Batman and Robin 1949 Review

The second cinematic appearance of Batman in 1949 features an instantly recognizable Batman as well as equally recognizable Boy Wonder, Robin. This is a movie of “Firsts” for cinematic Batman.

This time Batman is up against a more familiar kind of villain. ‘The Wizard’ can take control of most mechanical devices. He’s a simple anarchistic blackmailer who uses his super tech to control planes, trains and automobiles. He’s a menace with a few options and some powerful tech. The Wizard can turn all vehicles off and on or cause your engine to catch fire.

This time our bad guy does have a supervillain outfit. He’s not as menacing as The Batman 1943’s villain, Dr Daka, but this time the movie isn’t racist war propaganda with a Japanese bad guy. The Batman 1943 is pure Post Pear Harbor Fear. ‘Batman and Robin’ is a bit better just from the lack of overt racism.

This is the setup we’re used to. Bad guy ‘The Wizard’ is a powerful extortionist and Batman is finally in Gotham as a Crime Fighter. The Batman 1943 takes place in Los Angeles and is actually a Spy Movie with The Batman working for the US Government. This movie is the first time a costumed villain faces off against cinematic Batman.

The writers had wisely gone back to the drawing board to craft a more interesting Bruce Wayne. Now he’s got a wisecracking side and mocks rival comic hero “The Shadow” as a fictional radio play, copping his signature line and using it as a quip. I found this to be a funny dis, it’s really on the nose. The movie never lacks confidence, possibly because it’s somewhat self aware.

In the role of Batman and Bruce Wayne we have Robert Lowery and he does a good job. He’s a good Bruce Wayne and a good Batman. His performance is superior to that of Lewis Wilson in 1943, but he did have the previous movie to work off of.

Lowery is in better shape than your average 1940’s tough guy and he’s pretty handsome. Lowery was fairly successful and was in some big movies like Drums Along The Mohawk with John Wayne. He had a pretty notable career, mostly in westerns.

Lowery is around long enough to be in a movie with Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, but the poor guy only made it to 57. His career was back on the rise as a poor man’s Carey Grant at the time of his death. He outlived his own father by a good deal though, perhaps heart attacks ran in his family. At least he had a good run.

This movie’s plot was pretty damn stupid in its time, but is actually much less insane now. In our world of increased computerization and wifi connectivity this story would actually work. It was outright impossible magic in 1949 though. The Wizard is basically what we would call ‘A Black Hat Hacker” who can hijack vehicles remotely.

The plot is playing on fear of technology in general and has some similarities to Stephen King’s movie Maximum Overdrive that way. You can’t trust your car and there’s a couple of vehicle bail outs in this movie.

The Wizard

The Wizard’s gear is unexplained except that it operates the same as a legitimate control device created by a genius inventor and needs great power generated from diamonds to function. The diamonds only last just so long when he uses his tech.

The need to refresh The Controller’s power is helpful in both limiting the machines power and creating a need the villain has to constantly fulfill. Later he figures out an alternate power source and kidnaps its inventor.

The Wizard is always hunting for power sources. It’a how Batman slowly figures out his way to the Wizards lair. This was the best writing touch in the movie as far as cause and effect.

The Controller is limited to a degree but it’s still more than enough to elevate the Wizard to ‘low level supervillain.’

Along with a big ego the Wizard has assets like thugs, a submarine, a radio Deejay who leaks threats for him and the not so great but still important supervillain outfit. He’s a match for this Batman.

At his disposal Batman has his mansion and wealth. The mansion sports a secret entrance to the Batcave and some crime fighting tech. We only see one room of the mansion, but this movie was made cheaply and it shows. Some of the sets are ‘garbage tier.’

Robin is well played by Johnny Duncan. This movie maintains the new look of Alfred established in the 1943 movie. He looks like we expect him too. He’s pretty thin and very old.

We get the cinematic debut of Vicky Vale, photographer and girlfriend of Bruce Wayne. The actress is pretty cute and fairly capable in this role. Vicky is off and on suspicious Bruce is Batman; but she’s easily fooled out of it.

Every criminal as well every reporter in Gotham should suspect that Batman and Bruce Wayne are “one and the same,” as several characters outright say. Bruce Wayne is too close to too many events not to be Batman.

This movie messes around with people suspecting Bruce Wayne is Batman for the first time. Someone actually takes off Batman’s mask immediately on his incapacitation, so we have that for the first time.

Bruce Wayne is played much differently than in The Batman 1943. The first time around the concept was that Bruce avoided suspicion of being The Batman by acting really flakey and dumb. This time he’s a smart and concerned citizen who theorizes on crimes with his pal Commissioner Gordon at Gotham Police HQ or even at crime scenes. He’s a good detective but he’s not discrete at all.

The Wizard’s identity is kept secret until the end of the movie. On this one I would call it a ‘twist ending.’ It’s just not well done or super artful.

The movie does its best to keep us guessing as to who the mysterious Bad Guy really is. They tease a few likely suspects and have an occasional bait and switch.

One particularly bitter inventor, seemingly confined to a wheelchair has some tech to make him able to walk for a while. He’s living a secret double life, his tech was apparently stolen and no one cares that he’s disabled. He has motive, means and opportunity to be the Wizard- bust is he?

It’s apparently a simple dose of invigorating electricity, but it’s the movie’s best special effect with just simple neon lights. This movie seems to feel the same way about electricity as a Frankenstein movie does. It’s sort of magical and kind of like The Force. The Inventor has a major advancement in medical science he’s chosen to keep others from benefiiting from. Could it be to throw Batman off the trail?

In the end they just throw previously unknown information at us again. They reveal novel coincidences we didn’t know about as well “a character had an unknown twon all along to explain the Wizard’s identity and most of the plot.

It explains just how things happened but it leaves a lot to be desired. Contrivance and convenience (and the death of Jimmy Vale) are hand waved away or ignored outright.

Because the actual “Bad Guy” character is someone’s twin, we don’t really know how involved the other brother is. It doesn’t really matter, the movie was still kind of fun.

This movie features a crossover of sorts. One reporter we see is none other than Clark Kent. He’s off his turf because between Batman and the evil Wizard he’s deduced this is big news. Gordon uses his name and mentions Metropolis when Kent makes an appearance at one of the crime scenes. I could not scrounge up the actors name, so if you know it please tell me!

While we don’t see him, I would point out this makes Perry White 1949 smarter and better at his job than Zack Snyder’s Perry White. He agreed with Kent rather than just tell him to kill the Batman story over and over like we see in Batman Vs Superman.

The idea that Metropolis and Gotham might be really close to one another may have gotten into Zack Snyder’s head from this. How else would Gotham’s Commissioner Gordon know a Metropolis print reporter by their face? The only other possibility is that Kent is a very famous reporter. The Wizard’s antics are a big deal in a major city, but Gordon has some familiarity with Kent. This is still pre Television. It’s not a plot hole so much as an interesting question. That’s it though, Superman is not involved in this movie any further.

Unlike the mixed bag of 1943’s The Batman, this movie looks cheap the whole time. It probably wasn’t shot on the best film or with the latest cameras. This is pretty much Poverty Row as far as production. The Wizard’s outfit and lair are minimalistic. He has very little in the way of props. It amounts to more or less to what looks like one or two components and some ham radio parts with lights inside as far as his “Controller Device.” It’s pretty bad.

When Batman and Robin take people on they fight in the same approximate style we saw established in The Batman 1943. Robin has an acrobatic approach while Batman is just an absolute tank who can take a beating. Here and there he manages some one punch knockouts, but mostly the fights go on and on.

I can see a producer gleefully saying “People love action and fight scenes are cheap!”

Batman and Robin will typically sleuth their way to a crime in progress and intercept a group of four or five heavies. Then ‘its on’ for at least a couple of minutes. It’s not the greatest fight choreography. It’s on about the same level as a mediocre Original Star Trek fight, but goes on much longer.

Here and there some wrestling moves make it in but mostly we just punch it out. Batman does not kill. He also cooperates with the police pretty directly.

We have a Bat Signal in this movie. It’s impossible for me to assess if the movie is unaware of what time of day it is or if the Bat Signal is super high-tech and therefore visible during the day. All I can say is it works whenever they need it too.

Maybe the best thing this movie does to keep you engaged is seem to kill Batman here and there in a pretty conclusive manner.

The best use of the ‘Batman must be dead’ trope features a fatal fall. Robin sees the whole thing. Just moments after we see it Bruce Wayne shows up alive. He tells Robin how he was rendered semi conscious by a massive jolt of electricity and lost the Batsuit. That’s when we get the movies greatest line, “I was vaguely aware that someone was removing my clothes…” Ironically hilarious. I howled with laughter.

This movie maintained the audience’s curiosity and anticipation for the next installment by simply not revealing things. The original fans had to wait a week for the explanation. Since we see it all at once it has a different effect- it’s ironically comical.

The apparent death of Batman happens when Vicky Vale’s brother starts to feel remorseful about being a criminal, saves Batman and puts on the Batsuit without us seeing it. When we next see Jimmy Vale we believe it’s Batman.

The fight between ‘Batman’ and three of the Wizard’s thugs goes about the same as all fights until some bad luck has ‘Batman’ fall ovf out the open window of a skyscraper from an unsurviveable height.

Robin sees Batman fall all the way and land behind a truck. You have about 25 seconds to process this before the movie reveals the truth and just moves on. This is why you have to call the movie’s pacing garbled at best. It was probably better in fifteen minute doses.

After all this, Jimmy Vale is never mentioned again. They don’t even bother telling Vicky her brother is dead. They use the “withheld information” trope constantly.

The biggest issue this movie has that not only holds it back but provides some dumb moments is that there’s really no Batmobile. Instead; Batman just uses Bruce Wayne’s car. People like Vicky Vale remark on it.

For the record it’s a maroon 1949 Mercury Convertible. He’s kicked the driver side door open so many times it’s dimpled in where it collides with the front corner panel.

Batman’s Ride

The cast is pretty small and there’s just not very good production value at any point. They often try to reuse sets and locations from westerns and other productions. It’s very cheaply done. The people who made it at least knew how to make a cheap movie decently. The film is well preserved too, there’s not even soundtrack problems.

Batman and Robin 1949 is more important to the development of cinematic Batman than it ever is ‘Good.’ It’s a movie of firsts rather than any kind of masterpiece.

For instance, Batman first has his utility belt and a gadget or two in this movie. The movie originates a few new things that stick around on screen. Among them are Vicky Vale, the utility belt and the theme of a costumed villain. They also start calling our hero simply ‘Batman,’ leaving the ‘The’ Implied. The 1943 movie is pretty dedicated to only calling him “THE Batman.” This may say something about the evolution of our language over six years, two of which were during war times. Acronyms and brevity were in fashion, maybe this reflects that.

It’s not the most gripping movie and they use spinning headlines to catch us up here and there as we move from installment to installment. It’s paced far too fast for a three and half hour movie because it was supposed to be watched in roughly fifteen minute weekly doses.

Batman and Robin 1943 is a barely modern movie that’s probably best enjoyed on your phone or device in small bits. Taking in all 220 some odd minutes in one sitting is a bit monotonous.

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Here, free for your enjoyment, is Batman and Robin 1949 as I watched it on Youtube.

By Captain Teag

Welcome Aboard! The Captain logs reviews of Pop Culture, movies and TV, Disney, MCU, DCEU, Star Trek, Star Wars, War Movies and MORE! Feel free follow and join my motley crew! Today the we Sail the Ship into History! After 10 years I think I'm finally getting the hang of this! Likes GREATLY Appreciated! CHEERS!

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