The first chapter of Batman introduces the main cast–Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft as Batman and Robin (and their alter egos), villain J. Carrol Naish, damsel in distress Shirley Patterson–and establishes some of the ground situation. Naish is an evil Japanese agent (if Electric Brain is any indication, Batman is going to be exceptionally racist) who kidnaps Patterson’s uncle. He’s got a ray gun, a secret lair, mind control devices, all sorts of gadgets.
He’s also got henchman who can beat up Wilson and Croft without much trouble.
There’s not much establishing for Wilson and Croft; I’m not even sure they get their civilian identities. And Brain skips any Batman origin–there’s a quick line of dialogue suggesting Batman and Robin are unofficial domestic agents, trying to root out Axis evil on the home front.
Decent (enough) performances from Wilson and Patterson–and an amiable one from Croft–work in spite of the script. When he’s not in costume running around, Wilson’s mostly a boob. And Naish and his goons are pretty dim, so Wilson comes off as incompetent, which doesn’t help things.
There’s only the one big action sequence, setting up the cliffhanger. Wilson and Croft get mercilessly beat up. While problematic for the narrative, it is the only time the Batman costume looks all right. Dwight Caldwell and Earl Turner’s editing, both on the fisticuffs and an early car chase, is solid. There’s only so much they can do with the material though.
The teaser for the second chapter is particularly weak–and completely unrelated to the cliffhanger, like the filmmakers knew the cliffhanger wasn’t compelling.
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), Gus Glassmire (Martin Warren), Robert Fiske (Foster), and J. Carrol Naish (Dr. Daka).