Gotham City Serials – Batman/Batman And Robin: The Complete 1940s Movie Serials Collection (DVD)

It’s a good time to be a Batman fan. With another movie coming up, a new prequel series, and the Adam West Batman show finally coming to DVD this year, Mill Creek is wise to release the forties theatrical serials for Batman fans daring enough to venture in to the sketchy movie serials of the 1940’s. Don’t go in to this string of movie serials expecting modern Batman, or even Adam West Batman. It’s a very low budget adaptation of the Bill Finger character that also is heavily steeped in racial stereotypes. If you can consider the context of the serials, you may just enjoy the two disc DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment.

Batman may not be the brooding and dark character we know him as, but he’s definitely a menacing anti-hero who seems to enjoy taunting criminals. Much of what’s featured in the serials became Batman Staples. There’s the introduction of the Bat Cave, the grandfather clock that leads in to the bat cave, and there’s the very first slim Alfred Pennyworth, who was once an overweight servant. To make up for lack of budget, the serials lacks any of the banner Batman villains and have a pretty stock villain to be the central threat for the entire series. The first of which is the evil Dr. Daka, a Japanese scientist who intends to capture local politicians and wealthy people to turn them in to his own personal zombies.

There’s no Batmobile, as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson ride around with Alfred, and change in the car, appearing as the Dynamic duo. Lewis Wilson is entertaining as Batman and Bruce Wayne, turning the Dark Knight in to as menacing and heroic a character as possible. Douglas Croft, however, looks far too old for the Boy Wonder, and never really contributes to much, except serving as a brief assistance to the Dark Knight before being knocked unconscious. The “Batman” serials are fairly simple i their presentations with Batman and Robin being called on to stop Dr. Daka, and looking for ways to stop his methods of turning people in to zombies and saving lives. There are some interesting and tense cliffhangers including a moment where Batman walks along a high wire racing against an electric charge that threatens to kill him.

“Batman and Robin” follow a comic book theme slightly more with a cloaked villain named the Wizard, who challenges the dynamic duo. If you can get over the apparent low budget and lame inconsistencies, the sequel isn’t that bad. The utility belt is exchanged in favor of a regular belt, there’s still no bat mobile, and Batman and Robin’s suit look very lazily put together. They’re also poorly fit to the form of actors Robert Lowry and Johnny Duncan. The “Batman” movie serials definitely pose a low budget, but for Batman completists, and folks that love the classic movie serials, this has its charms and definite novelty, much in the way Kirk Alyn’s “Superman” serials still hold value for Superman fans.

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