There were two Batman serials from Columbia Pictures-- the first, called THE BATMAN stars Lewis Wilson as Batman and Doug Croft as Robin. The serial is often maligned for having racist overtones but it was filmed at the height of WWII in spring of 1943 when it looked like we might actually lose the war and only two years after the Japanese had launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor plunging the US into the war.
The serial itself originally was going to feature The Joker running his crime operation from a circus sideshow cover, but when the World War II angle was added and they opted to create a Batman adversary not of criminal intent but of an Axis spy ring DC Comics objected to Joker being connected to it (during the war being against the country was worse than being a homicidal killer) so the villain was changed to Dr Daka. Early serial posters seem to indicate that the actor playing Daka was set to play the Joker as well.
Daka's costume and whiteish skin coloring in the film as well as the fact that he appears to be wearing lipstick leads me to believe they changed very little when the opted to go from Joker to Japanese spy.
The second serial, done in 1949 was ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN and was created after the big success Columbia had with SUPERMAN a year earlier. Initial plans were for Superman actor Kirk Alyn to play Batman this time and John Duncan stated that the costume was done for Alyn's measurements. When Alyn backed out, fearing the typecasting of playing two superheroes Robert Lowery was brought in. Lowery was a bit shorter, and that's why the costume doesn't seem to fit-- the bat emblem is lower, almost on his stomach, and he constantly has to tilt his head back so he can see through the eye slits in his mask.
So how do these serials connect to the Adam West show?
CBS had optioned BATMAN as a TV series in 1964, even going so far as to sign former LA Ram Mike Henry (Mike was soon to take over the Tarzan role in movies) to star and rumors persist that he was photographed in a Batman suit to generate interest in the property but those photos have never surfaced. The project would have been a serious Batman show along the lines of THE LONE RANGER and ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN and DC Comics was hot to have their characters on TV. The Superman show had helped boost the comic sales, and they'd hoped the same would be true with Batman.
CBS lost interest and the development went into limbo, the property was presented to NBC who passed and eventually ended up at ABC.
Meanwhile, in July of 1965 the Playboy Theater in Chicago started showing an episode of the Batman serial on weekends along with it's art house films, and reaction was strong. In the fall of '65 Hugh Hefner strung all 15 chapters of the serial together and showed it as AN EVENING WITH BATMAN AND ROBIN and it drew in huge crowds of movie buffs and college kids. Columbia took note of the record breaking attendance and created the same package which it offered to small theaters all over the country.
Theaters across the country, especially art house theaters that were showing things like Humphrey Bogart revivals and the like, were doing equally popular business.
Now here's where the connection gets fuzzy. ABC was developing the show, and had turned it over to Dozier who in turn hired Lorenzo Semple to write the pilot and the series bible-- Semple has said in interviews that he began work in mid-1965 on the script so the rumors that showings of the serial at the Playboy Club influenced ABC executives in the audience to want to develop a new show are false-- ABC already had the property-- but what likely happened is the positive reaction helped to entice them to make sure it happened, and it built the growing Batmania that would cause the pre-release of the show publicity to build to a fevered point that ensured the pilot would be a big hit in January 1966.
Regardless of the impact, it was clear Semple and Dozier were at least aware of the serials because that was the impetus for breaking the planned hour long show into two half hour parts with a cliffhanger between them, mimicking the weekly serials.
(Also to get 3 teenaged boys out of their hair, We think....) We loved the movie as it was. Keep in mind though, both of our family still had relatives alive who had fought the Japanese just 23 or so years earlier and so still felt bad blood over it, just as it took me a few years to get over my dislike of the Viet Cong.....which I did get over.
FWIW, the manager at the theater gave out crayons and a large B/W miniposter to the 1st 50 people in line to see the 1st night showing. We were 3,4, +5 in line for that!
Thanks again, Andy for the info.
There's a local theater that you can rent out and they will show a DVD (or Blu-ray) on the big screen. I've often thought about doing this for the 1943 serial. (I've seen the 1966 film on the big screen.)
I remember, ( + I checked with Matt tonight on this) the credits were shown on EVERY episode which made the movie seem to drag at times. Recaps were not! The owner/manager broke the showing 1/2 way through for restroom and concession stand breaks. One showing a night and Matt remembers it was packed!!!!!
Give me a time and I'll be over if possible to see it again on the big screen!!!! If possible, I'll be there in 1943 Bat Costume. Just let me know where and when
Larry is right-- they just ran all 15 episodes back to back. In theaters that showed all 15 they stopped after chapter 7 as Larry said for intermission. The other package ran half the serial one night and half on the other.
Jim When you rent out the theater I will provide the repro posters for the event. I've got high res versions of them (and own an original).
And depending on where you are and when you do it I'll be there too. A theater near me does a similar thing, I may just have to try a Northeast version.
Aussie-- Amazon has an author page for me for my books or just type my name in the search, if you're talking my Batman Serial book, that's still in the planning stages. McFarland Books is interested, but I'm not sure there's enough interest to make it worthwhile.
I've seen ads for Your serial book already on the ads that pop up on the right side of my screen on my E-mail page. Does this mean that someone is jumping the gun on You
Is it Your opinion that there's not enough interest, or McFarland Book's opinion that there is not enough interest?
Another question for You Andy: Are there any copies of the original script that shows The Joker, or was that kept to just a story outline that was ditched and a new story line written? It seems certain parts of the serial are ALMOST identical to what You have told us the script was meant to be.
FWIW, folks, yes, as weird as it seems, even Psychotic Killers were patriotic during WW2 . How do I know?
I had some relatives who lived in a small town in Southern Illinois who were neighbors to a number of Mafia types and the Mafia types were more patriotic than some non gangster types. For You Younger readers, I'm talking types like ( but NOT) Al Capone and some of his colleagues. I recall hearing my late Uncle Richard telling Dad that his neighbor 2 doors down had been arrested for the murder of 2 fellows up in Chicago. The arrest happened right after the man got off work at one of the war plants in St. Louis.
There's a very good reason the Joker might have been patriotic: If America lost the war, the ( insert Your "favorite" Axis member here) would go right after types like the Joker or Mafia types. Better the government the villains are familiar with than a foreign type.
I hope that explanation helps. Sorry if this was a bit long winded ( but I taught American History, among other things.....)
Thanks in advance, Andy,
Cheers, to all
That book you're seeing is a re-formatted release of the original serial press kits that I put together for friends. I published it through Lulu publishing. It's simply a retread of vintage articles and the information that was sent on to theaters promoting both the original and the re-release of the serial.
McFarland and I have an open contract, and they're always interested in a new book I might do, the trouble is they (unlike all my other publishers) pay after publication and then only in royalties. While they're interested in a Batman serial book, if it has sales in the hundreds rather than multiple thousands it becomes something that's a labor of love for me rather than something I can actually do as work. That's not to say it will never happen, I'm just not sure I have enough for a book and that there is enough interest from casual readers.
Thanks for the info. I look forward to any tidbits of serial info that You choose to drop.
BTW, any chance of getting the book published through Lulu?
Just remember that what a reviewer says about a book, a model, etc. depends on what agenda that the reviewer has. E.G.: did that reviewer approach the BDB book expecting it to be 75-90% Serial?
My suggestion based on my experience is that the Author usually knows what He/She /It has written.
Might I suggest that You buy the book and review it Yourself. Then You can let the rest of us know!
Larry- here's the Bat-ray gun from 1943
That has to be THE best repro I've EVER seen of the Gun. That is a HUGE help!!!!
Thanks, You are a real Friend!!!!!!!