Batman: Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
People seem to remember the Batman movies as follows: The Burton movies, the Schumacher movies, and the Dark Knight Trilogy. Many remember the Batman 1966 TV Series for its campy style but what people don’t remember is that the series had its own movie that same year. This movie is roughly in the same vein as the show.
The story involves Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) facing four villains including the Joker (Caesar Romero), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether) who plan to hold the world hostage for nine billion dollars through utilizing a device with the power to dehydrate people.
The movie wastes no time in establishing its camp factor as it begins with Batman is hanging from a Bat copter ladder while an obviously fake shark gnaws at his leg. Batman tries various ways to shake free before using his bat-shark repellent. Batman at one point is running around out in the open in the city with an active bomb (leading to the hilarious line at the start of this review). The movie’s writing makes it merely seem like a rather extended episode. While it is over-the-top it is self-aware. The movie budget does however allow for more gadgets, more vehicles such as the Bat boat and Bat cycle, and a greater use of the sets.
The story makes some social commentary that honestly works in context of the show as it was often known for its dispensing of morals such as using seatbelts, good grammar, staying in school, etc. Batman at one point tells his young ward that though there are people who drink they are still people. There’s also the scene at the United World Security Council towards the end where all the members are arguing in different languages (and even mixing the mannerisms and languages up) to the point they cannot understand each other makes for some nice political satire.
Three of the four villains in this movie made quite an impact in their respective episodes prior to this through their hammy acting and seeing them together in this movie working off of each other and the different ways they formulate their plans to take on the Dynamic Duo allows for a great deal of versatility with the plot. They are also where the movie shines the greatest. The camaraderie and bickering among all of them is superb to the point that you could just have them just talking amongst each other in a room and it would have been fine. Much like in the show, they are chewing the scenery whenever they can.
This was Lee Meriwether’s only portrayal as Catwoman (as Julie Newmar was unable to reprise the role due to being busy with another project during this movie’s production). Her goofy Russian accent plays perfectly with the rest of the movie’s cheesiness. Despite this being her only time as Catwoman she blends in perfectly with the rest of the cast.
West’s portrayal of Batman portrays him as the straight man in a world of insanity. This portrayal helps him differentiate himself among his foes. This is something that honestly carried through in future incarnations of the caped crusader where Batman was a man of reason in the crazy world of Gotham.
The movie also makes better use of Adam West as Bruce Wayne. In most of the episodes we only saw Bruce Wayne at the beginning and end of each episode. We see him genuinely become smitten with Catwoman under her persona of Miss Kitka. The scene where the two go out on a date is an enjoyable scene. And West’s performance shows some real emotion when he threatens to kill the trio of villains if they harm her (not knowing that she is Catwoman).
All in all, the movie is in fact, an extended episode of the show with a bigger budget. With that being said the movie does show to have a great deal of fun and takes the best parts of the show and carries them into this movie. It is in fact quite amazing that the movie was able to balance four villains (when more than one these days is usually too much for a superhero movie). It isn’t something that can be held up next to the other darker Batman movies but it is a product that does belong in the Batman hall of fame.