John Astin

Culture Warrior

Enduring cultural figures like Batman endure precisely because of the slight but notable changes they incur over time. Batman has had a long history in the moving image, and while the character has maintained both the central conceit of being a crime-fighting detective, the cinematic Batman of seventy years ago bears little resemblance to the Batman we’re familiar with today. The character and his myth have been interpreted with variation by a multitude of creative persons other than Bob Kane and Bill Finger. In the moving image, Batman has been embodied by a range of actors including Robert Lowery, Adam West, and George Clooney, and Batman has been realized by directors and showrunners prone to various tastes and aesthetic interpretations like William Dozier and Christopher Nolan. While Batman is perhaps best-known by a non-comic-astute mass culture through the many blockbuster feature films made about him, including this summer’s hotly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, the character’s cinematic origins are rooted in the long-dead format of the movie serial. Batman first leapt off the page in a 15-part serial made in 1943 titled Batman and another six years later titled Batman and Robin. These serials did not influence Batman’s later cinematic iterations realized by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher as much as they inspired Batman’s representation on television. Batman’s presence in film serials and on television have had a decisive and important impact in terms of how mass audiences perceive the Batman of feature films. At the same time, these serials […]

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With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us? The Twilight Zone (Episode #59): “A Hundred Yards Over The Rim” (airdate 4/7/61) The Plot:  The one man in a wagon train with any hope left of 1847 California, tells his wife, sick child, and traveling companions that he’ll walk just over the next sand rim and one hundred yards to find water. If he can’t find any, they’ll turn back. The Goods: There are at least two main themes working in this wonderful story. The first is desperation. As Christian Horn (Cliff Robertson) leads a group across the arid sands of mid 19th century New Mexico, the immediate world that we’re dropped into is one without water or food or medicine. The few wagoners left are so deluded by thirst and hunger that they want to turn back – as if going back to Ohio would somehow be easier than pressing on. They’ve made a huge gamble with their lives, and now it looks like that gamble has come to collect its winnings.

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