Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Batman: The Movie (1966)

So after the television series exploded into American homes with a gusto back in 66 it was decided that the movie would go ahead in the same year. Originally the film was suppose to come first and promote the TV series but it was deemed risky money wise. This was the very first movie based on DC's Batman and it was big...big on everything! I love the artistic and quite noir-esque opening credits sequence I might add, really sharp imaginative sequence.

Considering the film is pretty much a kids flick and just like the TV show with goofy camp comedy, the plot is actually quite convoluted. I remembering watching this over and over as a kid but always found the story confusing...maybe I was just thick. Basically the villainous super team of The Penguin, The Joker, Catwoman and The Riddler kidnap this old sailor fellow for his new invention which can dehydrate people into dust. The team intend to dehydrate all the important people in the United Nations Security Council for ransom I think. The whole film only seems to consist of various attempts by Batman and Robin to capture the villains but getting foiled by various dastardly traps. Wash rinse and repeat this formula over and over in different locations with different villains and weapons.

Now I know I shouldn't really moan about this film as I'm sure everyone knows what to expect here, heck the film and TV show were made like this deliberately. We all know this franchise was basically a spoof-like tongue-in-cheek parody, larger than life with bright bold colours, insane over acting, truly ridiculous gadgets toys and vehicles for merchandise purposes and extreme levels of camp. So that is a given and we're all fine with that.

'Holy Captain Nemo!'

But that still doesn't quite make up for the bizarre plot frankly because it makes no real sense, am I expecting too much here? I was never really quite sure what that dehydration thing was really for, why on earth would you need a thing like that? what was Commodore Schmidlapp gonna do with it?! Then there is the question of why the villains went to so much trouble to kidnap the Commodore just for the invention...just so they could dehydrate the UN folk and kidnap them? Wouldn't it have been easier to just kidnap them? I guess with them all turned into piles of dust makes it more convenient heist wise.

Everything is so elaborate in this film, the villains go to such crazy lengths to try and kill off or trap the dynamic duo its hilarious. The Penguin seems to have this surreal assortment of exploding sea creatures at his disposal, they just sit and wait in the ocean for Batman or Robin to drop in. The Riddler appears to be the most unhinged and merely displays his riddles everywhere (sometimes via massive nuclear missiles!) whilst wearing his pink girdle, Catwoman slinks around purring seductively (quite enjoyed that) and the Joker is merely a lackey for the Penguin. But seriously what the hell would anyone need an exploding octopus for?? The Penguin runs the show really whilst the others just take orders but its amazing to have them all together, more would have been even better. Their henchmen are also a fun colourful bunch of pirates wearing lovely hooped shirts and with some great names like Bluebeard and Quetch. Oh you've got that brilliant tilted camera angle every time the villains are on screen too...classic.

Need I mention the cast? the line up is like an all star team from the past. Could Meredith go any further overboard with his Penguin laugh and waddling? or Romero with his cackling Joker? These guys are so good in their roles its scary, they clearly loved doing it and that comes across whilst watching making it such a joy. Yeah Gorshin looks kinda cool yet also kinda foolish in his green spandex and that pink girdle (love that question mark design though, how iconic is that now!). Its hilarious how Romero refused to shave his moustache so the Joker always has that dirty mark above his lip (never could work out what that was when I was a kid, it looked like they hadn't done his makeup right). Meriwether is dangerously hot in her catsuit (very risque for young boys that), so amusing how she throws her black cat about, like what for?! But she's even hotter doing her Russian accent phew! I preferred her over Newmar I think, just sexier. End of the day we know all the cast and they are all brilliant hamming it up in their roles, flawless performances from everybody.

Of course the other fun aspect of this film and the franchise as a whole is the insanely daft Bat gadgets that enable the dynamic duo to escape virtually every flippin' scenario they encounter. Its almost boring really because you know these two simply can't die or ever get hurt, sure they get captured here and there but that's it. The fun bit is seeing what ludicrous instrument they produce to evade the clutches of the bad guys...and they just keep coming in this film. The Batcave a treasure trove of Bat equipment that comes in handy for every situation but overall I just fudging loved the shark repellent Bat-spray! its so utterly absurd and funny you just gotta go with it. Dig deep enough though and there are some nuggets like the Bat-spectrograph Criminal Analyzer, Batanalyst, Lunar Scanning Screen, Film Developer Tank, Drinking Water Dispenser, Terrestrial Scanner, Anti Crime Computer etc...and its all labelled in big bold letters just in case (I guess even the dynamic duo get confused with all their similar looking dull grey coloured crime fighting equipment).

I also love the ingenious devices the dynamic duo use (well Batman) for other situations like when they're magnetised to an ocean buoy. At that moment Batman just happens to have a Super-Energy Reverse Polarisor to stop the incoming torpedoes from Penguin's submarine. Its also brilliant how the bad guys know Batman is using his Super-Energy Reverse Polarisor...like its a common weapon in the fight against crime. I tell ya, if it wasn't for Batman...Robin would be toast half the time. All he ever does is whip out quickfire holy tags...of which there are loads in this film I can tell you. Oh and the Super Molecular Dust Separator...certainly super alright, damn you're good Batman.

I mean honesty, is there anything funnier than seeing both West and Ward doing that running sequence against that horrendous bluescreen city background as the dynamic duo leg it to the UN headquarters. And that dialog! 'luckily we're in tip top condition, it'll be faster if we run'. Cue the pair looking like complete idiots in their outfits running through the streets of a bustling New York before we cut to the side splitting bluescreen effect.

The film is preposterous, even more so than the TV show, they ramp this movie up big time and just go for broke with everything. Due to the success of the first TV season they could do this without much worry, Batman was huge. There are more Bat-vehicles, lots more set detail, more locations, a lovely penguin themed submarine set (and model) along with bigger stunts and action set pieces. Its the TV show but through the roof with cheesy zany comicbook tomfoolery that really does look like a classic comicbook with each scene representing each hand drawn panel. This really is a joy to watch and a bit of history, we won't really see a film like this again, even Schumacher's 'Batman and Robin' can't come close mainly because that was meant to be a serious blockbuster. This fantastic movie simply does everything right, what you know love and expect, plus its a perfect family film. Best to brief the kids beforehand though as this isn't the Dark Knight they know of, no moulded plastic here...pure West.

'If Robin and I were to remove our masks, the secret of our true identities will be revealed!'