Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Nerdversity Discussion: Batman in Live Action Film (Part 1: The Early Years)

As Batman vs. Superman has had it's opening weekend and hit a record $425 million opening, outclassing all previous entries into the Batman franchise and even beating Marvel's own Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, we thought we'd take a look at the history of Batman in film.

Early Films

Batman's first ever outing in the world of theater was the a 1943 serial called The Batman. It was a 15 part movie. The serial introduced many things that would become staples in the Batman mythos since, these would include the Utility Belt, the Bat Cave, Alfred being trim and with a moustache, rather than overweight, the Bat Cave's entrance through a grandfather clock. It was directed by Lambert Hillyer and stars Lewis Wilson as Bruce Wayne/Batman. As it was written and was shown in theaters in the 1940s, it has a very anti-axis and anti-Japanese sentiment to it. The plot revolves around the Japanese villain Dr. Daka, who has invented a machine that turns people into zombies. The serial has been re-broadcast several times and is available on DVD.

In 1949, Columbia released their second Batman serial, named Batman and Robin. It was directed by Sam Katzman and starred Robert Lowry as Batman. The plot revolves around a villain called The Wizard, who has invented an electronic device that can control cars. It's up to the Dynamic Duo to stop him once and for all. This one was more derided by fans and critics as Columbia had cheapened out badly, as they had poorly fitting costumes on both Batman and Robin, cheaper effects and it's more obvious in this movie which are the real actors and which are the stunt men. Robin's stunt man wore pink tights to hide his hairy legs. It ran for 15 chapters and has since been released on DVD.

In 1966, Adam West's Batman hit the big screen, marking this the first ever big screen appearance of the Caped Crusader in feature film. Production of the movie was troubled from the get go, as Fox were unwilling to pay up for a feature film, as it was too risky. Fox also threatened to fire Adam West from the movie after he asked for more money. The plot revolves around the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman and The Riddler kidnapping the United World Headquarters Security Council. it's up to Batman and Robin to save the day. This would also mark the big screen debut of the TV series cast in those roles and it would also feature Batman tackling real world issues, such as the Cold War. It has since been released on DVD.

These movies represented America and Batman in the Golden Age of Comics. However, things were about to get strange for the Caped Crusader in the 1970s and 1980s.