Batman: The Movie (1966)

Directed by Leslie H. Martinson

Batman, often promoted as Batman: The Movie, is a 1966 American superhero film based on the Batman television series, and the first full-length theatrical adaptation of the DC Comics character Batman. Released by 20th Century Fox, the film starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin.

Released in July, the film hit theaters two months after the last episode of the first season of the television series. The film includes most members of the original TV cast, with the exception of Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, the character previously played by Julie Newmar in two episodes of the series’ first season.

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The arch-villains of the United Underworld – the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler and the Catwoman – combine forces to dispose of Batman and Robin as they launch their fantastic plot to control the entire world. From his submarine, Penguin and his cohorts hijack a yacht containing a dehydrator, which can extract all moisture from humans and reduce them to particles of dust. The evildoers turn the nine Security Council members in the United World Building into nine vials of multicolored crystals! Batman and Robin track the villains in their Batboat and use Batcharge missiles to force the submarine to surface.

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It’s a “Splash!” of good times

30 November 2003 | by Kristine (kristinedrama14@msn.com) (Chicago, Illinois) – See all my reviews

Batman, the best superhero of all time is finally in techni-color. And is coming to a DVD near us. Sorry, just had to get that out, I mean this movie leaves you will a cheesy goodness that is Batman.

I know a lot of people always criticize and make fun of the series, but I don’t understand how anyone could hate this? Yeah, it’s a complete turn around from the original comic books, but it’s just non stop laughter and even the actors were aware of that. You just have to love the sprays that Batman has, “Shark repellent”? LOL! Not to mention the fun villains who are just so “filthy and diabolical”.

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I am in love with this script, I mean, it’s so cheesy, but it did it on purpose. Like when Batman finds out the true identity of Catwoman and Robin says “Holy Heartbreak!”. Or my favorite scene that is possibly my favorite scene of all time, where Batman has a bomb in his hands and is trying to get it out of people’s way so they won’t get killed, but no matter what he keeps bumping into the same marching band in the streets or finding people in the way, and finally he just sighs and says “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb”. CLASSIC! Please, watch this movie, it’s beyond hilarious, just pay the $5.99 for the movie!

9/10

Brilliant parody of 1940’s serials

10/10
Author: CatTales from United States
11 March 2001

I’m dismayed by the reviewers who compare this with the bloated, boring Batman movies of 1980-90’s. It was always intended as comedy, and the special effcts, acting, etc., were designed to that effect. Maybe it’s okay in comic books but can anyone take seriously a bunch of crazy hero/villains running around in capes and tights? You have to look back to those 13 chapter sci-fi serials of the 1940’s to get the show/movie: each chapter ended with the heroes getting blown up, then the next chapter showed the last 5 minuts of the previous chapter except with the added footage showing the hero’s escape.

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Then another 5 minutes of the characters recapping the entire story for the benefit of the audience if they hadn’t seen the previous chapters. Quite amusing to watch today (I would recommend “Lost City of the Jungle” which loosely inspired Indiana Jones, and has those credits that stream up the screen like in Star Wars). That’s why the Batman series were always 2-parters with ridiculous cliff hanger endings, with Batman uttering “If I can only reach my utility belt…” Adam West’s performance can only be characterised as sublimely surreal: he really deserves an award. The only thing that comes close to this is Mystery Men, which many also unfortunately don’t seem to get.

“Oh, the delicious irony of it all!”

6/10
Author: The_Movie_Cat from England
15 May 2001

Having, losing, gaining… to a generation of kids this WAS Batman. Only when Tim Burton reinvented the big screen perception of the “caped crusader” did it become outdated.

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The third of the new films, Batman Forever parodied this film and the series with a “holy” joke. Unfortunately the movie in question was the first to be directed by Joel Schumacher, and so was consequently brash and bereft of wit. Yes, thanks to ShoeMaker this version of Gotham has suddenly become the coolest yet again.

It’s all such brilliant fun, awash with the irony so gloriously absent from Batman & Robin. Michael Keaton was a wonderfully dark Batman, but the other two were planks. Adam West is knowingly hammy as the title role, and relishes the deliberately cheesy lines. He has a potbelly and a costume that looks like it was made out of an old binliner. Anyone who cannot see the genius of that is beyond help. Burt Ward’s brilliantly overacted Robin is also hilarious, and far less irritating than the asinine Chris O’Donnell version.

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The Batmobile is ace, too. I remember having a chunky Corgi model of the car that shot out matchsticks across the room. Much better than a CGI-enhanced penile extension. Even the rubbish filmed backdrops are fun. Everything’s a bat-something in this film, a rope ladder having a large “Bat Ladder” sign tied to the end.

This is a fantastic movie, how could anyone not love it? Some hilarious scenes include the shark fight, the trap door spring and Batman with the biggest (and longest-fused) bomb in history. Look at this dialogue exchange where they try to work out which supervillain is behind the mayhem: “But wait! It happened at sea. See? C for Catwoman.” “An exploding shark … was pulling my leg.” “The Joker! It all led to a sinister riddle. Riddle -er. Riddler?”

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Fortunately, it turns out they’re all involved, along with Burgess Meredith as the Penguin. The scenes set on the villains’ hideout are shot with the camera at slanted angles, an inspired touch. All the poor things about this film work in its favour – Cesar Romero as the Joker looks about 80 and clearly hasn’t bothered to shave off his moustache, but it works, as does the full-bore “acting” of Meredith and Merriwether. Only Frank Gorshin as the Riddler slightly disappoints; though that’s because he’s nowhere near as over the top. He is, of course, infinitely preferable to Jim Carrey. Anyway, they all work superbly together and the film doesn’t feel top-heavy. A huge flaw of the new series, where more than one villain never quite clicked, can you imagine Nicholson, Pfeiffer, Carrey and DeVito all in the same movie? Of course it’d be impossible not just in budget but in egos, so having modest TV actors here serves the story well.

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One strange element of characterisation is seeing the Joker getting bossed around by the Penguin, something that would never happen in the comics.

Some of it’s so wilfully silly it almost goes too far. If you put your tongue into your cheek you may choke, and seeing a Pentagon head playing tiddlywinks eggs the joke a little, though the whole thing is so well-meaning that you simply can’t hold it against the movie. The plot, though, really isn’t up to much at all, something I never noticed as a child (but then I never realised it was a comedy when I was a child, either). A repetitious sequence of events that sees the villains constantly trying to destroy Batman and Robin from afar, the heroes trying to locate their secret base. It goes round in circles, but a glorious “Biff! Pow!” fight on a submarine and a sideways swipe at eugenics make sure it all ends in style.

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Lastly, look out for the scene where Ward and West run up and down on the spot (“Luckily we’re in tip-top condition!”) while a film background of a street and the theme tune play – a classic. Simple, silly fun and almost relentlessly appealing. So much so I nearly added another point to the total… 6/10.

‘Sometimes you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

8/10
Author: phillindholm
1 June 2007

1966 was, among many other things, the year of “Batman”. This campy color TV series (very) loosely based on the classic comic strip, was originally planned for a fall debut. But the ABC network which commissioned the show, had already seen several of their new programs fail dismally in the ratings. Desperate for some promising new material. they gave “Batman” the green light, and it premiered in January. Thanks to it’s ‘hip’ humor, an eye-popping kaleidoscope of bizarre color backgrounds and a cast of “guest villains” second to none: Julie Newmar, Cesar Romero, Anne Baxter, Burgess Meredith (the list goes on and on) the show was an immediate smash.

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Suddenly, America became “batty” and it’s popularity was so great that stars scrambled for a chance to appear on the program. Along with its ratings, success came the brilliant merchandising campaign – everything from bubble gum cards and records to underwear and cereal. Inevitably, a movie was planned, supposedly either to introduce audiences to the show (which wasn’t necessary after all, because the program was picked up first) or to sell the series overseas. It’s main function, of course, was to cash in on the Batmania flooding the country while it was still hot. So, with a slightly bigger budget – mainly to accommodate the construction of the batboat and the batcopter, a feature version of the show was quickly filmed between the end of the first season and the beginning of the second.

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By the time of the movie’s release in August 1966, however, the Batman craze had already begun to fade. The critics, for the most part, dismissed the film and audiences chose to ignore it. And, in recent years, there has been some speculation as to what happened. Although it has been written that Twentieth Century-Fox did little to inform the public that this was a project made exclusively for the big screen and not (as with “The Man from Uncle”) a compilation of previously seen television episodes edited into a feature. In fact, the movie was promoted both in advertising materials (trailers, posters, etc) and magazine features as being “All New, Made Especially for the Giant Motion Picture Screen”. It appears that the viewing public felt that it was probably just more of the same, figuring there was no point in paying to see what they got for free at home. So, despite mass bookings in every theater available, the film came and went. But, seen today, “Batman” holds up well, capturing perfectly what was one of the biggest fads to come along in the sixties.

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Adam West and Burt Ward personify the clueless but virtuous Superheroes – always ready for a challenge, and, as usual, lionized by their puny police force led by Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) and Chief O’Hara (Stafford Repp). Alfred, alter-ego Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler (Alan Napier) and Harriet Cooper (Madge Blake), aunt of Robin’s alter ego Dick Grayson are on hand as well. The chief delight here though, are the four Supervillains – The Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, subbing for Julie Newmar), The Penguin (a rakish Burgess Meredith), The Joker (onetime Latin lover Cesar Romero) and The Riddler (a manic Frank Gorshin). The plot, the usual nonsense involving this crew’s attempt at world domination, serves as a suitable background for sight gags and pratfalls galore.

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Meriwether and Meredith are the Villains with the most footage, each getting to disguise themselves during the course of the story. Posing as Russian reporter Miss Kitka, and sporting a commendably convincing accent, the incredibly lovely Meriwether is (understandably) successful in a scheme to lure Bruce Wayne into a kidnapping, hoping Batman will dash to the rescue! Meredith is not quite as able, in his guise as the villain’s hostage Commodore Schmidlapp, though he does manage to get into the secret Batcave. And the plot thickens…West and Ward perform their chores with appropriately deadpan dispatch, but, as usual, the devils have the best parts, with Lee Meriwether offering a deliciously different interpretation of The Catwoman, and Burgess Meredith, who was born to play The Penguin, standing out. Batman is great fun both for younger viewers (who won’t pick up on the intentional parody) and older ones (who will). “Holy time capsule!” Sevaral years ago, a wide screen DVD was released.

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It boasts an excellent transfer, Stereo sound and many extras, including a running commentary track with West and Ward, trailers, still galleries, and new featurettes about the film, and the Batmobile, with creator George Barris. A MUST for Batfans!

Holy marathon Batman.

8/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
13 June 2008

The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin & Catwoman have joined forces to wreak havoc on Gotham City……and then the World! Can Batman & Robin save the day?

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Remember when Batman was fun? Not a serious scene in sight, no tales of revenge or personal demons to burst from the screen in a day glow burst of thunder. For many of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s this was the only Batman that mattered, pure unadulterated fun, all campy veneer and skin tight Technicolor suits. This full length outing for the dynamic duo is of course just an extended episode from the joyous TV series, just add a bit more money and you got a Bat Boat, a Bat Helicopter and erm, erm, Bat Shark Repellent! It’s just wonderful I tell you.

How any of the actors kept straight faces is anyones guess, but they did, and they collectively delighted millions of children and like minded adults in a way that can’t be described to the none believers, thank holy god for the caped crusaders that always kept us safe. 8/10

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Footnote: Watching now in my middle years I ask any red blooded male this; is there anything more sexy than Lee Meriwether in the Catwoman suit? No wonder my Dad was a fan of the show back then………..

Cheesy, a great comedy.

7/10
Author: LebowskiT1000 from Escondido, California, USA
4 October 2002

I seriously hope that the director intended this film to be a comedy and didn’t want the audience to actually take Batman seriously, because after a few minutes of this film, all seriousness is thrown out the window.

When I was young, I used to watch the old Batman TV series, so I kind of knew what to expect, but it has been quite some time since I’ve seen any of those episodes. The film was far cheesier and sillier that I expected. With all that said, I actually liked the film. I didn’t think it was an excellent film, but it was worth my time.

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Adam West and Burt Ward are hilarious in this film. The way they say things just cracks me up. The cast of evil-doers are quite good and funny as well: Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, and Frank Gorshin. The rest of the cast pulls off a good performance as well.

I don’t know that I would recommend this film to everyone, but if you’re a fan of superhero films or just like old campy movies, then this is the film for you. If you do see it, I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading,

-Chris

Camp, At It’s “Best”

6/10
Author: Ryan from King of Prussia, PA
13 February 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is not the Tim Burton, Michael Keaton “Batman”. This is pure West, Adam West that is, playing Batman only the way he knows how, pure camp. Is the acting over the top? Yes. Is the story silly? Yes. Is there Bat-shark Repellant? Yes. Did I enjoy the movie? Very Much Yes. If you are looking for a movie to play it straight, be the dark, super-hero movie that Tim Burton produced in the late 1980s, you’ll be in for a bitter disappointment.

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The story, for what it’s worth, has all of the Batman villains coming together to dream up a plan to take over the world. The plan? It’s not important, but if you must know, it involves dehydrating the members of the United World Nations, or whatever the UN is called in the movie, then running the world from the Penguins submarine. It’s pure camp, silly, but still entertaining.

Even though it is often described (like many contemporary shows) as a parody of a popular comic-book character, some commentators believe that its comedy is not so tightly confined. They felt the film’s depiction of the Caped Crusader “captured the feel of the contemporary comics perfectly”. The film was, they remind us, made at a time when “the Batman of the Golden Age comics was already essentially neutered.”

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Certain elements verge into direct parody of the history of Batman. The movie, like the TV series, is strongly influenced by the comparatively obscure 1940s serials of Batman, such as the escapes done almost out of luck. The penchant for giving devices a “Bat-” prefix and the dramatic use of stylized title cards during fight scenes acknowledge some of the conventions that the character had accumulated in various media. However, the majority of Batman‘s campier moments can be read as a broader parody on contemporary mid-1960s culture in general.

Furthermore, the movie represented Batman’s first major foray into Cold War issues paying heavy attention to Polaris Missiles, war surplus submarines and taking a poke at the Pentagon. The inclusion of a glory-hunting presidential character and the unfavorable portrayal of Security Council Members marked Batman’s first attempts to poke fun at domestic and international politics.

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Batman premiered at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas on July 30, 1966 (between the first and second seasons of the TV series); it was moderately successful at the box office. The Batboat featured in the film was created by Austin-based company Glastron, whose payment was in having the film premiere in their hometown. In conjunction with the premiere, Jean Boone of Austin CBS affiliate station KTBC interviewed the film’s cast, including Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, and Adam West.

ABC, the network which previously aired the Batman television series, first broadcast the film on the July 4, 1971 edition of The ABC Sunday Night Movie; the film was quickly rebroadcast on ABC September 4 of that year. The film was released on VHS in 1985 by Playhouse Video, in 1989 by CBS/Fox Video, and in 1994 by Fox Video. The film was released on DVD in 2001, and re-released July 1, 2008 on DVD and on Blu-ray.

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Reception

The film has received generally positive reviews over the years. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 80% rating based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site’s consensus states: “Batman: The Movie elevates camp to an art form — and has a blast doing it, every gloriously tongue-in-cheek inch of the way.”Bill Gibron of Filmcritic.com gave the film 3 out of 5 stars: “Unlike other attempts at bringing these characters to life…the TV cast really captures the inherent insanity of the roles.” Variety magazine stated on their review that “the intense innocent enthusiasm of Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin as the three criminals is balanced against the innocent calm of Adam West and Burt Ward, Batman and Robin respectively.”

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HOLY INSERT-JOKE-HERE! this is one of the corniest, awesome/camp movies ever made!

10/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
2 July 2008

Try not to put it too much, at all, in line with the other Batman movies, first of all. The difference between Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and the 1960’s TV show and subsequent spin-off movie is the difference between a hat and a boot- they both fit, but never in the same sections (unless one likes walking on a hat or wearing a boot). Weird comparison? Try some of the one-liners in this movie, man! This is filled with so much comedy, both intentional and not so, one has to keep a tally on when things are meant to be crazy and when they just are by design of whatever’s going on in the low-budget but high concept stratosphere. This is NOT your darker, Frank Miller/Grant Morrison/Alan Moore Batman work, but rather the by-product of a period where superheroes were just frigging goofy. And, hey, why not camp it up for all it’s worth?

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My high rating for this movie is and isn’t ironic. It’s got some of the cheesiest, lamest, most “what-in-Jebuz-were-they-thinking” sets and props (the shark is something Ed Wood would’ve cut out), dialog exchanges and super-obvious stereotypes (not the least of which on commies but also the UN room!), and it looks like half of its 30-day shooting schedule was used to play ping-pong when things got boring on the set. It is at its core for Bob Kane’s creation what the 1978 Holiday Special was the George Lucas’s Star Wars: it’s so bad it’s truly and utterly awesome for every moment it can squeeze out a frame. Watch it with friends, make wisecracks right alongside the characters, make your own Joker makeup and put it over your mustache, and try and put out of your mind “HOLY ALMOST!”

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BUT, at the same time, some of the writing by Lorenzo Semple Jr is, genuinely, clever and well-worded. Amid the stupidity and pandering and things that only kids would think are somewhat OK in the comic-book setting (and even I when I saw this as a kid knew it was WAY outside of the usual Batman ground), one marvels at some of the puns and gags and things that work, tremendously. And to be certain the bomb gag, with Batman running around trying to bypass nuns and ducks and babies is something that is about as close to Monty Python as one could ever hope for the dark knight, and it’s pure genius. The film also boasts its all-star cast (save for Catwoman who was replaced momentarily), whom all chew up scenery like it’s fillet mignon at the Old Homestead.

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The camera-person, too, is often in on the weird excitement, and has the kinds of tilted angles and perspectives one would normally see in a Terry Gilliam freak-out. Did I mention the weirdly awkward ending that seems resolved but has the air of uncertainty for no reason?

Batman is a delightful bad-movie masterpiece, a not-totally guilty pleasure that you can’t turn away from for a moment but realize is everything you wouldn’t want Batman to be if taken at all seriously. For its time and place it came, it saw, and it conquered a good portion of the audience for three seasons and a cheap flick. And I love every second of it.

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Too many crooks spoil the froth …

7/10
Author: Merwyn Grote (majikstl@aol.com) from St. Louis, Missouri
17 July 2005

Okay, Adam West will never be thought of as a great actor. But to West’s credit, he is the only one of all the Batmen to actually give the character any personality. All the subsequent movie Batmen — Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale — made their mark as Bruce Wayne, but simply disappeared into their costumes when they transformed into Batman. Logical, perhaps, given the demands of the role; it is what they should do, if they were, indeed, to be real-life superheroes, anonymity supposedly being a vital requirement.

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But West, with his deadpan yet archly melodramatic delivery, tied the alter egos together, making it all the more ridiculous that Batman could not be recognized as Bruce Wayne. The same was true of Burt Ward’s Robin/Dick Grayson. Yet, as transparent as their disguises were, and as arch and campy as their performance were likely to get, there was something more courageous — as well as outrageous — about their interpretation of The Dynamic Duo. They didn’t “strike fear into the hearts” of criminals through intimidation as dark and threatening symbols of nighttime vengeance, but rather by being incorruptible symbols of goodness and honesty. West’s Batman may have worn the dorky cowl, but he did not hide behind it. West’s Batman was anything but a creature of the night. As deadpan, square-jawed, ham-bone and self-mocking as West’s Batman was, he managed to make the Caped Crusader into something more than a stuntman in an ugly superhero costume.

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To some, that more would be less; at least to those who prefer their superheroes to be mysterious, dark and brooding creatures of violence and psychological complexity. Certainly, that was not the goal or even fleeting concern of the makers of the 1960’s TV series. Their Batman makes no attempt to embrace or even recognize the supposed complexities of superhero mythology and/or psychology. The TV series, like this quickie/ripoff feature film, refused to take comic books, pop culture and the media seriously — even as it became a symbol for all three. For that reason it is disliked, or, at most, barely tolerated, by comic book fanatics. But for a generation, “Batman” — like “The Adventures of Superman” a decade prior — defined what comic book heroics were all about: the simplistic vision of good versus evil. This “Batman,” however, added an element of absurdist farce.

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There was an element of brilliance to the 60s Batman that made him a wonderful superhero for the turbulent era. On the one hand “Batman” promoted very traditional virtues, with clearly defined messages about what is good and evil; yet, with tongue firmly in cheek, the show mocked its own simplistic 1950s Americana outlook. The show embraced middle American values, but recognized that those values could quietly encompass eccentric alternatives; an added subversive quality that highlighted the series’ gay subtext. It was a kid’s show that didn’t patronize younger viewers, but could cast a knowing wink at the adults who recognized the sophistication behind the juvenile silliness. Like “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” “The Addams Family” and “Get Smart,” among others, it was a show that could be dumb in a very smart way. Rather than just being the joke, “Batman” got the joke.

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Coming at the peak of the series’ success, the big screen version must have seemed like a great idea: make some big bucks off the franchise before the shine wore off. Yet, while the movie captures much of the campiness of the TV show, it was undoubtedly one of many factors that began its inevitable decline. The best way to see something’s flaws is to blow it up in size; the worst way to tell a funny joke is to needlessly stretch it out. Instead of making it all bigger and better, the BATMAN movie somehow made it all seem smaller and, well, lamer. This is, after all, a feature film made on a TV show’s budget. Next to the James Bond films, BATMAN the movie looks a little bit puny.

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Yet there is much to enjoy here, not the least of which is West and Ward, who never miss a beat in their attempt to gain movie stardom. The film is worth watching just to hear West deliver that immortal line “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” I think the film falters by not just giving us one good villain but by trying to squeeze in four (the later big screen versions make the same mistake). While it is a kick to see pros like Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin in all their glory as Penguin, Joker and Riddler, they do tend to get in each others way.

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Super-villainy is not a team sport, but a colossal ego trip; thus the story lacks focus. Yet even as the film offers up too many crooks, it is regrettable that Julie Newmar wasn’t available to fill her signature role as Catwoman. Lee Meriweather does an admirable job, but for fans of the TV show, Newmar will always be the one and only Catwoman.

Production-wise, this BATMAN can’t compete with the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher films that eventually followed. But unlike its successors, BATMAN 1966 is unpretentious, straightforward and cheerfully aware of the basic absurdity of its own mythology, making it the best of the Bats.

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