Mister Cinecal

Mister Cinecal

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Mister Cinecal Reviews Batman 1943, Chapter 9: The Sign of the Sphinx!

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 ‘If I grow weary of watching the same basic 15 minute story play out every week, how did the moppets of the 40s who actually paid to watch this serial feel?’ Today is Chapter 9 in the 15 part serial: The Sign of the Sphinx!

Last week, Batman and friends were down in a mine that was exploded by dynamite. The collapse of a mine, as we all know, is relatively serious, maybe a 6/10, but not a huge deal. You can just run away from it, as all but 3 of the gangsters Batman was fighting do, or just avoid any harm whatsoever, like Batman, Robin and Linda Page do. We've all heard the expression 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but explosions and very heavy stones are no big deal at all, as long as you're wearing silly pyjamas', right? Their associate and the owner of the mine, Colton doesn't seem to be so lucky however, as there is no sign of him. Batman and Robin bundle the one surviving gangster still in the mine into the back of their car, before changing out of costume to meet Alfred and Linda again. They hope to interrogate the gangster, which may be a little difficult if the heap of crushed bones they stuff in their car dies before they can get to him. In tears, Linda tells Bruce that she thought he and Dick died in the mine, but Bruce gives her the excuse that they never made it to the mine, because they stopped at the side of the road for a nap. Linda is fine with this.

Keep in mind, they were going to the mine in the first place to find Linda's friend Colton, who is know seemingly dead. If Linda believes this, how on Earth is she not smacking the taste out of Bruce's mouth right now and vowing never to speak to him again? He claims that, while Linda was in danger, he stopped at the side of the road and fell asleep? He is pretending to be a complete monster. There is no need to lay the Rich Idiot With No Day Job stuff on this thick, even if Linda lacks the backbone to drop him like a bad habit and enlist the help of somebody actually useful to get her uncle back.

Daka is once again being told by his men about how they failed at the one thing he sent them to do and are useless but they're okay because for reals this time, Batman is dead, no totes Daka, they're not even messing, he's really dead this time. Check for a body next time you dolts, I think it's been conclusively proven that you're strong hunches are very dubious. Daka tells everybody to lay low for a while. Probably a good idea, the possibility of radium falling into their laps only comes about every two chapters and we're in an odd number this week. 

In the Batcave, Batman and Robin interrogate their prisoner, Marshall. It looks like the worst interview anybody could ever have.
Eleven Shades of Grey
They leave him to stew for a while because he's not talking. They watch on a monitor as he breaks free from those ropes, searches the Batcave and finds a phone Batman left out. They can see the number that he calls but the call just goes to them, with Batman putting on a fake voice to get info out of Marshall. He then calls the number he saw Marshall tried, pretending to be a wrong number, to find out that Marshall was calling a place called 'The Sphinx Club'. That's...actually pretty clever Batman. It's the first thing he's done right in a few chapters now.

In a time-honoured Batman tradition, he disguises himself as a ruffian to infiltrate this seedy club. It doesn't come through in my bad screencaps of these 240p videos, but he kind of looks like Colin Farrell wearing a Punch and Judy nose. Coming up with the name Chuck White, he has Alfred bring in Linda to make sure he's unrecognisable. Well, that's what he says, but given how this Bruce Wayne acts he's clearly doing it as a dubious prank. Linda does not recognise Bruce's rough "friend" Chuck, feels uncomfortable and leaves. Lol Bruce, lol.

'Chuck' heads in to the the Sphinx club, claiming to be an old friend of Marshall's. The mobsters of the Sphinx club are a little skeptical, seeing as they've never heard of this guy and he can't provide any proof at all that he knows Marshall, so they ask to search Chuck. Seems pretty reasonable to me to be honest. In response, children's hero Batman pulls a gun on these men, but they get the drop on him, taking the gun. It looks like he's done for, but lucky for him, Robin sneaks in the back window, knocking the lights out, causing everybody to spill onto the docks outside for a fight scene. Finally a fight that isn't taking place in a warehouse. This time it's a dock! I'm sure we'll get an underwater level next, then it's on to the volcano level. 
"These criminals don't trust me? They sure are a superstitious and cowardly lot..."

My problem though, is that yet again, nothing is accomplished by the heroes in this chapter before the mandatory fight begins. I could have skipped this week without it making any different, because nothing of consequence happens for the heroes. Batman tries to infiltrate this club, is immediately rumbled, and has to be rescued. This Batman is absolutely terrible. I know in this day and age people are convinced that Superman sucks and Batman is the 'realistic' be all and end all but you can understand how in the 1940s it was no contest. At that time, the Superman of the popular radio show was defeating the Ku Klux Klan in fucking real life, while this clown has to be bailed out time and time again by his sidekick in his show. There weren't any kids jumping off their roofs pretending to be Batman, if they watched this serial they'd probably be worried that this maroon would do that himself.

Batman changes in to his costume as if that will make him more effective. He tries to fight the mobsters. They drop a gangplank on him. Cliffhaaaaaaanger! So what's in store next week Racist Narrator?

"Daka learns of a new shipment of radium (fucking called it) for the disintegrator gun which is being sent by air messenger! And there's Preston, lighting the flair signalling the messenger to drop the precious radium! Will Robin be able to thwart the plans of the Jap spies? Don't fail to see "Flying Spies", the next chapter of Batman, at this theatre next week!"

Great mobster name, Preston. And no mention of Colton either, maybe he really is dead. RIP Colton. Although these serials are definitely not very good, at the very least I'm still learning things. For example, it's becoming clearer to me why sidekicks like Robin, Tonto, Jimmy Olsen or Doctor Hans Zarkov were so popular at this time. Racist Narrator is very committed to the charade that Robin is going to take charge in next week's chapter, because Batman is supposed to be dead. When you're always ending in cliffhangers where your hero is 'dead' but you still need people to show up next week, you can see how the sidekick is useful to have someone to fall back to in previews. "Don't worry children! Batman's corpse may be floating around the docks, but the child that is supposed to be your wish fulfillment is going to take on the Japanese menace all by himself!" Anyway, don't fail to tune in next week to see how Batman is going to survive that gangplank. Same Hack Time, same Hack Channel!


  • 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!
  • Chapter 6: Poison Peril! 
  • Chapter 7: The Phoney Doctor!
  • Chapter 8: Lured by Radium!
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