BluRay/DVD Reviews

BATMAN – THE MOVIE (1966)

By • Aug 21st, 2001 •

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“MEN DIE! WOMEN SIGH! BENEATH THAT BATCAPE – HE’S ALL MAN!” (publicity)

It is one of my duties to report on the bizarre – and this qualifies.

It is the mid sixties and while most studios were trying to emulate the success of the Bond franchise with shows like Mission Impossible, The Man From UNCLE, and The Wild, Wild West, one studio took another direction.

Batman was one of those TV shows you either loved or hated. There was no in between. Bat-purists despised it. Most women didn’t like it – it was stupid. Most men liked it because it was stupid and appealed to that side that all men have i.e.: that part that won’t grow up. Kids took it all very seriously whilst the grown-ups tittered at the absurdity of it, and at the jokes that only the adults would get:

“Batman, we’re trapped by some kind of invisible magnetic grip!”
“Yes Robin! It’s got us by the… metallic objects in our utility belts!”

I loved it. I was nine. A common line in my house at the time was “Hey dad, stop laughing. This is serious!” as Batman and Robin were trussed up inside a giant coffee cup and about to have scalding hot liquid poured over them. But the villains would always leave them unobserved and always with enough time to make an escape. But not until the next episode “Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel…”

“We wish to express our gratitude to the enemies of crime and crusaders against crime throughout the world for their inspirational example. To them and to lovers of adventure, lovers of pure escapism, lovers of unadulterated entertainment, lovers of the ridiculous and the bizarre…to fun lovers everywhere this picture is respectfully dedicated.
If we have overlooked any sizable group of lovers, we apologize.”
(Acknowledgement shown at the beginning of the movie)

Batman The Movie took the TV formula and did it bigger and better and of course the majority of us had only ever seen our heroes on a small black and white screen, now here they were in full and garish colour, and colour the makers took full advantage of. Also now the Dynamic Duo didn’t just have a Batmobile; now they had a Batboat, a Bat Cycle and a Batcopter to aid in their relentless fight against the brightly coloured costumed forces of evil.

The stars of the series all reprised their respective roles, except Catwoman who in the movie is played by Lee Meriwether, the TV series’ Julie Newmar being unavailable. In the audio commentary Burt Ward states this is because she was filming MacKenna’s Gold, which doesn’t ring true as that movie was released in 1969 and also featured Burgess (Penguin) Meredith. However, now we had four super-villains all at once:
Commissioner Gordon: Penguin, Joker, Riddler…and Catwoman, too! The sum of the angles of that rectangle is too monstrous to contemplate!
Batman: We’ve been given the plainest warning: they’re working together to take over…
Chief O’Hara: To take over what, Batman, Gotham City?!
Batman: Any 2 of them would try that!
Commissioner Gordon: The whole country?!
Batman: If it were 3 of them, I would say yes, but 4?! Their minimum objective must be… the entire world!

I won’t bother going into the plot as it’s superfluous. This is pure pantomime. The heroes played it dead straight and the villains of course were always over the top and filmed at weird angles because they were crooked, not on the level. The once ‘Latin Lover’ Cesar Romero’s Joker has his moustache powdered white because he refused to shave off the feature that had made him a star. Other big stars of the day were queuing up to appear in the show. Guest villains in the series included Vincent Price, Otto Preminger, George Sanders, Earth Kitt, Victor Buono, Maurice Evans, Liberace, Cliff Robertson, Ann Baxter and a myriad of others made cameo appearances through an open window during the weekly wall walk.
Robin: When you think, Batman, with people in weird outfits, like those 4 supercrooks hanging around here, it’s amazing somebody hasn’t already reported this place to the police!
Batman: It’s a low neighbourhood, full of rumpots. They’re used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.
Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn’t it? I’d rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

I now laugh at the stuff my dad used to laugh at, but I still remember the thrill that nine year old felt when the Bat theme started up and Desmond Doomsday started his narration: “Meanwhile, atop the umbrella factory…”

Robin: You risked your life to save that…riffraff in the bar?!
Batman: They may be drinkers, Robin, but they’re also human beings, and may be salvaged. I had to do it!

The DVD release of the movie restores all the gaudy colour and the animated menus are presented in appropriate Bat-Style.

Happy memories.

“Holy Nostalgia!” (Sorry – had to do one…)


Special Features:
Audio Commentary By Adam West and Burt Ward
“The Batmobile Revealed” Featurette with designer George Barris
Batman Featurette
Theatrical Trailer
Teaser Trailer
Still Galleries “From The Vaults Of Adam West”
Still Galleries “Behind The Scenes”
Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Dolby Digital 2.0
Languages- English
Subtitles- Hard Of Hearing English, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish
Running Time 101 Minutes
(Details refer to the Region 2 DVD release)


Cast:
Adam West: Bruce Wayne/Batman
Burt Ward: Dick Grayson/Robin
Burgess Meredith: The Penguin
Frank Gorshin: The Riddler
Cesar Romero: The Joker
Lee Meriwether: Catwoman/Kitka
Alan Napier: Alfred
Stafford Repp: Chief O’Hara
Neil Hamilton: Commissioner Gordon
Madge Blake: Aunt Harriet

Credits:
Music by Nelson Riddle (Batman Theme by Neal Hefti)
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Produced by Wlliam Dozier for 20th Century Fox.

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