Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Batman: The Movie (1966) **½

PG, 105 min.
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Writers: Lorenzo Semple Jr., Bob Kane (characters)
Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Caesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp, Reginald Denny

This is one of those movies that runs hot and cold. I’ll watch it one time and it’s just so bad and so dull I curse my need to own everything Batman. Sometimes I’ll watch it and find it just hilarious. Such was the case when I finally decided to try it out on my boys.

The “Batman” television show, starring Adam West as Batman, was probably my introduction to the hero as a boy. That doesn’t sound right when I think back on it. Adam West’s Batman is nothing like the brooding, morally righteous superhero I came to love. He was a joke. But… he was a joke. It was supposed to be a joke. And frankly, it’s often a pretty funny one.

I wasn’t sure how my boys would react to this Batman. I’ve watched some of the animated series with them. They know that Batman is a dark and serious superhero. In fact, my youngest boy doesn’t even like him that much even though he’s always getting into fights. He’s much more of a Captain America type of kid. So, going into a Batman movie marathon to celebrate the release of “The Dark Knight Rises” later this summer, I was a little wary of staring it off with the movie that was spawned by the 60’s television show.

The show was wildly popular in its first season on television, and after the completion of the first season they went right into filming this big screen adventure. It was released just before season two, though some of the shine had worn away from this farcical look at the classic superhero by then. Whatever the public felt about it at the time, the show was popular enough to remain in syndication for many years, and buffered my Saturday morning doses of “Superfriends” as a child.

Everyone knows about the theme song, “Na na, na na, na na”, and the spelled out sound effects splashing across the screen. But there is also such irreverence toward the whole notion of superheroes and the rouges gallery of villains to be found here. The Gotham Police are completely dependent on Batman and Robin, and the heroes are daftly clueless. Luckily, their nemeses are equally inept. Although, Catwoman—whether played by Julie Newmar on the show or Lee Meriwether here—is still sexy to this day. I love how she never actually fights in any of the battles. She’s like a cheerleader who hisses encouragement in the background.

Needless to say, the whole family had a ball watching and laughing at Adam West’s attempts to seem intelligent and sexy and hearing Burt Ward’s “Holy comparisons, Batman.” Shark repellent? Even my youngest knew how ridiculous that one was. I gave it 2 ½ stars, because it is so bad if you aren’t in the mood. But, when you’re in the mood, it’s an easy three.

Watch the entire movie for free below.

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