"I have an idea the Batman should look into this," announces playboy Bruce Wayne.
"And don't forget Robin," chimes in young Dick Grayson, as he vaults into the back seat of Wayne's open roadster.
"Quick, Alfred! Drive into that alley and put up the top."
The tempo of the music picks up and you know that the Dynamic Duo are off on another adventure. But this escapade is not like any you may have read about in Detective Magazine or Batman Comics; the serial was made in 1943 and the plot is drenched with a kind of propaganda our generation has rarely ever seen. The Batman (the "the" wasn't dropped until after the war) is described as "the United States' number one crime-fighter, even now as the Axis criminals are spreading their evil around the globe."
The serial crawls with spies, but not everyday ones: these are "shifty eyed Japs," master-minded by sinister, moustachioed Dr. Dacquar (played by J. Carroll Naish, the only actor whose name I recognized). Dacquar takes orders only from "Hirohito, Heavenly Ruler and Prince of the Rising Sun," and has set up headquarters for the treacherous "Legion of the New Order" deep in the bowels of a Chamber of Horrors. The fun house, which contains exhibits as subtle as four fierce and leering Japanese soldiers pointing bayonets at a beautiful white girl, is the only occupied building in "Little Tokyo, part of a fallen (foreign?) land lifted and brought to the United States intact, but whose occupants have wisely now been taken away."
Intertwined throughout the story line are "a small yet deadly forerunner of the atomsmasher" in the form of a radium ray gun, the New Order's extremely reliable truth serum, and a half-dozen patriotic Americans who refused to work for Dacquar and therefore were turned into zombies, being thus "deprived of their ability to think."
The Batman (someone named Lewis Wilson) fits the funny book picture all the way down to his square jaw. Robin, the Boy Wonder (someone with too much curly hair), looks a bit too effeminate. Linda (Gotham's own Lois Lane) is pretty enough, so we can let our hero admire her with out compromising our conception of him.
Episode One (The Electrical Brain) was shown this week. The next chapter (The Bat's Cave) will be shown during vacation. But don't miss any more of this serial--it's terribly camp. The Brattle has done a good thing for the cause justice.