Batman (1966) / Action-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for comic violence
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriweather, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
Review published December 28, 2003
Welcome to summer camp, in this film version of the popular camp TV show of the caped crusader and boy wonder, bringing to the big screen the same deadpan wit you've come to know and love over the years. Perhaps Batman's staunchest fans may scoff at seeing such a silly treatment of their vaunted superhero, but you have to admit he would not be nearly as popular today if not for this show. There are some who think it is bad, but they miss the point of camp humor. It is supposed to be bad, laughed at, and ridiculed for the crock that it is. If you do make fun of it, you are laughing WITH the creators of this film and not at them, because they want you to have a good time tearing it apart. No better genre to laugh at how seriously it takes itself than the costumed superhero, and BATMAN skewers its subject mercilessly, but somehow, with great affection as well.
Although not really far removed from the television show in its low budget approach, filmed shortly after completing its first successful season on TV, this film features the novelty of having not one, but all four of Batman's arch-enemies collaborating in their fiendish plot to take over the world. The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler, and The Penguin, join forces aboard Penguin's submarine, and along with his invention of the super-dehydrator, which reduces anyone they shoot into dust, they plan on zapping all nine of the UN's Security Council. Well, wherever there's trouble, Batman and Robin are there on the double, and the dynamic duo have their hands full with four super-villains to contend with.
With tongues planted firmly in cheek, it's great fun to watch this colorful concoction of campiness in long form, and even though the material wears pretty thin when stretch to full-length form, the film revives itself from crashing into monotony with one clever bit after another. BATMAN's strengths comes from the comic performances of its cast, with Adam West's droll delivery and goofy physical prowess blending perfectly with the material, along with as good a cast of thespians as one could hope for in villains. Lee Meriwether plays Catwoman in the movie version, and quite well, and the trio of Romero, Meredith, and Gorshin are every bit as good as they were on the small screen.
Don't expect anything remotely resembling greatness or you'll be in for quite a disappointment. You are meant to be along for the ridiculous ride of fun, much in the same manner that you are when watching an AUSTIN POWERS flick, minus the toilet humor. Although it's a larger pill to swallow at close to two hours than it was in the small doses of the television show, it remains enough of a treat to garner a recommendation to the fanboy in everyone. Watch it with friends.
©2003 Vince Leo