Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.
In 1966, Leslie H. Martinson released Batman: The Movie based on the Batman television series which was based on DC Comics characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp, Madge Blake, Reginald Denny, Milton Frome, Gil Perkins, Dick Crockett, George Sawaya, and Van Williams, the film grossed $1.7 million at the box office.
When Batman and Robin get a tip that Commodore Schmidlapp is in danger, they launch a rescue mission in the batcopter. However as the bat-ladder descends, the yacht vanishes and a shark attaches itself to Batman’s leg. Only able to detach it with bat-shark repellent, the dynamic duo head back to Commissioner Gordon’s office and find out that they were set up by the United Underworld. Now, Batman and Robin must fight the combined forces of Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman.
A film that defined Batman until the film in 1989, Batman: The Movie took the character and the concept of campiness to wonderful levels. There’s absurd amounts of camp throughout the film, starting early and only ceasing with the end credits. One very notable scene is that which involves the aforementioned shark. For one, the shark looks so much like a fake rubber prop and then there’s the simple fact that it’s dispatched with shark repellent. Even then, immediately following that, the fact that they correctly deduce who’s in on the whole plot due to the most random of reasons (“it happened at sea … C for Catwoman!”) just furthers the hilarious campiness. As the film continues, it continues to deliver, such as having the cartoony fight words during the fight on the submarine and the absurd length of the bomb’s fuse.
The film also does great with its villains, actually being the only one out of so many that has presented four major Batman villains at once. The reasoning for doing so is humorous too, as two would mean the only thing they want to do is take over the city and three would mean they only wanted to take over the country. There’s four so it must mean the want to take over the entire world. Interestingly, this may be the one time that Joker is seen as having standards, angrily telling the Riddler that he’s mad with his riddle compulsions. They’re also incredibly stupid, from their normal amount of idiocy, like Riddler adding his riddles to ransom notes, to the point of telegraphing everything they do because it’s expected of them being villains, such as Penguin’s pseudonym of P. N. Guin.
Though, it’s not just the villains that are stupid. Everyone exhibits their own special brand of stupidity at points that goes along with the film’s camp nature. Take Commodore Schmidlapp who doesn’t recognize the Joker and simply remarks that he’s just deathly pale, even though the man should know one of the most notorious criminals in existence. Then there’s everyone in the vicinity when Batman is carrying the bomb with the absurdly long fuse. The nuns, marching band and the mother just keep getting in his way and don’t even try to run away when Batman is running at him at full speed. Bruce, Robin and Alfred even get in on it, deciding not to keep tabs on Bruce out of modesty and miss him being abducted while in the same scene, Bruce doesn’t recognize one of his own enemies trying to make out with him even after she gives off one of her well-known purrs.
As a whole, even when it’s not being particularly campy, which isn’t very often, the film is wonderfully humorous when it’s actually trying to be. There’s always Catwoman and her periodic long, drawn out and enthusiastic “meowing.” It’s even treated as strange by the villains who look at her oddly after she does it. At another point, during the submarine fight, Catwoman tosses Batman her cat, which he catches and runs around with it. Eventually, he just throws the cat into a life raft and rejoins the fight and it’s all capped off by him saying “Bon voyage, pussy.” Good humor also follows Penguin, seen when he tricks his way into the Batcave disguised as Commodore Schmidlapp, but the disguise is so bad that Batman and Robin know it’s him without a second thought.
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