Batman the Movie (1966)

Feel shame, modern movie posters.
Feel shame, modern movie posters.

“MEN DIE! WOMEN SIGH! Beneath that Batcape – he’s all man!”
(This is pretty much the only tagline which isn’t just ‘and now, in cinemas! Although largely accurate – I believe seven men do die in the course of the movie, although Catwoman is definitely faking her sighs – it is still somewhat misleading.)

Directed by Leslie H Martinson
Starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriweather, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin

When a consortium of supercriminals threaten to hold the world to ransom by dehydrating the United World Security Council, it is down to Batman (West) and Robin (Ward) to stop them. Can they thwart the combined forces of Catwoman (Meriweather), the Penguin (Meredith), the Joker (Romero) and the Riddler (Gorshin)? Will Bruce Wayne keep his cool in the intoxicating presence of Catwoman’s Russian alter ego Kitka? And will Batman ever be able to get rid of that bomb?

What’s wrong with it?

The big screen outing for West’s ultra-campy 1960s Batman, many see this as the epitome of everything that had gone wrong with live action Batman prior to Tim Burton’s Gothic reboot. It’s campy, it’s silly, the villains set a trap for Batman with a spring-loaded Jack-in-the-box and a giant exploding octopus.

Also, Commissioner Gordon is an unmitigated suck-up who allows Batman to operate officially and without oversight.

What’s right with it?

 The four villains are having tremendous fun with their roles, and West and Ward play even the silliest moments in the film utterly straight.

The film also has some – pretty broad – satire, with the Pentagon selling pre-atomic submarines to buyers who only leave PO Box numbers and LBJ claiming credit for Batman and Robin’s work in the denouement.

How bad is it really?

It’s glorious, I tell you; glorious! There’s a reason West was called upon to play Thomas Wayne in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. If you’re not expecting some gritty drama and accept that this is a Silver Age Batman with all that that entails, there’s a huge amount to enjoy.

Best bit (if such there is)?

  • “Gosh, Batman; the nobility of the almost human porpoise.”
  • “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

What’s up with…?

  • … Yeah, whatever. Forget it, Jack; it’s the Silver Age.

Ratings

Production values – There’s a little more money spent than in the series to get a Batboat and a Batcopter, but the Batcave set is still laughably homely and Police HQ consists solely of Commissioner Gordon’s Office. The post-production Batcharge blasts might have been the bees’ knees in the day, but they don’t hold up well. 12
Dialogue and performances – Just delightful. The script is full of ludicrous gems and all performed with such wonderful seriousness. 2
Plot and execution – The plot sags a little towards the bottom of the third quarter, when the film needs to significantly progress the actual storyline instead of having fun with deathtraps, but otherwise it’s pretty tight. Silly, but tight. 4
Randomness – So, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have its oddities, but really that’s just part of the milieu. In any other genre, it would rate a 20; here… 0
Waste of potential – Well, if you don’t like this then you were never going to like a big film outing for West’s Caped Crusader. It is what it is, and good at it. 5

Overall 23%

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