Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Robert Lowery, John Duncan, Jane Adams, Lyle Talbot
When you think about it, movie serials were early television. Episodic in nature and always offering a quick resolution for every life-threatening dilemma, serials required audiences to follow each chapter. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has hearkened back to those thrilling days of yesteryear with their new 2-disc DVD set of ’Batman & Robin: The Complete 1949 Serial Collection.’
Columbia’s serialized ’Batman & Robin’ brings to life the basics of Bob Kane’s classic crime-fighting superhero. Batman (Robert Lowery) and Robin (John Duncan) fight crime in Gotham City while maintaining their dual identities as, respectively, millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his young ward Dick Grayson. Here, Batman & Robin grapple with the mysterious hooded Wizard, who has stolen a revolutionary remote control device and plans to use it to control the world, or at least Gotham City for starters.
Made on the typical cheap for the form, this ’Batman & Robin’ foregoes the more colorful arch villains of the comic book – no Joker, Penguin or Catwoman here – and while there’s a Batcave, the Batmobile is nothing more than a standard 1949 sedan. Vicky Vale (Jane Adams) does make an appearance, but most of the time she’s trying to prove Bruce Wayne and Batman are one and the same. The stunts are decent, the special effects crude and apparent, but taken on its own terms, ’Batman & Robin’ rates a B+ as far as serials go. For me, the king of serials is still 1936’s ’Flash Gordon’ with Buster Crabbe.
Visually speaking, Sony appears to have taken pretty good care of this property. The full-frame black and white transfers are nice and sharp. The source prints show some wear, mainly nicks and speckles, but if anything they enhance the ’nostalgia’ feel. Blacks are solid and whites occasionally look soft. Contrast and grayscale are balanced and consistent. Grain is present in the image, but appropriately so.
The Dolby Digital mono performs on par with its age. The audio occasionally sounds a little thin, but rarely distorts. As played through the center channel in Dolby Pro-Logic mode, dialogue and sound effects come through clear with minimal hiss.
The set doesn’t boast any supplements, although disc 2 holds three DVD previews for ’Spider-Man 2’ (in 16×9 and 5.1), ’Hellboy Director’s Cut’ and a montage of 1970s TV cop shows on DVD available from the Sony label, including ’Police Woman,’ ’Charlie’s Angels,’ ’Starsky & Hutch,’ and ’S.W.A.T.’ My, how crime-fighting has changed over the years…
Nostalgia buffs and Batman purists should enjoy ’Batman & Robin: The Complete 1949 Serial Collection.’ Sony should be commended for giving such an arcane catalog title a better-than-expected DVD release.