Thursday, 22 December 2011

Batman and Robin (1949)

Batman and Robin, made by Columbia in 1949, was the second movie serial to feature the caped crime-fighter. Lewis Wilson had played Batman in the original 1943 serial but for the 1949 version he was replaced by Robert Lowery.

This time the arch-villain is The Wizard, and he’s managed to get hold of a remote control device. This is not just any remote control device, this is the ultimate remote control device. It can take control of absolutely any piece of machinery. The Wizard is aiming eventually at power but he starts out using the device to blackmail the railroads into giving him vast sums of money.

Tracking down The Wizard is going to be a challenge since he can take control of any motor vehicle anywhere and bring it to a standstill. Commissioner Gordon is definitely going to need Batman’s help.

The remote control machine is powered by diamonds and it uses a lot of them, which is the reason that Gotham City has experienced so many diamond robberies recently.

The situation becomes even more serious when The Wizard steals the neutraliser from the man who invented the remote control machine, Professor Hamill. This gadget can do ore than just neutralise the effects of the remote control device. Combining the two devices has the effect of making things, or people, invisible!

This is a fairly typical movie serial of its era, very low-budget but hugely enjoyable. It looks very very cheap but that just adds to the fun. The plot has plenty of twists and turns. And there are silly gadgets (The Wizard has a submarine which really serves no purpose at all but submarines are cool so they threw one in).

Robert Lowery as Batman and Johnny Duncan as Robin take things very seriously and Lyle Talbot is a wonderful Commissioner Gordon. Lyle Talbot was one of the great B-movie actors. Jane Adams adds a touch of glamour as feisty newspaper photographer Vicki Vale. There are lots of B-movie heavies and plenty of hardboiled dialogue.

While the emphasis in serials was always on thrills and fun it doesn’t have the camp sensibility of the 1960s TV series. It has its own flavour and its own charm.

Columbia’s DVD release is superb. Picture and sound quality are terrific.

1 comment:

Samuel Wilson said...

Talbot is good here and even better as Luthor in Atom Man vs. Superman. This serial practices some maddening misdirection, as must all those who make you guess who the villain is under his mask. It's cheap but still seems relatively slick compared to the original Batman serial, which retains its transgressive wartime charm.