D: Lambert Hillyer / 17m
Cast: Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish, Shirley Patterson, William Austin, Robert Fiske, George Chesebro, Gus Glassmire
Having fallen from a power line while carrying Linda to safety, she and Batman are saved by Robin throwing the line that helped him to the ground. Meanwhile, Dr Daka is still trying to persuade Linda’s uncle, Martin Warren, to join the New Order. When he refuses, Daka decides there’s nothing for it but to turn Warren into a zombie, another of his men that he controls through a radio microphone. Back at Wayne Manor, all Batman and Robin can do is wait for a response to the ad they placed in the newspapers about the radium gun. While they do, Daka arranges to have a military supply train blown up as it crosses a bridge that evening. Before that, though, he charges his men with responding to the ad and retrieving the radium gun. They fall for Batman’s trap, but in the process of escaping, leave behind details of their plan for the supply train. Racing to where Daka’s henchmen are planting the explosives, the ensuing fight leaves Batman unconscious on the bridge, and with the supply train thundering towards his prone body…
After the breakneck pace of Chapter 2, Chapter 3 settles into a steadier groove once Linda is saved. There’s more time spent with Dr Daka, time that gives the impression Naish is channelling the spirit of Peter Lorre as Mr Moto in his performance. And though the chapter is titled The Mark of the Zombies we’re still no nearer finding out why Daka even bothers turning people into zombies in the first place. We’ve seen a total of three so far: an ex-colleague of Warren’s who attacked Batman in Chapter 1 before inexplicably jumping to his death, and the two who act as doormen whenever Daka wants to move from the New Order’s meeting room to his adjacent laboratory. Now there’s poor old Warren to make it four. How fiendish! There’s fun to be had, though, in the contrast between Daka’s nefarious actions and a contemporaneous scene that sees Bruce and Dick lounging about at Wayne Manor waiting for a break to come their way. It could almost be a behind the scenes moment with Wilson and Croft waiting to be called for their next scene. Thankfully it’s a short scene and then the script remembers it needs to get a move on.
The plan to blow up the supply train serves as a reminder that for all the superhero trappings and radium gun shenanigans, Daka is at heart a saboteur working for Emperor Hirohito. It’s a timely reminder in terms of the overall story that it’s more than likely that Columbia had an idea for a World War II-set serial laying around and Batman was co-opted into it. But before all that, there’s the small matter of Daka’s henchmen and the trap set for them by Batman. The first of two excuses for another poorly choreographed punch up, this sequence features Alfred disguised as an early precursor of Colonel Sanders, and once the scrapping has started, calling for help on the telephone in his own inimitable English fashion: “Get me Scotland Yard… I mean get me the police… get me anybody, I’m being murdered!” As he did in Chapter 2, Austin steals the show (which admittedly isn’t difficult), and the action becomes more entertaining because of his presence. As for Wilson, he’s a little stiff this time around, perhaps reminding himself he’s got another twelve chapters to get through in that ill-fitting hood, and asking himself how did his career start off like this. What he should be asking, though, is just how is Batman going to survive this time…?
Rating: 7/10 – a solid, dependable chapter that isn’t as fast-paced as its predecessor, this is still entertaining stuff thanks to Hillyer’s firm hand on the tiller, and a script – give it up for Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker and Harry L. Fraser – that knows how to give the appearance of moving things forward while also keeping them static at the same time; at this point, Batman is in danger of just having the Caped Crusader turn up for a fight before being put in mortal jeopardy each week, but there’s enough here (so far) to stop that from being a problem.