Batman the Movie [retro review]

“They may be drinkers, Robin, but they’re still human beings.”

The Scoop: 1966 PG, directed by Leslie H. Martinson and starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, and Burgess Meredith

Tagline: FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE MOTION PICTURE SCREEN IN COLOR! Adam West As Batman And Burt Ward As Robin Together With All Their Fantastic Derring-Do And Their Dastardly Villains, Too!

Summary Capsule: Batman and Robin face off against four of Gotham City’s worst villians: Ted Kennedy, Howard Stern, Barney and Britney Spears

Justin’s Rating: I’m Batman, stop laughing at me!

Justin’s Review: I had the unfortunate opportunity to watch this film not once, but twice during a youth group trip. One time through, and I was suffering from minor headaches. The second time I felt like yanking the wheel of the bus to send us all over a cliff to our quick and painless deaths (Didn’t I mention we had to watch this on a bus? Oh well, details, details…). In any case, this campy cult movie is just so unbearably cheesy that it’s incredibly difficult to get through it without wincing in pain — UNLESS you have good friends to laugh at it with you.

Based off of the campy 60’s series, Batman the Movie follows our heroes Batman (Adam “William Shatner” West) and Robin (Burt “I’m not wearing panties! I’m not!” Ward) as they battle four villians: the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman. The plot is relatively unimportant, as the movie is kinda divided up in episodes, much like the series. Ultimately, there’s the security council of the UN to be saved from massive dehydration, which they treat with more import than the whole “saving the world” motif of Armageddon. People, it’s the U.N. Being dehydrated into crystals would change nobody’s life anywhere.

If you’ve ever seen the show, you know a lot of what’s in this movie. There’s Batman, the Captain Kirk of superheroes, who likes to give lectures that makes your parents’ Sex Talk seem pretty fun. At one point he’s lecturing Robin on tampering with nature. Ex-cuse me? This is Batman, a guy who has an entire cave set up to do scientific experiments and has a hundred spray bottles around his belt to counter most of nature’s savagries! Then there’s Robin, who seems like a poster boy for idiot savants, minus the savant part.

They’re generally a stupid duo who think they’re all that and a bag of chips (see if you can keep from groaning when soldiers give the batcopter a salute). Most of their schtick comes through brief action sequences scored by really ineffectual action music, a lot of talk-talk-talking, and dramatic poses that cause the viewer to think, “Those tights show off their pretty small Bat-bulges and makes me feel like projectile vomiting!”. They have a lot of little toys, like a PHONE that works inside their CAR, but unfortunately lack submachine guns that could have torn the Joker and Co. into little hissing pieces.

Speaking of which, compared to Batman and Robin at least, the bad guys here are slightly more interesting. There’s a lot of manic laughter and jumping around, and a gross underuse of the Riddler character (Who sends up riddles into the sky via Polaris rockets? What does that cost? Wouldn’t telegrams work just as well?). The one treat of the film is Catwoman (played by the sexy Lee Meriwether). She gets one good wink in, somewhere around the middle of the film, that is easily the movie’s high point. They’re never really threatening, but fortunately we only have to endure one “KIFF!” “KAPOWIE” “ZOOM!” fistfight sequence.

The sad thing is that the Batman series really had its strength in being cheesy funny. We were never really watching for the incredible action sequences that left us on the edge of our couches. The movie, with a bigger budget (at least $12 more than a series episode), tries like a pining teenager to be liked for the action instead, which means the laughs are really few and far between. One scene has Batman trying to dispose of a bomb for what seems like a half hour. He runs here, he runs there, for some stupid reason he can’t just chuck the bomb off the harbor (there’s a kissing couple in a rowboat and some ducks — what’s the problem with a few casualties?). Not to mention the bomb is one of those round black balls with a lit fuse… does Batman not own a Swiss Army knife to simply cut the fuse? Or perhaps even think of licking two of his BatFingers and dousing it like a candle wick? Perhaps in the sixties extended periods of physical comedies were considered humorous, but I doubt it.

The other thing is that you just get the sense that Adam West really thought he was a genuine stud, which was reinforced by the fad popularity of the time. What he had to be proud of, I don’t know, but now he’s just a living (or dead, I don’t check on these things) joke. Just try to watch Batman the Movie without really developing an extreme dislike for West… he’s like the nerdy know-it-all in college who just looks down on everyone for not being as perfect as they are. Anyway, that’s my ten cents, plus two cents interest.

Andie’s Rating: Purrrfect, absolutely purrrfect.

Andie’s Review: A Mutant Reviewer from Hell could not ask for a better cult movie. I happened to catch this gem on latenight F/X the other night and I absolutely loved it. My brother and I could not stop laughing! If you’re going to watch it, it certainly helps if you were a fan of the old TV show Batman. But if you want a campy, hilarious piece of fluff, this is your movie.

The plotline for this glorious, horrendous piece of cinema is that the four main supervillains from the TV series, the Penguin, the Riddler, the Joker, and Catwoman, have banded together to take over the world and only two people can stop them! Quick Commissioner Gordon, the Batsignal! Enter Batman and Robin, the dynamic duo destined to demonlish this dastardly deed! Oh, they’re so dashing in their skintight spandex costumes.

Batman and Robin are up to their usual heroics in their Batmobile, Batboat and Batcopter. Machines that are clearly labeled so we know they are the BatDust Separator or the BatFood Processor or something like that. They have shark repellant and torpedo detonators, etc. etc. etc. I was always more of a Robin fan than a Batman one, mostly because I thought Adam West was old and gross and Burt Ward was young and cute. I also think Robin is adorable when they get riddles from The Riddler and he just magically comes up with some answer so far-fetched and ridiculous that nobody would ever get it, but it’s totally reasonable since it’s in the Batman movie. Batman and Robin are hilarious together, though, putting in little comments about the dangers of drinking or falling for women. And my all-time favorite hero moment is when Batman finds a bomb and runs around like a crazy man trying to find a place to throw it away, but he keeps running into people he couldn’t possibly hurt, like a nun or a woman with a baby or some more nuns or some ducks or a young couple in love or a another nun. It’s hysterical.

I’m also a big fan of when they use the Batrope to climb up the side of the building and it’s so obvious they’re just walking along a building-like floor and the camera is turned sideways. There’s also a great fight scene complete with “Biff” and “Ker-sploosh” and “Whamo” flashed on the screen. And I can never have enough “Holy nightmare!” or “Holy deepsea animal!” or whatever from Robin. Something I did miss from the TV series, though, was The Voice. You know what I’m talking about. Like when Batman and Robin are magnetized to a buoy and there are torpedoes heading for them, I wanted to hear the man go, “Will our pals perish at the hands of the Penguin’s periscope? Will they manage to undo the magnet before they are mangled by the massive underwater mine? To find out, tune in tomorrow, same Bat time, same Bat channel.” I was really missing those great cliffhangers. But since it’s a movie, what can you do?

The real highlights of the film, however, are the villains. They are all incredible! Frank Gorshin as the Riddler is my personal favorite. It’s kinda weird, but I find him attractive. Anyway, he cackles and hops around and acts all crazy and is genuinely a fun character to watch. Also, if you watch closely, you’ll notice that he never blinks when the camera is on him. Not once. It’s freaky. (Side note: Jim Carrey really did an excellent job of emulating Gorshin’s Riddler in Batman Forever). Lee Meriweather, the third woman to play Catwoman, is purrfectly sly and charming both as Catwoman and as Kitka, a Russian newspaper writer who seduces and kidnaps debonair millionaire Bruce Wayne, not knowing that he also Batman. Cesar Romero is fantastic as the Joker. He always scared me a little as a kid, because his mouth was so freakishly long. But he is the one and only Joker, Jack Nicholson can’t hold a candle to the original. And finally, Burgess Meredith is the Penguin. He is so delightfully silly. A lot of the villain action takes place on the Penguin’s submarine, which is painted to look like a giant penguin, and he runs around and squawks out orders and smokes his cigarette and is just wonderful.

Seriously, you can’t ask for a better campy 60’s movie. This flick has everything. You’ll find yourself laughing at the ridiculousness of it, but you’ll be enjoying it at the same time. Also, if you want a treat, go check out the official website for it by Fox. It’s got all sorts of cool interactive stuff. But definitely check out this movie, I guarantee you’ll be laughing your head off.

Action sequences for the hearing impaired

Intermission!

  • Batman’s ears are pretty, um, short
  • Catwoman wears cat-related outfits when in disguise (huh?)
  • How many repellants do you need in a helicopter?
  • How do they change outfits sliding down a pole?
  • Burgess Meredith, the Penguin, went on to play in all the Rocky movies and play Jack Lemmon’s dad in Grumpy and Grumpier Old Men.
  • How pissed off the cat looks when Batman throws it in the lifeboat? Hee hee
  • The nine countries included in the World Council are the US, the UK, Spain, France, Nigeria, Israel, the USSR, Germany and Japan.
  • Ceasar Romero painted over his moustache instead of shaving it off
  • The Batman series aired from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968 on ABC for 120 episodes. The episodes were generally two-parters: Wednesday’s episode was a cliffhanger, resolved in Thursday’s episode.
  • Batman creator Bob Kane noted that this series saved the Batman comic series from cancellation when the show revived the character’s popularity. Despite this, most comic fans despised this series for stereotyping superheroes and comics as campy nonsense. Furthermore, soon after the show was canceled, the character’s comic series took on a dark and deadly serious tone that was reminiscent of the original comics in the late 1930’s as a reaction to the TV show’s light touch.
  • Adam West always believed that this movie would be a showcase for his acting talents that the TV show didn’t provide, but playing Batman at all pretty much ruined his career for any other serious acting because he would always be Batman.
  • The Batcave set cost around $800,000.

Groovy Quotes

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: 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.

Robin: It looks bad, Batman. This brassy bird has us buffaloed.

Batman: They may be drinkers, Robin, but they’re still human beings.

Robin: When you think, Batman, with those 4 supercrooks hangin’ around, it’s amazing somebody hasn’t already reported this place to the police!
Batman: It’s a low neighborhood, 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!

[Opening narration]
Narrator: This yacht is bringing a revolutionary scientific invention to Gotham City. On a peaceful afternoon motor ride, millionaire Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward Dick Grayson have been summoned back to Wayne Manor by an urgent but anonymous call for help; the invention AND its custodian are reported in grave danger aboard the yacht! Never ones to shirk responsibility, Bruce and Dick, with characteristic speed and resolve, descend promptly into The Batcave, and then, as they have done many times before, as BATMAN AND ROBIN, courageous warriors against crime, they are off once again to the rescue!

Catwoman: You and your submarine! Look where it’s got us now!
Penguin: Shut up, you feline floozy!

Batman: Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

Penguin: Careful, careful, every one of them’s got a mother.

Batman: The Riddler is loose to plague us with his criminal conundrums.

Batman: Confound it Robin, the batteries are dead!

Batman: Who knows, Robin? This strange mixing of minds may be the greatest single service ever performed for humanity! Let’s go, but, inconspicuously, through the window. We’ll use our Batropes. Our job is finished.

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