Monday, August 17, 2015

On DVD: Batman: The Movie (1966)

Holy height of cheese!

Released in between seasons 1 & 2 of the series, Batman moves to the big screen for the first time since the serial days of the Golden Age.

In what otherwise would've amounted to a 4-part, 2-week story arc on TV, Batman (Adam West) & Robin (Burt Ward) must face their four greatest enemies, united together for the first time in the series--The Penguin (Burgess Meredith, ex-Mr. Novak), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), The Joker (Cesar Romero, ex-Passport to Danger) & Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, subbing for Julie Newmar). A convoluted plot leads to mass confusion on a global scale.

After the predictable, often nonsensical traps you'd expect from the show, and minimal narration from William Dozier (not heard from after the first few minutes of the film), we learn that the "United Underworld" plans to abduct 9 dignitaries for ransom, but with a twist. Lorenzo Semple, Jr.'s script's final act will have folks reaching for their Bibles for a reference point. Something having to do with the Tower of Babel. If you've seen the movie, and chances are you have in the last 49 years, at least once or twice, you'll get it.

Any Bat-Cat shippers among you will get some service, but not enough to suit. In this story, Catwoman goes undercover as a Russian journalist, and gets a date with Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately, the romantic subplot is all part of the main criminal agenda, and not Catwoman acting independently out of love & respect for the Caped Crusader. Meriwether's dialogue as Catwoman falls flat, but she affects a servicable Russian accent to make up for it. Bat-scholars looking at this today will dismiss the obvious rubber shark early in the movie as a product of a low budget, and leave it at that. Made today, the shark would likely be either mechanical or CGI.

Does the United Underworld get along? Hmmm, welllllllllllllll, of course not! There is nearly endless bickering because the Dynamic Duo escape every trap set before them.

The trailer's just as cheesy. Check it.

Until today, I had not seen the movie in its entirety, and I have seen all 7 Bat-movies released theatrically since. You know how critics are quick to complain when a movie based on a Saturday Night Live skit doesn't come across as little more than extended television fare? That conceit applies here, too. Small wonder, then, that there wasn't a sequel, and fans would have to wait 23 years before the next Bat-movie.

Rating: C.


Samuel Wilson said...

You're perhaps too harsh on a funny, fun film. The villains are in top form apart from the poor substitute for Newmar. If they ever wanted to do a Batman '66 comic with all three Catwomen, they should make Meriweather an actual Russian spy to justify her existence. After watching the new Fantastic Four movie, just about any other superhero movie looks better.

hobbyfan said...

I neglected to mention, of course, that Lee Meriwether's reward for her yeoman's work was landing a supporting role on Time Tunnel, but that's neither here nor there at this point. There were some holes in the plot that dragged the movie down.

You did get what I meant about the Tower of Babel reference at the end of the movie, didn't you? That final scene was one of the few I've seen most often in cable plays of the movie.