone so he can call and warn Fletcher and his men. However, it's a trick. Batman purposely let Marshall escape his bonds so that he could see the number which Marshall dials using a huge phone dial gimmick on his wall.

Batman poses as the guy on the other end so Marshall doesn't get wise to the trick. And by the way, no modern technological advance is too extreme for the Batcave. For instance, check out that phone Marshall's using.

Batman figures out that the number Marshall dialed was the Sphinx Club down by the waterfront. After they drop Marshall off at the police station, Bruce decides to go undercover and disguises himself as Chuck White, ex-boxer and low-life thug. He goes to the Sphinx Club and throws Marshall's name around. Bernie, the bartender, takes him in to see Fletcher. But Fletcher decides to shake him down, so White pulls a gun.

Yes, Batman's packing heat!

Anyway, Robin, watching through a window, distracts the thugs by shining a Bat-Signal flashlight into the room (and this is as close as you'll get to the Bat-Signal in this serial).

The goons chase Robin while Chuck White disappears and changes into his Batsuit. Two of the thugs chase Robin onto a ship at the pier while Batman fights the others on the dock. By the way, I don't know if this was just the way the stunman moved naturally, or if he had suffered some kind of groin pull or something during the course of the production, but in this scene especially, stumpy-legged Robin waddles like an ape when he runs.

Robin dives off the ship, while Batman is knocked out by a punch, after which one of the thugs drops a gangplank on him.

Or not. As chapter 10, "Flying Spies," opens, Batman rolls out from under the gangplank just in time.

The thugs report to Daka yet again that they've killed the Batman. When Daka mentions the numerous times before that they've made the same claim, they say that this time it's for sure. Daka begins to wonder if there's more than one Batman. Daka gets a call from an associate, stating that they've stolen some radium for him and will drop it from an airplane at a designated location that night.

Meanwhile, Bruce gets another coded message from the government, telling him to be on the lookout for the radium, which was stolen from "Michigan Hospital in Chicago." Bruce decides to try his Chuck White guise again. He goes back to the Sphinx Club and meets Daka's recruiter (not Fletcher) who is supposed to bring recruits to another secret location so Daka can look at them.

Chuck is ushered into a room, where Daka spies on him through the eyes of a painting. Hackneyed, but awesome.

"He looks like cheap gangster," Daka says, but tells the boys to give him a tryout anyway. They take Chuck to the site of the radium drop. And while I wondered at the time what Daka meant by White looking like a cheap gangster, I figured it out once I saw him with all of Daka's gang. Turns out, Chuck's the only one without a tie.

A random extra drops the radium out the bathroom window of a passenger airliner, and Chuck White runs away, returning moments later as the Batman! Robin is quickly knocked out, but Batman grabs one of the thugs' cars and takes off toward the radium. The thugs shoot out one of his tires, and Batman dies in a fiery car crash!

See you next week for the exciting conclusion of "Batman!"

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

(Read a summary of chapters 3-6 here)

No comments: