Batman: The Movie (1966)
Batman: The Movie (1966)

Genre: Superhero and Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Release Date: July 30th, 1966 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Leslie H. Martinson Actors: Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Madge Blake

 


 

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edicated to funlovers everywhere, this feature-length, theatrical episode of the ’60s Batman television series finds millionaire Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and his youthful ward Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) immediately called to action to save the world yet again. After descending batpoles to the batcave and leaping into the batmobile to drive to the batcoptor at the airport, the colorfully-costumed superheroes unfurl the bat ladder to infiltrate a yacht, owned by Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny), carrying a fantastic new invention. But that last feat will require some handy shark repellent, as a toothy fish attempts to send Batman to a watery grave. “Watch out, Batman. This could be tricky.”

“What known supercriminals are at large?” The mission of the yacht was in fact a ruse to off the pesky crime fighters. And it’s likely that the United Underworld is behind it – the ultimate collaboration between evil masterminds The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, the only substitute from the original series, replacing Julie Newmar) – plotting to take over the world. Unfortunately for them, it’ll take more than a trained, bomb-rigged attack-shark to dispose of the Dynamic Duo.

Beyond ridiculous, the exploits of Batman and Robin are instantly more comical than adventurous. But that doesn’t stop it from being amusing; after all, it’s difficult not to laugh at the absurdity of the script and the countless ways in which the characters refuse to behave as if they’re in serious situations. Frequently, it’s as if they don’t inhabit a movie at all – especially when scenes cut away during climactic events, only to be later explained away with the most nonsensical of solutions. One of the best involves a heroic porpoise who jumps in the way of a missile to save Batman from an explosive demise – a suicidal act that is merely described, not shown.

No opportunity is spared when it comes to amplifying the silliness. A submarine looks like a bathtub toy; flimsy, ill-fitting costumes are abundant; goofy musical cues decrease any sense of sincerity (such as when upbeat jazz accompanies fistfights); and dialogue is shouted with ludicrous pauses and emphases and interruptive exclamations, heightening the utter insanity of the comically lucky Batman and Robin as they stumble their way into foiling the plans of the outrageously inept band of supervillains. “Holy heart failure!”

This production would be essentially too clever if it was purposely spoofing itself to the degree that it appears. It can’t be an entirely self-aware send-up of superhero shenanigans, long before superhero properties inundated theaters, could it? Surely some of it is simply intended for children, or to embrace the over-the-top nature of whimsical comic strips. Yet it’s perpetually unclear as to exactly what extent all of this is supposed to be laughable; in an inexplicable manner, it’s possible that audiences are meant to be in moderate awe of some of the action sequences. But hopefully, it’s mere preposterousness for the sake of preposterousness; it’s too stupid to be wholly conscious of any ahead-of-its-time self-parody.

Nevertheless, “Batman: The Movie” is clearly intended to appeal only to longtime fans of the series, which has done much to make the Dark Knight and his Boy Wonder sidekick cartoonish caricatures rather than earnest crime-fighters. By the end, however, some of the gags are genuinely entertaining (including the highly anticipated arrival of word graphics to supplement kicks and punches), even if the majority of the picture is colossally inane; it may not inspire belly-laughs, but chuckles will come easily enough. “KER-PLOP!”

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10


The Batman Franchise


Batman: The Movie (1966)

Batman (1989)

Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Forever (1995)

Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman Begins (2005)

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Batman (2022)