Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Batman - O homem morcêgo - seriado 1943

THE BATMAN  -  1 9 4 3 

'The Electrical Brain' - Batman's Chapter 1.

Lewis Wilson as Batman

Prince Daka, Dr. Tito Daka or simply Daka as portrayed by J. Carrol Naish.

"The League of the New Order of Hirohito, Heavenly Ruler and Prince of the Rising Sun, marches on, and nothing will ever stop it. You might just as well try to stop the tides, the winds."
― Prince Daka

"I am Dr. Daka, humble servant of his majesty Hirohito, heavenly ruler and Prince of the Rising Sun. By divine destiny my country shall destroy the democratic forces of evil and the United States to make way for the New Order. An Order that will bring about the liberation of the enslaved people of America. Each of these a specialist in his line and has been especially selected by me to execute the orders I receive from Tokyo. "

Prince Tito Daka is part of a cult known as the 'Rising Sun'. When World War II comes, he joins the Axis Powers to prepare a for the 'Japanese-occupation'.

He works out of a hidden location in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, called the Cave of Horrors. It is here that he organized a group of nefarious business men called the League of the New Order. In his secret location, Dr. Daka builds a machine known as the 'Electrical Brain' to turn those who oppose him into pseudo-zombies.

However he has one thorn in his side, Batman & Robin, the caped crusaders. Daka employs many a thug to rid him of the pesky dynamic duo but they always fail and in the end, Batman and Robin find a way to turn everyone back to normal, and vanquish the pseudo-zombie threat once and for all.

Daka possesses a hair-dryer-like mind-control device that reduces his victims to helpless zombies and a pit of live crocodiles. He commands his crew of turn-coat Americans from an underground secret laboratory and is supported by a Japanese submarine lurking just offshore. 

Naish draws back his lips in a sneering rictus, walks as if he's wearing a truss and hisses his way through a gleefully over-the-top performance that rivals Charles Middleton's Ming the Merciless. Middleton, who played Ming in the 'Flash Gordon' serials, appears in Batman as a cantankerous radium miner. 

In the ultimate show-down, Batman & Robin apprehend Daka, tieing him up, they then find the way to turn people back to normal from being zombies, remove the zombie head-piece and use the Electrical Brain again reversing the effects. Daka then finds a knife in his pocket, and uses to cut himself loose, taking Linda Page hostage, as he attempts to creep back to his secret lab, Linda in tow.

Batman quickly tells Robin to press the button that closes the door to the secret lab, Daka panics and drops Linda and rushes to the entrance to the secret lab. Unfortunately Robin hits the wrong button opening a trap-door which leads to a pit of hungry, angry alligators, Daka falls through the trap-door, and is eaten alive.

B A T M A N  '  S   15 chapters

1.  The electrical brain
2.  The Bat's Cave
3.  The mark of the Zombies
4.  The slaves of the Rising Sun
5.  The living corpse

6.  Poison peril
7.  The phoney doctor
8.  Lured by radium
9.  The sign of the Sphinx
10. Flying spies

11. A Nipponese trap
12. Embers of evil
13. Eight steps down
14. The executioner strikes
15. The doom of the Rising Sun

screenplay:  Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker & Harry Fraser
director of photography:  James S. Brown Jr. 
film editors:  Dwight Caldwell & Earl Turner
music:  Lee Zahler
producer:  Rudolph C. Flothow
director:  Lambert Hillyer

Lambert Hillyer was a skilled low-budget director whose best work includes Universal's spooky, erotic 'Dracula's Daughter' (1936).

James S. Brown Jr. was an accomplished genre cinematographer who shot a number of Columbia serials, including 'The Shadow' (1940) and 'The Phantom' (1943).

Chapter 2

Batman & Robin confront Frank Shannon [centre], Robert Fiske, and Stanley Price [far right] in 'Slaves of the Rising Sun' chapter 4 of 'Batman'. Green lobby-card photo.

Chapter 5

Chapter 9 

Made by Columbia Pictures at a time when they were more of a B-Picture studio - so the term 'low budget' should apply - and during the height of World War II - our tale pits Bruce Wayne/Batman [Lewis Wilson] and Dick Grayson/Robin - portrayed by 16-year-old Douglas Croft against the nefarious madman Dr. Daka - or, 'Jap', as many of the serial's characters like to say.

Interesting enough, Daka's mission is so secret that the U.S. Government are aware of his actions. Tracking the elusive villain down, however, isn't something they seem capable of doing - especially in the seedy underworld of a metropolis like Gotham City - so Uncle Sam assigns their undercover agent Bruce Wayne - alias The Batman - to keep an eye out. 

Batman isn't a vigilante but, instead, he's Washington's secret weapon. It was World War II, after all - there was no way in hell the Censors would allow a citizen to take the law into his hands - that's what the internment camps were for, after all. 

There is no Commissioner Gordon to be seen but a completely inept Gotham City police - led by Captain Arnold [Charles C. Wilson]. 

The first great thing about Batman is its atmosphere. Walls believed to be made out of brick and concrete tend to move when people jump over them. The lighting has an almost 'film noir' quality about it. You can't help it but feel the whole look was unintentional - as if somebody who once worked on a 'noir' gangster flick was assigned to light the sets for a kiddie serial and didn't quite know what to do. Anyway, the moody lighting combined with the obviously phony set pieces gives the film a surreal feel. 

Of course, no good serial would be without a hidden lair. And Dr. Daka has one of the greatest hideouts ever: a huge fortress hidden away within the confines of a war-themed 'Cave of Horrors' ride. Daka has it all: a laboratory of evil below, a super-secret back entrance, a pit full of hungry alligators [or are they crocodiles?]  just waiting for their next meal, and additional rooms we never actually get to see. 

Daka's massive base of operations defies all laws of logic! Between all of the secret rooms and the full-length basement - there may possibly be a sub-basement too - you'd think that his lair stretches out to the other end of the block. Perhaps Dr. Daka coerced M.C. Escher himself into designing his massive lair. 

A second hideout, the Bat's Cave makes its first apperance anywhere here. This strange, dimly lighted, mysteriously secret cavern is used for little more than intimidating captured thugs [Marshall is one example]. 

The Batmobile doesn't exist, so Batman & Robin just put the top up on Bruce Wayne's gigantic black Cadillac and ride around in it - often with their faithful manservant Alfred driving!

Dick, Bruce & Alfred at the laboratory.

Alfred is portrayed by actor William Austin and his is the first 'thin' version of the character introduced as the faithful British manservant was much rounder in the comics but would later lose the extra added pounds in order to resemble the on-screen version. Austin's interpretation of Alfred Beagle [surname later changed to Pennywhorth] is also the most fey of any depiction before or since. 

Alfred turns out to be a primary comic relief; a jittery idiot. He is more of a chauffeur than a butler. He is very camp and usually has something 'funny' to say. Once, when Alfred needs to call the police for help he tells the telephone operator: 'Please, give me the Scotland Yard!

Later, when Batman lets him help the dinamic duo:

Batman: 'Alfred, I'm gonna give you another chance to help us!'

Alfred: 'Esplendid, sir. May I say that now you're cooking with gas!'

Several continuity errors occur in the serial, such as Batman losing his cape in a fight but wearing it again after the film only briefly cut away.

Costume-wise, Batman conjures up another barreful of unintentional chuckles. Not only does poor Lewis Wilson get to run around in baggy pajamas, but also has a good-awful time trying to see through some poorly-cut eyeholes. His horn tend to sway from side-to-side with even the slightest breeze, too. 

Both costumes are considered to be unconvincing inexecution, and, although the Batman costume was based on his first appearance, it draws special criticism for being too baggy and 'topped by a pair of devil's horns.' 

Douglas Croft, on the other hand, demonstrates how fun it is to prance around in tights while wearing a plastic Lone Ranger-style mask and a hairstyle that makes one wonder when the soundtrack is going to kick into high-gear with some funky '70s waka-chi-waka guitar music.

Hiding behind Dr. Daka's unconving yellow-face make-up is Irish character actor J. Carrol Naish - whose accent comes off as sounding more Spanish than anything. Naish hams it up to the nth degree as the 'Axis stooge' who has come to the USA to dissolve America's 'corrupt form of government' so that his Land of the Rising Sun will be able to take over. If only he had waited a few decades to see how corrupt it could really become. 

Since the sight of Japanese soldiers would be far too conspicuous on the street, Dr. Daka recruits his henchmen straight from hoosegows and seedy underbelly dens of Gotham City - or as J. Carrol Naish so clearly calls it once, 'Goddam City'. 

By doing so, Dr. Daka has assembled a committee of villainous traitors, each of whom is a specialist in his field and who are played by a venerable selection of seasoned serial vets, including Robert FiskeJohn Maxwell, Michael Vallon, Anthony Warde, George J. Lewis, 'The Crimson Ghost' 's I. Stanford Jolley, Lestor Dorr, Jack Ingram, George Chesebro, the always-enjoyable Stanley Price, and more. 

But, not all of these dishonored U.S. citizens are ready to start batting for the enemy. One such attempted recruit is former industrialist Martin Warren [Gus Glassmire], who has just been released from prison. Daka's effort to ensnare Warren's aid is met with an ample amount of good old American patriotism. Old man Warren may have been found guilty and sent to prison, but there's no way he'd sell out his country. Warren's stubborness though isn't about to ruin Daka's day... and the arch-villain eventually turns him into an electronic zombie via a wild-looking contraption in an even wilder-looking scene.

Warren's vanishing-act does not go unnoticed. His niece, Linda Page [Shirley Patterson], happens to be friends with millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne - they may be more than friends, but this is a serial aimed at young boys, so any such feelings are locked away. Linda & Bruce, along with Dick & Alfred were supposed to meet Uncle Martin on the day of his release, but Bruce's good-for-nothing-playboy charade prevented them from arriving at the prison gate on time. Bruce 'slept in'! 

Mind you, had Bruce met Warren at the penitentiary as planned, the whole serial would have taken a different approach. For starters, Warren would not have had the satisfaction of discovering who was behind his false imprisonment. And, while the details as to his incarceration are left a bit sketchy - as are most of the plot points in the serial itself, we do at least learn that Warren was sent up thanks to the bogus testimony of his former colleague, Sam Fletcher [John Maxwell]. 

As it turns out, Fletcer had been working for Dr. Daka all the time. Interestingly enough, that small bit of trivia is completely useless. Hell, most people won't even catch on the very fact that Warren and Fletcher so much as know each other unless they just happen to pay attention to a fleeting line of dialogue in the very final chapter! This can be attributed to the lightning-fast pace in which this serial was edited and written, leaving practically nothing in the way of the development of its characters - especially the minor ones.

Anyway, with Martin Warren missing, Bruce & Dick decide to investigate as Batman & Robin. Every clue  they run into leads them one step closer to Dr. Daka, who is after as much radium as possible to perfect his New Order's secret weapon, the 'Atom Smasher' - which, sadly enough, we never get to see constructed. The mention of the word 'atom' in a kiddies' serial is amazingly conspicuous because the U.S. government was at that time secretly working on the building of the first atomic bomb who was detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki two years later - 1945. 

Locations range from the treacherous inner-city dwellings of Gotham City and into faraway radium mines out in the country. 'Flash Gordon's Mingus, Charles Middleton, shows in in a few chapters as Bruce's prospector pal Ken Colton, while sporting a long beard.  

Throughout the course of 15 chapters, a dozen cars or so are hurled off cliffs, a U.S. supply train is wrecked, an experimental military plane - piloted by Jack Gardner and Kenne Duncan [a future Ed Wood regular] - is highjacked and subsequently shot down [stock footage], a Japanese submarine gets blown-up [stock footage], and Dr. Daka turns several people into zombies. And it's garnished with wacky dialogue, baffling plotholes, grainy photography, recycled music drops, and some truly uninspired moments of inspired lunacy to boot.

As you may imagine, I've seen this one a few times. I used to watch it religiously on video-cassette with a friend of mine. I still view it on occasion by myself, since everyone else I know now seems to just can't hang with the fact that I recite the dialogue along with the actors onscreen. 

In 2007, I talked with someone that I had introduced Batman to nearly two decades prior. Although he was originally outraged over it the first time 'round, he actuall thanked me for presenting it to him, citing that it helped open his eyes as to how truly hypocritical and ridiculous Hollywood was - well, the whole word, really. 

In 2005, Sony decided to unveil the original serial in its ugly, unedited form - under the Columbia label - with absolutely no disclaimer whatsoever announcing the oft-bigoted dialogue contained therein. 

Be prepared to be aghast by what you see. Batman is a truly awful serial, but it's the pinnacle of involuntary hilarity at the same time. Just like either narrotor of the serial says, it's 'eking out a precarious existence on the dimes of curiosity seekers' - it has for decades, and will continue to do so for decades to come. 

BATMAN - cast 

Lewis Wilson [Batman / Bruce Wayne]
Douglas Croft [Robin, the Boy Wonder / Dick Grayson] 
J. Carroll Naish [Prince Tito Daka]
Shirley Patterson [Linda Page]

William Austin [Alfred Beagle, the British butler]
John Maxwell [Sam Flasher, Daka’s lieutenant; former civil engineer]
Gus Glassmire [Martin Warren, Linda Page’s uncle taken prisoner by Daka]
Charles Middleton [Ken Colton, Canadian radium miner owner]

Robert Fiske [Foster
Michael Vallon [Preston]
Charles C. Wilson [Captain Arnold, Chief Police Officer]

Knox Manning [narrator]
Stanley Price [henchman]
Kenne Duncan [pilot of shot down plane]

Frank Austin,
Lynton Brent
George Chesebro
Dick Curtis
Lester Dorr
Sam Flint
Terry Frost
Karl Hackett
Earle Hodgins
Jack Ingram
Warren Jackson
I.Stanford Jolley
Eddie Kane
George J.Lewis
Tom London
Ted Oliver
Pat O’Malley
Bud Osborne
Frank Shannon
Anthony Warde

Daka's secrete headquarters lie beneath an arcade fright-house called 'Japanese Cave of Horrors' that depicts Japanese soldiers committing atrocities. About the street on which it is located, the narrator tells us:  '... was part of a foreign land transplanted bodily to America and known as Little Tokyo. Since a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs, it has become virtually a ghost street...'

The underground headquarters is dominated by a giant statue of Buddha, before which we see the sinister Daka praying. 

ANTI-JAPANESE feeling in the U.S.A. in the 1940s

'Batman' is incredibly racist. Made during the height of World War II, the film is filled with stereotypical images and ethnic slurs of Japanese.

J. Carrol Nashi, who was of Irish heritage, plays the evil Japanese Dr. Daka. All of his henchmen, ironically, are Caucasian. 

The majority of the villains in the comic-book universe were Japanese, not German. 

'I was so much easier to bring white America around to fighting in the Japanese theatre than against people in Europe who looked like them.' Peimer says. 'Surrounding a Japanese villain with Caucasian henchmen was de rigueur in comics.'

'There's a really famous Superman comic-book from 1943 where he visits a Japanese American relocation concentration camp and uncovers a spy-ring that exists there. But they are all being helped by white people on the outside. The Japanese are evil, they are monsters but aren't capable of functioning without Caucasian input'. - Susan King. 

Batman snarls: 'Agh! a Jap!' - when he last comes face to face with Daka.

Batman then shouts: 'Hold up these robots, you Jap murderer!'

Daka answers:  'If you value your life you'd better address me as Doctor Daka!'

Batman: 'I know who you are! We've been searching for you ever since you killed those two agents assigned to your deportation!' 

Daka: 'What a pity you won't be able to report that you've found me!

Earlier, when Linda Page meet Daka she utters:

Linda:  'A Jap!'

Daka: 'Please, say Nipponese, that is the corteous way of addressing one of the future rulers of the world. Bring her to the council chamber!'

Henchmen Prescot and Fletcher scort Miss Page to the laboratory:

Daka: 'Wallace, bring me a Zombie-head-piece and a microphone!

At one point one henchman tells another:  'Daka will not be pleased when your report that to him!

The other answers:  'I did my best. Anyway, I'm not afraid of him or any squint-eye!' 

On Chapter 5 Daka is furious with another failure of his henchmen and says:

'You are aware that your colleagues not only have failed miserably in their attempt to get the much needed radium weapon but they have also lost their worthless lives!' 

The tables are turned! Daka is Batman's prisoner... but Linda is still a Zombie.

read chapter by chapter:


Some elements of the serial that have drawn particular attention from critics is the casting of Lewis Wilson as Batman. While his face resembled that of Bruce Wayne and he played his part with sincerity they found his physique to be unathletic and 'thick about the middle'. 

He's a properly foppish Bruce Wayne and a dogged masked crimefighter, but his voice was both too high and he was burdened with a Boston accent and a troublesome cape. Wilson is at his best out of costume, as when he goes undercover as Chuck White, a waterfront thug who infiltrates Daka's gang. 

Lewis G. Wilson - 28 January 1919 - 9 August 2000 - was from New York City. A good looking, talented guy, he never really made a big splash in filmes, being more of a supporting player. 

Unfortunately this starring role did not lead to others and he spent the rest of the forties appearing in poverty-row films like 'Redhead from Manhattan' (May 1943) a Lupe Velez's vehicle and 'There's something about a soldier' (November 1943) and The Racket Man' (1944).

The fifties were a little better as Wilson garnered a supporting role as Walt Jameson on the short-lived TV show 'Craig Kennedy, Criminologist', based on the popular detective created by Arthur B. Reeve. Wilson's last film credit is 'Naked alibi' (1954).

After that he worked for General Foods to support his wife Dana Broccoli and baby Michael G. Wilson who later became heir to the James Bond franchise.  


Douglas Croft was born in Seattle, WA * 12 August 1926 + 24 October 1963 in L.A., California. He was only 16 years old and the firs Robin on the screen.

Douglas is an athletic, convincing Robin whose performance does something to restore the pulp integrity of the production, and remind us that this could have been a great Batman serial, and not just a great serial. 

Croft also played younger versions of both George M. Cohen in 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' and  Lou Gehrig in 'The Pride of the Yankees'. 


Linda Page was a lab assistant and secretary at the Gotham City Foundation - played by Shirley Patterson * 26 December 1922 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada + 4 April 1995 - who also appeared on films by the name of Shaw Smith. 

She did  a lot of work on TV up to 1958, especially as Blanche Elliott in an episode of 'The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp'. 

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