|Directed by||Spencer Gordon Bennet|
Batman and Robin (sometimes called The New Adventures of Batman and Robin) is a 15-chapter serial released in 1949 by Columbia Pictures. It is a sequel to the 1943 serial Batman, although with different actors. Robert Lowery played Batman, while Johnny Duncan played Robin. Supporting players included Jane Adams asVicki Vale and veteran character actor Lyle Talbot as Commissioner Gordon.
A wonderful glimpse into another time!
I was fumbling through the DVD section in Wal-Mart, and what do I find? The 1949 Batman and Robin complete serial!!! Newly released by Columbia! Being a true fan of the caped crusader, how could I NOT want to watch it??!! OK, folks, let’s get real, don’t watch this if you are looking for high-tech special effects, brilliant dialogue, women (there’s only one and she’s a main character, Vicki Vale…who is always “getting in trouble”, with Batman having to save her!), a Batmobile or any Bat-gadget! This serial was made at a time when studios spared all expense in making “fluff” to appeal to kids when they went to the movies on Saturday mornings. (Don’t scoff, all you baby boomers….cartoon makers of the 1970s did the same thing…with the same bad dialogue and bad acting…witness “Superfriends”, (which I also liked!), they just did it for Television!) I started watching this serial having never seen it…only saw a little of it in the special features of the 1966 Batman movie DVD. The costume is silly…looks like Bruce Wayne’s grandmother sewed it together…Robin’s costume isn’t much better….there is no Batmobile, (although Batman and Robin do ride around in a Mercury convertible, and even change costumes in it..hmmmm..homo erotica? NAH!!), and no Bat-gadgets, although there is a neat scene where Bruce Wayne uses a device in the Batcave to “retore” a burned photo-negative. (I also giggle at all the shadows of flying bats in the cave….but you NEVER see a bat!) What there is is a good story! A super-villain..namely “The Wizard”, whom the episodes lead you to think is an old, wheelchair bound scientist, who, when he sits in a chair that looks like it was stolen from the state penitentiary’s execution room, regains the use ofhis legs…and puts on a black costume, shrouding his entire body, and, using a stolen bit of technology he created, can remotely control all motor vehicles…but not only that, he can make them explode as well, and the pies de resistance….he can make himself INVISIBLE!! He also has the ability to project his image and hypnotize victims with flashing eyes. Truly creepy!!! However, there is a GREAT plot twist at the end to prove who the Wizard REALLY is! As far as the acting is concerned…….there isn’t any. I am reminded of Ed Wood flicks like Plan 9 from Outer Space when I watch it…but why not? George S. Plympton was one of the writers…wasn’t he a friend of Ed’s??? There is little emotion portrayed by the actors…everyone says their lines in a manner-of-fact way, however, the story is so good and action so fast-paced, you really don’t notice it. What I DID notice and what made me giggle, was that EVERY male performer, except the Wizard so far, wears a Fedora!!! They all look like they were in some old gangster movie!! I originally wrote this review after seeing only 6 of the 15 episodes…it was difficult to turn the DVD player off after the 6th episode…but, I wanted something fun to watch tomorrow!! I came back and corrected some incorrect information I gave AFTER finishing the series. If you’re a die-hard Batman fan, you should like this, unless you get upset by movies not following the comic’s story lines! Those of you who like to get a glimpse of a time gone by, you’ll LOVE this! It’s not possible for me to give this serial 10 out 10 stars, mainly because of the bad acting….however, it certainly earns at least 7! By the way, it is very easy to tell that this is what the 1966 Batman TV series was based on!
“NEW ADVENTURES” gives Dynamic Duo Complete Make Over
Author: John T. Ryan (email@example.com) from United States
25 September 2006
With the end of World War II, there was a marked change of tone and settings in the film world. This was especially true in that staple of the Saturday Matinée, the Serial. After all,Nazi Germany,Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan had now been defeated. There were no Nazi U Boats, Imperial Japanese soldiers, nor any Axis Spies or 5th Column Traitors to deal with. Now the bad guys would either have to be of the domestic variety of crook. Or, if by chance the baddies were of the international espionage set, their Nationality would have to be kept a secret. Just as before the United States got into the War, the villains country could be implied, but not specifically stated.
The second Batman chapter-play did follow all of the above mentioned, using a large number of common underworld types and a secret leader of unknown origin and identity (until the end), who was bent on, what else, world domination.
The cast and production team changed as Columbia had Sam Katzman produce it. Mr. Katzman’s Production Company, called ESKAY, was known for the frugality of its productions. Much of its output was done at and released by Monogram Pictures. The best known of these would probably be the EAST SIDE KIDS series, one branch of the DEAD END Family Tree.
This was the second serial for a comic character;but it was not the first time that it was done. Flash Gordon, Don Winslow, The Spider, Tailspin Tommy, Jungle Jim,The Green Hornet and Secret Agent X9, had all had 2 or more.DICK TRACY leads the pack with four serials. But unlike these others, which may have had one or two changes in cast, the 1949 Batman film cleaned house, leaving no one from the original.
Veteran Robert Lowery, who referred to himself as “the King of the B’s”, was a good choice for Bruce Wayne/Batman. His dead panning of Wayne’s dialog contrasted with the so-serious speech of Batman. He possessed the build and obvious athleticism to bring a certain authenticity to the role.
John Duncan* had been around doing juvenile roles for several years (including the previously mentioned EAST SIDE KIDS series), and now had matured some, giving him both the youthful appearance and the gymnast-like musculature that Robin would have.
Additionally, we have all characters and elements taken directly from the comics feature. News Photographer,Vicki Vale (Jane Adams), Alfred the Butler(Eric Wilton) and Police Commissioner James Gordon(Lyle Talbot) were all characters out of the comic book adventures. They reprised the Bat Cave from the ’43 version and added The Bat Signal(the bat emblemed searchlight,Batman summoner of Gotham City’s sky), albeit in a sort of vest pocket size.
Like many serials, they did employ a hooded mystery man villain as the “brains” heavy you know, unknown but having several on screen suspects to keep the audience guessing for 15 chapters.This was okay, or at least adequate, but begs the question: Why not use one of the great colorful villains from the comics pages? The Batman TV of 2 decades later did so, making the series so memorable.
As for THE NEW ADVENTURES of BATMAN and ROBIN, it ranks far above most serials of its Post World War II period. As well as common crooks and masked super villains, it confronted the Super Nova Explosion of Technological Advancement, a phenomenon of which we still have a lot of apprehension.
NOTE* John Duncan, now a man in his 80’s, still makes appearances a various Film Fan conventions around the country. We met him in a Bud & Sharon Courts promoted event, here in Chicago about 2 years ago. He was most energetic and gracious to the fans (including this writer).