Thursday, March 10, 2011

#216. Batman: The Movie (1966)

Directed By: Leslie H. Martinson

Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether

Tag line: "He's Here Big As Life In A Real Bat-Epic"

Trivia:  Originally planned as the pilot film for the Batman TV series, the movie was instead produced between the show's first and second seasons

I have fond memories of the '60s Batman television series (though I wasn't around for its original run, I did catch it in syndication). As a kid, I was blown away by the variety of villains the Caped Crusader would match wits with week in and week out (my favorite being Victor Buono's King Tut). Then, as I got older, something strange happened: I couldn't stop laughing.  The same show I found so exciting as a child had, at some point, transformed into a very funny comedy. 

Batman: The Movie was released when the show was at the height of it's popularity. Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) face off against the most diabolical villains on the planet; The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and Catwoman (the lovely Lee Meriwether). All four of these arch-criminals have joined forces, and, with the help of a retired navy submarine, plan to take over the world. Can the Dynamic Duo foil their sinister plot in time to save mankind? 

Many of the elements that made the series so entertaining are here for the taking, from the narrator (William Dozier) who follows our heroes everywhere they go, to the variety of impressive bat-themed products they use whenever they're in a jam (items like the bat radar, the batcopter and of course, the shark repellent bat-spray). Another aspect of the show's appeal was it's plethora of super-criminals, and Batman: The Movie ups the ante by giving us not one, but four of Batman's most notorious foes (all of whom, at one point, come to the same conclusion; instead of simply shooting the caped crusader in the head, it'd be much more effective to lure Batman into their secret lair, launch him through a window, and watch as he falls into the arms of a giant octopus laced with dynamite).

West and Ward are predictably excellent as Batman and Robin, delivering their lines like the fate of the world hung on every syllable. I love that they take themselves so very seriously, regardless of how ridiculous the situation may be. In one of the film's best scenes, Batman is running along the docks, trying to dispose of a lit bomb. Everywhere he turns, there are nuns, baby carriages, even a Salvation Army band blocking his way, causing him to utter my favorite line: “Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb”. 

Batman: The Movie is the TV show on a much grander scale, and being such a fan of the series, that's perfectly alright with me!


fred said...

Great synopsis plus “Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb." is one of my favorite movie lines ever. I use it in everyday conversation...

Dave Becker said...

Fred: Hey! How's things?

I really had a great time with this movie. It had everything the show had, and then some.

And I think I might remember you using that line once or twice. Maybe THAT'S why it struck me as so funny!

Thanks for the comment, and keep in touch

Klaus said...

Being a couple of years older, I was fortunate enough to see the television show during its first run, and recall "grown-ups" really liking this show, and wondering why? Of course seeing it as an adult a number of years later, it was pretty obvious. Strangely enough I hadn't seen the movie until a decade after it was made. I'm not sure how I missed it, especially since it must have played at our local drive in theatre!

Just Rhonda said...

Another great line...when The Penguin and Catwoman are scooping up the ashes of the guinea pigs and Penguin says, "Be careful. Every one of 'em has a mother!" That's hilarious and I read somewhere that Burgess Meredith actually ad-libbed that line...just another facet of the man's awesomeness.

Dave Becker said...

@Klaus: I came to the movie well after the run of the show as well, when I was older and able to see the humor more clearly.

But man, the thought of seeing this movie at a drive-in is an enticing one!

Thanks for the comment.

Dave Becker said...

@Just Rhonda: Thanks for stopping by.

Yes, that's another great line.

It doesn't surprise me that Meredith ad-libbed it. According to IMDB, he also threw in the line when they were in the sub, "Run Silent, Run Deep". It's a nod to the famous film, of course, but also a bit of an inside joke. Frank Gorshin, who plays the Riddler, was up for a part in RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP, but didn't get it because his car broke down on the way to the audition!

Anthony Lee Collins said...

I really need to see this. I never did, though I watched the show religiously when it was on.

(Maybe I boycotted it because of the lack of Julie Newmar).

Talking of the Adam West line delivery, I have to mention (you may know this already, of course) that Nicholas Cage modeled his speech patterns on Kick-Ass on Adam West's Batman. The director had some doubts about it, but it works really well.

Dave Becker said...

Anthony: Definitely worth a watch (even w/o Newmar!)

As for the Adam West / Nicholas Cage connection, I hadn't heard that. Very interesting (thinking back on the movie, I can see it, but I admit I didn't pick up on it at the time). Thanks for passing it along.