Monday, July 16, 2012

Film Review - Batman Retrospective - Batman (1966)

Hey all!

Excited about The Dark Knight Rises?! Damn right you are!

As such, Ranticular will be running a fortnight retrospective of all the Batman films that have received theatrical release ever! Because my love of my fans is only exceeded by my love for Batman...

 Batman (1966)

Plot: The Caped Crusaders (Adam West and Burt Ward) are called in as a last resort when the criminal masterminds of the millennium team up to conquer (at least!) the entire world by turning the U.N. Security Council into dehydrated dust. This plan also features an exploding shark, an exploding octopus and a (non-exloding) set of Polaris Missiles.

Director: Leslie H. Martinson (who won a Golden Gryphon for this fact fans!)

Actors: Adam West (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Burt Ward (Robin/Dick Grayson), Lee Meriwether (Catwoman), Ceasar Romero (The Joker), Burgess Meredith (The Penguin), Frank Gorshin (The Riddler) 

The Film Itself:

The film features this scene within the first five minutes...

It Makes Even Less Sense In Context, Believe It Or Not

... It features a shark that casually nibbles on Batman's leg before being sprayed with shark-repellent bat-spray. The shark promptly explodes.

It's official, this is the best batman film ever.

Screw that, the best film ever.

Ok that's a lie, but this is still a really under-rated piece of mad genius. While I know there are people out there who may complain about the Dark Knight being not so dark here, it is worth noting that no one was trying to be dark or add pathos of any kind. Here we have a Batman who, "under the cape, is all man!" At least, according to the film's tag-line. The hate this film seems to attract legitimately confuses me, do people hate The Naked Gun for being a slightly inaccurate portrayal of police-work? It's meant to be fun damn it!

R.I.P You Magnificent Bastard

Aside from chemically-unstable marine life, Batman (1966) also features some incredibly fun over-acting from the assembled cast, in particular  Frank Gorshin devours all the scenery around him with a mad energy as the Riddler. He is a joy to watch, one minute calmly berating his fellow super-villains, the next minute screaming like a bug-eyed banshee at the camera. My personal favourite points in the film comes in the form of the various... riddles...(?!) that the villains leave lying around for the heroes, including this gem. Anything in brackets is just additional comments by myself.

[Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, and Chief O'Hara consider which supercriminal might have been behind the fake yacht and exploding shark attack.]
Gordon: Could be any one of them, but which one? W— which ones?
Batman: Pretty fishy what happened to me on that ladder.
Gordon: You mean, where there's a fish, there could be a Penguin. (... What...?)
Robin: But wait! It happened at sea! Sea? "C" for Catwoman! (... WHAT?!)
Batman: Yet... an exploding shark was pulling my leg!
Gordon: The Joker! (Gordon, unlike Batman, was never noted as the worlds greatest detective)
O'Hara: [It] all adds up to a sinister riddle. Riddle-er. Riddler?
Gordon: Oh! A thought strikes me! So dreadful I scarcely dare give it utterance. (Dun Dun DUNNNN!)
Batman: The four of them. Their forces combined... (They are Captain Planet!)
Robin: Holy nightmare!

Until I die, no one will be able to tell me that writing isn't fantastic on every level, from the insane yet completely correct conclusions to the spiked drama of Gordon's "dreadful thought". The dialogue is definitely the film's strongest suit, with every exchange being endlessly quotable.... Oh fuck it, here, have another riddle

[Batman reads Miss Kitka's riddles to Robin.]
Batman: One: "What has yellow skin and writes?" (First time I saw this, I was totally expecting racism)
Robin: A ballpoint banana.
Batman: Right! Two: "What people are always in a hurry?"
Robin: Rushing people? Russians! (Ok, that one kind of works...)
Batman: Right again! Now, what would you say they mean?
Robin: Banana... Russian... I've got it! Someone Russian is gonna slip on a banana peel and break their neck! (Logic. You do not make it Robin)
Batman: Precisely, Robin! The only possible meaning! (I mean, of course!)

Also of note is that Bruce Wayne falls in love with Catwoman (cunningly disguised as Natasha from The Rocky & Bull-Winkle Cartoon)  within a day then threatens to "brutally bash" anyone who messes with his piece of ass. If that ain't Batman-levels of incredible, I don't know what is. Well, maybe  Robin's argument that Batman should let some bar-patrons die because they are filthy drinkers. This actually happens half-way through the film and it is glorious. If it's manly by 1960's standards, Batman and Robin are there!

Therefore it may not be surprising that for all it's camp charm, the film has a noticeable sexual element to it. At one point, Batman utters the line "Bon voyage pussy" in the most bare-faced way possible. In another scene, Bruce Wayne begins to have what can only be described as a wet dream in the presence of Catwoman. Before anyone claims i'm reading too deeply into things, Bruce utterly the line "My dream, it's approaching a climax" while lying at a slant with his eyes closed and his mouth half-open. Seriously, Bat-Boners a-hoy.

...Do The Cops Need To Be Shown How?!

This really just adds to the charm and gives the feeling that underneath all the camp and goofy moments this film was incredibly self-aware and deliberate. Make no mistake, this film is playing games with the viewers at times. 

Sadly, the film isn't perfect. While there is a lot of fun to be had here, the pacing is rubbish. Within ten minutes Batman & Robin work out who the villains are, then seem to forget and need to be reminded again half an hour later. Some of the sillier moments, such as the infamous bat-bomb sequence, are so much fun that they make the scenes around them feel boring and pointless. Practically every villain scene is just padding (albeit very fun padding) and at almost two hours long the film does feel very bloated at times. It's very much a product of it's time as well and there is some pretty on-the-nose racism here and there. Again, this is not strange for the era it was made in but these elements can be quite off-putting to modern viewers. This, combined with the sexual elements, make it's fun for children somewhat questionable.

It also goes without saying that the film's style is certainly not for everyone. It is trying to capture the OTT style of the Batman comics of the time and, while it succeeds beautifully, there is a very good reason that style didn't last to the current day... It gets to be rather exhausting. This strikes at around the hour and a half mark where the silliness can start to feel forced and the fun starts to come in drips rather then waves, at least until the surge in the last ten minutes.

But I still refuse to hate, dislike or even disagree with this film, a film that centers around de-hydrating the entire UN security council into dust and storing them in little vials. A film that sees Batman and Robin getting rescued from torpedos by off-screen self-sacrificing Porpoises. A film that features a submarine with flippers. FLIPPERS!

Insanity doesn't even begin to cover it. It's not deep or classy, nor does it want to be. This is a perfect party film, it is much more clever then it gets credit for and it is also a very cheap way to feel like you just took a whole bag of magic mushrooms. It's one of the strangest films I have ever seen and that is saying something. Watch, enjoy and wonder how on Earth we got from this to The Dark Knight

Rating : 4 out of 5 - For Making Me And My Friends Have To Keep Checking With Each Other To See Was This All Real.

See If You Like : The TV Show, Spoof-Comedies.

Til next time, same bat-time, same... oh fuck that, just til next time!

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