The Sunday Film Review: Batman (1966)
Leslie H. Martinson (1966)
Holy terrible retail experience poorly constructed film review fans! When last you left (actually that’s not true, it was several reviews ago, just go with it) your compelling and irrefutably handsome wannabe indie filmmaker was enjoying a terrible experience battling the evil entities at John Lewis. The battle between good (reviewer) and pure evil (John Lewis) raged so ferociously, your reviewer was left unable to explain his intelligent theory on how to reboot a franchise successfully (geniusly named Sam’s Motherfucking Theory on Reboots). Originally he intended to use the Batman Franchise (which has had like four reboots) as an example, but thanks to convoluted events involving the shocking discovery of John Lewis developing their own Genesis Device, that idea fell by the wayside. Will the situation be resolved, will our intrepid writer forgive the heartless cretins at John Lewis, will we get to read Sam’s Motherfucking Theory on Reboots? The answer to this and more, coming up, right……………………………………… now.
Yes, never, that’s what this reviews designed to set up.
To explain how I think you avoid making another reboot like Rise of The Planet of the Apes (no, no I will not let it go, that movie was too horrible, too damn horrible!) using Batman, I need to first look at how the franchise initially established itself, which I can’t be arsed to do yet, so here’s a plot summary. Drinking game, take a shot every time I type the word camp or derivatives there of.
Batman 66 starts with one of the best dedications I’ve ever read
There, how nice a message is that? (If you’re reading this on RYM then hello, feel free to add me as a friend, but I’m sorry, no pictures)
Then it’s straight into camp action in which the dynamic duo (Adam West as Batman, Burt Ward as Robin, as if you didn’t already know) get into sequence involving the Batcopter, a disappearing boat, an exploding Chondrichthye and a gem of a sight gag about shark repellent spray. In a subsequent, incredibly camp conversation with Commissioner Gordon (A slightly camp Neil Hamilton) and Police Chief Miles O’Hara (Stafford Repp with a somewhat off Irish accent), our heroes discern that four of batman’s greatest enemies have joined forces. My favourite part was Robin working out Catwoman’s involvement by stating, and I quote: ‘this whole thing happened at sea, C, for Catwoman’.
By this point you’re giggling (if not dead inside or too cool for old films) and those giggles turn into belly laughs when the four villains get introduced (again, provided you’re not dead and blah blah blah). As Robin deduced, Catwoman (a very sexy Lee Meriwether, who was a voice in Metal Gear Solid 4, the poor unfortunate soul) is involved, her role is to make purr puns and occasionally throw a black cat at the other three villains whenever they start arguing. She also stays out of the physical stuff, not sure if that’s a reflection of sixties attitude to women on film or not, but it seem interesting enough an observation to place in this sentence, so yeah.
Next there’s The Joker (Cesar Romero, fun fun fun), whose job is to laugh a lot and gleefully make a camp joke out of the line ‘fire torpedoes’. Following on there’s The Riddler (Frank Gorshin, who provided voices for Diablo 2, a game much, much better than Metal Gear Solid 4), his job is to argue with The Joker and make riddles so ridiculous they cross the line into genius and plant themselves there for all time (no spoilers, this films worth watching just for the riddles). Finally, and very likely stealing the show, we get The Penguin (Burgess Meredith, who survived the bullshit that was the Un-American Activities Hollywood blacklist to have a career any actor would be proud of, good for him). The Penguins role is to act as the glue that holds the rest of the group together. It’s Penguin who explains what the evil plans actually are, and he has a particularly exquisite sequence in which he disguises himself as a camp sea captain.
Oh, and Alan Napier, a fine British actor, gets a few scenes as Alfred the Butler, in which he acts camply and does very little else.
The rest of the film involves the four villains trying to realise their goal of world domination via seducing Bruce Wayne, a dehydration machine, an exploding octopus and a submarine with a penguins face.
Plot summary finishes
I’ll do the ground work for Sam’s Motherfucking Theory on Reboots next, hope you enjoy statements of an obvious nature. Batman’s first big screen incarnation, ok, technically it’s the second, but I have neither the time nor the patience to track down a 1943 fifteen part serial, and I doubt there was enough of a 1943 audience for Batman 66 to be considered a reboot…………….. that my friends (not really), is what we call a cop out, enjoy. Now where was I?
Oh yeah, so, Batman’s 66 incarnation of the caped crusader was camp, fun and over the top. Bats used grandiose language bordering on the absurd, had a dead-pan expression and wore a wonderfully camp costume. There was also very little separating Batman from Bruce Wayne, effectively they’re one and the same. They speak the same, have the same mannerisms, and share affections for the same lady. Of course Batman also has a ton of gadgets, ones ranging from the useful (Batcopter, Batbike with side car, utility belt) to the downright inane (Robin go-kart). There’s also a sense that Batman’s a far superior force than his villainous counterparts. The fearsome foursome (think I came up with that, it could easily be in the movie, but till you watch it and tell me, I’m taking the kudos) target is world domination, but they perennially state their plan can’t be achieved as long as Batman’s in the way. Even when they seem to have the upper hand, they barely lay a scratch on Batman and he easily escapes their contrived traps (though at one point that’s with the help of some noble porpoises). There’s also a swinging soundtrack, and a general sense of absurdity and farce.
That may not have seemed the most interesting paragraph, but it’ll be the one I refer to most in my next Batman review………………………. And that my friends (not really) is what we call making it seem like you’ve made a point when in actuality you’ve said nothing at all.
Right now that’s out the way, I’m free to say if I enjoyed Batman 66 or not………….
I enjoyed Batman 66.
Written By Sam ‘!Thwack!, !Crash!, !Wallop!’ McKinstrie……………………….. But wait, there’s more.
Before Dark Knight was released, I remember Adam West did a few interviews in which he said he wasn’t exactly looking forward to the film. He made some blasé comments about Batman having become too dark and serious, and was dismissed either because know-it-alls such as myself like to dismiss people, or maligned as performing little more than a petty grab for column inches. In retrospect, I can sort of see his point.
Don’t get me wrong, I remain a massive Dark Knight fan, in fact I’ve enjoyed a darker interpretation of Batman ever since I was a snotty and oversensitive kid listening to a BBC radio version of the Knightfall storyline, but in all honesty, I enjoyed watching Batman 66 as much as any of the later films. It was just refreshing to watch a film doing everything it can to stop me taking it seriously. [Insert Joker ‘why so serious’ quote here]. Batman 66 was made to be enjoyed, that’s how I felt, and they really went all out to achieve that. There’s some delightfully farcical dialogue, sight gags galore (the Batcave is full of signs), and lest I forget, a swinging sixties soundtrack. Batman 66 had me laughing out loud, the villains were awesome, and everything was so silly that it reminded me in a good way of my days watching The Naked Gun films. It’s a shame more films aren’t deliberately like this, because done right, farce works, it works incredibly well.
Batman 66 also serves as an interesting throwback to sixties sensibilities, there’s a subplot involving Bruce Wayne and a sexy Russian journalist. At one point the two end up in a horse drawn carriage and exchange some very suggestive dialogue. Wayne basically uses the metaphor of a dream to describe climaxing, then asks for sex by saying ‘may I escort you home’ rather than, fancy a shag/fuck/boom-boom/moment of intimacy/trip to penetration station (that last one I used during a love-making session……………….it will not happen again). I reckon these days asking to escort a girl home is much more likely to bring out the pepper spray than something a bit more forward and upfront.
Any negatives? Sure, it’s a bit long, there, that’s the only negative I can be bothered to think of.
Finally, there was one fascinating moment set in the Batcave. Batman and Robin quickly rid themselves of five rehydrated goons, because, unfortunately, the goons were rehydrated using heavy water, which made their physical forms unstable enough to pop out of existence with the slightest bump. Upon realising they’ve just witnessed the deaths of five goons, Batman and Robin have a moment of introspection and genuinely seem upset at the thought that five men just died. It’s a bit like the ‘no one ever thinks about a henchman’ scenes from Austin Powers, except with a value placed on life, rather than making a joke out of friends and relatives brutally losing a loved one to a steam roller.
I’ll conclude, Batman 66 is camp and entertaining, it’s dated well enough and I really enjoyed the experience enough to recommend.
Written By Sam ‘If I could get away with those tights, life would be one step nearer perfection’ McKinstrie
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