Saturday, June 12, 2021

Batman (1966)

Another of the movies that got put into the FXM rotation in the past few months is the 1966 version of Batman. It's on again tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM with a repeat at 1:10 PM, so I watched an earlier recording to do a blog post on here.

20th Century Fox, which at the time did not have a TV network although it did produce TV shows for the three existing networks, got the rights to develop a series based on the comic book, with one of the producers wanting to make a movie. But that would have been too expensive, so the TV series went forward. That turned out to be a massive hit in the winter of 1966, so hasty production plans were developed to make a movie based on the TV series for the summer of 1966; with most of the actors from the TV show reprising their roles in the movie.

Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) are the alter egos of Batman and Robin respectively; the superheroes learn about a Captain Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny) whose yacht may be about to be waylaid, so they should go and protect him. In fact, he's already been kidnapped off his yacht and what Batman and Robin see is a holographic projection designed as a trap to kill them. They deduce out of thin air that this was a set-up by the United Underworld, four of Gotham City's biggest supervillains.

The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), who has put Schmidlapp into a submarine designed like Schmidlapp's below decks to fool him into thinking he hasn't been kidnapped, more or less leads the group, along with the Joker (Cesar Romero), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and the Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, taking Julie Newmar's role from the TV series). Schmidlapp has created some sort of dehydration device, and the United Underworld wants to kidnap the Security Council of the United World (they obviously couldn't use the term United Nations although the producers did get establishing shots of UN Headquarters) and dehydrate them to hold the world to ransom.

Batman and Robin have any number of (mis)adventures involving a bomb along with the Penguin disguising himself as Schmidlapp before figuring out that the real plot is to kidnap the Security Council and ultimately saving the day, not that we didn't know the good guys would win in the end.

The TV series was conceived to be campy and over the top, with the movie taking the same tack. There's a lot of faux-serious scientistic dialog that in fact makes no real sense, but that's part of the fun. We only get the fight scene with the silly superimposed interjections ("Biff!" "Kerplunk!" "Sploosh!" and so on) toward the end. But everything that viewers of the TV series would have seen is still there, which is probably all the moviegoers of the time wanted.

If you're looking for an intelligent story, then don't watch Batman. But then again, I don't think anybody would go into this version of the comic book hero expecting anything more than silly campy fun. In that regard, it succeeds wildly. And if silly summer fun is what you want, then Batman is absolutely worth the watch.

1 comment:

thevoid99 said...

I still prefer this version than... ugh... Batman & Robin.