Batman (1943, Lambert Hillyer), Chapter 13: Eight Steps Down

Despite the previous chapter suggesting a cliffhanger, turns out the resolution is more about Douglas Croft and William Austin’s impatience than anything else.

But as Batman is now seventy-some percent complete, things start happening in Eight Steps Down. Though nothing about eight steps. There’s a narrative jump between one part of Lewis Wilson and Croft investigating (in costume) and another, so maybe the eight steps are just supposed to be the implied distance they descended?

I guess Eight Steps Down sounds more thrilling than Almost Five Feet Down, but whatever.

J. Carrol Naish’s goons deliver Shirley Patterson to him and, no, it doesn’t turn out she’s any less of a bigot than the serial itself. He’s going to brainwash her to get her to write a letter to Wilson because Naish has decided he must be Batman.

Meanwhile, Wilson is actually doing some investigating and happens upon Naish’s underground layer. You know, the one apparently almost five feet below the surface.

The episode ends with an actual cliffhanger for Wilson and some ominous plot development for Patterson. It’s still clunky, but it’s probably the best Batman has ever been.

CREDITS

Directed by Lambert Hillyer; screenplay by Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker, and Harry L. Fraser, based on characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger; director of photography, James S. Brown Jr.; edited by Dwight Caldwell and Earl Turner; music by Lee Zahler; produced by Rudolph C. Flothow; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Lewis Wilson (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Douglas Croft (Robin / Dick Grayson), Shirley Patterson (Linda Page), William Austin (Alfred Pennyworth), and J. Carrol Naish (Dr. Daka).


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Vesper (2017, Keyvan Sheikhalishahi)

Vesper has something like six “gotcha” reveals, which is a lot for a killer. Especially since Vesper runs twenty-three minutes. And the first gotcha is in the first five minutes. The experience of watching the film quickly becomes waiting for director Sheikhalishahi to spring another one.

The story has (maybe) agoraphobic Agnès Godey being stalked by ex-husband Götz Otto (or is she?). Her nephew, played by Sheikhalishahi, comes to visit her. He suffers from photophobia (or does he?) and gets involved. Godey is also being haunted by a spectre of Otto (or is… you get the idea), which she fails to reveal to Sheikhalishahi (or… you already got it, sorry).

Sheikhalishahi’s direction is pretty good. He’s a little too obvious in his thriller moods–especially with Gréco Casadesus’s overbearing score–and Jean-Claude Aumont’s photography, while gorgeous, is all wrong for what Sheikhalishahi’s trying to do. Aumont gives luscious reality while the characters exist in Gothic nightmare.

Sheikhalishahi’s script is a mess, though at least consistent, I suppose.

Godey’s okay when the script’s okay, which tends to be when she’s opposite Sheikhalishahi. He’s not good in those scenes, but whatever. It’s just nice to see Godey doing well by then. Otto’s in a similar boat. He’s better when the script’s better; he gets a great villain showdown beach scene with would-be hero Sheikhalishahi. Unfortunately, it doesn’t signal a change in the narrative, which just goes back to being gotcha-happy.

With the strong production values, the technical excellences, and the competent performances, Vesper ought to be a lot better. It’s a shame about the script.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, directed, and produced by Keyvan Sheikhalishahi; director of photography, Jean-Claude Aumont; edited by Marie-Jo Nenert; music by Gréco Casadesus; production designer, Sheikhalishahi.

Starring Götz Otto (Walter), Agnès Godey (Marge), and Keyvan Sheikhalishahi (Christian).


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Batman (1943, Lambert Hillyer), Chapter 12: Embers of Evil

The chapter opens with Batman leaving some guy to get killed–it was hinted at in the cliffhanger, which resolves even more stupidly than I expected, but I sort of assumed Batman wasn’t going to get some guy killed.

Nope, he’s fine with it.

J. Carrol Naish gets more screen time this chapter than he has been lately, but he’s just plotting. Same goes for Shirley Patterson; she reappears in Batman so she can finally get held hostage. Or held hostage again. It’s hard to remember as she hasn’t been part of the serial in quite a while.

Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft gets some lacking scenes out of costume before going to rescue Patterson. Maybe the funniest part of the chapter is when Wilson’s trying to find Patterson in a basement he and Croft presumably already searched.

I suppose there’s nothing too terrible about it technically, which is kind of a compliment. Though Batman doesn’t deserve many or, usually, any.

CREDITS

Directed by Lambert Hillyer; screenplay by Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker, and Harry L. Fraser, based on characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger; director of photography, James S. Brown Jr.; edited by Dwight Caldwell and Earl Turner; music by Lee Zahler; produced by Rudolph C. Flothow; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Lewis Wilson (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Douglas Croft (Robin / Dick Grayson), Shirley Patterson (Linda Page), William Austin (Alfred Pennyworth), and J. Carrol Naish (Dr. Daka).


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Batman (1943, Lambert Hillyer), Chapter 11: A Nipponese Trap

So, even though the title is A Nipponese Trap, there’s no trap in the chapter. Unless it’s when the bad guys bail out Lewis Wilson–in his thug disguise–so they can run him over. Except Douglas Croft and William Austin have already bailed him out, yet they don’t go to pick him up. The bad guys are there.

Screenwriters Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker, and Harry L. Fraser are really out of ideas for this one. Besides the pointless double bailout sequences, there’s also Austin repeating Wilson’s instructions to Croft, even though the viewer heard Wilson’s instructions. Sure, it gives Austin another few lines and he’s fun, but it’s another drag on the already dragging narrative.

The resolution to the cliffhanger is bad, as always, though it’s also revealed Wilson left Croft unconscious with five of the bad guys to run away. Batman’s really not good at the whole caped crusader thing; the screenwriters characterize him as a punch-happy tool.

Though it is nice for Wilson to get some scenes in his thug persona. He’s pretty funny in it.

And, sadly, the usually sturdy editors flop at the end–Dwight Caldwell and Earl Turner’s cuts setting up the cliffhanger reveal its resolution.

Oh, and the one big action set piece–a truck accident–obviously uses footage from something else. Worse, someone had the shockingly dumb idea of giving the non-action truck a distinct signage… which clearly doesn’t match the old footage.

It’s just inept at this point.

CREDITS

Directed by Lambert Hillyer; screenplay by Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker, and Harry L. Fraser, based on characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger; director of photography, James S. Brown Jr.; edited by Dwight Caldwell and Earl Turner; music by Lee Zahler; produced by Rudolph C. Flothow; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Lewis Wilson (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Douglas Croft (Robin / Dick Grayson), Shirley Patterson (Linda Page), William Austin (Alfred Pennyworth), and J. Carrol Naish (Dr. Daka).


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