Hello, I’m Lorne Greene. You may remember me as Ben Cartwright, a man who succeeded in fathering three sons by three different women, without ever getting denounced as a welfare cheat by Ronald Reagan, appearing on an episode of COPS, or being Norman Mailer. You may also recall my stint as Commander Adama, star of the original and infinitely superior version of Battlestar Galactica. But in addition to my lengthy list of film and TV credits, and my inexhaustible supply of neckerchiefs, I’m most proud of my long-running role as a spokesmodel for meat by-products.
Meat is a dog’s natural food. It’s full of protein, energy, and nourishment. And meat’s what he loves most. That’s why I feed my dog ALPO. ALPO Beef Chunks Dinner is meat by-products and beef — without a speck of cereal. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about today’s movie.
Some chapters of the 1943 Batman serial are filled with fistfights, supervillains, car chases, racism, middle-aged zombies, and The Batman falling from buildings, planes, trestles and trucks. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those chapters. This episode of the Batman serial has, I’m afraid, more than a speck of cereal. Welcome to Chapter 8: Lured By Radium. Caution: If You Are A Dog, This Episode Is Not To Be Taken Internally.
As you may recall, last week The Batman started a brawl in a Japanese laundry, then turned into a floppy mannequin and was tossed down an elevator shaft. When last seen, the elevator was rapidly descending, threatening to crush our hero, and leaving the high school from Friday Night Lights without a tackling dummy.
Meanwhile, Robin has been beaten senseless by Daka’s spies, who then collected their crisply starched shirts and exited the laundry in an orderly fashion. Suddenly, Robin awakens from his concussion and instantly realizes that somewhere an elevator is about to squash a crash test dummy dressed like a bat, proving that while he can’t fight or wear pants, he did put his downtime to good use by flipping ahead in the script.
Robin runs downstairs, shouting “Broce! Broce!” (Not “Bruce! Bruce!” which he shouldn’t be shouting anyway, since it’s supposed to be asecret identity, but at least he bothers to mispronounce it.) A burglar alarm is ringing (the spy ring’s hideout has a burglar alarm?), and Robin suggests they run for it, because “we don’t want the police to find us in these outfits.” Yes, remember what they did to those trannies at the Stonewall Inn just for wearing false eyelashes and Famolares.
Meanwhile, at Wayne Manor, Linda is also reading the script, and suddenly realizes that she’s playing a nitwit. In a rage, she demands that Bruce drive her out into the middle of the desert, reasoning that her massive, Jiffy Pop-like dome of hair will protect her from the sun, and she’ll get more screen time when the rest of the cast succumbs to heatstroke.
Back at the Japanese Cave of Horrors, Ming refuses to tell the enemy spies where his radium mine is. So Daka puts the salon dryer hood on him and starts to give Ming the Zombification treatment and some highlights. The tough old prospector refuses to yield, until the spark effects set his crepe beard on fire, and he squeals like a pig.
And what have we learned today? That the Bush Administration is right: torture does work, as long as your victim is wearing a fake beard. So just as soon as Al Qaeda starts to recruit the bulk of its radical jihadists from the ranks of department store Santas, we should be able to bust their organization wide open.
Next, in a breathtakingly dull scene, Ming sits in the back of the villains’ sedan and gives them directions to his mine. Really. That’s all that happens. “See where the road branches about two hundred yards ahead? Take the left fork and stop at the turn.” The thugs comply. “Go up the hill,” Ming advises, “and to the left.” And they do. I can just imagine the closing credits: “Action sequence by Mapquest.”
Fortunately, the whole thing comes to a thrilling climax when the traitors find a shady spot to park, and then everybody gets out to stretch their legs. Eventually, the bad guys force Ming to lead them into the Mine Shaft ride at Knott’s Berry Farm, but the wily old prospector realizes that the set isn’t big enough for a chase scene, and escapes his captors by sauntering off camera and going to the commissary.
Meanwhile, Bruce, Dick, Alfred, and Linda drive out to Ming’s cabin and stand around waiting for something to happen. But Bruce and Dick are getting edgy — they’ve been in men’s clothing for hours now, and the strain is starting to show — so they tell Alfred to force-feed Linda from the picnic basket while they run off and change into their costumes.
Suddenly, in the middle of Linda’s entree, Ming pops up through a trapdoor. He’s decided that the only way to save his mine is to blow it up (Ming later gave up prospecting to serve on General William Westmoreland’s staff in Vietnam) and grabs a box of dynamite.
Meanwhile, our heroes wander into the mine shaft, mistaking it for a bar on First Avenue that specializes in rough trade.
Then the action heats up and things really get dull. Ming goes back down the trapdoor with the explosives, while Alfred sprints toward the mine to warn Bruce and Dick not to don their fetish gear because there’s dynamite involved. But he gets captured by two men in business suits who are either wandering Japanese spies, or friends of Dick Cheney who are hunting pen-raised quail and fey butlers on a game ranch. Cut back to Linda, who climbs down through the trapdoor just in time to see the Batman and Robin stage a lame fight scene. And, as usual, the Batman gets his ass kicked. Seriously, he couldn’t win a fight with a boxing nun doll.
But one of the thugs turns out to be even clumsier than our hero, because he trips and falls on the detonator like Alec Guinness at the end of Bridge on the River Kwai, thus breaking a longstanding tradition. Because instead of falling down, the Batman blows up.
Join us next week, at this theater, for Chapter 9: The Sign of the Sphinx!Posted by scott on Tuesday, February 26th, 2008 at 2:37 am.