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The big-screen Batman might be too dank a pFesence fon young kids. But there's a kinder, gentlen
Gaped Gnusaden in these old movies, TV shows, and car"toons on video. BY FRANK

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he never really left. ; and kidnapped babies in Batman
For more than 50 years now, through movies,
tad inappropriate for kids.

kiddie venues as McDonald's. To put the character in perspective, the Batman of Tim Burton's two movies

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TV

shows, and cartoons

Of course, Batmnn Retu.rns announces its intentions with a PG-13 rating, as

as well as comic books, Batman has practically been our national nocturnal mammal. In fact, there are many more screen versions of Batman available on video than most moms and dads may realize, offering a wealth of alternatives

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did 1989's Batman. But it's still startcomic-book hero

, ling to see a venerable

i in a movie that's not meant for young i children, especially since Warner Bros.
, is aggressively pushing another

is actually a throwback to the bitter, traumatized child of violence that artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger created in 1939 for Detectiue Comics, in which a Dirty Harty-style Batman beat
up thugs, occasionally used a pistol, and

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huge wave of Batman-themed toys in such

shot to kill. When the first of the Columbia Pictures movie serials was released in 1943, only hints ofthis nightmarish vigilante remained. In Batman (GoodTimes Home Video, 15 chapters on two cassettes, $9.95 each), we first encounter our hero in a German-ex-

pressionist Batcave straight out of

a

Fritz Lang film noir. This Batman,
played with verve by Lewis Wilson,
gleefully uses psychological torture on a captured punk who's deathly afraid of bats. Yet through most of the serial, Batman and Robin (Douglas Croft) engage in kiddie-suitable derring-do as they battle suave Japanese saboteur Dr. Daka (J. Carrol Naish) and his disintegration gun. (The narrator's wartime

anti-Japanese slurs have even been
edited out for video.) By the time of Columbia's 1949 sequel, Batman and Robin (also GoodTimes, 15 chapters on two cassettes, $9.95 each), Batman has become even more of a conventional hero. Played in this version by Victor Mature look-alike Robert Lowery, this serious-minded Batman fights an equally serious arch-

villain, the Wizard (William Fawcett),
who doesn't cackle or camp it up through

15 chapters-despite deploying his thieves from an underground sanctum of Flash Gordon gadgetry. Batman became still more straitlaced years later in animation, even though kids had presumably grown more sophisticated since the'40s. In TV cartoons from 1968's Batman - Su,perman Hour (Warner Home Video, $14.98) to
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from top, Batman and Bohin ('49 movie); Batman (TV,'66-'68); with Superman (TV's Saper Friends,'78)
house Vicleo, $1!).98), both

the'70s' Super Friertcls, the Capecl Crusader is as churnmy with Gotham authoi'ities as he is with Rohin, rvhile battling the Jokel ancl the Penguin. In all of these vicleos, Batrrran is alr olcl-fashionecl kids' hero: ingenious, fairi
brave, and noble, with a leavenine sense of humor. These same heroic clualities ale exaggel'atecl for laughs in the 1966-

stauing Aclam

68 live-action TV show BtLttncnt Q'ecently revivecl on the Family Channel ancl aiso via svnclication to local stations) ancl its '66 movie spin-off (Play-

West. Though he's campy to teens and aclults, young chilclren take this Batman straight, lalgely because that's the u,ay West played hirn. Even when a rubbel shark chomps bloocllessly on his leg in the movie, Batman is still ltortrayecl as er hei'o, not a buffoon. Neithei'is he a fool in 1989's BatntcLtr. (Warner Home Vicleo, $24.98, PG-1ll), but he'.s no fun, either Gi'im ancl teclious,

ticular traits a kicl can relate to, much less admire. In compai'ison, all the othel Batvideos have distinct assets: The selials, for all their quaintness, move like a bullet train. The caltoor-rs, though siliv
and artless, have rrore easilv glaspable zrncl well thought out nartatives than either of the new films. Ancl the 1960s TV

show ancl movie may be ileliberately corny, but their eye-catching gimmicks
and visuals make them gl'eat clumb fun. In sholt, when it comes to Batman ancl chilcli'en, go West, yonng person. I
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like mucl'r of tlie film itself, Michael Keaton's lroublecl Batman has no par

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