Saturday, September 20, 2008

Batman (1966)

"Batman" (Leslie H. Martinson, 1966) The success of the "Batman" TV-show spurred 20th Century Fox (still reeling from project cost-overruns) to create a full-length motion picture teaming Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) against a phalanx of dastardly desperadoes--the Joker (Ceasar Romero), Catwoman Lee Merriwether, subbing for the absent Julie Newmar), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), and The Riddler (Frank Gorshin). The plot is some nonsense about de-hydrating U.N. officials down to dust and holding them for ransom. Ambassador-jerking-plot aside, there are three new Bat-vehicles (the -Copter, -Boat and -Cycle) to gawk at, there is just enough wit in the script so you know that no one's taking this too seriously, if at all. And if things aren't as tight or as pointedly comic-satiric as they were on the show's first season, well, whatever. It's still colorful, West still treads that dangerous razor's edge of serious/camp ("Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb!") without going too far over the top.*

The villains basically play their roles at top-volume without much range (although
Burgess Meredith's FDR/Popeye blend for The Penguin is a stitch *Waugh!*), with the exception of the truly bi-polar performance of Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, practically quivering with psychosis.

One has to acknowledge that if this version of Batman and his villains hadn't been so iconic, film-makers wouldn't have needed to brainstorm so long and hard to come up with a Bat-antidote for the movie versions.

* It's still amazing to see West fill this role with mock-humor. Can you imagine how stuck-in-first this show would be if second-choice Lyle Waggoner had won the role?

Holy Love-Boat, Batman! Everybody's "D-List!"
The percursors to Danny DeVito, Jim Carrey, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson/Heath Ledger

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