D: Lambert Hillyer / 17m
Cast: Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish, Shirley Patterson, William Austin, Charles Middleton, John Maxwell, William Wilkerson
Thanks to Robin’s quick thinking in turning off the power to the lift, Batman avoids certain death again. Worried by Colton’s disappearance, Linda decides to try and find him; Bruce and Dick agree to go with her. Meanwhile, back at Dr Daka’s lair, Colton (Middleton), to avoid being turned into one of Daka’s zombies, agrees to reveal the location of his radium mine. The next day sees Colton and six of Daka’s henchmen arrive at the mine, but Colton gets away from them and heads deeper into the mine. At the same time, Bruce, Dick and Linda, accompanied by Alfred, arrive at Colton’s cabin. While Linda and Alfred wait there, Bruce and Dick go to the mine, where they discover Daka’s men are there. Changing into their Batman and Robin outfits they enter the mine and a fight ensues. Back at the cabin, Colton appears from below a hidden trapdoor intent on blowing up the mine so that Daka cannot use the radium. Back down in the mine, he primes the explosives, but during the continuing fight, one of Daka’s men falls on the detonator, the blast collapsing the mine and sending Batman to certain death…
Now at the halfway point, Batman still feels as if it’s hitting its stride and comfortably so, with the sub-plot involving Colton’s radium mine providing continued excitement. As with Chapter 7, this has a shorter runtime than is apparent, thanks to the inclusion of the whole fight scene from the end of its predecessor (and not to mention the opening titles etc.). But again, everything is played out more concisely, and with a lot more verve, even though the script takes time out to introduce Steve (Wilkerson), a Native American who helps Bruce et al with directions to Colton’s cabin and the mine. It’s hard to work out why the character is there at all – Colton can provide directions by himself, and Linda has a map showing where the mine is – but his presence is a pleasant enough diversion, and doesn’t interfere with the overall pace of the episode. It does give Wilson and Croft a chance to be seen more as Bruce and Dick than in most chapters, and gives Wilson in particular a chance to break away from the earnestness that comes with being Batman.
But while these are relatively new elements – improvements even – the script still has plenty of tried and trusted moments for fans/viewers who haven’t given up yet to enjoy, from Linda accusing Bruce of being too lazy, Alfred behaving like the milquetoast he so clearly is, Croft’s stuntman having way less hair when dressed as Robin, and Naish’s make up giving Daka a perma-sneer. It’s still all in service to the kind of story that appears to have been made up from chapter to chapter, and it still benefits from Hillyer’s grasp of the absurdity of it all. As the serial continues it’s Hillyer who’s proving to be Batman‘s most valuable player, offsetting even the most risible moments with a straightforward, unfussy style that helps override the inherent silliness of it all. There’s even the odd, unexpected camera angle that belies the idea that camera set ups were purely of the one-and-done variety. Now that the serial has found its feet, there’s a consistency and a purpose about it all that augurs well for the second half of the serial as a whole, even though this chapter will see the end of the Colton sub-plot, and maybe the last time we ask the question just how is Batman going to survive this time…?
Rating: 7/10 – continuing the more confident approach first seen in Chapter 5, Chapter 7 is another solid, enjoyable chapter in a serial that has been mostly the opposite up until now; while not stretching the boundaries of serials made at the time, Batman is still worth watching, and still the kind of basic, no-frills entertainment that can be entirely its own reward.