For those whose understanding of Batman on film only goes back as far as the campy TV shows, or, even more limiting, the blockbuster films beginning with Tim Burton's opus in 1989, Mark S. Reinhart's "The Batman Filmography" will be quite informative.
Batman first appeared on film in a 1943 serial, just five years after the comic book debuted and has continued to be presented in various forms since. Reinhart's book is a second edition, the first coming out in 2003. This updated version brings the Batman filmography up to The Dark Knight Rises.
Informative, interesting, and nicely illustrated, Reinhart blends his love of the character and his knowledge of its history to create a very thorough, reasoned look at the various ways in which Batman has been presented on film. The aptly named Caped Crusader was a hero for all America in the wartime serial chapterplays. He was represented by campy parody in the wildly popular 1960s TV series featuring Adam West, which spawned a theaterical film in 1966. Finally, his latest incarnation, in films from directors like Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan, are closer to the original comics vision. Batman is once again darker, more mysterious, less a dazzling superhero or an acerbic crimefighter.
Perhaps it is Reinhart's discussion of the serials -- "Batman" in 1943 and another "Batman and Robin" in 1949, that this reviewer found most enlightening, chiefly because so little has been written about either. Perhaps dismissed as mere stepping stones to the more popular, relevant TV and movie adaptations produced decades later, the serials are remarkable as much for their budgetary limitations as for their dedication to the character and stories. Each was filmed cheaply over short time (the 1949 film's entire 15 chapters were shot during February of 1949). While Reinhart admits to the shortcomings of either, there is an undeniable sense of unwitting campiness to see Batman and Robin heading to fight crime in a standard convertible (in both serials!) because the studio did not want to spend money on designing a Batmobile.
Another interesting chapter is the one covering 1967-1989 during which the TV series was winding down and there were no Batman movies on screen. It effectively leads to the Tim Burton movie from 1989 with a low key Michael Keaton in the title role, and a scenery-chewing Jack Nicholson playing the Joker with the same outrageous abandon as Cesar Romero on the 60s TV show.
Reinhart analyzes each movie with a keen critical eye despite his obvious affection for the subject. He separates objectivity from subjectivity and offers what is easily the quintessential book on Batman in the movies.