The New Adventures Of Batman And Robin, The Boy Wonder 1949 Serial (film serial review).

When I was looking for a copy of ‘The New Adventures Of Batman And Robin, The Boy Wonder 1949 Serial’, I came across this one. It isn’t official but it is good quality.

I don’t think actors Robert Lowry (Bruce Wayne/Batman) and John Duncan (Dick Grayson/Robin) were selected for their alter-egos as much as their civies. Certainly, there have been some remedies for wearing his cloak but having the bat logo on his chest lower doesn’t benefit the padded undersuit. Other significant changes is to the casting as we have Vicki Vale (actress Jane Adams) and Commissioner Gordon (actor Lyle Talbot) and he does use the Bat Signal, albeit out of window than from the roof. I did wonder how the duo would see it when they were in the Batcave (it got called that this time) but Alfred Beagle (actor Eric Wilton) in the house does and they still have the grandfather clock access to the Batcave. Commissioner Gordon knows who Batman is and will ring him with information which beggars the question why does he use the Bat Signal to alert him? To be fair to Vicki Vale, she does ask the Batman why he’s driving Bruce Wayne’s car but told he loaned it to him which she seems to accept some of the time.

Just when you think Batman does nothing with his utility, in an emergency, he pulls out a full-size acetylene torch and breathing tubes for him and Robin to get out of a burning building’s strongroom. A similar situation a couple episodes more in and the torch isn’t there but when you bear in mind this series has 3 writers, it might be more of a case of not doing the same thing twice.

There are some bonuses. Batman’s cape doesn’t revolve around in a fight like in the 1943 series and he neatly has it surrounding himself in a conversation a’la something Frank Miller did decades later. In many respects, I can see the costume designers thinking along similar lines with the masks and trying to disguise them more than copying the comicbooks. I agree with the critics that Robin looks older than a teenager but it probably helped when it came to having the right-sized stuntman. Both of them are also vulnerable in a fight but that’s the nature of a serial or it would have been over in a couple episodes, although guns are rarely used.

Their foe, the Wizard, is shown from the beginning, although they do leave question marks over who he is, despite contrary evidence. He’s also in a costume and even his team don’t know who he is. Recruitment is only hinted at but only those higher up ever get to meet him. A mechanical whizz with a device that can stop vehicles at a distance. Batman knows who the original inventor is, Professor Hammil (actor William Fawcett) but as he’s crippled, not likely to be the Wizard. He does appear to be taking treatment to not use a wheelchair and yet, in the last episodes no one blinks an eye or questions why he’s suddenly walking. Into this mix is news reporter Barry Brown (actor Rick Vallin) who seems to have information about the Wizard’s activities, let alone the police. Some of how this is gotten is revealed over the episodes.

I have to be careful not to reveal spoilers but the Wizard reveal at the end turns out not to be an unmasking but Batman figuring it out. He really is more detective here than any of his latter carnations. Even when you think you’ve figured it out, it isn’t quite who you think it is which is a bit of a cheat.

OK, some of this serial is unintentionally funny. With the opening credits, Batman and Robin are looking around and it does look a little like they are confused but the footage is actually from the episode as they are looking around. It belies the serial itself which moves at a pace as they thwart the Wizard’s plans as they try to track him down. The Wizard is actually a criminal mastermind and not a two-bit villain. Any quaintness is basically because its set in the late 1940s but you get used to people walked around in fedora hats and suits all the time, even indoors. It is worth more than a few dilatory comments about the costumes, which are stored in bags on the second shelf of a metal cabinet, because the series is worth more than that.

GF Willmetts

August 2023

(2 DVDS 1 * 28 minute episode, 14 * 16 minute episodes)

cast: Robert Lowry, John Duncan, Jane Adams, Lyle Talbot, Eric Wilton, William Fawcett and many more


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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