Monday, September 23, 2019

Kapow! Batman: The Movie

The Caped Crusaders board a yacht.
Sarkoffagus, who wrote for the Classic Film & TV Cafe for its first five years, penned this special guest blogger review.

As the Cafe celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, someone else has reached a prominent anniversary in 2019. The DC Comics character, Batman, is now 80 years young. He’s been featured in numerous films, including the 1966 movie based on the TV series.

The Caped Crusaders try to rescue an inventor--and his invention--aboard a yacht. As they approach in the Batcopter, the yacht suddenly vanishes. Batman soon deduces that a sinister plot is unfolding, courtesy of not one villain, but four: the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, and Catwoman. Unfortunately, their scheme of global proportions also entails targeting Batman and Robin, to ensure the crime-fighters won’t interfere. Catwoman poses as Russian journalist, Kitka, and seduces Bruce Wayne (to draw out Batman, as the villains are unaware of the irony); and Penguin attempts to infiltrate the Batcave. All the while, Batman and Robin must thwart the nefarious plan already underway.

Bruce Wayne has dinner with...Catwoman.
This feature film, released in the summer between the TV show’s first and second seasons, retains all the colorful campiness of its television source. While some of it may seem dated, the filmmakers were undoubtedly aiming to make an entertaining romp. In one scene, Batman sprints around a dock, looking for a safe place to dispose of a bomb with a burning fuse. It’s a lengthy bit played mostly for laughs, much like the ending, in which the resolution has a surprising hitch.

Robin and Batman in the Batmobile.
The classic Batmobile makes several appearances, of course, as do the Batcopter, the Batcycle, and the shockingly fast Batboat. It’s great fun to see all four villains on the big screen, though their diabolical plot is somewhat muddled; it isn’t easy to tell if it’s all been planned, or if they’re making some of it up as they go along. Still, watching their egos clash is an interesting turn.

Catwoman, the Joker, and the Penguin plot deviously.
Everyone reprises their respective TV roles with panache, save Julie Newmar, who was unavailable to play Catwoman in the movie. Lee Meriwether does an admirable job portraying the feline villain, even if she’s not quite as charming as Newmar or as playful as Eartha Kitt, who took the Catwoman reins in Season 3.

The film makes sure to hit a few of the TV series’ trademarks: ballooned onomatopoeia in fights; the occasional moral lesson (drinking is bad); Batman’s preference for milk (this time, in a brandy snifter at a fancy restaurant); and Batman and Robin’s unhurried rope ascent.

I have enjoyed numerous portrayals of Batman throughout the years, but Adam West remains my favorite. The 1960s Batmobile is likewise my favorite version. One of my dearest memories is my brother and I, many years ago, repeatedly attempting the TV theme song. It was a horrid and cacophonous endeavor that no one in proximity appreciated, especially the hive full of bees that retaliated by stinging us without remorse.


Bill O said...

Never really been determined why Newmar shed Catwoman. She didn't return for the third season as well.

Rick29 said...

I remember going to see BATMAN: THE MOVIE when it was originally released. The theater was packed! The TV show was still hugely popular and Batman merchandise was everywhere. Most of the guys in my elementary school had the ten-cent plastic Bat rings (the bat was detachable). You've captured the joy of the show and movie in your review. And I would have loved to hear to your brotherly version of the Batman theme song. While I liked Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, I was disappointed not to see Julie Newmar (who is still my fave in that role!).

Caftan Woman said...

Holy Hive! Who knew bees were music critics?

I so enjoyed reading this article. So many fun and fond memories wrapped up in the TV show and this movie. I'm glad the character is so long-lived and appreciated, but give me a romp over angst any day.

Ron said...

After years of why-so-seriousness and downer portrayals, it's good to have a short revisit with Bat Lite. Even so . . .

Affleck was let down by poor scripts, otherwise I'd rank him tops along with Bale. Sometimes the dark meat just tastes better.

toto2 said...

What a fun review, complete with very colorful photos! It is pretty awesome when you get four classic villains competing against the Caped Crusaders. And you knocked my socks off by utilizing both “cacophonous” and “onomatopoeia” in the same review. Thanks for giving us a wonderful walk through Gotham City, Sark!

Silver Screenings said...

Hear, hear! A terrific review of a film that you (at least I) can never pass up. And cheers for the impressive vocabulary!