Batman: the Movie (1966)

Batman: the Movie (1966), directed by Leslie H. Martinson, written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., based on characters created by Bob Kane, starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin

Just the other day I decided to watch Adam West's Batman flick from 1966, based on his then hit, campy, pop art infused TV-series about the adventures of the caped crusader and Robin.  It was there, on my Netflix list and while I had had an intention of watching it many times, I always passed it because there was something else to see and I had seen it many times before. Then, the other day, I was sitting in front of a TV and decided that why the heck not? It's a fun movie and I'm really in the mood for something lighthearted fun like the movie is.

I wasn't going to write a blog entry about it, as while I like the movie, it didn't really stir anything else in me at that exact moment. It was fun as ever, but still, why really write about it. And today I learned of Adam West's passing at the age of 88.

There are two things I know West from, his memorable stint in a silly, often times childish TV-version of 1960's Batman and being a series regular in Family Guy as Mayor Adam West. I feel it's more appropriate to use my familiarity with Batman here rather than Family Guy. Not that I dislike the series nor West's part in it, far from it, it's just that Batman is the thing he will always be remembered of.

So, in 1966, Batman was brought to the small screen. Just like the Batman comics at the time, the series didn't take itself seriously despite the people making it were very serious about it. The world of Batman they brought to the screen was colourful like it was ripped directly from the comics to the front of cameras. And people loved it so much, that there was an obvious demand for a movie.

In the movie, four fiendish criminals, the Catwoman (Meriwether), the Penguin (Meredith), the Riddler (Gorshin) and the Joker (Romero) have formed an alliance, aiming to take on the whole world by kidnapping the peace council of the United Nations. To do this, they've kidnapped Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny), who has invented a dehydralization device the crooks are going to use to achieve their goal.

If you know the series, the movie won't disappoint. Depending on if you like or hate this version of Batman, you'll most likely feel the same way about this as well, considering its nonsensical story, crooked villains, a bit dumb, yet brave and good, police forces of Gotham and always so smart Batman and Robin. It's all here really, ranging from silly jokes to quips aimed at adults here and there.

One of the best adult jokes comes from the Joker when he's bringing tea to the Commodore, who is oblivious of his own kidnapping. Rephrasing here, but Schmidlapp says to Joker, that while they are stuck he now has more time for his Dickens. He's talking about the author, obviously, but the look Romero gives to the camera hits the joke right out of the ballpark.

Meriwether especially is melting the screen every time she just passes by with the squirming body movement she uses for the Catwoman and cat in heat like meowing. She's pure eye candy for the older viewers but still, manages to be a well-rounded character on her own right in the midst of other over the top villains.

What adds more to the character is the seduction of Bruce Wayne, where Catwoman, disguised as a Russian reporter, is taken out by the playboy millionaire alter-ego of Batman. West and Meriwether play it like a summer theatre play, being overly dramatic and unnecessarily coy at the same time. It's just a great scene.

The other crooks are as crooked as ever. Just like in the series, their nature is emphasised by having even the camera angles crooked. They laugh and jest and heckle each other constantly. It is an uneasy alliance, but it holds up none the less. At times they are at each other's throats, at times they are collectively scheming on how to get rid of Batman. But all of it is done in good spirit and is goofy and silly and nonsensical.

The way West is portraying Batman and Bruce Wayne is pretty much a polar opposite to the crooks. He does his role in an earnest, serious manner, but still with a wink on the corner of his eye. He knows exactly what he's doing and how much he should ham it up in order to make the role work. And while it all is done in positive light, there's also a small drop of sadness and perhaps even a bit of Batman's inner darkness behind his portrayal, Not that there's much of it, but at times it manifests itself, especially he's pondering about the nature of crime and criminals.

But enough of that, here's Batman trying to get rid of a bomb:

I know I didn't really say much of Adam West himself, but that's because I don't really know that much about him. I know him only through Batman and his role as Mayor West on Family Guy. He had a good presence on screen in Batman and his voice work and sense of self-irony on Family Guy were delightful. He might not have been the greatest actor in the business, but he was, through and through, extremely likeable.

Adam West, you will be remembered.