Originally published on Citizen Screenings Leslie H. Martinson’s Batman 1966 gets another day in my spotlight in celebration of the anniversary of its holy release date…July 30, 1966. I had a lot of fun with this one…
“On a peaceful afternoon motor ride, millionaire Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward, Dick Grayson have been summoned back to Wayne Manner by an urgent, but anonymous call for help. A yacht carrying a revolutionary scientific invention to Gotham City is in grave danger. Never ones to skirt responsibility, with characteristic speed and resolve, they descend promptly to the Batcave. And then – as they have done many times before – as the Dynamic Duo, courageous warriors against crime, are off once again to the rescue!” – Narrator
“Batmobile approaching Batcopter”
The Batcopter approaches the periled yacht and the Dynamic Duo must act fast! Lowering the Batladder, Batman descends above roaring seas to step into danger. BUT WAIT! The Batladder is lowered too far and Batman is immersed halfway into the blazing seas! When Robin raises the ladder we see that Batman is being attacked by a vicious, man-eating rubber shark! HOLY SARDINE!
Batman doesn’t bat an eye but if he isn’t removed from the grips of the rubber shark we have no movie! The caped crusader then begins to punch the rubber shark on the head with all his might, but it doesn’t work! HOLY IDEA! Batman, still in the grips of the rubber bat-eater…er…I mean, man-eater, radios Robin for the Shark-repellent Batspray!
Robin lowers the Batspray to Batman and crisis averted! The rubber shark loosens its grip on Batman’s leg and drops into the water, causing an explosion that was (clearly) the inspiration for the ending of a certain Spielberg movie. PHEW! And the movie has just started folks!
Now, try to keep up, Batman (1966) is one thrill ride after another. And I must warn that BatSpoilers lie ahead!
Immediately following the near-catastrophe with the shark, the Dynamic Duo hold a press conference in commissioner Gordon’s office and a beautiful Russian Woman steps up and introduces herself:
“My name is Kitayna Ireyna Tatanya Kerenska Alisoff. I work for the Moscow Bugle.”
Kitayna Ireyna Tatanya Kerenska Alisoff then asks Batman and Robin to remove their masks. GREAT SCOTT! Batman and Robin take off their masks? Batman, with a hint of oily romance in his voice, approaches the woman and says that although it’s a natural request, should they grant it, the secret of their true identities would be revealed, “Completely destroying their value as ace crimefighters,” retorts commissioner Gordon. Robin then tries to put the woman at ease ensuring that, “under these masks we’re perfectly ordinary Americans.”
Hopefully that matter is put to rest!
Now, to the matter of who was behind the sinister plot to usurp the yacht carrying the scientific invention to Gotham City. After the media leave, the Dynamic Duo stays in Gordon’s office to discuss clues connected with the case After only a few moments, the super law-enforcers and the two super-duper crimefighters have the answers. And they are the most frightening prospects possible – four of the worst supercriminals known to mankind are at large!
The Penguin! “That pompous, waddling maestro of a million criminal umbrellas!”
The Joker! “Devilish crowned prince of crime!”
The Riddler! “Loose to plague us with his criminal conundrums!”
AND, The Catwoman!
Any one of them could be responsible! OR WAIT! What if the fiendish foursome of foul play have joined forces against the Dynamic Duo? “So dreadful I scarcely dare give it utterance.”
And guess what? It’s true. The fearsome foursome of fiendish fright have united against the forces of good.
“Holy jumble! Where’s the hope of the world now?”
But can they each curb their supervillian pride to work together against the Dynamic Duo?
Well, aside from some mild bickering…
Catwoman: “You dismal bird! You and your submarine! Look where it’s got us now!”
Penguin: “Shut up, you feline floozy!”
They do unite! But what is their objective?
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.”
THE ENTIRE WORLD? HOLY FU—FONDUE!
The arch-criminals try to take over the world using the scientific invention that was supposed to be delivered by the yacht, which turns out to be a pre-atomic submarine! First, however, they must lure Batman and Robin away somehow so the evil deed can go off as planned. So the foursome plan to kidnap Bruce Wayne, “the millionaire head of that disgusting, do-gooding Wayne Foundation,” using Kitka (Catwoman) as the bait.
Bruce Wayne gets a look at Kitka (acronym for Kitayna Ireyna Tatanya Kerenska Alisoff) and all but drools on the super-expensive Wayne Manner shiny wood floors. “I’ve rarely met a girl who’s such a potent argument for international relations.” Wayne falls for the trick and is kidnapped!
With Wayne preoccupied, there’s no one to answer to the BatSignal!
But he eventually escapes with the help of an uncaped crusador and returns to do his Batly duties. Following clues and using their superior riddle-solving skills, the Dynamic Duo make it out to the pier to save Miss Kitka, who is no longer there because she went back to joining the other super evil-doers as herself, Catwoman. But in her place Batman and Robin find a bomb with the wick (or whatever you call it) burning so Batman steps in and grabs the thing to try to get rid of it before it hurts anyone. (What ensues is my favorite sequence in the movie, by the way. Filmed at Santa Monica Pier we see Batman, huge bomb over his head, trying to find a place to toss it. But everywhere he looks there’s something preventing him from doing so.)
Batman: “Some days, you just can’t git rid of a bomb.”
“HOLY HEART FAILURE!”
Batman manages to get rid of the bomb only to fall victim of the Penguin and five dehydrated pirates RE-hydrated! Inside the Batcave no less. The Penguin escapes and steals the Batmobile, but the theft serves to guide the Dynamic Duo directly to the arch-criminals. OR so the duo thinks when they start following the stolen Batmobile in the Batcopter. While in pursuit, the Riddler hits the Batcopter with a polaris missile and the duo crash-land! Luckily, it’s right in the middle of The Foam Rubber Wholesalers Convention so their fall is broken by a bed of foam rubber. HOLY…HOLY!
So, guided by Batmusic, the Dynamic Duo have to go after the criminals on foot!
Meanwhile…the Penguin and his criminal co-conspirators have taken over the United World Security Council, which is vitally important if one plans to take over the world. And using the total dehydrator, the Joker turns the nine members of the Security Council into dust, which are then placed in vials to be used as ransom – $1 million dollars from each country. The criminals then take the vials and return to the Penguin submarine (which looks like a penguin) to send the ransom communications.
But the Dynamic Duo – now in the Batboat – are hot on their trail. Soon, circling the penguin submarine, the Dynamic Duo is able to fire precision missiles to disable the vessel and force it to the surface, upon which a fantastic final battle ensues – WHACK! BLURP! KER-PLOP!
“Bon Voyage, Pussy.”
Batman/Bruce is heartbroken to find out the true identity of Miss Kitka whose identity has been compromised because her kitty mask has been removed.
The Dynamic Duo have captured the criminals and turn them over to the authorities. But a horrific accident occurs with the dust that used to be the nine members of the Security Council – they scatter all over the place. The Duo is forced to use a new, but important gadget, the Super Molecular Dust Separator in hopes of gathering the individual dust particles that belong to each individual council member. It’s an arduous task but the Duo is up to it. After all, if they can’t do it, who can? In the end, after several moments of tense music indicating we are not sure the gathering of the council dust has been successful, the Council is gathered once more with all molecules in place. Or almost!
The world is saved and the Duo venture forth via the Batrope in Dynamic-ness!
- Adam West as Bruce Wayne / Batman
- Burt Ward as Dick Grayson / Robin
- Lee Meriwether as Catwoman
- Cesar Romero as The Joker
- Burgess Meredith as The Penguin
- Frank Gorshin as The Riddler
- Alan Napier as Alfred Pennyworth
- Neil Hamilton as Commissioner Gordon
- Stafford Repp as Chief O’Hara
- Madge Blake as Aunt Harriet Cooper
- Reginald Denny as Commodore Schmidlapp (his last film appearance)
- Milton Frome as Vice Admiral Fangschleister
- Gil Perkins as Bluebeard
- Dick Crockett as Morgan
- George Sawaya as Quetch
- William Dozier as Desmond the Narrator (uncredited)
- Van Williams as President Lyndon B. Johnson (voice, uncredited)
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson, Batman (1966) was initially intended as a theatrical release to introduce and promote the television series (a pilot), which ran from 1966 to 1968. However, the series was accepted for production earlier than expected so by the time the film was released, approximately 34 episodes had been made. The film ended up being released between the series’ first and second seasons, which made the movie icing on the cake for all involved as the series and characters already had a following. The release of the movie did help sell the series overseas.
The producers of Batman – both the film and television versions – took advantage of the show’s popularity and the larger budget to include a number of new Bat-gadgets not previously seen on the show, but which later made appearances in the series. These included the Batboat and the Batcopter. And my favorite bit of gadget trivia is knowing that neither Batman nor Robin had ever been filmed going UP the Bat Pole in the series before it was filmed for the movie. Subsequently the footage was used in series episodes.
One of the things about Batman that makes it a standout is that it features four of the greatest villains ever to appear in a feature film – Christopher Nolan, et al. eat your hearts out! Cesar Romero plays the Joker, Burgess Meredith plays the Penguin, Lee Meriwether plays Catwoman and although she’s not most people’s favorite in the part, she’s great in the movie (Julie Newmar, by far the most popular Catwoman, was filming another movie and was unavailable), and my personal favorite, Frank Gorshin plays the Riddler with a superb manic intensity. But then, I think Gorshin was one of the greatest talents ever.
By the way, in case you’ve seen this movie and haven’t noticed, all of the scenes in the arch-criminals’ lair were filmed at an angle to show that they were crooked.
The movie also features fantastic music by Nelson Riddle and was written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. who wrote several episodes for the Batman TV series, but went on to write the screenplay for such acclaimed films as Papillon (1973) and Three Days of the Condor (1975). Lorenzo does a fantastic job keeping in line with the gist of the characters and story in Batman – always funny, full of puns and innuendos that appeal to kids and adults alike. I laugh throughout this entire movie as I hope everyone does who watches it as it was never intended to be anything but campy, which the producers show from the beginning by way of a series of stills with messages…
“IF WE HAVE OVERLOOKED ANY SIZEABLE GROUP OF LOVERS, WE APOLOGIZE.” – THE PRODUCERS
“Batman was pretty bizarre with no resemblance to real life. But I enjoyed the comedic aspect of it.” – Adam West