Batman (1966)

batman1966So we learn in ten minutes of “Batman: The Movie” that Batman manages to store and keep handy a Bat Copter in a warehouse manned by a bunch of workers without actually giving away his identity as Bruce Wayne, office buildings oddly house a large group of scantily clad groupies all of whom will willingly stand on a launch pad to wave at Batman (so much for covert operations), and that Batman labels the ladder in his copter with “Bat Ladder.” Oh so this is the Bat Ladder! I often get it confused for the Hyena Ladder and the Panther Ladder. Good thing it’s labeled. Prudent. Also, even if a shark is robotic, it’s vulnerable to shark repellent.

“Batman: The Movie” is about as surreal and idiotic as its hit series, but this movie was surprisingly a fun trip in to the sixties when I was a child. I didn’t mind that Batman had a belly and drawn in eyebrows to instill fear in criminals, because at least it was Batman and Robin. Adam West comes from the William Shatner school of acting with his performance as Batman and Bruce Wayne, offering a stilted and painfully forced performance alongside Burt Ward who is laughably over the top more times than not. The movie itself can’t honestly be taken all that seriously since it’s so heavily influenced by the verve of the sixties that it turns Batman in to another product of that decade. Part of the fun though is laughing at how goofy and just off the wall the film excels at being and the unusual energy it embraces as a Warholian depiction of the Dark Knight and his rogues gallery.

The performances from Batman’s rogues are memorable and you can’t argue with the brilliant cast of actors who depict his key nemeses. Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, and Lee Meriwether are a lethal combination, and they treat their characters like theatrical exercises. I love how Batman has a readily available Bat boat on a dock, and that in spite of his advanced technology in his bat cave he still has a giant magnifying glass for some reason. And who can forget the obvious mustache that bulges from Romero’s face paint? Batman decides that the Penguin rented a nuclear sub based on his alias P. N. Guin, but he can’t decipher the alias of Catwoman as Ms. Kitka? In either case, much of the film is surprisingly entertaining when it’s focusing on the cat and mouse game between Bruce and Catwoman, and “Batman: The Movie” zeroes in on their dynamic for much of the story as Catwoman attempts to infiltrate Bruce’s life for reasons never quite explained.

Ultimately, “Batman: The Movie” is a wild romp in to a different radical take on Batman where all mention of his parents death is gone and all mayhem is reduced to madcap physical comedy and wild stunts that are ludicrously staged. Batman running across the dock with the giant bomb in hand is one of the more memorable absurd moments. It may not be what the creators pictured for this character in the sixties, but it is one of many depictions of Batman from creators who assumed they knew more than the creators did about the character tailoring it for their own sensibilities. I’m looking at you Burton. A cult film that’s ridden on the waves of nostalgia for years, “Batman: The Movie” is a wild, absurd, and ridiculous adaptation of Batman with acting that teeters from awful to over the top, and a plot that is pretty nonsensical. For Bat enthusiasts, this is a gold mine, for everyone else? A passable cult film.