I finished up the 1949 Batman and Robin serial over the weekend, and I must retract something I said about it in a previous post. See, I asserted that the 1949 version of Batman had no utility belt. Boy, was I wrong. He may not use any bat-gadgets in the first half-dozen or so installments, but when he finally does, it’s a doozy.
Minions of the fiendish Wizard lure The Dark Knight and The Boy Wonder into a trap, seal them in an airtight room and pump CO2 (that’s carbon dioxide, kids!) in through the vents. Robin, whose job description apparently reads “fall unconscious at the first hint of danger,” collapses in a heap on the floor. In classic cliffhanger fashion, the episode ends with Batman slumping to the floor as well. Is this the end of the Dynamic Duo?
Of course not. You only think you saw Batman fall face-down beside Robin last week. In reality, Batman knelt next to his sidekick and instructed Robin to breathe through a special device. A device he retrieved from his utility belt. Turns out that big old belt has both function and form. In fact, there’s a full-sized, fully functional acetylene torch on Batman’s hip, complete with ignitor and hoses that lead… well, let’s not think about that. Batman wasn’t really into miniaturization in those days, I guess. After cutting a hole in the door, Batman tucks the torch back into the ridiculously huge holster on his utility belt. How is it that I didn’t notice that thing before? It boggles the mind, really.
You know what? That’s why I love those old serials. The sheer audacity employed in getting the heroes out of one seemingly fatal scrape after another entertains me. I chuckle to imagine the audience going to the theatre week after week to find out how Batman and Robin (or Flash Gordon) managed to escape certain doom. Would there be any cries of “That’s impossible! They were both aboard the plane when it exploded last week!” or “They didn’t have time to get to the trapdoor!” or did the audience simply accept that they didn’t really see the Caped Crusader fall into the pit a week ago?
Even the revelation of the Wizard’s identity in Chapter 15 is a big cheat, but there’s no reason to spoil it for future viewers, is there? I don’t know what the official moratorium on spoilers is (probably less than fifty-six years), but I’m not telling you who the Wizard really is. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.