Batman (1966)

Synopsis: Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) face off against four of the most powerful villians of all time – Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Joker (Cesar Romero) and the Riddler (Frank Gorshin)! Armed with a dehydrator that can turn humans into dust, the fearsome foursome intends to defeat the Dynamic Duo once and for all in a bid to take over the world!

Batman (1966) 7.5

You know, I never could enjoy the ‘60s incarnation of Batman. I tried watching an episode or two whilst in my teens (it was a rerun, I’ll have you know!) and simply could not get beyond how mindnumbingly stupid it was. I haven’t tried to watch the show since.

However, in the early days of DVD, when there were very few titles worth picking up, I decided to give the movie a try. Slim pickins, ya know what I mean?

At first, I was mildly amused, but mostly I found myself bored. That made the DVD very good material for falling asleep to, and so I ended up putting this in the DVD player late at night, as background company.

Next thing I knew, I was chuckling at the absurd dialogue and wholly nonsensical situations. I suddenly realized that they never actually did take themselves seriously, and purposely played up the camp side of the situations. I started to enjoy the fact that they weren’t badly making jokes, they were making bad jokes. On purpose. Intentionally. Deadpan but with a clear wink at the audience.

There’s a twisted sort of cleverness in that. Or, at the very least, it’s a skill.

But you have to appreciate that talent to enjoy the movie (and presumably, the show). If you can’t get beyond the fact that they were interpreting the then-campy comic book and you don’t see (mad) genius behind the mindlessness, then watching this is a pointless endeavour.

As a point of reference, to give you a taste of what to expect, here are some of my favourite pieces of completely discrepant logic (prepare to groan HARD – this is going to hurt):

Batman: [reading a riddle] What has yellow skin and writes?
Robin: A ball-point banana!
Batman: [reads the second riddle] What people are always in a hurry?
Robin: Rushing people… Russians!
Batman: So this means…
Robin: Someone Russian is going to slip on a banana and break their neck!
Batman: Precisely, Robin!

Commissioner Gordon: It could be any one of them… But which one? Which ones?
Batman: Pretty *fishy* what happened to me on that ladder…
Commissioner Gordon: You mean where there’s a fish there could be a Penguin?
Robin: But wait! It happened at sea… Sea. C for Catwoman!
Batman: Yet, an exploding shark *was* pulling my leg…
Commissioner Gordon: The Joker!
Chief O’Hara: All adds up to a sinister riddle… Riddle-R. Riddler!
Commissioner Gordon: A thought strikes me… So dreadful I scarcely dare give it utterance…
Batman: The four of them… Their forces combined…
Robin: Holy nightmare!

Batman: Look at this pair of joking riddles.
Chief O’Hara: [reads] What does a turkey do when he flies upside down?
Robin: He gobbles up!
Chief O’Hara: Of course.
Batman: And, number two…
Commissioner Gordon: [reads] What weighs six ounces, sits in a tree and is very dangerous?
Robin: A sparrow with a machine gun!
Commissioner Gordon: Yes, of course.

Commissioner Gordon: Penguin, Joker, Riddler… and Catwoman, too! The sum of the angles of that rectangle is too monstrous to contemplate!
Batman: We’ve been given the plainest warning. They’re working together to take over…
Chief O’Hara: Take over *what*, Batman? Gotham City?
Batman: Any *two* of them would try that!
Commissioner Gordon: The whole country?
Batman: If it were three of them, I would say yes, but *four*? Their minimum objective must be… the *entire* world.

Batman: …there’s a special meeting of the Security Council today. If what I fear is true…
Robin: Wow! Let’s commandeer a taxi!
Batman: No, Robin. Not at this time of day. Luckily, we’re in tip-top condition. It’ll be faster if we run. Let’s go!

To think that Batman is supposed to be a brilliant detective! That’s what is supposed to distinguish him from his superhero brethen; he’s got the smarts. Snicker, snicker… I don’t know what Sherlock Holmes would make of him (not even the Robert Downey, jr. version!)

Well, for what it’s worth, the overall production value is better than in Batman’s previous incarnation, in the b&w serials (mind you, that’s not hard to beat at all). And it’s all done in glorious, over-the-top primary colours (well, mostly…), just like the comics were! So it’s a feast for the senses – even if the sets aren’t realistic, the suits aren’t realistic and the interpretations weren’t realistic either.

Some will call this film a load of $#!t. I call it loads of fun. (Not-so-dumb) dumb fun, mind you.

Adjust your expectations accordingly.

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