This is the first day in a week long event featuring
reviews of Batman’s live action, big screen
appearances in chronological order of release. Today,
the review is of the 1949 movie serials. Tomorrow,
we’ll have a review of Batman: The Movie
starring Adam West and Burt Ward. From Sunday to
Wednesday, we’ll review the entries directed by Tim
Burton and Joel “let’s make the Batmobile neon!”
Schumacher. Batman Begins, directed by Chris
Nolan (best known for directing Memento) will
open on Wednesday, and will be reviewed on Thursday
morning. (Reviews of Batman: The Animated Series
Vol. 3
and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
will come at some as yet undetermined later date.)

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Robert Lowery as Bruce Wayne/Batman

John Duncan as Dick Grayson/Robin

Jane Adams as Vicki Vale

Lyle Talbot as Commissioner Gordon

Written by George H. Plympton, Joseph F. Poland, and
Royal K. Cole

Directed by Spencer Bennet

Complete information is available from the
IMDB
.

Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Past movie reviews can be found here.

Premise

Batman and Robin attempt to foil the Wizard, who has
stolen a remote
control machine that allows him to control any moving
vehicle.

High Point

This is a perfect example of the serial genre. We’ve
got cliffhangers
after all but the last chapter, classic plot “twists”
that are
predictable only because they were so frequently
abused, spontaneously
changing properties of the devices in question,
recycled footage
filling time, frequent visits to the same locations to
draw out the
plot and make more chapters, and so on.

For those who haven’t heard, the movie serials were
introduced as a
way to promote regular attendance in movie theaters.
A series of
10-20 minute segments of a larger story would be
produced, and the
theaters would show a different chapter every week.
Every chapter but
the last usually ended in some sort of cliffhanger,
which would entice
the audience to come back the next week to see the
next chapter. This
particular serial had a 25 minute opening chapter, and
then fourteen
17 minute chapters to follow, for a total of fifteen
chapters and
close to four hours of screen time. Note that there’s
a lot of
recycled footage, as most chapters start with credits
followed by the
last minute or so of the previous chapter, and then
end with a brief
“next week on…” segment. The “next week” segments
for this
particular serial were packed with spoilers.

Low Point

This is the oldest looking Robin I’ve ever seen. A
little research
shows he’s only a year older than Chris O’Donnell was
when he first
took on the role, but O’Donnell looked younger, and
still got comments
about being too old. If I hadn’t looked up the ages
online, I’d have
sworn this Robin was ten years older than this Batman!
(It turns out
Batman was ten years older than he was.) Still, so
much of the look
was wrong, this being the worst of it, that you can
get some idea of
the lack of attention to detail.

The Scores

Originality is the first thing we consider.
I found none.
These plot twists were already old and cliched in
1949. Throw in the
cheap adaptation, and I can’t give it more than 2 out
of 6.

Some of the effects are bad. The rest are
worse. You can
see the wires almost every time, and the focus changes
dramatically
when they switch to stock footage. The sped up camera
during chase
and fight scenes is a blatantly obvious attempt to
make the actors and
vehicles look faster than they really are. I give it
2 out of 6.

The story is packed with predictable
cliffhangers. (One
escape from a cliffhanger is predictable because they
use it no fewer
than three times!) The police department is utterly
moronic, as is
Robin most of the time. Batman seems brilliant, not
because he is
written with above average intelligence, but because
he’s surrounded
by idiots. You will find yourself laughing at the
writing, not with
it. (I didn’t even realize one line of a thug’s
dialogue was supposed
to be a joke until the thug’s boss chastized him and
told him “this is
no time for humour.”) A character repeatedly
described as “a
wheelchair invalid” walks through a room on his own
two legs, and gets
no reaction from Batman and Robin! I give it 2 out of
6.

The acting is about what you’d expect from a
cast whose most
famous member did some of his best work in Ed Wood’s
Plan 9 From
Outer Space
. I wasn’t expecting much at all, but
I still
expected too much. I give it 2 out of 6.

The emotional response is better than you
might think. This
is incredibly fun to watch. It’s so absolutely awful
that you can’t
keep a straight face! I give it 6 out of 6.

The production is terrible. Batman and the
Wizard seem to
share the same cave, and quickly change the furniture
while the other
one’s away. Buildings change names between shots.
The interior and
exterior layouts of buildings don’t match up at all.
(We’re talking
about log cabins here, not police call boxes.) At one
point, Batman
turns around so quickly in battle that his light felt
cape and cowl
don’t turn with him, and the thug he’s fighting waits
for him to fix
it before moving in! This kind of thing should have
been reshot, not
put in the final edit. I give it 2 out of 6.

Overall, this is lousy, and is recommended to
fans of bad
films only. Die hard Batman fans will be about as
satisfied with this
as with the more recent Batman and Robin
product. I give it
2 out of 6.

In total, Batman and Robin: The 1949 Serial
Collection

receives 18 out of 42.