Revisted: Batman (1966)

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

When Batman (West) and Robin (Ward) get a tip that Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny) is in danger aboard his yacht, they launch a rescue mission using the Batcopter. As Batman descends on the Bat-ladder to land on the yacht it suddenly vanishes beneath him. He rises out of the sea with a shark attacking his leg. After Batman dislodges it with Bat-shark repellant, the shark explodes. Batman and Robin head back to Commissioner Gordon’s office, where they deduce that the tip was a set-up by the United Underworld, a gathering of four of the most powerful villains in Gotham City (Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman).

The United Underworld equip themselves with a dehydrator that can turn humans into dust (an invention of Commodore Schmidlapp, who is unaware he has been kidnapped), a Submarine made to resemble a penguin, and their three pirate henchmen (Bluebeard, Morgan and Quetch). It is revealed the yacht was really a projection. When The Dynamic Duo return to a buoy concealing a projector, they are trapped on the buoy by a magnet and targeted by torpedoes. They use a radio-detonator to destroy two of the missiles, and a porpoise sacrifices itself to intercept the last one. Catwoman, disguised as Soviet journalist “Miss Kitka”, helps the group kidnap Bruce Wayne and pretends to be kidnapped with him, as part of a plot to lure Batman and finish him off with another of Penguin’s explosive animals (not knowing that Wayne is Batman’s alter-ego). After Wayne escapes captivity, Penguin disguises himself as the Commodore and schemes his way into the Batcave along with five dehydrated henchmen. This plan fails when the henchmen unexpectedly disappear into Antimatter once struck: Penguin mistakenly rehydrated them with heavy water contaminated with radioactive waste, as it was regularly used to recharge the Batcave’s atomic pile.

Ultimately the Duo are unable to prevent the kidnapping of the dehydrated United World Organization’s Security Council. Giving chase in the Batboat to retrieve them (and Miss Kitka, presumed by the duo as still captive), Robin uses a sonic charge weapon to disable Penguin’s submarine and force it to surface, where a fist fight ensues. Although Batman and Robin win the fight, Batman is heartbroken to find out that his “true love” Miss Kitka is actually Catwoman when her mask falls off. Commodore Schmidlapp accidentally breaks the vials containing the powdered Council members, mixing them together.

Batman sets to work, constructing an elaborate filter to separate the mingled dust. Robin asks him whether it might be in the world’s best interests for them to alter the dust samples, so that humans can no longer harm one another. In response, Batman says that they cannot do so, reminding Robin of the fate of Penguin’s henchmen and their tainted rehydration, and can only hope for people in general to learn to live together peacefully on their own.

With the world watching, the Security Council is re-hydrated. All of the members are restored alive and well, continuing to squabble among themselves and totally oblivious of their surroundings, but each of them now speaks the language and displays the stereotypical mannerisms of a nation other than their own. Batman quietly expresses his sincere hope to Robin that this “mixing of minds” does more good than it does harm. The duo quietly leave United World Headquarters by climbing out of the window.

REVIEW:

I think I am in the minority of people who doesn’t bow down and lick the feet of Christopher Nolan for what he did for the Batman franchise. As a matter of fact, I’m not really a fan of his trilogy. My favorite Batman film is actually Batman (1989). That being kept in mind, it seems that everyone likes to forget the campy 60s Batman. Yes, Batman is a brooding bully now, but there was a time when he was actually a fun guy. The 60s show may not have gotten many cannon things right, but it sure is fun to watch, and Batman (1966) should follow suit.

What is this about?

In director Leslie H. Martinson’s campy action comedy based on the tongue-in-cheek 1960s TV series, Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) battle sharks, Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) on the big screen. Can they keep the bad guys from taking over the world? With a “wham!” and a “pow!” the heroes just might pull it off — and maintain their secret identities.

What did I like?

Tone. In this day and age, everything is dark and moody, so it is nice to go back and experience a much lighter time. Seeing Batman fight crime using a lighter tone is a nice departure. Don’t get me wrong, as soon as I finish this review, I’m sure to go kick some ass with Batman in Arkham City, (don’t have Arkham Origins, yet), but it is just nice to switch things up once in a while, and the fact that everything is labeled is just priceless!

Nefarious plot. In any other version of Batman, this plot might have actually been a threat to the Dark Knight, especially when you consider it is being plotted by his 3 biggest enemies and a Catwoman who leans more toward the villainous side. Exploding shark aside, of course. You can’t tell me that nuclear missiles and dehydration aren’t a threat, especially in the hands of these madmen!

Showtime. I’ve noticed that many shows when turned into full-length motion pictures somehow manage to lose everything that makes them special. Why do they that? There is a reason that your show became a film and to change those reasons negates everything. Luckily, these producers were smart enough to not change a thing about the show that had quite a following, and still does, though I do think we could have done with more of the Biff! Pow! Zwap! fights.

What didn’t I like?

Catwoman. I won’t say that Lee Meriwether was a bad Catwoman, but she’s no Eartha Kitt or Julie Newmar. Her Catwoman had no life, and I wonder if she was chosen just because she did such a good Russian accent. For those wondering, Newmar had an accident on another film she was filming before this was set to start. Not really sure why they didn’t just go back to Eartha Kitt, though. Hell, the makeup lady could have been a better Catwoman that Meriwether turned out to be.

Oblivious. The delegates at the World Security Organization (the equivalent to the UN) are constantly arguing. Big surprise there, right? Well, as they are getting dehydrated one by one, they continue arguing, even when it is down to just one man. Don’t ask me why he was arguing with, but he was still arguing. Now, I suspend disbelief many times, but this was a bit much for me, especially since they all turned into different brightly colored piles of dust.

Masks. This is a very small thing, but when you see it, you’ll also say WTF?!? In the final caper for our fearsome foursome, they enter the World Security Headquarters all wearing masks. Now, for Catwoman (who I’m not even 100% sure was there) and Riddler, this is a normal occurrence, but for the Penguin and Joker, one must wonder why? First of all they are highly recognizable and second, they just don’t look right in them. What went into the thought process of putting them in masks, I wonder?

Batman may not be the best films starring the Dark Knight, and it may not even be the best adaptation of the character, but it is good fun. As I said before, it is a nice change of pace from what we’re used to. Batman is an ever evolving character. He wasn’t always the dark, brooding presence we know today. For those that insist on forgetting this part of his history, you more than likely have already made up your mind about this film. For the rest of us with open minds, I think you’ll enjoy this film for what it is, a campy film that is a reward for Batman’s hard work on the small screen. Give it a shot some time. I highly recommend it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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