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Batman and Robin Serial 1949
I recently received Batman and Robin from my Netflix queue. No, I am not talking about the 1997 George Clooney and the infamous nipple suit. This is the 1949 serial that was released by Columbia pictures in 1949. It is a 15 chapter serial that follows Batman and Robin as they try to discover who the Wizard is and capture him. The Wizard may not be one of Batman’s colorful villains from the comics but in this story he is the evil mastermind who has stolen a device capable of controlling vehicles from great distances. He even has a submarine.
As an action film it is comical. As a film from 1949 it is amazing. The costumes, props, and sets are ridiculous. For a 1949 production it was elaborate. In short, I loved every minute of this series and if you are a comic or film fanatic I highly recommend it. If you want a great film don’t waste your time.
Batman / Bruce Wayne
Robert Lowery played Batman / Bruce Wayne for this serial. The character has come along way since these films were made. Batman is openly accepted by law-abiding citizens and he does not hide in the shadows. He does jump from “high” places and onto his victims. The costume looks ridiculous, especially with the stitched on bat, and there are several fight sequences where you can actually see Batman get tangled up in his cape. The bulky outfit was made for Kirk Alyn, who played Superman in Columbia’s other superhero serial. Kirk was a larger than Robert so I am sure the costume was supposed to be more form fitting.
Robin / Dick Grayson
John Duncan took on the role of Robin / Dick Grayson. Only 10 years Robert’s junior, the boy wonder was looking pretty mature. They did a pretty good job with Robin’s costume. It appeared to be a heavy fabric and for the first time I think Robin had a better chance of getting heatstroke than frostbite. Robin was knocked unconscious a lot in these 15 episodes but he also saved Batman on several occasions as well. It was nice to see Robin portrayed as a vital member of the Dynamic Duo.
Other Comic Characters
VIcki Vale: Jane Adams portrayed Vicki Vale. It was not until after this film that Vicki Vale became a common character in the comics. Bob Kane, the artistic creator of Batman, would base Vicki Vale on the young model Norma Jean Mortensen or as she is better known Marilyn Monroe. He met Marilyn at the film’s banquet. Vicki Vale gets herself in a lot of trouble but much like Lois Lane she is a very tough character.
Commissioner Gordon: Lyle Talbot took on the role of Commissioner Gordon. The Commissioner has complete faith in Batman and follows his lead. He also has open discussion with Bruce Wayne, which makes me question his detective skills. There was not a lot of depth to his role and like most of the characters was used for a lot of exposition.
Alfred Pennyworth: Eric Walton, who played Alfred, was not credited in the original showing of these films. He didn’t have a lot to do but filled the role nicely. He buttled (watch “Clue” 1985), looked nervous while listening to the fate of Batman on the news, and even dressed up as the Caped Crusader to throw villains off the trail that Bruce Wayne was the World’s Greatest Detective.
The Wizard: You have to watch the film if you want to know more about him.
Considering it was 1949 the Batcave was very impressive. Black and white footage does help. When Avatar was shown on an HD television being played from a blu ray looked like the film was shot on a Hollywood set. The Batcave could have done without having the bat shadows flying in the background. They were more of a distraction. But everything else looked good. There were high tech electronics against the wall and a little table with his detective kit.
Batman’s arsenal of gadgets and toys were so horrifically executed that I enjoyed them immensely.
Bat Signal: The spotlight to call batman when needed was a small television box with a phonograph stuck to the back. Unlike other Bat Signals this one was easy to transport, since it was on wheels, and could fit comfortably in the corner of any room.
Batbelt & Utilities: The Batman Utility Belt has always been a challenge for real life Batman interpretations. It is hard to hide anything in a belt besides money or a microchip. Their version was made even better because of the obvious belt switches. Most of the time it would be a single piece of flat fabric but when needed it would instantly have HUGE pockets. My three favorite gadgets were; The breather, which looked like a bong. Then there was the oxygen masked hooked up to a canister the size of a fire extinguisher. The best had to be the industrial sized blowtorch.
Batmobile: The Batmobile has had many unique designs over the years. Each of these fit the style of their respective television shows or movies. For the 1949 serial they used a 1949 Mercury convertible with no upgrades. Well, they did switch it with a 4 door when there was a need for somebody to get in the back seat. Since it looked nothing like a Batmobile, Bruce Wayne was able to drive it as well and it remained parked in front of his Mansion. His mansion looked more like the Leave it to Beaver house than Wayne Manor.
Batman and Robin Posters
These are the promotional posters that went with the film. As you can see the episode posters are the same with the exception of putting a still frame from that week’s episode in the corner.