Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When superhero movies were fun!

It's 45 years today since the "Batman" television series debuted. Its huge success led quickly to a theatrical film that with most of the same cast and a more expansive display of goofiness and superhero funnies than the two-part story-lines presented in 30-minute episodes could contain.

Batman - The Movie (1966)
Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, Lee Meriwether, Frank Gorshin, and Cesar Romero
Director: Leslie M. Martison
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

The Caped Crusaders, Batman (West) and Robin (Ward), face the most deadly situation they have ever faced, as some of their most fearsome foes unite against them--Penguin (Meredith), Riddler (Gorshin), Joker (Romero) and Catwoman (Meriwether). This time, not only is Gotham City being threatened, but the Frightful Foursome are turning their De-Hydrator on the United Nations and abducting delegates.

"Batman - The Movie" is a colorful, garish superhero romp that delights in its own silliness. From beginning to end, it's a laugh a minute--with gags ranging from subtle to slapstick to straight-up absurdity. Rarely has a film matched the outrageous humor of the extended sequence on the pier where Batman tries to get rid of a live bomb, but finds innocent creatures (ranging from nuns to baby ducks) everywhere he turns. Plus, I still don't think any of the modern Batman movies have matched the Coolness Factor of the Batmobile in this film. (Yes, that includes even the much-praised wheels of "Batman Begins".)

If you seek out this movie, I recommend you get the DVD "Special Edition" (available for less than $10 from Amazon.com) as it's got a full-length commentary from Adam West and Burt Ward that's both funny and interesting, as well as a couple of short documentary bits and interviews that are very worthwhile. (I usually find the "extras" on DVDs to be wastes of time and boring, but not these.)


  1. Great post, I absolutely love this movie. I've always had this sense that people of my generation and younger erroneously see 60s TV as Andy Griffith and Donna Reed, and so they've never gotten that this version of Batman was silly on purpose, and actually in a very smart way. Also, I have the DVD you're talking about, and I second your recommendation of the Adam West/Burt Ward commentary.

  2. I stumbled upon Adam West's Batman TV show quite by accident and I have to say...even thought I'm sure it was marketed to pre-teen boys in it's time and I fit in neither of those categories, I found it hilarious and just plain fun. Adam West was both charming and completely off his rocker. After all the angst of The Dark Knight and this movement to make Batman suddenly dark and growly, the campiness of Adam West was somewhat refreshing. I haven't seen this movie, but now I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. A great companion film to the 1960s "Batman" movie and TV series is "Return to the Batcave: The Adventures of Adam and Burt." It's a mix of pure farce and a dramatization of the life and death of the Fox/ABC Batman show. (I will hopefully get a review up of it today or tomorrow, but Other Things are getting in the way! (Damn, I hate having to focus on projects that actually pay the bills!)