US Release Date: 07-30-1966
Directed by: Leslie H. Martinson
- Adam West, as
- Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Burt Ward, as
- Dick Grayson/Robin
- Lee Meriwether, as
- Cesar Romero, as
- The Joker
- Burgess Meredith, as
- The Penguin
- Frank Gorshin, as
- The Riddler
- Alan Napier, as
- Alfred Pennyworth
- Neil Hamilton, as
- Commissioner Gordon
- Stafford Repp, as
- Chief O'Hara
- Reginald Denny, as
- Commodore Schmidlapp
- Madge Blake as
- Aunt Harriet Cooper
Burt Ward and Adam West in Batman: The Movie.
Long before George Clooney starred in the worst Batman movie of all time, there was an even campier version; only this one was intended to be.
In the mid 1960's, Batman was a pop culture phenomenon. It was a hit campy television show that spawned plenty of merchandise and even a dance called the Batuzzi, a variation on the then popular dance, the watuzzi. So popular was the show that they even made Batman: The Movie. Long before Star Trek or The Fugitive, Batman was the first television show to inspire a movie.
The plot involves Batman and Robin doing battle with all four of their classic villains. But plot is not the point of this movie. This movie is psychedelically absurd, yet fun. The camera is often tilted and the dialogue is humorously ridiculous. At one point Batman, Robin and Commissioner Gordon are trying to figure out one of the Riddler's riddles. "What sits in a tree, weighs 6 ounces and is very dangerous?" The commissioner asks. Good thing for him the Boy Wonder is there because Robin figures it out: "A sparrow with a machine gun." He deduces and is of course right.
At another point, they figure out that Joker and Catwoman are involved because a shark was pulling on Batman's leg, which obviously means The Joker. Robin then points out that they were "...at sea and Catwoman begins with a "C"." Nothing gets by the Dynamic Duo.
My youngest son loves this movie but my oldest just thinks it's stupid. He is too old to find the action exciting but too young to appreciate the humor.
This is almost a cult classic. It should have run further with the jokes. It also has Lee Merriwether as Catwoman instead of the much sexier Julie Newmar. Speaking of superhero chicks, this movie should have found room for Yvonne Craig's Batgirl. I always loved her high kicks.
Adam West battles a shark as Batman,but luckily has some Bat-Shark Repellent available.
I remember watching this movie and the Batman television series that inspired it when I was a young child and taking it all very seriously. The tongue-in-cheek, campy humor went right over my head and all I saw was Batman and Robin fighting super villains. It wasn't until a few years later that I realized why people were laughing. Re-watching this movie today, for the first time in decades, I found it to be amusing enough, but it's easy to see that it would work better in half hour increments on television. The humor has a hard time sustaining itself over a full length feature.
The humor is over the top, but played straight by the leads. Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin say the silliest lines with deadly seriousness. Eric mentioned the extraordinary leaps of logic they are able to make when it comes to the Riddler's riddles, with the "sparrow with a machine gun" line being the most ridiculous. One of my favorite lines though comes near the end when our heroes need to get to the United World Organization building and Robin suggests they commandeer a taxi, to which Batman responds, "No, Robin. Not at this time of day. Luckily, we're in tip-top condition. It'll be faster if we run. Let's go!" This leads to this exchange as they run, "Holy marathon! I'm getting a stitch, Batman!" "Let's hope that it's a stitch in time, Robin, that saves nine - The nine members of the United World Security Council. Come on."
Many of the jokes come from the signs that are plastered all over the place. The famous bat poles hidden in Bruce Wayne's study, are clearly labeled, "Bruce" and "Dick", while a large sign behind them states, "Access to Bat Cave via Bat Pole", half-way down of course is the "Instant Costume Change Lever" and then in the Bat Cave itself, absolutely everything is labeled including the "Super Molecular Dust Separator" and "Film Developing Tank (Super Fine Batgrain)".
One element that I only found amusing this time around was the fact that while the map of Gotham in Commissioner Gordon's office is actually Manhattan and several stock shots of New York are used in reference to the United Nations Building, every exterior shot is obviously in Southern California. This is particularly noticeable when the Dynamic Duo are flying in the Bat-Copter.
Although the action is absurd and the jokes quite campy, the look of the film remains iconic. The bright, primary colors and highly stylized sets and props just scream 1960s. The Batmobile is particularly well done and remains one of television's most memorable vehicles.
Like Eric I would like to have seen Batgirl added to the film, but unfortunately Yvonne Craig didn't join the show until the third season and this movie was released between the first and second seasons.
This isn't a great movie by any means, but compared to so many of the superhero movies made today that take themselves so seriously, the irreverence towards the source material here comes as something of a relief. It's about time someone does a satire of the modern superhero movie.
Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Lee Meriwether, and Cesar Romero in Batman: The Movie.
For a time in the mid-1970s I was obsessed with this television show. As an 8-year-old I so wanted to be Robin. I remember begging our mother to make me a Robin costume. With a towel for a cape I would pretend to fight bad guys. Watching this movie again for the first time in decades reminded me of those carefree childhood days when such simple things fill our heart's desire. It also made me realize just how campy and silly the whole thing is. I agree with Scott that it works better in half hour increments than as a full length movie.
The real stars of the movie are the sets and costumes. Batman, Robin and the supervillains all have such iconic looks. And in addition to the incredibly cool Batmobile there is a Batcycle, a Batboat, and a Batcopter. Visually it has influenced every single superhero movie made since.
The cast includes several veteran actors in supporting roles. Alan Napier, who played Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred, studied at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and began his career on London's West End in 1929. He later appeared in such classic films as Random Harvest (1942), Cat People (1942), Lassie Come Home (1943), The Song of Bernadette (1943), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), and Johnny Belinda (1948) among others. Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon) began his movie career in 1918. During the 1920s he worked with D.W. Griffith. He was one of Ronald Colman's brothers in the original silent version of Beau Geste and in the 1930s he appeared in several of the MGM Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies. Reginald Denny has the small role of Commodore Schmidlapp. He made his first movie all the way back in 1915. During the 1930s he appeared with several of Hollywood's greatest leading ladies. He worked with Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage (1934), Katharine Hepburn in The Little Minister (1934) and Greta Garbo in Anna Karenina (1935). He was also in Alfred Hitchcock's first American movie, the Best Picture Winner Rebecca (1940). Reginald Denny made dozens of other motion pictures over the years with Batman being his final movie appearance before his death in 1967.
My brothers both mentioned some of the campy dialogue. Here's my favorite. It's Batman's last line. He tells Robin, “Let's go, but inconspicuously, through the window. We'll use our Batropes. Our job is finished.” They then proceed to repel down the side of the building in full view of all of Gotham. FYI Eric, you forgot about Munster, Go Home! It too was a movie based on a television series and it beat Batman to theaters by a solid month. And on a final note, my mother never did make me that Robin costume...
Photos © Copyright 20th Century Fox (1966)