Batman

(aka BATMAN: THE MOVIE)
(1966, U.S.) color 105 minutes
20th Century Fox/Greenlawn Productions/
William Dozier Productions
Story: Bob Kane (from his comics)
Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Music: Nelson Riddle
Cinematography: Howard Schwartz
Produced by William Dozier,
Charles B. Fitzsimons
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson

With: Adam West (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Burt Ward (Dick Grayson/Robin), Lee Meriwether (Catwoman/Kitka), Cesar Romero (The Joker), Burgess Meredith (The Penguin), Frank Gorshin (The Riddler), Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth), Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon), Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara), Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet Cooper), Reginald Denny (Commodore Schmidlapp)

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In the summer of 1966, 20th Century Fox decided to create a feature film version of their popular, campy TV series "Batman!". The story opens with narrator "Desmond Doomsday" (William Dozier, the executive producer and creator of the TV series) mentioning that "this yacht and it's custodian is bringing a revolutionary new invention to Gotham City."

On a peaceful afternoon motor ride, millionaire Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and his young ward, Dick Greyson (Burt Ward)have been summoned back to stately Wayne Manor by an urgent but anonymous call for help. It seems that someone or something is threatening the life of well-to-do Whiskey company owner Commodore Schmidlap (Reginald Denny in his last film performance). This unseen foe also wants to steal his new invention. Wayne and Greyson park their car in front of Wayne Manor and head into the study, where Wayne opens the bust of Shakespeare and turns on a secret switch, which opens the hidden bookcase entrance to the Batcave!

The pair quickly slide down the Batpoles and flick the costume changer switch; hence, the two become Batman & Robin! Driving out of the Batcave at top speed, Robin makes an emergency call to Gotham City Airport to have the technicians prepare the Batcopter for takeoff.

Within minutes, the Batcopter is ready and the Dynamic Duo fly over the rooftops of the city, and then onto the open seas, where they spot Commodore Schmidlap's ship. Batman drops the Batladder and climbs down to the deck, only to have the entire ship disappear and his leg attacked by a shark. Luckily, Robin brings down a can of Shark Repellant Bat Spray, which subdues the beast and sends him back into the brine. Moments later, the shark explodes on impact! That afternoon, a press conference is held at Police Commissioner Gordon's office.

The Dynamic Duo explain away the shark's attack on Batman as nothing more than an unfortunate animal who by chance happened to swallow a floating mine. They also bypass any queries about the whiskey executive, or his missing ship. Yet Our hero is entranced by the beauty and questions of one reporter, Miss Kitka, who seems interested in Batman taking off his mask for "a better picture." Kitka's request is met with shock and outrage by everyone at the press conference, but Batman gently explains that neither he nor the Boy Wonder can remove their masks, for their secret identities would be revealed.

While trying to find some clues as to who is behind the kidnapping of Schmidlap, our heroes, Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) and Police Chief O'Hara (Stafford Repp) check out the status reports of any well-known super-criminals who may have escaped from Gotham State Prison. They find out to their horror that the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), the Joker (Caesar Romero) and Catwoman (Played by Lee Meredith) have all escaped from prison. They may be working together on a new super crime which would endanger everyone!

Fearful that their foes may have stolen the Commodore's new invention for an evil purpose, Batman and Robin return to the Batcave to find some clues. In the meantime, Kitka heads for a bar on Gotham City's seedy waterfront. There, hidden inside the walls of the Benbow Inn, Kitka is revealed to be Catwoman, who has intruded on the press conference to gain information about their foe's efforts.

Catwoman and her three cronies have formed an evil alliance, "The United Underworld", and they have kidnapped Schmidlap in order to use his invention: an instant whiskey dehydrator which will drain the moisture from the members of "The United World Security Council" and turn them into colored dust, so that they can hold the entire world hostage. The villains plan is still in jeopardy because of Batman.

In order to rid themselves of their enemy, the Riddler comes up with a plan: Catwoman will disguise herself as Kitka again, and while she pitches woo with Bruce Wayne at an abandoned penthouse apartment, the Riddler, the Penguin, the Joker and their henchmen will fly to the penthouse using the Penguin's flying umbrellas, and kidnap the millionaire. Batman will then try to rescue Wayne, only to be sprung from the Joker's giant jack-in-the-box and sent through the gang's hideout, right into the grasp of the Penguin's exploding octopus!

Heading for Wayne Manor on the pretext that she had inadvertently found out about the criminals' plot, the Russian reporter asks Wayne for help. He offers to take her to dinner that evening. But Batman has a plan of his own. He has Robin and Alfred The Butler (Alan Napier) follow the two, and when the Riddler tries to attack Kitka, a police dragnet will be launched. The plan fails when the four villains and their henchmen capture Wayne and take him to their hideout.

When he tricks the villains to untie his hands, Penguin, Joker and Riddler listen in on the pair's conversations via a hidden mike inside the chamber. Wayne clobbers the fiends and jumps out of United Underworld's top floor window and into Gotham Bay.

Hours later, Wayne returns home to Wayne Manor, where he and Dick head for the Batcave and drive out to the crook's hideout to capture them. Their efforts are thwarted by a bomb, which the Caped Crusader throws into the bay, and hides behind some steel pipes for protection.

Their efforts to foil the villains are hampered even further by the Penguin, disguised as Schmidlap, who tricks the pair into taking him to the Batcave with five dehydrated pirates at his command. But the Penguin's plot is ruined by rehydrating his henchmen with tainted water, loaded with atomic waste, from the Batcave's water system. Thus, when our heroes bop the fiends, their unstable bodies are reduced to anti-matter. Taking their foe back to town, the villain gasses our heroes and steals the Batmobile.

As the Penguin drives off to the United World headquarters, Batman and Robin are prepared for this by taking an anti-Penguin Gas Pill, and driving to the airport on their Batcycle. They fly to United World HQ to save the security council. The Villains dehydrate the council members but our heroes catch up with the Penguin's super submarine, rout the villains and turn the council members back into human form.

***

I first saw BATMAN at "The Laconia Theater" in the Bronx, back in the late summer of 1966. West & Ward did many personal appearances to promote the film, including a memorable guest appearance on Sonny Fox' "Wonderama!". I was lucky enough to meet Frank Gorshin at the New York "Sons Of The Desert" banquet at the NYC Player's Club last summer, and he told me that he still has fond memories of doing that movie. I was also lucky enough to meet Burgess Meredith before he died, and he told me that he enjoyed working on the movie as well.

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TV fitness expert Jack LaLaine made a guest appearance in BATMAN. LaLaine appears on the rooftop of a building with some bikini-clad girls, and they all wave hello to our heroes as they fly by in the Batcopter.

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Sterling Holloway (best remembered as the voice of Winnie the Pooh) was slated to play a harassed Air Force Officer in the scene, where he tries to have his planes find and stop the four Super Crooks who are kidnapping Bruce Wayne Ms. Kitka on the Penguin's jet-pack flying umbrellas. Sadly, the scenes with Holloway were cut from the final release print of the film.

- Kevin S. Butler

copyright © 2004 Kevin S. Butler, all rights reserved.

Video/DVD availability: VHS/DVD (Fox Home Video)