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Film / The Batman

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The Batman (or simply Batman) was a 15-chapter serial released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures. The serial starred Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin. J. Carrol Naish played the villain, an original character named Dr. Daka. Also starring Shirley Patterson as Linda Page (Bruce Wayne's love interest), and William Austin as Alfred.

The plot is based on Batman, a US government agent, attempting to defeat the Japanese agent Dr. Daka, at the height of World War II. Dr. Daka possessing a dangerous device able to turn people into Zombie-like creatures. It also features an insanely ornate office-type Batdesk.

The film is noteworthy as Batman's first film and live action depiction as well as being the inspiration for the 1960s TV show that popularized Batman. In addition, this film marked the first appearance, film or print, of the Batcave. It also spawned a sequel serial called Batman and Robin.

Not to be confused with the animated series of the same name, nor the upcoming DCEU film that's been tentatively titled The Batman.


Tropes associated with this work:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Despite being one of the character's most well known traits, Batman does not use any gadgets in the entire series. The only tools he and Robin use are an occasional grappling hook, a flashlight that creates a Bat Signal on a wall, and a Radium Gun that Batman took from the villains.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Tito Daka is...not a Japanese name.
  • Back from the Dead: Daka's superiors send him an important message by sending him a casket with a dead comrade inside it. Daka then uses a device that can bring a dead person back to life for a handful of seconds so the officer can give him the instructions and intel.
  • Batman Gambit: Fittingly. Batman runs out of leads on Daka's organization, so he locks a mook in the Bat's cave. The mook eventually tries to make a phone call using a phone in the Cave. Batman has the phone rigged so the call not only doesn't go out, but he sees the number dialed and gets a location to investigate.
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  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Dr. Daka has developed a Radium Gun that can blast through anything. Batman steals it early in the series and uses it several times. Though- in fairness- he never uses it on a person; he only uses it when he needs to cut through something, such as the roof of the villains' armored getaway vehicle.
  • Canon Immigrant: Several (surprising) examples:
    • The idea of the Batcave (called the Bat's Cave in the serial), with an entrance through the grandfather clock, originated in this serial before moving over the comic books.
    • The visual appearance of Alfred in the comic books was changed to match that of the actor in the serial; prior to this, Alfred was portrayed as a portly, clean-shaven butler.
  • Cheap Costume: The ears on the Batman Costume are not rigid, as they are in other film incarnations of the character and the ears flop around as Batman moves. They and the short cape add a distracting amount of Narm to Batman.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: Continuity is tweaked for nearly every chapter ending, recapped at the beginning of a following chapter. For instance, Chapter 13, "Eight Steps Down," ends with Batman stuck in a Death Trap in which spiked walls are closing in on him, which is cut away from just before the walls are about to crush our hero with no hope in sight for rescue. Then, the beginning of Chapter 14, "The Executioner Strikes," shows Robin appearing much earlier during the same scene with more than enough time to slip Batman a crowbar to brace the walls moving in. In turn, the conclusion of Chapter 14 shows Batman locked in a box and dropped in an alligator pit only for the next chapter to show that Robin managed to break Batman free in secret much earlier and replace him with a hapless mook.
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Batman's contact on the force is Captain Arnold rather than the Commissioner Gordon.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Dr. Daka, observing the way Batman keeps turning up despite his mooks repeatedly "killing" him, entertains the suspicion that maybe "Batman" is a Collective Identity for several agents.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Batman smokes as he hunts down the Japanese.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Attempted by one of Daka's higher-ups. He then finds out Daka has an alligator pit, the hard way.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Dr. Daka meets his end by falling into his own alligator pit.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Batman locks a Mook in a room full of bats, to try and loosen his tongue.
  • Mind Rape: Dr. Daka has a machine that can transform people into "zombies". Not in the traditional sense; they don't die, but they obey his every command without thought or question.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: Daka's headquarters are reached through a carnival ride of Japanese war atrocities. Immediately outside the secret entrance is a guard, who poses as one of the waxworks on the ride until he's required to stop people entering or leaving without permission.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Once his various underlings have been dealt with, Daka himself isn't even a match for Robin in combat.
  • Police are Useless: Batman and Robin apprehend a lot of criminals with absolutely zero police assistance. If police do show up, it's long after there's anything useful to be done.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: Dr. Daka uses one to observe "Chuck White", while screening him as a potential employee.
  • Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Bruce Wayne's cover for being Batman, cranked up much higher than usual in other works. It actually gets him into trouble, as his girlfriend is frequently dismayed in that Bruce frequently ditches her to work as Batman without offering a decent reason why.
  • Shark Pool: Daka has an alligator pit.
  • Thememobile: Averted, in that the low budget of the serial prevented the studio from building or procuring a Batmobile for Batman and Robin. Rather, Batman and Robin ride around in Bruce Wayne's limo - with Alfred driving!
  • Underestimating Badassery: In the early episodes, Daka insists that Batman is an "amateur" unworthy of comparison with his organisation. Several thwarted plots later, he's forced to change that opinion.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: One of the cliffhanger death traps between Chapters 13 and 14.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The serial takes place in Gotham City, but Wayne Manor's address is stated to be in Los Angeles, California.
  • Yellow Peril:
    • The villain, Dr. Daka, is a stock WWII era Japanese villain. Played by J. Carroll Naish, an Irish-American actor.
    • The narration and dialogue in the serial makes very clear who was fighting whom in WWII. The opening narration describes how "a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs" to explain the abandoned part of town in which Daka operates.
  • Yellowface: The Japanese Tito Daka is played by Irishman J. Carroll Naish.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Two mechanics mistake Daka for one of the actors in his carnival ride, and tell him that while his costume's fine, his accent needs work.

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