Action, Columbia, Douglas Croft, Drama, J. Carrol Naish, Lambert Hillyer, Lewis Wilson, Review, Serial, Shirley Patterson, The Sphinx Club, Thriller
D: Lambert Hillyer / 16m
Cast: Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish, Shirley Patterson, William Austin, John Maxwell, Ted Oliver
Surviving the explosion in the mine thanks to a pair of well placed cross beams, Batman and Robin rescue an also lucky Linda, and one of Daka’s henchmen, Marshall (Oliver). They take Marshall to the Bat Cave, but he won’t talk – at first. Leaving him alone, he escapes his bonds (as planned) and uses a conveniently situated telephone to make a call. Expecting this, Batman uses a device that details the number called and uses it to find out the location of Marshall’s hideout. It proves to be a riverfront joint called the Sphinx Club. Bruce decides to infiltrate the hideout disguised as a criminal called Chuck White (his disguise is so good it fools Linda). Once inside the Sphinx Club, Bruce/Chuck meets Fletcher (Maxwell), one of Daka’s lieutenants. At the point where he has to prove he’s a friend of Marshall’s, Bruce is rescued by Robin distracting Fletcher and his men. While Bruce changes into his Batman outfit, Robin is chased through the nearby docks. Batman joins the fray, but is overpowered and knocked unconscious. Then one of Fletcher’s men cuts the rope for the gang plank, sending it crashing down on the Caped Crusader, and sending Batman to certain death…
The end of the Colton-radium mine sub-plot (which sadly sees the end of Charles Middleton’s involvement in the serial), means a change in direction for Batman, and a return to the not so heady days of the earlier episodes. Instead of a story arc designed to play out across several chapters, we’re back to another installment where Batman and Robin locate another place where Daka has a connection, they head over there after gaining any relevant information with ease, and engage in a punch up with Daka’s goons. It’s a makeshift, or make-do, entry that marks a major backward step for the serial, and which feels as if – once again – Messrs McLeod, Swabacker and Fraser need to pad out an episode as best they can before, hopefully, a new and stronger sub-plot can be introduced to see the serial through to the end. Even Hillyer, the serial’s chief energiser, can’t do anything with this chapter, and his direction is perfunctory at best and uninspired at worst. It’s an episode that goes through the motions in a way that seemed to have been left behind in Chapter 4.
Despite all this, though, there are a couple of moments where the serial’s penchant for unexpected mirth is to the fore, and where suspension of belief is not only required, but practically demanded. The scene in the Bat Cave, where Marshall finds and is able to use a telephone is a corker, a real moment of inspired lunacy on the writers’ part that has to be seen to be believed. It’s possibly the serial’s funniest, silliest moment so far, an occurrence so far-fetched and incredible that in some ways you have to acknowledge the brazen absurdity of it all (and by the way, that henchman is still there, possibly without food or water, while Batman and Robin are being duffed up at the docks). The other moment is where Linda is presented with Bruce as Chuck, and doesn’t recognise him. It’s funny because it’s obviously Bruce with a putty nose and unflattering eyebrows; anyone can see it. The serial’s sense of humour has always been a little bit hit and miss, but here it’s so far off kilter that you can’t help wondering if it’s all been done on a dare. And dropping a gang plank on the Caped Crusader? Just how is Batman going to survive this time…?
Rating: 6/10 – replete with too many absurdities – “We never got to the cave. It was so hot out, we laid down by the roadside and took a nap” – Chapter 9 undoes all the good work of the previous three episodes and resigns Batman to another round of repetitive storytelling; once again, there’s no option but to hope that things improve in Chapter 10.