Holy self-parody, Batman! Who would have thought that this movie would turn out to be one of the BEST of five Batman flicks produced over thirty years? Although we'll tip our hats to the first and second Batman films, directed by Tim Burton, for being visually impressive, none of the more modern Bat-movies has managed to capture the true spirit of their contemporary Batman comics. The 1966 version, on the other hand, captured the feel of its contemporary comics perfectly.
Pow! (the good)
Adam West and Burt Ward perform their goofy best as the Dynamic Duo, striking do-gooder poses while revealing their inability to look good in spandex. As always, Batman and Robin have an arsenal of appropriately-labeled Bat-stuff at the ready, including Shark Repellant Bat Spray, Batarangs, and every Bat-vehicle imaginable. In fact, we were rather impressed with the amount of money that was spent on the props for Batman. What with the Batboat, Batcopter, Batmobile, Batcycle ("Detach bat-sidecar!"), and the Penguin's submarine, 20th Century Fox must have dropped a bundle for this movie.
Also livening things up are Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, and Meredith Burgess as The Riddler, The Joker, and The Penguin, respectively. Surprisingly, these guys throw all of their acting weight into these characters, even Burgess, who certainly has had better roles. We guess they just enjoyed dressing up in outlandish costumes and yelling things like "Wak! Wak!" (Do penguins really make this noise? Sounds more like a duck to us.)
The screenplay has its ups and downs. Among the ups: the scene in which Batman tries to get rid of a bomb near detonation. No matter where he turns on the boardwalk, there are people, animals, or objects in the way. We especially liked the nuns. Also, the 1960's portrayal of authority figures as idiots struck a friendly note with us.
Navy Official: "Why yes, Batman, we just sold a pre-nuclear submarine to a Mr P.N Gwinn. Was that bad?"
Biff! (the bad)
Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, & the Joker.
Among the downs of the screenplay were some of the more improbable and campy plot developments. When the Bat-copter goes into a nose dive, do they pull off some feat of derring-do to rescue themselves? Nope -- they crash into a foam rubber expo. Foam rubber expo? Surely they could have come up with something better than that.
In addition, the main plot of the villains' plan to kidnap world leaders with a dehydration weapon gets somewhat lost in the more pressing matter of how to kill Batman and Robin. Between Bruce Wayne's obsession with Miss Kitka (Catwoman in disguise -- or rather, out of disguise), plans involving exploding octopuses, and goofy undersea henchmen, the script becomes somewhat disjointed. Never mind -- focus on the individual scenes, because this isn't supposed to make sense.
Speaking of Miss Kitka, we're glad Lee Meriwether (as Catwoman) was replaced by Julie Newmar in the television series. Meriwether is nowhere near as intriguing, and she just doesn't do that cat-suit justice. Give us Newmar any time.
Zot! (the just plain silly)
We've never been fond of the 1960's portrayals of the ineffectual Commissioner Gordon or his goofy sidekick, Chief O'Hara. And who put those coke-bottle glasses on Alfred? Some of the charicatures in this series go a bit too far, but at least Joel Schumacher isn't directing.
Also, those wacky camera angles on the villains are fun at first, but they quickly turn into headache-inducing annoyances -- and since when do the Joker and Penguin wear masks? Since never, that's when. What a joke.
It's difficult to come down hard on Batman for being too campy or goofy -- it's intentionally over the top. Perhaps it would have been easier to take if the plot had been a little bit simpler and less scatterbrained -- but there again, that's the way the Batman comics read at the time. Fortunately, there are plenty of sight gags and gadgets to watch, as well as those kooky villains. We're just hoping that Hollywood can manage to do better next Bat-time, next Bat-movie.