Welcome to the latest instalment of Mister Cinecal Reviews Batman 1943, my unwieldy-titled series which looks back at the very first Batman film and asks the important questions, like ‘Does Batman even know that Daka exists? I mean I know he’s on a secret mission from the government or whatever but as far as he’s concerned there’s just some gangsters running around Gotham who are curiously interested in radium. Daka should just walk up and shoot him. ’ Today is Chapter 6 in the 15 part serial: Poison Peril!
This week is the laziest yet with getting Batman out of the jam he ended the last chapter on. You may recall at the end of ‘The Living Brain’, Batman was fighting some brainwashed zombies inside a stolen plane which was shot down by the military. It crashed. Does he parachute out just in time? Use some sort of gadget to protect himself? Nope, the plane just crashes, and he just gets out and runs off. 100% fine. This isn’t special armour wearing Batman, this is just a guy in the 30s running around in pyjamas, that plane crash should have powdered his bones! These cop-outs are so frustrating because they eat up so much time, each chapter is only about 16 minutes long and 3 minutes of that are just the end of the previous chapter, it’s wasted time if you’re just going to resolve the cliffhanger with “Batman never gets hurt lol”.
Daka hears about the plane crash and calls up the submarine (why does he answer to a submarine?) telling them that he’ll steal the plans for the plane rather than just waiting for the ‘Yankies’ to build a new one, which, obviously. Really that should have been the original plan, I would imagine it’s a lot harder to steal a plane than it is to steal a piece of paper, those zombies could have gotten in and out without any being any the wiser. Less you think Daka is beginning to become competent, he quickly ends up dropping anything to do with the plane this week at all in favour of his precious radium. After that, there’s some business with this submarine. It appears to encounter an American ship, and then we see from the ship some crashing noises and water starts flooding in as some US sailors run in panic. Wow, this submarine sure looks like a threat. I can’t wait to see Batman face off against it, that should be excite-
WELL NEVER FUCKING MIND THEN.
Daka deduces that he can get to Batman via Linda Page, who is clearly important to him. I’m trying to decide who is worse off in this serial, Alfred, continually abused, or Linda, a non-character who only delivers exposition or gets saved and could just as easily be a fancy crepe pan that Bruce Wayne really wants to hang on to because he’s invested so much time seasoning it. It’s a real race to the bottom for those two. One of Daka’s men mentions that Bruce Wayne is pretty sweet on Linda just like Batman is, is it possible that they’re the same person? Daka dismisses this by saying “that simpering idiot could never be the Batman.” That would be all well and good except this Batman is the biggest simpering idiot this side of Inspector Gadget. “Wowsers bowsers! This guy is one simpering fucking idiot”, Inspector Gadget would possibly say. In any case, simpering idiot Prince Doctor Rainbow Daka has Linda’s place bugged.
Meanwhile at Wayne Manor, Alfred stalls Linda Page on the whereabouts of Bruce and Dick, as they silently enter the room and sneak up on the chair behind her. I’ve probably mentioned it before but these two are major creeps. Just look at Dick Grayson’s face and try not to imagine the Brazzers logo in the corner of this picture.
|Just look at Robin's face! This is what happens when you're Bruce Wayne's ward|
Linda has news, her Uncle’s friend Ken Colton, the “Rugged Prospector” Racist Narrator promised last week, has opened a mine and, being an old partner of Uncle Warren, wants to have the mine half in his name. “Old Ken?” ask Bruce “Why I haven’t seen him in a coon’s age!” Jesus Christ. Now I did look this up and the Internet tells me that back in ye old times, this phrase came from people believing that racoon’s lived for a long time, but if there’s one thing that doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to racism, it’s the Batman serial.
Dick, Bruce and Linda all meet Colton, who certainly has a distinct appearance. He has a big white cowboy hat and a full beard, both of which stand out a lot. There’s a reason for that, and it involves Grievous Alfred Abuse. Daka and company are listening in as Ken explains that he has a radium mine, and boy does Daka love a bit of radium, so he’s all over this. Unfortunately for him, Dick finds and removes the bug before they can overhear Colton mention where his mine is. Colton would probably get on with ol’ Daka by the way, as the actor who plays him, Charles Middleton, is no stranger to offensive yellow-face himself, having been the original Ming the Merciless in a number of Flash Gordon serials. He’s no Max Von Sydow. Having failed to hear where the mine is, Daka goes with his tried and true method of getting shit done: sending gangsters to rough someone up, and certainly not get roughed up themselves by Batman and Robin.
|What kind of southerner wears a hat indoors?|
So, yet again, the bad guys go to a place, Batman and Robin slowly climb up the side of a building, and an awkward fight scene ensues. Watching these every week has made me note the influence these serials would have had on the Adam West Batman show. The fight scenes are shot very similarly, Biffs and Pows aside. And there’s the whole climbing up the sides of buildings thing, which I would find much more tolerable if random celebrities would poke their heads out to chat with them every time. Although here it would probably be Franklin D. Roosevelt telling them to report suspicious Asians.
After the fight, Colton is being looked after by the police as Bruce and Dick arrive to see if he’s okay. They were already there they could have just taken him to a hospital. He tells them that he’s been subject to a mysterious phone call asking to meet him somewhere, which our heroes realise is a trap immediately because it’s Daka’s only move apart from “send goons to get beaten up”. Thanks to Colton’s distinctive appearance, there’s a chance for them to get ahead of the enemy, by dressing Alfred up in a hat and beard and sending him as bait! Alfred in the comics was a very accomplished guy, a former soldier, actor etc, this is just an old man. He’s not part of your utility belt Batman, he’s not a tool, stop using him for things other than bringing you tea!
Cunningly Disguised Alfred goes into an old factory to talk to Daka’s goons, who begin demanding to know where the radium mine is and roughing him up almost immediately. They warn him that if he ends up in the vat of chemicals at the factory he’ll be melted, which clearly shows their lack of knowledge of how Gotham works, as vats of chemicals do not kill you, they turn you into crazy clown men. Did they not do science in school? Batman and Robin come in and start fighting some more, but they do a pretty bad job of protecting the senior citizen who is so bravely doing everything they ask. I’m pretty sure a goon punches Alfred so hard he flies into the next room. Batman’s careless, “swing arms around and try to ignore the fact that my useless cape is getting all tangled up and in my way” fighting style counts against him, as he first knocks a guy into a box of electrical wiring, exposing the sparking wires, then causes another guy to shoot his gun at the vat of dangerous chemicals. The goons run away and our cliffhanger this week is Batman’s carelessness causing an explosion at the factory with him, Robin and Alfred still inside. He really did never learn to mind his surroundings.
And speaking of never learning, take it away Racist Narrator! “There’s Fletcher, Daka’s lieutenant, posing as a doctor to trap Colton. Will the Jap spy force Colton to reveal the location of the radium mine? And there’s Robin on the job. Will he find his match in Daka at last? Don’t fail to see ‘The Phoney Doctor’, Chapter 7 of Batman, at this theatre next week!” Now, first of all, why are they building to some big confrontation between Robin and Daka? I know they have to pretend Batman is dead every time but come on. Second of all, despite all this talk of the insidious Fletcher pretending to be Colton’s doctor, I still don’t trust that title. This chapter was called ‘Poison Peril’ and there was not a poisoning in sight! They could mean the vat of chemicals but that’s a pretty big stretch. I’d half think they were coming up with these titles week to week and shooting everything in a rush before the next time people were in the theatre. It would certainly explain the shoddy production. Anyway, there may or may not be a phoney doctor in the next chapter. To find out, you’ll have to tune in next week, same Hack Time, same Hack Channel!
Check out previous chapters!
Chapter 1: The Electrical Brain!
Chapter 2: The Bat's Cave!
Chapter 3: Mark of the Zombies
Chapter 4: Slaves of the Rising Sun!
Chapter 5: The Living Corpse!
Check out previous chapters!