The idea of taking a previously existing property and turning it into a movie isn’t really new. Gone with the Wind was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel released in 1936 before it became an Academy Award winning film in 1939. And the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz went through a few film adaptations before the definitive 1939 release of The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland. It actually lost Academy Award for Best Picture to Gone with the Wind.
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And then there’s Batman: The Movie.
Before the cowl of the bat was worn by the likes of Christian Bale, George Clooney, Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton, there was Adam West. Alongside Burt Ward, this Batman and Robin combo carved out justice in Gotham City through pithy one-liners, a bombardment of onomatopoeia flashing on the screen and, of course, dancing. Lest we forget the Batusi.
Through 120 episodes over three seasons, the Dynamic Duo blasted into homes on CBS. It was a veritable cavalcade of camp, simultaneously taking itself way too seriously while being as ridiculous as possible. But in addition to the TV show, a film was also produced and released during the early run of the series.
Batman: The Movie hit screens on July 30, 1966 and was somewhat successful, having had more of a life on VHS, DVD and so on. It featured the four biggest villains from the TV series; Frank Gorshin as The Riddler, Cesar Romero at The Joker, Burgess Meredith as The Penguin and the Lee Meriwether incarnation of Catwoman. Batman and Robin fight to defeat the villainous team’s plan to dehydrate the members of the United World Organization’s Security Council and kidnap the dust.
‘Devious’ does not even begin to describe this plan…
The campy brilliance of this manifestation of the Caped Crusader is perfectly depicted in Batman: The Movie. This Batman’s penchant for labelling everything shines through when he lowers a rope ladder down from the Bat-copter and it has a label that reads ‘Bat Ladder’ on the end of it. What’s concerning about this is that Batman either needs the label to be able to identify the ladder or is concerned that others, most likely Robin, do not know what a ladder looks like.
The ensuing fight with an awful looking fake shark on that very ladder is epic for all the wrong reasons. And the infamous run around the docks of Gotham trying to dispose of an enormous Looney Tunes bomb simply cannot be missed. For all of this film’s absurdity and borderline insane plot, it has a sense of whimsy and fun about it that makes it endearing. You can’t help but enjoy watching this film and end up laughing out loud on more than a one occasion.
Adam West spent years trying to distance himself from this role but has hopefully embraced his part in Batman history for all of its glory. After watching this movie again, I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion…
When I want to see Batman in a movie, there’s only one direction to go; West.
Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at iangoodwillie.tumblr.com.