Capitalizing on the popularity of the Batman comics from the thirties and forties, Columbia released a 15 chapter Batman film serial in 1943. Think Buck Rogers, but featuring Batman. The serial featured actors Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft as Batman and Robin respectively.
What becomes clear watching these old films is that they provided much of the basis for the “Batman” television show featuring Adam West which ran from 1966 to 1968. The show itself was largely a parody of these old programs. The stilted language and goofy costumes that became synonymous with the sixties TV show were all direct jokes about what, by the sixties, would have felt dated and cheesy about these films from the forties.
The series was popular during its initial run, and enjoyed a second-wind of sorts in the sixties, when it was re-released theatrically to capitalize on the popularity of the Adam West show. Perhaps now, with the sixties Batman show potentially gaining popularity among young viewers thanks to the forthcoming DVD release, and the websites that have made the show viewable (more info here), there will also be a resurgence in popularity for these old serials.
Check out the first Batman film of all time!