Batman the Movie (1966)

Batman the Movie (1966)

He’s Here Big As Life In A Real Bat-Epic

When the world’s greatest villains – the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin and Catwoman – combine forces to take over the world, there are only two people who can stop them – Batman and Robin.

 

The 60s Batman TV show goes beyond criticism – it’s just the most absurd, ridiculous, ultra-campy and hilarious collection of overacting, garish sets, tongue-in-cheek scripts and cheesy music ever to hit the small screen. With Adam West and Burt Ward hamming it up as the Dynamic Duo, the fact that they had a ‘Bat-something’ or ‘anti-something’ handy for every possible scenario (anti-shark repellent seems to be a necessary accessory for superheroes), a series of over-enthusiastic and totally ludicrous villains for them to square off against, pop-up comic strip words like “pow” and “oomph” whenever people got hit and a general sense of unbelievability surrounding everything, the TV series was quite like nothing seen before (and since too – a total product of its time).  I would like to think that most fans of Batman can appreciate its values as much as they’d hate to admit it (after all it was extremely popular and did a lot to turn Batman mainstream) and I very much doubt that anyone considers it true canon in any form of Batman media be it the comics or film series.

After a successful first season of the TV series, it was decided that Batman and Robin should head to the big screen for what is essentially an extended episode of the TV show with a slightly bigger budget in Batman the Movie. What better way for them to hit the big screen than to face their four greatest foes in an unholy show of supervillain strength! There’s no real story other than the four villains devise a diabolical plan that Batman and Robin have to stop. It’s no different to one of the episodes of the show, just stretched out for a lot longer. Whilst the half-hour episodes flow fast and free, not overstaying their welcome, Batman the Movie tends to drag at times as the usual format is thinly stretched out over the longer duration. So don’t look for much depth to proceedings, just anarchic fun.

It’s the villains who are the real stars of the show much like they were in their weekly appearances and the classic rogues’ gallery of Batman adversaries is assembled for this one. Cesar Romero is the best of the bunch as the Joker although he is rivalled pretty closely by Burgess Meredith’s Penguin. Meredith was sorely underrated as an actor and his Penguin is full of snarling rage and cutting quips. Lee Merriwether’s Catwoman and Frank Gorshin’s Riddler don’t have as much to do as the others and thus their presence isn’t as grand. But with the Joker and Penguin hamming it up for the duration of the running time, it’s just the right ingredients for Batman and Robin to have some hilarious escapades and they get the lion’s share of the dialogue.

As the Dynamic Duo, Adam West and Burt Ward may have completely type-cast their careers but they’re an absolute hoot. West has an uncanny knack of making even the most ridiculous dialogue sound even more preposterous when delivered in his dead-pan manner and Ward as Robin always brings a tear to the eye with his over-enthusiastic approach to delivering his lines, reciting each one as if it were his last breath.

There is a lot more than just verbal humour in this one. Laugh your socks off at the stereotypical foreign dignitaries at the UN. Quite literally wet yourself with laughter as a rubber shark attacks Batman on a rope ladder against a rear projected. Break a few ribs with your laughing as Batman tries to safely dispose of a bomb on a pier. And of course, there are quality old school Batman fights as our heroes confront the villains and their minions, culminating in a huge fight upon their submarine hideout. It’s all intentional camp: some of it works, some of it doesn’t. But there’s no doubting the enthusiasm behind everything. Never once does Batman the Movie attempt serious and its all the better for it – we have the Nolan films for that.

 

Fans of the TV series will be right at home here with Batman the Movie. It’s a little too long and the camp does wear thin but the villains are a hoot and Batman and Robin camp it up big time. For those who thought that Batman was born with Tim Burton and Michael Keaton, think again!

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

 

 

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