D: Lambert Hillyer / 17m
Cast: Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish, William Austin, John Maxwell
Having jumped from the truck just before it crashes through a barrier and topples down the side of a mountain, Batman (Wilson), along with Robin (Croft) and Alfred (Austin), return to Wayne Manor. Meanwhile, Dr Daka (Naish) bemoans yet another of his plans having failed, until he receives a message from a Japanese submarine advising him of a “package” being delivered to him that evening. The “package” is a Japanese soldier (the Living Corpse of the title) who instructs Daka to steal a Lockheed plane that has an experimental engine. At the same time, in his civilian guise of Bruce Wayne, Batman receives instructions from the US government to safeguard the very same Lockheed plane. While Daka kidnaps two Lockheed employees and turns them into zombies, Bruce and Dick go undercover at the Lockheed plant. Bruce sneaks onto the plane, while Dick discovers that Daka’s zombies have replaced the original pilots. He alerts Bruce (now dressed as Batman); Daka’s zombies tackle him. While they fight, the military learns of the plane’s hijacking and order it to be shot down. Soon the plane takes multiple hits, and crashes, sending the Caped Crusader to certain death…
…and the award for silliest entry so far goes to Chapter 5! After the turgid nature of Chapter 4, the writers perhaps imbibed a little too much sake, and the result is easily the wildest, most logic free entry of the series. The whole idea of the Living Corpse is just so spectacularly absurd it’s hard to believe anyone thought it would work in the first place. Dropped off by a submarine and delivered to Daka’s lair in a coffin, the Living Corpse is revived by electrical stimulus à la Frankenstein’s monster, imparts his message before tearing off a uniform button that contains further information about the plan, and then promptly expires. The whole thing is made all the more absurd thanks to two things: Daka having spoken to the submarine captain on the radio beforehand (why not have the captain relay the plan that way?), and the terrible map of the Lockheed plant that is retrieved from his button (it looks like it was done by someone with no real idea of what a map should look like). Whether it was meant to be a dramatic device or not, the result is laughter all round.
Chapter 5 also marks the point where the script starts to become irretrievably lazy. Daka zombifies the Lockheed workers, but unlike his other, similarly afflicted henchmen, they don’t wear the snazzy silver caps that act as control devices – so how does he control them? And instead of stealing experimental planes, why isn’t Daka out patenting the dashcam he’s had his henchmen install in the cockpit – the one that allows him to warn them that Batman is in the plane with them? It’s all too silly, and yet… and yet… all this silliness somehow works. Hillyer’s direction is as fluid and fast-paced as in Chapter 2, and even the now traditional dead spot where Batman is gifted a clue as to Daka’s next nefarious plan is fun (it involves an invisible message and a Young Scientist chemical set). Even the use of three different models once the Lockheed plane is in the air can’t detract from the fun to be had from this Chapter. And while all this craziness goes on, the cast get on with the arduous task of taking it all seriously, something that Shirley Patterson at least doesn’t have to worry about: she doesn’t appear at all (though to be fair, her character is probably still unconscious from the previous chapter). But if she did appear, one thing is for sure: she’d probably be wondering just how is Batman going to survive this time…?
Rating: 7/10 – a transformative episode, and a complete turnaround from the dour exploits of the previous entry, Chapter 5 ditches the serious tone adopted until now and opts for outright absurdity, making this possibly the most enjoyable episode so far; whether this approach continues in the next chapter remains to be seen, but let’s hope so, as by taking such a ridiculous and nonsensical direction, this might prove the making of the serial as a whole.