Saturday, April 7, 2012

"BATMAN: The Movie" (Leslie H. Martinson, 1966)


Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Based on the DC Comics Characters Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Produced by William Dozier and Charles B. Fitzsimons
Cinematography by Howard Schwartz
Set Decoration by Chester L. Bayhi and Walter M. Scott
Art Direction by Serge Krizman and Jack Martin Smith

Costume Design by Andrew Pallack
Editing by Harry W. Gerstad
Original ‘BATMAN’ Theme Composed by Neal Hefti
Original Motion Picture Score Composed by Nelson Riddle

Adam West ... Bruce Wayne/Batman
Burt Ward ... Richard ‘Dick’ Grayson/Robin
Lee Meriwether ... Ms. Kitka/Catwoman
Cesar Romero ... The Joker
Burgess Meredith ... The Penguin
Frank Gorshin ... The Riddler
Alan Napier ... Alfred Pennyworth
Neil Hamilton ... Commissioner James Gordon
Stafford Repp ... Chief O'Hara
Madge Blake ... Aunt Harriet Cooper
Reginald Denny ... Commodore Schmidlapp
Milton Frome ... Vice Admiral Fangschliester
Gil Perkins ... Bluebeard
Dick Crockett ... Morgan
George Sawaya ... Quetch
William Dozier ... Narrator (voice)

The Dynamic Duo faces four super-villains who plan to hold the world for ransom with the help of a secret invention that instantly dehydrates people.



Having, losing, gaining; despite my being born into the aftermath of Bat-Mania 1989, I know all too well that to a generation of fans, this WAS Batman. Only when Tim Burton reinvented the big screen perception of the "caped crusader" did this portrayal seem to become outdated.

But no amount of contemporary interpretations will ever change the fact that the 60s "Batman" Series and Film are still as bombastic and fun as ever. This is a fantastic movie, how could anyone not love it? It's funny, it's memorable. It's a gem.


When Batman and Robin (Adam West and Burt Ward) are sent on a wild goose chase that acts as a cover for the kidnapping of Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny) and his yacht they try to work out which super criminal could have masterminded such a fiendish ploy. Investigating the tools used to stage the diversion, the dynamic duo find themselves under attack and narrowly escape death due to the fearless sacrifice of a passing porpoise. As they gather the clues together they come to a terrifying conclusion - several of Gotham's top super criminals; The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether) have come together for one attempt to bring the city to its knees.

In essence, "Batman: The Movie" is little more than a feature length episode of the series.


The film benefits from having quite high production values (it never feels or looks cheap) and having a script that gets the mood just right.
Personally I found it all very funny and felt that it included several bang-on set pieces, the most enjoyable of which being Batman's attempts to get rid of a bomb without harming nuns, young lovers or ducks.

As he accurately notes, "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.”


And of course, who could forget the now infamous opening sequence that finds Batman dishing out stomach punches and heel-kicks to a Shark (!), Robin setting the Bat-Copter on Auto Pilot so he can properly deliver Batman a can of Shark-Repellent Bat Spray (!) and the Shark eventually falling back into the ocean and exploding (!).

In fact, "Batman: The Movie" is another one of those infinitely quotable Comic Book films.
A personal favorite, courtesy of Commissioner Gordon:
"Penguin, Joker, Riddler, and Catwoman to. The sum of the angles of that rectangle is too monstrous to contemplate."
The cast is also great and the film is the better for having so many of the villains all in the one vehicle (literally – a submarine!). West is great – very dry delivery of even the silliest material and he is well supported by Ward's Robin who has some hilarious lines as always.

The villains are good even if they spend more time trying to out-ham one another than working together to make a large impression. Romero and Gorshin are good but not as well used as Meredith and I was a little disappointed in Meriwether's Catwoman because I didn't find her as feline or as feminine as I should have. Sure, she's gorgeous and looks great in the suit, but that 'purrfect' can't hold a candle to Eartha Kitt, who would take the reigns over the role on the series later on.
Napier does his part as a noble Alfred and, as always, it was very nice to see Neil Hamilton's grandfatherly take on Commissioner Gordon and the lovably bumbling Chief O'Hara portrayed by Stafford Repp.

For being the fixture at the center of the entire plot, Reginald Denny's Commodore Schmidlapp is quite pedestrian, although he gets a terrific scene early in the film opposite the Joker, commenting on his white complexion possibly being due to the lack of "good old sea air."

Speaking of which, the plot itself really isn't up to a whole lot at all; something I never noticed as a child. But then I never realized it was a comedy when I was a child, either.
However, I think there just might be a tad going on beneath the surface, perhaps in response to the growing cynicism and anymosity American's began to feel towards their government (especially in the wake of the notorious Tet Offensive in Vietnam).

Some of the material in "Batman: The Movie" is so silly it almost goes too far. If you put your tongue into your cheek you may choke, and seeing a Pentagon head playing tiddlywinks eggs the joke a little, but it works in parodying the aforementioned skepticism that the country was feeling towards their elected officials. Americans felt as if they were being governed by a collection of dopes; certainly, the kind that would so carelessly sell a pre-atomic submarine to the Penguin (cleverly masquerading as Mr. Pee N. Gwen).
Then there's the not-so-subtle jab at the United Nations and their angry benevolence and shouting matches (during a 'Peace' conference, no less; how poetic). It's pretty hilarious, however, when Batman and Robin re-hydrate the delegates, only to find that their minds have been mixed between one another, which clearly references a definite need for such a cultural intertwining to take place in reality (funny, that sentiment probably rings true now more than it ever did in '66).
Ultimately, the whole thing is so well-meaning that you simply can't hold it against the movie.
A repetitious sequence of events that sees the villains constantly trying to destroy Batman and Robin from afar and the heroes trying to locate their secret base; it goes round in circles for the longest time, but a glorious "Wham! Pow!" fight on a submarine and a sideways swipe at eugenics makes sure it all ends in style.
Overall, some viewers may find this annoying and tiring in its unrelenting silliness but for my money it was pitched just right. It's only real flaw is that it could have been a little shorter; it tends to drag while Bruce is romancing Kitka, but that's just my own opinion.

The film looks great, the score is infectious and groovy, the script is full of very droll and silly lines that you'll either find hilarious or stupid, and a cast that manages to deliver the silliest material with a dry wit that is practically the same as winking at the audience.

Even though it may not be the Batman character as I think of him, it is still a 'Batman' that I recognize and a great, fun film if the mood strikes you.


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