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Film / Batman and Robin (Serial)

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No, not that Batman & Robin.

The sequel to Batman's film debut, the 1943 movie serial The Batman, Batman and Robin was released in 1949 by Columbia Pictures and served as a sequel serial, consisting of fifteen chapters in a similar way as the original. Robert Lowery played Batman, while Johnny Duncan played Robin. Supporting players included Jane Adams as Vicki Vale and veteran character actor Lyle Talbot as Commissioner Gordon.

The plot dealt with the duo facing off against the Wizard, a hooded villain whose identity remains a mystery throughout the serial until the end. The serial covers their adventures in attempting to thwart the Wizard's nefarious deeds.

The serial got the RiffTrax treatment in 2013, with a new short released every month, taking over a year to complete.

See also The Batman for the original Batman film. This along with the film serial before it also inspired the 1960s TV series.

The Batman and Robin serial provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: In 1949, people such as the narrator tended to pronounce some words differently, such as "ruse," "ally" and "diamonds." Also Harrison, a character in the episodes "The Fatal Blast" & "Robin Meets the Wizard," says "Batman" like (BĂT mƏn) as opposed to (BĂT măn), as if Batman was the guy's last name.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Batman and Robin are just outright pathetic in this serial. Not only do they never figure out anything before The Wizard can enact his plans, they routinely lose nearly every single fight they're in due to having zero fighting skills. They also fail to stop kidnappings and fail to stop the murder of Jimmy Vale and the murder of Carter, Professor Hammil's valet. Barry Brown also gets strangled and nearly dies, and they fail to stop that too.
  • Age Lift: Unfortunately, it is a bit unclear what his age is intended to be, but Dick Grayson is grown in this serial rather than being a small child like he was in the comics.
  • Alliterative Name: Barry Brown and Vicki Vale are both supporting characters with alliterative names.
  • Alternate DVD Commentary: The serial was done by Rifftrax in 2013 and it was also featured in one of their live shows.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Remote control does not control any electronic device in a 50-mile radius, let alone machines that haven't been equipped to be remote controlled. And let's not start on how on Earth diamonds would allow it to do that even if it could.
  • Bad Ass In Distress: No one here would ever refer to this version of Batman as a badass, but regardless, Bruce gets kidnapped by the Wizard's men and taken to a safe house since they suspect he's Batman, forcing Alfred and Robin to later rescue him.
  • Bandaged Face: One of the stranger subplots in the series is one of the Wizard's men is caught and arrested, so Bruce then covers up half his face in bandages and infiltrates the gang pretending to be him on the pretense that he sounds and looks enough like him to pass for him. Unfortunately, since this Bruce is not the World's Greatest Detective, the ruse only last for a short while before the gang catches him in a lie and rips the bandages off, revealing that he's Bruce Wayne under there.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Carter is Professor Hammil's valet and he is pretty much berated and verbally abused constantly by the professor, so much so that it's probably not surprising that Carter's evil twin pressured Hammil into fake-confessing to being The Wizard to try and save his own ass.
  • Bluff the Impostor: The Wizard's men eventually catch on that Bruce is trying to impersonate another gang member by covering up half of his face, citing a recent injury, and changing his accent slightly.
  • The Butler Did It: The Valet Did It
  • Canon Foreigner: Hammil, Carter, The Wizard, and the Wizard's underlings are all exclusive to this serial.
  • Canon Immigrant: Vicki Vale's brother Jimmy. He only appears in the show and wasn't from any comics.
  • Character Shilling: Batman and Robin have been called a lot of things — "glamorous" is seldom one of them.
  • Cliffhanger Cop Out: At the end of one episode, the Wizard's men trap Batman and Robin inside a vault and fill it with CO2 to kill them. Batman and Robin visibly collapse and the episode ends. Then when the next episode starts, Batman randomly stands up and hands Robin a breathing apparatus that he had the entire time and they start breathing through those. This is topped when seconds later, Batman pulls a working blowtorch from his belt—which clearly was not there before—and proceeds to use it to get them out of the vault. Why Batman waited until they had inhaled entire lungfuls of this stuff before acting is anybody's guess.
    • Batman is waiting to spring a trap on the Wizard, not knowing the Wizard and his men have planted a bomb in the chamber. The Wizard, invisible at the time, knocks out Robin in the office and then detonates the bomb. The last we saw of Batman was him in the chamber waiting, but when the next episode starts, he then claims that he went into the inner chamber and thus was nowhere near the blast when it goes off. This was not shown to the audience beforehand.
  • Damsel in Distress: Pretty much the only reason Vicki is included in the story at all is so that the Mooks can kidnap her for Batman to rescue her later. She is stuck firmly in the Lois Lane position during the serial, but she does come through for them a few times, most notably managing to snag a picture of the invisible attempted murderer in the last episode, which turns out to be Carter's evil twin brother.
  • Death by Secret Identity: Vicki Vale's brother Jimmy finds out Batman is Bruce Wayne. Guess who doesn't survive to the end of the episode?
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Surprisingly, in this adaptation, there is no canon romance between Bruce/Batman and Vicki. In fact, he seems outright annoyed by her very presence, even going so far as to not untie her after he finds her tied up in a car by the bad guys. She finds Bruce to be rather boring herself and only associates with him as an old friend, nothing more.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Two examples happen in the serial.
    • Jimmy Vale finds Batman knocked out, so he drags him into another room and puts the costume on, reasoning that he can then escape the Mooks. It very much backfires, though, resulting in his death.
    • Bruce apprehends one of the Wizard's men and while he's in a jail cell, he assumes his identity by covering half his face in bandages and changing his accent slightly to infiltrate the gang. It's short lived, though, and the gang catches on before long.
  • Dull Surprise: Almost everyone except the actors playing Barry Brown and Professor Hammil react to everything with the same indifference, even things as insane as a man falling out of a skyscraper or a car driving itself. Robin's actor is particularly bad about reading his lines like he just had a Valium cocktail.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: The ending...what else?
  • Evil Twin: Carter's brother, who has received no build-up, foreshadowing, or implication by the time he's revealed as the Wizard.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Bizarrely, once Carter has been murdered, Commissioner Gordon, Batman, and Robin discover his body in Professor Hammil's study. Professor Hammil then proceeds to walk into the room and not notice the body until they literally point to it. What's also odd about the scene is Hammill has been wheelchair bound the entire serial and was secretly testing a chair that allows him to walk temporarily, so the second part of this trope applies to Batman, Robin, and Gordon for not even asking why a previously paralyzed or disabled man can walk without help.
  • Failure Hero: Batman and Robin both basically bungle stopping The Wizard and his men at every turn. They always arrive too late, or arrive on time just to get beaten up and let the bad guys escape. Vicki and the professor who created X-90 (a rare explosive The Wizard wants) both end up kidnapped and the latter is severely injured. The Wizard manages to strangle Barry Brown before he can reveal his identity. The Wizard also manages to kill his twin brother Carter and his men manage to kill Jimmy Vale as well. The only thing Batman and Robin do manage to do is find out The Wizard's real identity and put him away, but this is after almost all of his schemes have worked.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Obviously, this is the 40s, so they don't show Jimmy Vale's body hitting the ground after he's punched out of a window in a skyscraper. That being said, Bruce's rather callous "there's nothing we can do for him now, let's go" just makes the moment even more brutal. Jimmy wasn't a good person, but leaving his corpse in the middle of the sidewalk in Gotham was rather insensitive of the Dark Knight, especially since he's good friends with Jimmy's sister Vicki.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Professor Hammil is incredibly mean to everyone around him and flies off the handle several times during the series.
  • Hammerspace: Batman whips out not one but two breathing apparatuses and a working blow torch from out of absolutely nowhere during the episode where he and Robin are trapped in a vault filled with CO2. And no, it was not simply hidden in his belt or under his cape; the episode clearly shows Batman with no blow torch or breathing apparatuses in the previous episode, then he just magically has them when the next episode starts.
  • His Name Is...: The Wizard chokes Barry Brown to unconsciousness before he can reveal his identity on-air. Unlike many examples, Brown recovers, albeit too late to do much.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: The Wizard, courtesy of cheap flashing tiny lightbulbs.
  • Identity Impersonator: A very poor example — Alfred uses pre-recorded messages to convince people that Bruce is at home on the telephone when he's standing next to them as Batman. At the end, Vicki offers to take Batman along on her dinner date with Bruce, to which Batman agrees... and then the phone on the Commissioner's desk rings, with "Bruce" letting Vicki know he suddenly can't keep his engagement. How Alfred knew to call, let alone when and where, is a testament to either his perfection as a butler, or to the weaknesses of the screenplay.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: During one of the series' many attempts to make the audience think Red Herring Professor Hammil is The Wizard, he comes to find that one of his inventions has been stolen. Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and others are about to tell him, but he already knows, which then casts suspicion since no one in that office had told him ahead of time that his device had been stolen.
  • Informed Attribute:
    • Bruce being referred to as a "wealthy playboy", despite Wayne Manor being shown as a six-room single-floor house in the suburbs, not a mansionnote , and the Batmobile an affordable mid-market convertible; the only indication that he has much money at all is Alfred puttering around the house. (Prof. Hammil, by comparison, has not only a valet, but an absolutely gigantic estate and a sprawling, elegantly appointed home with its own secret passage, but it's never once commented upon.)
    • Similarly, the narration refers to Batman and Robin as "glamorous figures that vanish as suddenly as they appear" — while they're stumbling very conspicuously out of their Mercury in costumes best suited for kids' party entertainers. (While Bruce Wayne's house does have a small Batcave, it does not appear to have a secret entrance for the car, meaning that seeing the Dynamic Duo in the Wayne driveway must be a common experience for the neighbors.) Since this is a serial, it's just as common for them to arrive late and waste time driving around, chasing dead ends, as it is for them to burst onto the scene and take the villains by surprise.
    • Both Batman and Robin are feared by the Mooks, but if you tally up their effectiveness over the many episodes, it's a wonder as to why anyone fears them. Batman and Robin cannot fight to save their lives (likely due to No Budget to hire a fight choreographer) and are knocked unconscious at least once per episode, if not more than that, and the Mooks often get away with whatever illegal activities they were participating in. Part of it, too, is Status Quo Is God: they can't have Batman and Robin stop The Wizard and his men before the end of the serial, so instead, the two of them constantly get their asses kicked and the villains succeed in whatever they're doing.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Vicki Vale is a nosy reporter who is suspicious that Bruce Wayne is Batman, so there is a B plot of her trying to find a way to prove it. In the end, he simply has Alfred call up Commissioner Gordon's office at the same time that he is there in his costume and cancels dinner with her and Batman with a recording, which fools her into thinking he isn't Batman since he's talking to her over the phone with Batman beside her. Though nevermind how on Earth Alfred knew to call at that exact moment after she asks them both to dinner...
  • Invisibility: About halfway through the serial, The Wizard figures out how to create a device that allows him to temporarily turn invisible.
  • Innocently Insensitive / Jerkass: It's definitely not on purpose, but Bruce does several things over the course of the serial that make him look and sound like a callous asshole. The worst one is when he was investigating the Wizard's men and touches a doorknob that electrocutes him and knocks him out. Jimmy Vale comes across him and drags him into a room, learning his identity, and then changes into his suit so he can escape the building unnoticed. The Wizard's men, however, do discover him and they fight, ending with one punching Jimmy out the window of the skyscraper. He falls to his death. Bruce regains consciousness, puts on Jimmy's clothes (and nevermind how his clothes fit even though Bruce is a whole foot taller than Jimmy), and goes down to the van where Robin is waiting. He recounts that they switched clothes, but then looks at Jimmy's still warm corpse on the sidewalk and says, "Well, there's nothing we can do for him now; let's go." And they just leave Jimmy's flattened, bloody corpse at the scene of the crime. Bruce and Dick know Vicky extremely well by now, yet Bruce doesn't even muster up some sympathy or bother to cover up the body so the traumatized people on the street don't see it, nor does he tell Vicky her brother is dead. It also doesn't help that Bruce regularly treats Vicky like shit; he seems incredibly annoyed with her at all times and while her nosy nature is bad for him being a superhero, there really is no reason he's so rude to her throughout the series.
  • Mean Boss: Naturally, the Wizard. He is very volatile if you make a mistake and gets angry at his men at the drop of a hat, even if they do something as harmless as wondering where the submarine to his evil lair is taking them. A particularly bad example is when the Mooks steal the X-90 off of a moving train, only for The Wizard to scream at them for not also getting the bomb's detonators even though he never told them there was a second box full of detonators.
    The Wizard: Don't tell me you left those detonators on that train!
    Neal: We grabbed all we could before the Batman showed up.
    Kevin as Neal: Also, you could have mentioned that there were two fucking boxes!
    • Professor Hammil is rude and nasty to everyone, but especially Carter. It's no wonder that Carter's evil twin ends up forcing Hammil to take the rap for being The Wizard, knowing what an asshole he was to his brother the whole time.
  • Mooks: The Wizard has a group of henchmen who takes orders from him, mostly over the radio, to help him complete his evil schemes. Some of them are regulars that we see in every episode or nearly every episode like Nolan, Neal, and Gabe.
  • Name and Name: Batman and Robin, naturally.
  • Non-Indicative Title:
    • Episodes "Robin's Wild Ride" and "Robin Rescues Batman" are bald-faced lies. Robin never has a wild ride,note  and he certainly doesn't rescue Batman at any point in the episode. "Target—Robin!" implies the Wizard hasn't targeted Robin until this episode. He's always targeted the dynamic duo. The reason for this is that the episode titles were written far in advance of the actual scripts, to entice theater owners into exhibiting the series. The screenwriters paid little attention to the episode titles when they were doing the actual writing.
    • Averted, of sorts, with The Wizard. The name does not come from a magical wizard like Merlin, but it's actually a reference to Thomas Edison, "The Wizard of Menlo Park."
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The Wizard's "hypnotic eyes" are tiny flashing lightbulbs.
  • Only One Name: The Wizard's vast array of henchmen, as ruthless as they are non-threateningly named (Evans, Earl, Gabe, Jason, Ives, Neal). Similarly, Carter — and by extension his brother, who would likely also be named "Carter" — never gets more than a surname, Prof. Hammil only gets a title, and Dunne is often referred to as "Dunne, the private eye" just to reaffirm what he does.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: A variation — while Bruce changes his vocal timbre when disguised as Batman, he apparently never bothered to buy a second vehicle, and the Mercury pulls double-duty as both his personal convertible and the Batmobile (complete with license plate). Vicki, who's ridden in Bruce's car before, points this out as Batman transports her, and he makes the very flimsy excuse that he's borrowing Bruce's wheels.
    • While it's smart to hide his face behind his hood, The Wizard doesn't change his voice, so it's immediately obvious to anyone watching that The Wizard is Carter, seeing as his voice is exactly the same.
  • Plot Twist: The series had been hinting strongly that the wheelchair-ridden Professor, who used some device to make himself walk normally, was the Wizard. It was his valet's twin brother instead. The only problem is that The Wizard never disguises his voice, so anyone who hears Carter talk for a few sentences will instantly know he's really The Wizard, as no one else in the show sounds exactly like him. That being said, the twin thing is not at all hinted at, so it's unlikely the audience would guess it until Carter murders his twin to cover up the scheme.
  • Pretentious Pronunciation: The narrator says "ruse" with the S phonic (rhyming with "goose") as opposed to the Z phonic English speakers use today. Since that unusual pronunciation occurs during a couple of episodes (e.g. "Robin's Ruse"), RiffTrax has a lot of fun with this archaic way of saying "ruse."
  • Red Herring:
    • Professor Hammil might be extremely suspicious, what with the secret machine that temporarily allows him to walk, but apparently all he's been doing is testing a miracle treatment for paralysis on himself, and isn't actually the Wizard. Similarly, Dunne is just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Barry Brown is guilty of nothing more than irresponsible reporting (and might even have been secretly manipulated by the Wizard as a stooge to throw suspicion off himself).
    • Carter is murdered by an unseen figure in the penultimate chapter, confirming that he was working for the Wizard, but seemingly eliminating him as a suspect. The finale then reveals that Carter has a criminal twin brother, who has presumably been threatening his cowardly sibling into submission.
  • Secret Identity: Bruce goes with the typical "useless rich guy" cover identity, but in this series, it's played as constantly being exhausted and disinterested, almost bordering on sickly (such as claiming he has to "take [his] vitamins" after hearing upsetting news).
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: It's likely due to both the time period and genre expectations, but all of The Wizard's men run around committing crimes in full suits and fedora hats.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": This series, like many of the early incarnations of the character, usually refers to him as The Batman instead of just Batman, but they say it the more modern way a lot as well. They also name-drop The Boy Wonder a few times for Robin.
  • Spoiler Title: Episode 15, "Batman Victorious." Subverted in that the episode still manages to have a Plot Twist. Of course, there were several episodes in the serial with Non-Indicative Titles, so one might be forgiven for not taking it seriously.note 
  • Superhero Origin: Interestingly, the serial never deals with Bruce nor Dick's tragic backstory of losing their parents and it doesn't delve into any of the surrounding Batman lore for when he first started out. The audience is brought up to speed about them in expositional opening credits and then it's on with the adventure with no connections to anything else from the comics.
  • Supervillain Lair: The Wizard has one that's out in the remote deserts of Gotham with an entrance hidden under a bush. The passageway goes down to a submarine—nevermind how there is a river running underneath the freaking desert floor—and then that takes them to a cave that looks suspiciously like the Bat-cave and he views the new arrivals through a projector of some sort before letting them in.
  • Tap on the Head: Every single person who gets knocked out in this series is given the lightest possible tap that wouldn't ever knock someone out, probably due to lack of budget for a fight choreographer. The worst example, by far, is when one of The Wizard's men knocks out a cop with a rolled up newspaper. The close second is when Robin is in an office looking at a toy car (don't ask, we can't explain it either) and the invisible Wizard picks up a normal, non-heavy name plaque and hits Robin in the head with it. Despite the fact the thing barely weighs a pound, this knocks Robin unconscious.
  • Techno Wizard: The Wizard, of course. Most of his schemes involved a remote control machine and an invisibility device.
  • Thememobile: Like the first serial, the budget didn't allow for a separate Batmobile, so Batman and Robin drive around in Bruce Wayne's Mercury. Lampshaded when Vicki Vale asks Batman if Bruce Wayne knows that Batman is using his car.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Oddly enough, some of the "next week on Batman and Robin" segments at the end of each episode show pretty big spoilers, especially the one that spoils Carter's murder.
  • Traintop Battle: It wouldn't be an action-adventure serial of any kind without one.
  • A Wizard Did It: Literally, except not. The Wizard's name is completely baffling since he's not dressed like a stage magician or costumed wizard and he doesn't use magic at any point. See Non Indicative Title above for the official explanation of his nickname.
  • You Keep Using That Word: It could possibly be a definition that was different back in the 40s, but at one point The Wizard uses his remote control machine to stop trains and cars entering or leaving Gotham City, but then he says "Now I will demoralize all traffic!" The definition of the word demoralize doesn't really line up with the way he uses it in that sentence.