Awfully Good: Batman: The Movie
In preparation for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Awfully Good will be featuring a different Batman-related movie each week until the film's release. Perhaps a little Schumacher will help you appreciate Christopher Nolan that much more.
Batman: The Movie (1966)
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Stars: Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether
When The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler and Catwoman join forces, the Dynamic Duo must battle exploding animals, semi-powerful magnets, and dry skin in order to protect the world from certain doom.
It's hard to fault something like BATMAN: THE MOVIE, because it's clearly aiming for pure camp and aspiring for the utmost ridiculousness. You'll roll your eyes so much you might have to register them as licensed motor vehicles, but I'm pretty sure that was the intention of everyone involved. I mean, this is a film that opens with a title card dedicating it to the real-life "enemies of crime throughout the world for their inspirational example"—and then five minutes later the title character is using a can of shark repellant on a giant exploding fish. This is Awfully Good on purpose. I hope.
And just like that, Batman was free to be with Robin forever.
Coming at the end of the TV series' wildly popular first season, BATMAN: THE MOVIE is essentially a longer, more epic episode of the show. It pits Gotham's Dynamic Duo against all four of their biggest arch-nemeses—The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman. Here's the dastardly plan that brings these supervillains together: they've designed a trap to lure Batman to their lair, whereby they will use a Jack-in-the-Box to fling him out an open window and get eaten by an exploding octopus. No, really. That's what they came up with. (I guess it's better than the first aforementioned plot involving exploding sharks and nautical mirages.)
That's What She Said #1
When Bruce Wayne easily foils that plan, the fearsome foursome move on to their bigger goal—using a handheld dehydrator that turns people in to piles of dust to take over the world. And how exactly does one conquer Planet Earth with an anti-moisture device? By dehydrating the U.N. Security Council and taking their remains hostage for money, of course! Except the United Nations is made up of representatives from each country, not actual world leaders. I don't foresee the U.S. paying a trillion dollars to get their ambassador back.
In hindsight, both men should've known that no good would come from Joker yelling out, "It's electric, boogie woogie woogie!"
If that "plot" sounds like a blast, it's because it is. The 1966 BATMAN is just nonstop in terms of entertainment value. Pretty much every second of the movie there's something going on, be it a dreadful line, hammy acting, cheesy slapstick or nonsensical story development. Everything that works (or doesn't work) about the show is present in the film adaptation. There's the cartoon POW!s and ZONK!s during fights. Characters speak in alliteration and wordplay, even when it doesn't make sense. And the acting…my God, the acting.
That's What She Said #2
Adam West deserves some kind of Anti-Oscar for his bizarrely-tempoed performance that makes William Shatner and Christopher Walken sound like they have rhythm. Ironically, he's at his best in BATMAN when he's playing an oversexed version of Bruce Wayne, who can barely contain himself or form coherent sentences when around Catwoman's Russian alter ego Kitka. Burt Ward's Robin, on the other hand, pales in comparison as a character solely defined by his brightly colored tights and patented "Holy _____, Batman!" line. He's not bad; he's just not given much to do besides respond to the main superhero. The villains each get their time to shine, though Burgess Meredith is the most fun as the constantly squawking Penguin. And although Julie Newmar doesn't appear as Catwoman due to scheduling conflicts, former Miss America Lee Meriwether fills out the leather suit quite nicely.
Little known fact: Sharks also stand up to pee
Wonder what else this movie has to offer? Exploding shark attacks are just the beginning!
- An unhealthy obsession with blowing up sea creatures. First there's the shark, then the octopus, and then out of nowhere, a random porpoise hurls itself in the path of a deadly torpedo, saving the Dynamic Duo. This all happens offscreen so we only get to hear Robin describe it and attribute the heroic act to the fish's "almost-human nobility."
- Ridiculous riddles. The crazy connection and logic Batman uses to solve the Riddler's criminal conundrums is absolutely insane. It makes Jeff Goldblum's "virus" solution in INDEPENDENCE DAY seem Sherlock Holmesian. An example: "It happened at sea…C for Catwoman!"
- Use of technology. The primitive room-sized computers that magically know everything are pretty bad, but the movie takes it at least three steps further. The bad guys fly around on vacuum-torpedoes that might as well be flying broomsticks. Batman is able to look up the frequency of a missile while it's flying at them and then jam the signal so it falls in to the sea. Then he uses his transmitter to "reverse the polarity and send out waves of super energy" to blow up a torpedo. (Impressively, The Penguin immediately recognizes his use of a "Super Energy Reverse Polarizer.")
That's What She Said #3
- How Batman leaned to stop worrying and love the bomb. There is an extended sequence where The Dark Knight runs around carrying a lit explosive device, comically looking around for a safe place to dispose it and only finding innocent people, baby ducklings and a marching band. He actually says, "Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb."
- Divine Intervention. The Batcopter crashes in what should be instant death for our heroes. Except it manages to make a safe, pillowy landing at a "Foam Rubber Manufacturers Convention."
- Creativity. Everything in the movie has to have the word "bat" precede it. And not just the Batmobile, Batcopter, Batboat and Batcycle, but everything from a Batscanner to Super Blinding Batpellets to a speedometer that reads "Full Batspeed." I mean, can't you just call it a ladder? Why does it have to be a Batladder?
- The end. Of course Batman and Robin save the day, but all the ashes from the U.N. ambassadors get mixed together. This leads to a commentary on the human condition as Batman considers NOT using a Super Molecular Dust Separator and instead mixing their DNA to make them more understanding and tolerant of each other. Needless to say, they screw everything up, leaving Batman instructing Robin to leave "inconspicuously." The film then ends as two grown men in brightly colored costumes awkwardly sneak out of the room and attempt to climb out the window of the United Nations using everyday rope. It is a perfect denouement to a ridiculous movie.
That's what, um, nobody says…
No words can describe such golden dialogue as, "Salt and corrosion…the infamous old enemies of the crimefighter!"
1) Some of the more ridiculous riddles and illogical connections made by Batman and Robin.
2) The famous scene where Batman jumps the shark…er, hovers over the shark with shark repellent. BONUS: An exploding octopus!
3) The also famous scene where Batman attempts to get rid of the bomb.
Lee Meriwether in a leather catsuit for the guys, Burt Ward in tights for the ladies.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- - An animal explodes
- - Robin says "Holy" something
- - Adam West hits on a lady
- - There's unintentional homoeroticism
- - Someone gets dehydrated or rehydrated
- - Sound effects are written onscreen
Double shot if:
- - Someone reverses the polarity
Tune in next week—same Bat-time, same Bat-channel—for more Batman Awfully Goodness!