See how BATMAN really began. BATMAN started it all, and it's now available on DVD for the first time ever! Watch as mild-mannered Bruce Wayne (Lewis Wilson) becomes Batman, the classic superhero who, with Robin (Douglas Cr... more »oft), protects Gotham City from the evil schemes of Dr. Tito Daka (J. Carrol Naish). Packed with adventures involving a radium-powered death ray, a deadly alligator pit, electronic zombies, and even the original Bat Cave, the BATMAN 2-disc set is a must-own DVD for any fan of the Caped Crusader!« less
If you're a Batman fan, this is worth a watch. There's no Commissioner Gordon and no Vicky Vale yet, no bat signal, and no Batmobile.
There is, however, a bat cave (I believe this serial actually added the Bat Cave to the canon), and the most gee-whiz, apple pie Howdy-Doody Robin ever. From what I read, too, William Austin's Alfred look changed how Alfred looked in comic books and in every incarnation of Batman since.
Oh, yeah - the actual movie. Well, it's a serial, kids, and very typical of the era. Cliffhanger where Batman appears doomed every episode, then miraculously in the next episode Batman somehow escaped. Sometimes laughably.
Also Batman loses every fight, I think.
And please excuse the anti-Japanese sentiment, and stereotypical Japanese portrayal of the villain. It was right in the middle of WW II, after all.
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Karl V. (walksinstars) from LAS CRUCES, NM Reviewed on 8/13/2009...
Not to date myself but these movies in this collection take me back to being a kid. Batman is always good this movie collection is just the thing for old movie buffs great nostalgia.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
WORLD WAR 2 BATMAN
William J. Landis | ALBUQUERQUE,NM | 09/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since the DVD version has yet to be released,I can't comment on that version but have to rely on the VHS Tape which I have.Many reviewers have commented on the "racism" in this serial. Undoubtably they were not alive or at least going to the movies at that time in their life.The serial while it may not be considered politically correct in the present time only reflected the attitude of an nation that was drawn into WW2 by the attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor in 1941.All motion pictures of that era released by the 7 major studios pictured the axis ( Germany,Japan and Italy ) in an unfavorable light just as in the 50's during the Cold War Russia was portrayed in the same manner..Columbia Pictures which is a subsidiary of Sony Corp ( a Japanese entity)is to be congratulated for releasing the serial..I enjoyed it thoroughly.Although Columbia serials were never as well produced as the serials from Republic Pictures,this is one of their better chapter plays. One of the unintended bloopers that I enjoyed seeing was in one of the early chapters. This chapter has Batman fighting with his cape on and the cape mysteriously disappears in mid fight and just as mysteriously reappears before the fight is concluded.I notice the format is listed as color which is incorrect unless Columbia colorized the discs.I do hope they have copied the serial unto dvds with a restored print as the VHS tape was not as clear as it should be.I was disappointed to see that it will be released on 2 disks.All 15 chapters could well fit on one disk."
One of the best DVD serial releases yet!
Laughing Gravy | Sacramento, CA United States | 10/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The 1943 BATMAN is a terrific serial: goofy, funny, and exciting by turns. Not as slick as Republic when it came to chapterplay product, Columbia made up for it with sheer energy and zany enthusiasm. A lake full of alligators under a trapdoor in front of your desk? No problem (although one wonders what the contractors thought, finishing THAT room). There were many embarrassing portrayals of Japanese warlords in '40s serials (Johnny Arthur in THE MASKED MARVEL comes to mind) but J. Carrol Naish strikes just the right balance of looniness and menace. The "zombie-maker" machines seem to have been left over from the Boris Karloff film THE DEVIL COMMANDS, or at least inspired by them, and how come you can't buy stuff like that on the Shopping Network? All that said, the racism in this serial is ugly, even by WWII movie standards, and parents are going to need to talk to their kids when watching it. (Incidentally, a Sony rep advised me that yes, this will be the uncut 1943 version, not the "cleaned up" 1980s video version that removed some of the racist slurs.) I recommend this serial very highly. For more info on this and other serial releases, please visit www.inthebalcony.com."
The Very First Batman Movie
Scott Lothrop | Tampa, FL, USA | 01/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before the big glossy Batman movies and the campy 1960's television series there was this little masterpiece. It starts strong with the spooky music over the opening credits. Lambert Hillyer was an experienced B-movie director but this was his first and only serial. He makes it an enjoyable adventure with an unusual sense of humor for a serial. Note the banter between Alfred, Batman, and Robin in the third chapter after Alfred fires a few shots with his eyes closed.
The film has been criticized as racist, which it certainly is, rife with comments like "Since a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs..." and "your twisted Oriental brain." But that's exactly the way it was at the height of World War Two, so this is really a historical document of the pervasive attitude at that time. The War was still unsettled in 1943, and people were terrified of the Japanese threat. The serial has also been issued in a cleaned-up version, but this one is much more realistic even if it wouldn't be acceptable today. Just try to enjoy it for what it was.
I particularly like Lewis Wilson when he's Bruce Wayne, with his tongue-in-cheek portrayal of a lazy playboy, even though in his Batman guise he displays a bit of a gut that kept him out of the 1949 sequel. He's really a cool dude for 1943.
J. Carrol Naish was a great character actor, garnering two Oscar nominations in a long and distinguished career. He specialized in foreign dialects, and as Dr. Daka he does his best Peter Lorre imitation. Any villain would kill for that living room with the built-in alligator pit.
Douglas Croft (nee Douglas Wheatcroft, 1926-1963) was a successful child actor in the early 1940's. The year before he played Robin in this serial he was in both "Pride of the Yankees" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy," playing Lou Gehrig and James M. Cohan, respectively, as a boy. Not much is known of him as he dropped out of acting later in the decade, and died at the age of only 37.
Shirley Patterson (1921-1995, later known as Shawn Smith) was Miss California of 1940. After this performance she played in B-Westerns opposite Charles Starrett, Johnny Mack Brown, and others. Even Charles Middleton, that all-time favorite serial villain, puts in an appearance starting in Chapter Six, but this time he's on the right side of the law as Dan Colton, who has discovered a radium mine and of course Daka needs radium for his nefarious schemes.
As usual with Columbia serials the fights and the chases don't measure up to Republic's standards, and in general the cliffhangers aren't as good either. But the way Batman escapes from the old room-with-sharp-blades-closing-in routine at the end of Chapter 13 is a classic. The Chapter 14 cliffhanger isn't bad, either.
Be sure to watch for a cameo appearance by Bob Kane, the original creator of Batman. He's the young man who plays a newsboy who sells a newspaper to Bruce Wayne early in the first chapter."
Your Grandaddy's caped crusader!
Mister Chris | Peekskill, New York USA | 09/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, when compared with our computer generated culture, BATMAN, the 1943 serial, is laughably low rent. Yes, the Columbia Pictures production is nowhere near the polish that Republic Pictures' brought to their classic cliffhangers (ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL, SPY SMASHER...). Yes, the dynamic duo's costumes looked as if they were sewn by your mother for an upcoming Halloween party. Yes, the serial's war time plot line is littered with vicious racial lampooning of the Japanese. And yes, after 60 years the serial is still loads of fun.
At its best, the 1943 serial in it's own scrappy, shoe-string way is able to capture the spirit of Bob Kane's comic books and strips of that era. I prefer it over 1949's BATMAN AND ROBIN, which has been more visible in home video due to its more politically correct characterizations. Although the writers failed to use any of the comic's infamous gallery of colorful villains (such as the Joker,) the sense of adventurous camaraderie as played by Lewis Wilson (Batman) and Douglas Croft (Robin) is wonderfully brought out here. For me, this was a surprise since some historians tended to dismiss BATMAN as if it was the PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE of movie serials. It's not.
In fact, many of the lesser Columbia and Universal serials had an element which the much of the lauded Republic serials lacked- a sense of humor. For sure, there are many unintentional giggles throughout. My favorite: a badly edited scene where Robin sends a henchman crashing through a sky light only to fall before a seemingly dazed cast of onlookers. Yet veteran B-movie director Lambert Hillyer (in his first and only serial)is able to keep the mayhem going at a fast clip so as not to make us dwell too long on the ridiculous plot of mad scientist Dr. Daka (played as oily as Mazzola by J. Carrol Naish) and his Zombie-making machine. Also Lewis Wilson (the father of James Bond producer Michael G. Wilson) despite a flabby gut and a pronounced Boston accent plays Bruce Wayne/Batman with gusto. That was enough for any kid circa 1943 and perhaps 2005 and on."
Batman in the beginning
David A. Brown | Indianapolis, IN United States | 11/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First, I would also like to say thank you to the studio for releasing the uncensored version of this movie serial. I had seen it previously on a vhs tape and realized later that what I had seen was an edited (censored) version. I was happy to see this serial released on dvd format and happier still to find that it was the uncensored version as originally released.
The picture and sound are better than the vhs tape I used to have. I have also seen part of a "non-commercially released" dvd which was sold online and the picture and sound here are also better than other releases you might find. Because of the age of this film, the picture is not 100% crisp and clear. I'm sure those who had the pleasure of seeing them in the theater or who own the film prints can argue they could have been better, but I think this is probably the best that will be available. As in previous reviews, I agree that the picture on Chapter 1 is contrasty and not as sharp as the other chapters, particularly the first shot of Batman sitting in The Bat's Cave. I do not know about what the availability of a better-looking master for this first chapter, so I cannot give a lower rating because of this.
My only complaint is that the preview for Chapter 3 which comes at the end of the cliffhanger in Chapter 2 was not present. Why they left this off, I do not know. You have the complete story, so it isn't like you're missing part of the story because of this omission, but it's still a curiousity.
Also, I noticed in Chapter 2 as well, when Bruce Wayne is making a telephone call to Linda Page, on my disc there is a brief flicker of the picture to the scene just previous showing a shot of the villains. Did anyone else notice this?
I had the pleasure of reading some of the original Batman comic books in reprints. I recommend The Batman Chronicles and The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told as containing some early Batman tales. Batman in the Forties looks good too, but I haven't yet read that one. Having said that, I can say that this adaptation is much more true to the concept of Batman as he originally appeared than any of the later incarnations. Batman wasn't all-powerful and occasionally makes mistakes. Sometimes he gets knocked unconscious or overpowered by a group of mobsters. A few henchmen are also killed because of Batman's actions. Bruce Wayne is an act. He's a fop, a rich playboy who pretends to live the party life and tires easily. Alfred is much more bumbling comic relief than his later incarnations. Robin/Dick Grayson... what's up with his hair? I think he's sort of creepy. The police are depicted as lazy and corrupt, particularly Captain Arnold. It's interesting to see Batman at his beginning so that we can see and appreciate how his character has evolved over the years.
You won't find the Batmobile here. It hadn't been introduced yet! Batman and Robin were driven around in Bruce Wayne's car and they often have Alfred pull into an alley so they can change into their costumes. Also absent are Commissioner Gordon and any of the well-known villains.
As for censorship, I am glad to see the uncensored version of this dvd released. Racism is an ugly thing, and the fact that the country was at war at the time this movie was made is not an excuse. But, censorship is an ugly thing too. Only be releasing things in their entirety, the uncensored version, can we get it out in the open and talk about it. We learn from the past and from our mistakes, not by sweeping them under a rug and ignoring them or pretending they didn't exist. Again, I would like to commend Sony for releasing the complete unedited version.
This movie is goofy and was intended as Saturday morning or afternoon fun. Superheroes were not treated with the same reverence we have for them today and it was not give that same treatment. I recommend watching it for several reasons. First, it's entertaining. Second, for the bat-fan who wants to see Batman's first live action appearance and a close interpretation to the original character concept. Finally, for the historical significance of watching an old movie matinee serial and as a little time capsule to see the world in 1943.
I give this dvd 4 stars. It misses a higher rating only because of the little goofs in Chapter 2 which look like they should have been corrected before it was released."