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A heartfelt thanks to all who participated in Customer Appreciation Day, by suggesting motion pictures deserving of the treatment.  While s.z. is still winnowing down the finalists, a painstaking process that involves taking the list of four or five crappy movies I gave her and seeing what’s on the shelf at Blockbuster the next time she drops by, I am prepared to announce my own selection:

It’s The Batman, a 1943 Columbia serial suggested by Happenstance (the Wo’C reader, not the synonym for coincidence).  I propose to do one episode a week of this groundbreaking chapterplay until we’re all sick of it.  And why, I hear you ask?  Because we’re at WAR, that’s why!  Our leaders, from the Secretary of Defense all the way up to the Commander-in-Chief himself have declared that we are facing an enemy every bit as deadly, cunning, and dangerous as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  Some may scoff at this analogy, claiming disingenuously that during the Second World War, we were facing expansionist states organized for war on a national level, and possessing formidable militaries with manpower resources numbering in the millions, rather than a few thousand loosely organized extremists with no permanent address.

But these are mere details, and as our performance in the Iraq War has demonstrated, execution is far less important than intention.  While the tools employed by the Axis (tanks, battleships, bombers, massed infantry, etc.) differed from those of Al Qaeda (box cutters), their motivations were identical:  Just like Osama bin Laden, the Nazis and the Japanese hated us for our freedoms.  They detested America for our free and open democratic institutions, like, oh, say, the Poll Tax.  They hated Britain for the traditional rights and liberties enjoyed by her subjects, except for the ones who lived in her vast colonial possessions.  And of course, the way Stalin handed out freedom in the Soviet Union like Rockefeller passing out dimes to urchins really got them steamed. So it’s clear we’re fighting the exact same enemies our grandparents faced in the 1940s.  Back then, we had universal conscription, industrial mobilization, tax increases, war bonds, rationing, and a President who could kindle within our breasts a spirit of unanimity and self-sacrifice.  Today we have a guy who tells us to shut up and shop, so clearly, we’re getting the better part of the deal (I think back to my grandparents saving bacon grease and planting victory gardens and can’t believe what saps they were).  But there is one vital fascist-fighting weapon from the 1940s that we lack:  Superheroes. Back in World War II, the U.S. was awash in patriotic, Axis-bashing freaks:  Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and of course, The Batman.  It is our hope that by carefully examining this docudrama, made during the height of the war, President Bush may be inspired to call upon America’s confirmed bachelors to don union suits and ill-fitting felt hoods, and gad about with downy-cheeked teen boys in the cause of freedom.  The War Against Islamofascism deserves no less. The Batman (1943)  Directed by Lambert Hillyer Written by Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker, Harry Fraser (screenplay) Bob Kane (character)We open in a subterranean chamber, “hewn from the living rock of the mountain” below Wayne Manor.  The Batman is “clad in the somber costume that has struck terror in the hearts of many a swaggering denizen of the underworld,” although it looks like his ears weren’t taped up properly, and is sitting at a nice executive-style desk, with a guest chair off to the side (last used when Robin was called in for his annual review).  The Batman sits with his elbows on the desk, his chin cradled in his hands, just dreamin’.  Meanwhile, one of those collapsible crepe bats you get at Target around Halloween has gotten tangled in the ceiling fan, and is lethargically circling the Dark Knight’s head.Cut to scenes of the Batman engaging in fisticuffs with men in business suits.  Far from striking terror, however, his more outré ensemble seems to prove that when roughhousing with dapper thugs, a cape just gets in the way.  It’s like trying to perform open-heart surgery on a man who stubbornly refuses to remove his lobster bib.The Dynamic Duo call the Gotham City police to pick up a couple of mobsters they’ve just nabbed.  When the cops arrive, they find the pair handcuffed to a lamppost, with tiny bats drawn on their foreheads.  The detectives are baffled, but Captain Arnold deduces that the Batman is either secretly Charles Manson, or the mark is just there to let any Indian Flying Foxes know that the thugs are already married.

Cut to Batman and Robin driving away from the scene at high speed in Bruce’s Cadillac, grinning crazily at each other as they begin to strip.  Cut to the Gotham Foundation, where Bruce’s beard girlfriend, Linda Page works.  Linda is quite dishy (the actress playing her represented California in the 1940 Miss America pageant), but her coiffure rises so astonishingly high into the air that she makes Marge Simpson look like H.R. Haldeman.  It’s like she’s wearing a turban made of human hair and yeast.Linda conveniently leaves the room so Bruce can explain to Dick Grayson that he’s not in the Army because of “our special arrangement from Uncle Sam.”  Yes, the country is mobilized, the world is at war, but Batman has “other priorities.”  Linda comes back in so she can browbeat Bruce into picking up her Uncle Martin when he’s released from prison tomorrow.