By Will Barber – Taylor
Batman is 75 years old this year. To celebrate I shall be posting a Bat Cave full of reviews and articles dedicated to The Dark Knight. The first of these is a review of Batman’s first theatrical foray, the 1966 Batman movie. This wasn’t the first time Batman appeared on film, in 1943 and 1949 Columbia Pictures released two Batman “movies”. They weren’t really movies but more episodic stories that you could see in chapters at the cinema. Deciding that this doesn’t count technically as a film, I decided to start off with the 1966 Batman movie. And now, Bat – Fans onto the dynamic review!
The film opens with a trench coated man running down a street. Suddenly, via the aid of a spotlight our two dynamic heroes appear Batman (as played by a graduate of the Shatner School of acting, Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward). Our camp spotlight then shows us “the villains”. Catwoman (Lellie Merrywether), The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and The Riddler (Kermit the Frog’s stunt double, Frank Gorshin). We then see our trench coated friend again running down a back alley while he is being perused by our heroes.
We then begin the movie’s plot. A device has been stolen from a yacht by the group of villains and our overly campy heroes must retrieve it before the villains (and I’m not kidding here) dehydrate people. The thing with the movie is that really it is just a bigger budget version of the TV show not that different or unique. The whole plot could easily be taken from the TV show and the only thing really special about the film is the team up of the TV show’s most recognisable villains.
The film is incredibly ridiculous not only visually but the dialogue is exceedingly moronic. During a press conference by Batman and Robin, Catwoman (disguised as a Russian journalist) asks The Caped Crusader and The Boy Wonder to take off their masks so that she can take a picture. Both, of course, refuse. Commissioner Gordon’s face during the scene is utterly fantastic. He looks as though she has asked them to drop their pants. Robin states that they are “Only ordinary Americans!” Yeah sure; your average American is an incredibly wealthy, influential vigilante who lives in a massive mansion. Yes, Batman and Robin surely are just like the general American population.
The acting in the film is incredibly over blown. Robin spends most of the time so wide eyed, it is incredible a fly doesn’t do into it. Batman manages to make everything take longer by pausing in the middle of every sentence almost mirroring Shatner’s portrayal as Captain Kirk in Star Trek. Frank Gorshin’s Riddler seems to be imitating every Italian mobster ever seen on film, while Meredith’s Penguin does sound remarkably like a bird. The most natural performance in the film is Catwoman who at times, unlike the others, actually seems threatening.
The 1966 Batman movie is really a piece of pop culture lost in a time bubble. Like the 1960s Doctor Who movies it is a fun bit of fluff. The film, rather like the decade that spawned it, is big, colourful and completely off the wall. If you want to spend 104 minutes with some of the most ridiculous cartoony characters ever to be spawned, this is the film for you.
TIM BURTON’S BATMAN
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