Columbia, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish, Lambert Hillyer, Lewis Wilson, Radium, Review, Serial, Shirley Patterson, Swami, Thriller
D: Lambert Hillyer / 18m
Cast: Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish, Shirley Patterson, William Austin, Robert Fiske, Gus Glassmire
Having been shoved off the bridge by Robin (Croft) into the river below, Batman (Wilson) at least has the reassurance of knowing that Dr Daka’s henchmen weren’t able to blow up the supply train. This is something that Daka (Naish) is unaware of at first, but his chief henchman, Foster (Fiske), soon arrives at his lair and gives him the bad news. Foster also turns on him, telling Daka he’s on the losing side, but when he tries to leave, he falls through a trapdoor into a pit full of crocodiles (naturally). Meanwhile, Batman and Robin wait for their next lead. It comes in the form of Linda (Patterson) getting a call to visit a swami where she’ll learn more about her Uncle Martin’s disappearance. It’s all a ruse to get hold of a receipt for a shipment of radium Linda is overseeing to the Gotham City Foundation. Daka’s goons grab the receipt, but Batman and Robin give chase by car. Batman gets onto the goons’ truck, disables two of the men inside by using the radium gun, but when he tussles with the driver, the truck crashes through a barrier and barrels down the side of a mountain, sending the Caped Crusader to certain death…
Four episodes in and already there are increased signs of padding (though not quite as much as there is around the waist of Wilson’s stunt double). For the third time we’re treated to the sight of one of Daka’s men take the fairground ride to his hideout, and for the second time, Daka is given an extended amount of screen time that doesn’t bring anything new to the narrative. On this evidence – and if you thought he had a superpower – the sight of him talking into a microphone is the one thing he seems able to do really well (and with menace). Naish still sounds like Peter Lorre playing Mr Moto – but in a karaoke impression kind of way – and he’s about as menacing as the middle aged men he’s turned into zombies. But he’s still more interesting than the Dynamic Duo, here fast becoming the Dynamic Dunderheads. It’s perhaps unfair, but as the serial is progressing, the decisions Batman and Robin are making aren’t necessarily the brightest. As Bruce, Batman decides to take the swami’s place when Linda visits him, but all it does is ensure she’s grabbed and loses the all-important receipt (though why go to all that trouble when they could just hijack the shipment? Oh well…)
It’s indicative of the problems the serial is facing when an episode that runs eighteen minutes feels tired and perfunctory. Batman is saved at the beginning (naturally), the focus switches to the villain (cue more exposition about the New Order), Bruce and Dick bemoan their lack of clues, Linda is placed in danger once again (it already seems as if she’s spent more time unconscious than not), Robin proves himself useless at being a lookout (again), and there’s the expected showdown between Batman and another bunch of Daka’s hoodlums. It’s formulaic, and it’s unlikely to change any time soon – the high water mark of Chapter 2 already feels like it was ages ago – but still and all, there’s something about the way Hillyer pushes things on that’s appealing, even when his cast stumble over their lines (step forward, Naish and Croft). Despite the lethargy in the script, Hillyer still manages to inject some much needed pace into the material, and the chapter is (naturally) over before you know it. Luckily, it still makes you wonder, just how is Batman going to survive this time…?
Rating: 6/10 – a slapdash, mediocre episode that chugs along without raising too many cheers for itself, Chapter 4 leaves the serial in idle while it rehashes old scenes and doesn’t even try to hide the fact; by this still relatively early stage, Batman seems to be holding back “the good stuff”, so the benefit of the doubt is required, but let’s hope things improve in Chapter 5.
Thanks very much!