Batman (1943, Lambert Hillyer), Chapter 14: The Executioner Strikes

The impossible occurs, one chapter until the finish, with The Executioner Strikes actually having a satisfying cliffhanger resolution. A somewhat satisfying one. Better than any of the others.

After that high point, unfortunately, the chapter gets pretty bad for a while. First, it’s dumb, with Lewis Wilson revealing himself to the bad guys without costume, then chasing them down in the car to attack them as Batman. William Austin drives the car the whole time, never in costume. Presumably, unless they’re going to be killed, these guys can identify Wilson as Batman.

And when Wilson, Austin, and Douglas Croft do catch up to them, it’s probably the worst fight scene in a Batman chapter so far. James S. Brown Jr.’s day for night photography is bad enough, but then Hillyer speeds up the film. What wacky antics.

Then it’s time for Shirley Patterson to come back in–she was brainwashed at the open–and for Wilson to fall into a trap he said he was expecting. There’s a lot of costumed Batman about town doing stunt work this chapter. Lots of derring-do.

If the cliffhanger resolution weren’t so predictably setup, it might actually be effective. Though maybe the energy of Batman almost being over just gives it more potential.

J. Carrol Naish is around quite a bit. Despite his entirely offensive performance, Naish does at least try to have some fun, which no one else manages.

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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