‘Batman (1966)’ Retro Review
Holy Camp Classic Batman! Fans the world over know the Dark Knight as a brooding superhero who stalks the shadows of Gotham City utilizing fear as his greatest weapon against criminals. This film is not about that Batman, this is about the Batman far removed from the original intention of his creators and the modern interpretations of the hero. A bombastic and colorful Caped Crusader who, with Robin by his side, dashed about Gotham like an overgrown child, being treated like a rock star and battling over-the-top villains. In his book Supergods, acclaimed comic writer Grant Morrison points out during the 1960’s the counterculture took two serious pop culture icons in the form of James Bond and Batman; and made turned them into campy parodies of the source material. Strangely enough, being as strong of a character as he is, rather than crumbling, Batman’s popularity thrived.
The epitome of this campy take on the Dark Knight came from producer William Dozier in the television series, Batman. The show became an unbridled success, especially with children who loved seeing a superhero who had all the gusto and energy of an overgrown kid. After the first season of the series, Dozier decided to keep the Batmomentum going by giving Batman his big screen debut. With the legendary Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their role from the series along with their most popular villains (with the exception of Julie Newmar as Catwoman), Batman hit the silver screen in 1966.
The bizarre plot revolves around Batman discovering via a convoluted riddle that; the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman, have all united in a grand evil scheme. The villainous quartet had kidnapped a commodore and plan on utilizing his invention to dehydrate the United Nations Security Council into piles of sand. Along the way the Caped Crusaders must deal with; a Russian reporter trying to seduce Bruce Wayne, the Penguin disguised as a sea captain, and of course the famous exploding shark.
Given how comfortable the cast had become in their respective roles on the show, they were able to carry everything over with ease onto the big screen. Of course Adam West and Burt Ward have become synonymous with the Dynamic Duo for a good reason. The pair had fantastic chemistry onscreen as they poured they delivered each scene with as much energy as they could muster. Not to be outdone the legendary character actors of; Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Lee Meriwether, and Frank Gorshin, chewed up so much scenery it probably gave them indigestion for weeks.
The end result was a colorful and camptastic take on Batman which has become a staple of pop culture. In fact the picture itself begins by acknowledging that it is a movie for people who love, adventure and the absurd. Many fans decry this film, as conflicting with the dark and brooding Dark Knight that they know, and they miss the satirical fun of this flick as it takes the absurdits viewpoint on a billionaire who dresses in a garish costume to battle crime. For those who enjoy this particular interpretation of the Batman mythos, this movie is going to be an all-you-can-eat buffet of mind blowing entertainment.
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