In 2012, such heralded heroes as the Caped Crusader and Bilbo Baggins will hit the multiplex, making the producers enough gold bullion to make gallons of extremely expensive, fatal soup.
But what audiences tend to forget is that these characters — along with many, many other cinematic icons — made their live-action debuts decades ago, way before their definitive film treatment came out. Here are ten obscure movies from yesteryear, starring familiar protagonists in zany circumstances.
10. Alice In Wonderland (1915)
There were several early adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, including a 1923 version by Walt Disney. This silent adaptation of Lewis Carroll's famous children's book (photo above) is renowned for both its unnervingly static camerawork and exquisitely bizarre costumes, which makes the film look like archival footage from the Sioux Rapids Joint Anthropomorphic Animal Hootenanny/Bathtub Rye Convention/Rail-Yard Troubadours for Woodrow Wilson Fundraiser. Things get uniquely strange during the Mock Turtle's "Lobster Quadrille," when the crustacean suits come out.
The first, 1903 movie adaptation of Alice also scores major points for what is undoubtedly the least interested Cheshire Cat in the history of cinema.
9. Frankenstein (1910)
In (Thomas) Edison Studios' version of Mary Shelley horror classic, Frankenstein discovers the secret of life after accuring enough course credits for an associate's degree. Once he builds his shambling, gross-out creation, Frankenstein defeats him using the power of love. Like Huey Lewis! Seriously, not making this up — read the plot synopsis.
8. Casino Royale (1954)
Before Sean Connery embarked upon a steady diet of booze, murder, and secretaries, James Bond made his debut on the CBS series Climax! in a television adaptation of Casino Royale. And — this seems absolutely inconceivable right now — James Bond was portrayed as an American.
7. Hobitit (1993)
Gandalf and the gang will be marching into theaters again this year, but Peter Jackson's live-action adaptation of The Hobbit was beaten to the punch by almost twenty years by this Finnish television series. If I were an insane studio executive with nothing to lose, I would just run Hobitit (undubbed, unsubtitled) and cackle gleefully as the mall riots unfolded. Also see the strange history of the first animated version of The Hobbit.
6. The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe (1967)
Holy hell, the first live-action adaptation of C.S. Lewis' cherished adventure looked more nerve-wracking than The Prisoner. A bunch of episodes of this ten-part serial have been lost to the ages, which — judging from this footage — is something most kids can live with.
5. Peter Pan (1924)
First things first, Betty Bronson makes for a handsomely pansexual Peter Pan — she's like if Joan Jett and Errol Flynn had a sensuous teleporter accident. But the situation gets dubious when Bronson starts literally kicking the children out of bed, grinning mischievously, and silently imploring them to meet "mermaids and redskins." And maybe it's just me, but I can't help but read lines such as "There is a boy here who is to teach us to fly" and "Hello, I am up" in monotone, machine-gun staccato. Really takes you out of the narrative.
4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)
Oz adaptations have been pumped out for decades, and this particular movie was made to deal with author L. Frank Baum's bankruptcy. We're partial to this film, as it's heavy on inexplicable, jaunty dancing and livestock costumes that were surely borrowed from hitchhikers who wear thousand-yard stares every hour of the day. Here's some more discomfiting Oz to wash this down.
3. Generation X (1996)
Years before X-Men: First Class, the White Queen and Banshee appeared in this FOX TV movie about the X-Men's spin-off mutant academy. This film even predated X-Men, which attained great financial success by not looking like every scene was filmed in The Max from Saved By The Bell.
2. Nick Fury: Agent of Shield (1998)
No, the first Nick Fury wasn't Samuel L. Jackson — it was The Hoff, as evidenced by this FOX TV movie that Marvel would prefer you don't remember. And let's doff our caps to the 1990 Captain America flick while we're at it.
1. Batman Dracula (1963)
Incredibly, one of the first semi-famous, live-action Batman films was a surreal movie Andy Warhol made for his gallery shows. In another reality — one where David Bowie's wife also played Black Widow — DC Comics actually signed off on this project.
You can see some snippets from this flick in this video collage. We presume Gotham City's entire atmosphere was replaced with Joker Gas, Scarecrow's Fear Toxin, and Lou Reed's pheromones.
Related: The first Spider-Man film?