The Batman (1943)

Article #674 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-18-2003
Posting date: 6-17-2003

Batman and Robin do battle with the evil spy from Japan, Prince Daka.

David Letterman once had a top ten list of Batman’s top ten peeves. The last one went roughly, “People who call him THE Batman; it’s just Batman, damnit!” This may be a big fuss over nothing, but even I have to admit that I flinch when I hear him called “The Batman,” and I’m no Batman purist. I do a lot of flinching during this serial.

In fact, it reminds me of CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT more than any other incarnation of Batman, and seeing how this is also by Columbia (as was CM), that’s probably why. I don’t know what Batman was like in the comics in the forties, but I can’t help but be a bit disappointed to see Batman being driven around in a perfectly normal car by Alfred the butler (no Batmobile), and I can’t help but feel a little dubious about the fact that the Batcave consists of little more than a few fake bats and an office desk. The most prominent gadget in the serial is a radium gun, and that’s an item of the bad guys rather than Batman’s. Worst of all, though, is that Prince Daka has none of the compelling fun of a real Batman villain; he’s nothing more than a run-of-the-mill serial bad guy, and even J. Carrol Naish seems bored playing him (though he does have a fine moment when he’s feeding his gators and begins to get ideas of what else to feed them). The anti-Japanese racism was a product of its time, but it does render the serial somewhat unfit for impressionable children. It’s my belief Batman has been handled much better on many other occasions.


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