Batman (serial)

Batman (or The Batman) is a 1943 black-and-white 15-chapter theatrical serial from Columbia Pictures, produced by Rudolph C. Flothow, directed by Lambert Hillyer, that stars Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as his sidekick Robin. The serial is based on the DC Comics character Batman, who first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. The villain is an original character named Dr. Daka, a secret agent of the Japanese Imperial government, played by J. Carrol Naish. Rounding out the cast are Shirley Patterson as Linda Page, Bruce Wayne's love interest, and William Austin as Alfred, the Wayne Manor butler.

The serial's storyline involves the Batman, a secret U. S. government agent, attempting to defeat the sabotage schemes of Japanese agent Dr. Daka operating in Gotham City at the height of World War II. Serving Daka are his traitorous American henchmen.

Batman is notable for being the first appearance on film of Batman and for debuting serial story details that quickly became permanent parts of the Batman comic's mythos: the Bat's Cave and its secret entrance through a grandfather clock inside Wayne Manor. The serial also changed the course of how Alfred Pennyworth's physical appearance was depicted in Batman stories. At the time Batman was released in theaters, Alfred was a portly gentleman in the comics. Subsequent issues suddenly portrayed Alfred as trim and sporting a thin mustache, following actor William Austin's portrayal.

The serial was commercially successful and in 1949, four years after World War II, spawned another Columbia chapter serial, Batman and Robin. The entire first Batman serial was re-released theatrically in 1965 as An Evening with Batman and Robin, and proved very popular. (Some theatres showed the chapters as a Saturday matinee.) Its success inspired the action-comedy lampoon series Batman (and its 1966 theatrical feature film spin-off) starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

Directed byLambert Hillyer
Produced byRudolph C. Flothow
Written by
Based onCharacters
by Bob Kane and
Bill Finger (uncredited)
Music byLee Zahler
CinematographyJames S. Brown Jr.
Edited by
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • July 16, 1943[1]
Running time
15 chapters (260 minutes)
CountryUnited States


The Batman/Bruce Wayne (Lewis Wilson), and his ward, Robin/Dick Grayson (Douglas Croft), secret government agents following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, become aware of a Japanese sabotage ring operating in Gotham City. Bruce's girlfriend Linda Page (Shirley Patterson) asks for his help in finding her uncle, Martin Warren (Gus Glassmire), who was abducted by the ring after he was released from prison.

Dr. Tito Daka (J. Carrol Naish), the Japanese leader of the ring, plans to steal the city's radium supply to power his invention, a hand-held raygun that can dissolve anything hit by its powerful beam. He forces from Warren the location of the vault where the radium is stored. Daka sends his American henchmen, along with a zombie that he controls by microphone via an electronic brain implant, to steal the precious metal. Batman discovers the plot and eventually routs the gang after a terrific battle.

In his secret bat's cave, the Batman interrogates one of Daka's henchmen, who reveals the radium was to have been taken to The House of the Open Door, located in the mostly deserted "Little Tokyo" section of Gotham City. Batman and Robin infiltrate the gang's lair (also Dr. Daka's laboratory), hidden inside a still-open business, a Fun House ride. There, they find Linda bound, gagged, and unconscious. After she is rescued by the Dynamic Duo, Daka transforms her uncle Warren into a zombie, and plots the derailment of a heavily laden supply train. Once again, Dr. Daka's sabotage efforts are stopped by the Batman and Robin.

Traps and counter-traps follow with breath-taking rapidity in the chapters that follow, as the Dynamic Duo continue to thwart the plans of the Japanese agent and his henchmen. When Dr. Daka attempts to steal America's Victory Plans, the Batman and Robin finally prevail. They oversee the capture of Daka's men and finally the destruction of the Japanese agent, as he tries to escape and falls to his death through his own hidden trapdoor into a pit full of hungry crocodiles.

Chapter titles

  1. The Electrical Brain (Last broadcast March 7, 2015 on Turner Classic Movies)
  2. The Bat's Cave (Last broadcast March 14, 2015 on TCM)
  3. The Mark of the Zombies (Last broadcast March 21, 2015 on TCM)
  4. Slaves of the Rising Sun (Last broadcast March 28, 2015 on TCM)
  5. The Living Corpse (Last broadcast April 4, 2015 on TCM)
  6. Poison Peril (Last broadcast April 11, 2015 on TCM)
  7. The Phoney Doctor (Last broadcast April 18, 2015 on TCM)
  8. Lured by Radium (Last broadcast April 25, 2015 on TCM)
  9. The Sign of the Sphinx (Last broadcast May 2, 2015 on TCM)
  10. Flying Spies (Last broadcast May 9, 2015 on TCM)
  11. A Nipponese Trap (Last broadcast May 16, 2015 on TCM)
  12. Embers of Evil (Last broadcast May 30, 2015 on TCM)
  13. Eight Steps Down (Last broadcast June 6, 2015 on TCM)
  14. The Executioner Strikes (Last broadcast June 13, 2015 on TCM)
  15. The Doom of the Rising Sun (Last broadcast June 20, 2015 on TCM)




The serial was made at the height of World War II and, like numerous works of popular American fiction of the time, contains anti-Axis powers sentiments, in this case, anti-Japanese ethnic slurs and comments. In a scene one of Daka's henchmen turns on him, saying, "That's the kind of answer that fits the color of your skin". Early narration in the first chapter (at minute 9:20-9:30) references the U.S. government policy of Japanese American internment to explain the abandoned neighborhood where Daka's headquarters are located, setting the serial's racial tone: "This 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".

Just like many other contemporary serials, Batman also suffered from a low budget. No attempt was made to create the Batmobile, so a black 1939 Cadillac Series 61 convertible was used, chauffeured by Alfred when Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were either in their civilian or Batman and Robin identities. It is driven "top-up" when it is the Batmobile, and "top-down" when it is Bruce Wayne's car.[2]

While many serials made changes as part of their adaptation, to the extent that they were "often 'improved' almost out of recognition", Batman "fared better than most and changes were minor".[3] In this serial special utility belts were worn but never used, the villain was not taken from the comics' stories, there was no Batmobile, and Batman was a secret government agent instead of an independent crime fighting vigilante. This last change was due to the time period's film censors, who would not allow the hero to be seen taking the law into his own hands.[3]

Several continuity errors occur, such as Batman losing his cape in a fight but wearing it again after the film only briefly cuts away.[3]

Press releases announced Batman as a "Super Serial", and it was Columbia's largest-scale serial production to date. The studio gave it a publicity campaign equivalent to a feature film.[4]



Batman was first released in theaters on July 16, 1943.[1] In 1965 the serial was re-released in theaters as An Evening with Batman and Robin in one complete marathon showing.[3][3][4] This re-release was successful enough to inspire the development (by Lorenzo Semple, Jr., under the auspices of producers William Dozier and Howard "Howie" Horwitz) of the 1960s television series Batman. The series starred Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder and, as described above, was produced as a lampoon, being villain-driven and heavy on action-comedy.

Home media

The serial was released on home video in the late '80s in a heavily edited format that removed the offensive racial content. Dan Scapperotti, a reviewer for the magazine Cinefantastique, commented: "The revisions aren't surprising when you consider that Columbia is now owned by Japan's Sony Corporation. It appears that some of Daka's operatives escaped Batman's justice and were rewarded with positions at the new George Orwell department at Columbia. No doubt we can expect to see David Lean's Bridge on the River Kwai reissued as the story of a joyous Anglo-Japanese cooperative construction job interrupted by imperialistic American terrorists."[5] Sony released the serial on DVD in October 2005 in an unedited version, with the exception of Chapter 2, which is missing its "Next Chapter" sequence and a shot of the villains listening to Bruce and Linda's conversation instead of Robin being angry.

The image and sound quality of Columbia's two-disc set is varied. The first episode is an upscale of the previous VHS transfer: very grainy, slightly cropped off, and with too high contrast in some scenes, such as the first establishing shot of Batman sitting at a desk amid a bunch of bats in the Bat Cave. The rest of the episodes were restored as much as possible, with the result being solid pictures and good sound.

Mill Creek Entertainment released in February 4, 2014 Gotham City Serials, a two-disc DVD set that contains both the 1943 serial and the 1949 Batman and Robin serial.

The serial was also released on home movie formats in the 1960s and 1970s:

  • The 1960s: A silent abridged version. The complete serial was edited into six chapters (available in 8mm and Super-8) running 10 minutes each. A seventh three-minute reel titled "Batman's Last Chance" with action scenes was also issued.
  • The 1970s: The complete 15-chapter serial (in its original unaltered format) was released in a Super-8 Sound edition.


In 1989 the cable network The Comedy Channel aired the Batman serial uncut and uncensored. The cable network American Movie Classics did the same in the early '90s on Saturday mornings. Turner Classic Movies began airing the Batman serial every Saturday morning beginning in March 2015. Following the conclusion of the last episode, the channel continued the weekly slot with the 1949 Batman and Robin follow-up serial which, following an August hiatus, concluded in November 2015.

Critical reception

Stedman notes that the serial "gained good press notices" but "scarcely deserves them," going on to describe it as an "unintentional farce."[6] Harmon and Glut describe Batman as "one of the most ludicrous serials ever made" despite its "forthright simplicity."[3] It was, nevertheless, popular enough for a sequel (Batman and Robin (1949)) to be approved.[3]

Some elements of the serial that have drawn particular attention from these critics were the casting of Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin: Both actors and their stunt doubles lacked the "style and grace" of either the comic characters they were portraying or their equivalents at Republic Pictures.[3] While Wilson's 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" and his voice was both too high-pitched and had a Boston accent. Croft was considered too old to play Robin and looked older still when doubled by a "hairy-legged" stuntman.[6][7]

Also, the costumes are considered to be unconvincing in execution, and although the Batman costume was based on his original appearance, it draws special criticism for being too baggy and "topped by pair of devils horns".[3][6][8]

Will Brooker points out in Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon that, though the depiction of the Japanese characters is undoubtedly racist, Batman himself has little direct contact with them. However, when Batman does in fact finally meet Daka in the final chapter (minute 10 of chapter 15), he immediately exclaims a racial slur ("Oh, a Jap"!). He soon after calls Daka "Jap murderer" and "Jap devil" and finally discusses a "Jap spy ring". Brooker surmises that these elements are likely to have been added as an afterthought in order to make the film more appealing to audiences of the time, and that the making of a nationalistic or patriotic film was not the filmmakers' original intent.[9]


An Evening with Batman and Robin was especially popular in college towns, where theaters were booked solid. The success of this re-release led to the creation of the Batman TV series.[3][4] The breathless opening and closing narration of each chapter in this and other Columbia serials was, to some extent, the model that was parodied in the mid-1960s series.

The success of both the re-release and the subsequent TV series prompted the production of The Green Hornet. Originally a radio action crime drama series from 1936 to 1953, it was also the basis of two Universal Pictures movie serials in 1940. The 1966-67 TV show was played as a straight superhero action mystery series, "in the tradition of its former presentations," and was also very popular with audiences but lasted only one season, owing to significantly higher production costs. The failure of The Green Hornet led to the belief that similar revivals of serial properties were not possible in the television market of the time, and no further series were produced.[4]

At DC Comics, Prince Daka appeared in All-Star Squadron #42-43 (February–March 1985) as the leader of several Japanese super-operatives. Since the #42-43 storyline occurred in 1942, it depicts Daka's activities prior to the events of the 1943 serial, as noted by writer Roy Thomas in a letter column.


  1. ^ a b c Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 235–236. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "15. Last Chapter "The Final Chapter"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. p. 368. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  4. ^ a b c d Cline, William C. (1984). "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 14–15, 25. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  5. ^ Schoell, William (1991). Comic Book Heroes of the Screen. Carol Pub. Group. p. 71. ISBN 0-8065-1252-0.
  6. ^ a b c Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "5. Shazam and Good-by". The Serials: Suspense and Drama By Instalment. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5.
  7. ^ Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "10. The Long-Underwear Boys "You've Met Me, Now Meet My Fist!"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 235–240, 243. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  8. ^ Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "9. The Superheroes "Could Superman Knock Out Captain Marvel"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  9. ^ Brooker, Will (2001) Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon, Continuum

External links

Preceded by
The Valley of Vanishing Men (1942)
Columbia Serial
Batman (1943)
Succeeded by
The Phantom (1943)
Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred, most commonly (but not originally) named in full as Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth, is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, most commonly in association with the superhero Batman.

Pennyworth is depicted as Bruce Wayne's loyal and tireless butler, housekeeper, legal guardian, best friend, aide-de-camp, and surrogate father figure following the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. As a classically trained British actor and an ex-Special Operations Executive operative of honor and ethics with connections within the intelligence community, he has been called "Batman's batman". He serves as Bruce's moral anchor while providing comic relief with his sarcastic and cynical attitude which often adds humor to dialogue with Batman. A vital part of the Batman mythos, Alfred was nominated for the Wizard Fan Award for Favorite Supporting Male Character in 1994.In non-comics media, the character has been portrayed by noted actors William Austin, Eric Wilton, Michael Gough, Sir Michael Caine, and Jeremy Irons on film and by Alan Napier, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Ian Abercrombie, David McCallum, and Sean Pertwee on television.

Batman and Robin (serial)

New Adventures of Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, also known as simply 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 as Vicki Vale and veteran character actor Lyle Talbot as Commissioner Gordon.

The serials were re-released as Video On Demand titles by Rifftrax, the alumni project of Mystery Science Theater 3000's - Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. As of September 2014, they have released the entire serial series. Turner Classic Movies has broadcast the film serial from June to November 2015 in a weekly half-hour slot on Saturday mornings.

Batman serials

There were two serials released in the 1940s pertaining to the character Batman:

Batman (serial) from 1943

Batman and Robin (serial) from 1949

Brian Azzarello

Brian Azzarello (born in Cleveland, Ohio, August 11, 1962) is an American comic book writer and screenwriter. He came to prominence with the hardboiled crime series 100 Bullets, published by DC Comics' mature-audience imprint Vertigo. In 2011, he became the writer of DC's relaunched Wonder Woman series.

Eduardo Risso

Eduardo Risso (born 23 November 1959) is an Argentine comics artist. In the United States he is best known for his work with writer Brian Azzarello on the Vertigo title 100 Bullets, while in Argentina and Europe he is noted for his collaborations with Ricardo Barreiro and Carlos Trillo. He has received much acclaim for his work.

Lewis Wilson

Lewis Gilbert Wilson (January 28, 1920 – August 9, 2000) was an American actor from New York City who was most famous for being the first actor to play DC Comics character Batman on screen in the 1943 film serial Batman.

List of Batman supporting characters

The Batman supporting characters are a collective of fictional characters appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics featuring the superhero, Batman, as the main protagonist.

Since Batman's introduction in 1939, the character has accumulated a number of recognizable supporting characters. The first Batman supporting character was Commissioner James Gordon, who first appeared in the same comic book as Batman in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939), and is Batman's ally in the Gotham City Police Department. Robin, Batman's vigilante partner, was introduced in the Spring of 1940, Alfred Pennyworth, Batman's butler, was introduced in 1943, and Barbara Gordon was introduced in 1967.

"Batman Family" is the informal term for Batman's closest allies, generally masked vigilantes operating in Gotham City. Batman also forms strong bonds or close working relationships with other superheroes, including Justice League members Superman, Green Arrow, Zatanna and Wonder Woman as well as members of the Outsiders superhero team. Others such as Jason Bard, Harold, Onyx, and Toyman work for him.

In addition, Batman has perhaps the most well known collection of adversaries in fiction, commonly referred to as Batman's rogues gallery, which includes the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Two-Face, among others.

List of people from Manitoba

This is a list of notable people who are from Manitoba, Canada, or have spent a large part or formative part of their career in that province.

Poni Adams

Betty Jane Bierce, better known by her stage name Jane "Poni" Adams (August 7, 1921 – May 21, 2014), was an American actress in radio, film, and television in the 1940s and 1950s.

Robert Lowery (actor)

Robert Lowery (born Robert Lowery Hanks, October 17, 1913 – December 26, 1971) was an American motion picture, television, and stage actor who appeared in more than seventy films.

Rudolph Flothow

Rudolph C. Flothow was a movie and television producer active from 1915 through the mid-1950s, producing more than 45 films and over 80 television episodes. Most of his productions were crime films for Columbia Pictures, including the 1943 Batman serial, and Crime Doctor, Whistler, Boston Blackie, and Ellery Queen films. He directed the sound sequences in the early sound feature Lucky Boy, starring George Jessel.

Shirley Patterson

Shirley Patterson, sometimes billed as Shawn Smith, (December 26, 1922 – April 4, 1995) was a Canadian born B-movie actress of the 1940s and 1950s.

The Green Hornet (serial)

The Green Hornet is a 1940 black-and-white 13 chapter movie serial from Universal Pictures, produced by Henry MacRae, directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor, starring Gordon Jones, Wade Boteler, Keye Luke, and Anne Nagel. The serial is based on The Green Hornet radio series by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker.

The Three Stooges

The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy team active from 1922 until 1970, best known for their 190 short subject films by Columbia Pictures that have been regularly airing on television since 1958. Their hallmark was physical farce and slapstick. Six stooges appeared over the act's run (with only three active at any given time): Moe Howard and Larry Fine were mainstays throughout the ensemble's nearly fifty-year run and the pivotal "third Stooge" was played by (in order of appearance) Shemp Howard, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard again, Joe Besser, and Curly Joe DeRita.

The act began in the early 1920s as part of a vaudeville comedy act billed as "Ted Healy and His Stooges", consisting originally of Healy and Moe Howard. Over time, they were joined by Moe's brother Shemp Howard, and then Larry Fine. The four appeared in one feature film, Soup to Nuts, before Shemp left to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by his younger brother, Jerome "Curly" Howard, in 1932. Two years later, after appearing in several movies, the trio left Healy and signed on to appear in their own short-subject comedies for Columbia Pictures, now billed as "The Three Stooges". From 1934 to 1946, Moe, Larry and Curly produced over 90 short films for Columbia. It was during this period that the three were at their peak popularity.

Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in May 1946, and Shemp returned, reconstituting the original lineup, until his death of a heart attack on November 22, 1955. Film actor Joe Palma was used as a stand-in to complete four Shemp-era shorts under contract (the maneuver thereafter became known as the "fake Shemp"). Columbia contract player Joe Besser joined as the third Stooge for two years (1956–57), departing in 1958 to nurse his ailing wife after Columbia terminated its shorts division. The studio then released all the shorts via Screen Gems, Columbia’s television studio and distribution unit. Screen Gems then syndicated the shorts to television, whereupon the Stooges became one of the most popular comedy acts of the early 1960s.

Comic actor Joe DeRita became "Curly Joe" in 1958, replacing Besser for a new series of full-length theatrical films. With intense television exposure, the act regained momentum throughout the 1960s as popular kids' fare, until Fine's paralyzing stroke in January 1970. Fine died in 1975 after a further series of strokes. Attempts were made to revive the Stooges with longtime supporting actor Emil Sitka in Fine's role in 1970, and again in 1975, but this attempt was cut short by Moe Howard's death on May 4, 1975.

The Three Stooges filmography

This is a complete list of short subjects and feature films that featured The Three Stooges released between 1930 and 1970.

Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Shemp Howard appeared in a single feature film with Ted Healy released by Fox Film Corporation entitled Soup to Nuts (1930). Shemp departed the act in 1932 to pursue a solo career and was replaced by younger brother Curly Howard. This incarnation of the team appeared in several shorts and feature films with Healy at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1933 and 1934.

Moe and Shemp appeared without Larry or Healy in a 1929 Fox Movietone Newsreel.

Moe appeared without Larry, Curly, or Healy in the 1933 MGM PSA Give a Man a Job.

Moe and Curly appeared without Healy or Larry in the MGM feature film Broadway to Hollywood (1933).

Moe and Curly appeared without Healy or Larry in the MGM short subject Jail Birds of Paradise (1934).

Curly appeared in the MGM short subject Roast Beef and Movies (1934) without Healy, Moe, or Larry.

Larry and Healy appeared without Moe or Curly in the MGM feature Stage Mother (1933).

Curly and Healy appeared without Moe or Larry in the MGM feature Operator 13 (1934).Moe, Larry and Curly left Healy in 1934 and moved to Columbia Pictures to begin their successful series of 190 shorts, with their contract extended each year until the final one expired on December 31, 1957. The final 8 of the 16 shorts with Joe Besser were released afterwards over the next 1⅓ years. It is for these 190 short films, which have appeared on television in steady rotation since 1958, that the Stooges are best known. These films appear on this list in numbered format. The Stooges would continue afterwards with Moe, Larry, and Joe DeRita (as "Curly Joe"), and make several full-length feature films between 1959 and 1970.

Timeline of science fiction

This is a timeline of science fiction as a literary tradition.

Wayne Manor

Wayne Manor is a fictional American mansion appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. It is the personal residence of Bruce Wayne, who is also the superhero Batman.

The residence is depicted as a large mansion on the outskirts of Gotham City and is maintained by the Wayne family's butler, Alfred Pennyworth. While the earliest stories showed Bruce Wayne buying the house himself, by the 1950s at the latest, retroactive continuity established that the manor had belonged to the Wayne family for several generations. Along with serving as a personal residence, the mansion sits above the Batcave, which Batman uses as his secret headquarters. The vast majority of DC Comics references place Wayne Manor just outside of Gotham City in the state of New Jersey.In the 1960s television series, the narrator refers to the mansion as "stately Wayne Manor". For live-action films, English country house locations in Nottinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and Buckinghamshire, as well as Stevenson Taylor Hall in New York, have been used to depict Wayne Manor.

William Austin (actor)

William Austin (12 June 1884 – 15 June 1975) was an English character actor. He was the first actor to play Alfred in a Batman adaptation.

Live-action television
Live-action films
Animated television
Animated films
Animated shorts
Enemies in other media
Supporting characters in other media
Related topics
Single films
See also
Pre-war serials
War-time serials
Post-war serials
Films directed by Lambert Hillyer

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