ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Batman’ (1966), Part Two
Each week, Chris Sims and David Uzumeri take a look back at one of the most successful and influential comic book movie franchises of all time, in ComicsAlliance's in-depth retrospective on the Batman films.
David: Welcome back to Cinematic Batmanology for the second and final installment of our look at 1966's famous, amazing high-camp Batman movie! Catwoman, in the disguise of Miss Kitka, baited Bruce Wayne to be captured by the disastrous foursome of herself, Joker, Penguin and Ridder, for the purpose of baiting Batman -- who they do not know is Bruce Wayne -- into falling into their trap, allowing them to take over the United Nations analogue and therefore the world!
Chris: Truly, this is the greatest story of a generation.
David: Kick us off, sir!
Chris: The second half of the movie picks up where the classic cliffhanger of Bruce Wayne being kidnapped left off, with a newspaper informing us that Bruce and Kitka were "Seized In Brazen Snatch," which, despite what you may think, is not a truly amazing bit of filth on the part of the writers. I don't think it is, anyway.
David: Adam West is truly amazing in this scene, getting his mack on to an extreme extent. This is likely because he really, really wants to f*** Lee Meriwether.
Chris: Bruce's reactions do seem to be pretty extreme: He wakes up in the United Underworld headquarters and -- because in grand DC Comics tradition, even the World's Greatest Detective can't recognize a woman once she puts on a domino mask -- demands to know what they've done with Kitka. Then, he tells him that if they've hurt her, HE WILL KILL THEM.
Chris: It's not even an implication. He literally says "If you've harmed that girl, I'll kill you all." Keep in mind that he has known this girl for exactly one day.
David: Yeah, at this point Bruce Wayne is seriously pissed off at them with taking Kitka, even though he kind of intentionally put her in danger of this exact situation.
Chris: All of the Joker's machinations in The Dark Knight couldn't get Batman to break his moral code. In Batman '66, Lee Meriwether does it in 24 hours, more or less by accident, just by being Lee Meriwether. Can you imagine if it was Julie Newmar? He would've started murdering puppies with his bare hands.
David: He would have actually killed Romero, Meredith and Gorshin. Like, Adam West would have killed them on the set.
Chris: It's also worth noting that the villains are getting seriously annoyed by the fact that Batman hasn't shown up to rescue Bruce Wayne and get launched into the arms of an exploding octopus, too, but they never manage to put these two facts together. Batman demands to see Kitka, and Catwoman -- who at this point is acting as the leader of the group, even though this is the Riddler's plan -- tells them to blindfold him and lead him down "the labyrinthine path" to where they've stashed her. I loved this when I was a kid, the fact that the villains were running this huge con to make Batman think they were in this crazy lair, when they're really just hanging out in a studio apartment over a dive bar.
David: I'm pretty dumb, because I've honestly been thinking that this room was in the submarine, even though we saw it earlier above the bar. The movie totally fooled me. Which makes me feel REALLY dumb, since now I understand why they put Schmidlapp in the room with the fake sea. I always wondered why they didn't have him in the real sea, because they were in a submarine. Readers, you will all want to have found me at NYCC and kicked me in the dick for this, because I am a legitimate idiot. Except that NYCC's nonexistent cellphone coverage would have made me invisible. HA!
Chris: To be fair, I've been telling you that for a year now. Catwoman uses the time they spend marching Wayne around in circles to change to Kitka and tie herself up in yet another scene that had to have had a pretty strong impact on the fuzzy handcuff industry.
David: This, again, is where West really shines. He's got so much conviction every time he refers to the villains in that angry tone. And I also have to give him credit for never laughing at Meriwether's ridiculous Russian accent.
Chris: There's only one scene where I've seen a Batman '66 cast member come close to breaking, and it happens in my favorite episode ever: the three-parter from Season 3 where Batman, Robin and Batgirl head across the pond to Londinium. There's a part where Batgirl's chained up (again with the bondage!) and Batman is freeing her by going at her chains with this gigantic file, and he does it in what I can only describe as an extremely sexual way. Like, he's just hammering away at the chains, and he even gives Yvonne Craig this amazing nostril-flaring sex face, and she almost cracks up.
David: In the comments, someone claimed that West and Ward actually spent the infamous Siamese Human Knot scene whispering obscenities to Craig, which kind of kills the humor of that for me if it's true.
Chris: Here, Wayne apologizes to Kitka for getting her into this mess -- unnecessary since it was her who was getting the death threats, but pretty gentlemanly nonetheless -- and then reveals that he has a secret weapon: A radio transmitter strapped to his arm that he's completely forgotten about until this very moment! As he says in one of my favorite lines of the film, "Capitalists like myself who carry large sums of money often have such contrivances."
David: You see, it's lines like that that make me question the sanity of anyone who calls this movie dumb. This movie is not only astonishingly self-aware, it's incredibly funny about it. Nobody can hear that line and not imagine the writers' room cracking up when it was read out loud. The movie is genuinely very clever.
Chris: You might be an idiot, Uzi, but your statement about Batman being a big kid was pretty insightful: Batman talks like a kid imagines a really smart guy talks, the same way that a kid talks when he's pretending to be a grown-up, dropping five-dollar words and telling girls to "wiggle around back to back" to get at their radio transmitters.
David: This is the 1960s equivalent of nerds on the Internet reading pick-up artist websites and books. Batman totally loves Neil Strauss.
Chris: The rest of the United Underworld rushes in to get Wayne before he can get to his transmitter, but it's all revealed to be a pretty clever ruse: As soon as they untie Millionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne, he goes completely sickhouse on the bad guys. This is not a dude pretending not to be Batman.
David: To be fair, this is also a dude in a movie where he could just claim "oh, Batman taught me how to fight" and nobody would ever suspect he was actually Batman. Disbelief isn't just suspended, it's bungee-jumping from space. We also, gleefully, actually get to see Joker's ridiculous springloaded jack-in-the-box onto an exploding shark trick performed, which is hilarious with the 1960s effects used.
Chris: Bruce unsuccessfully tries to find Miss Kitka for reasons that should be obvious, then apparently just decides that she's on her own and climbs out of a window, performing a completely unnecessary but completely awesome dive into Gotham Harbor on his way. He returns to Wayne Manor (a journey that lasted long enough for his tuxedo to dry) and informs Commissioner Gordon that he escaped "with the aid of Batman." Bruce... it's called a secret identity.
David: Gordon in this movie is not only dumb, he's also completely useless. Does he accomplish anything other than holding a press conference?
Chris: In the early episodes, there's a real attempt made to characterize the GCPD as actually trying to capture the arch-villains, and only calling in Batman as a last resort. Then, about ten episodes in, they just completely give up and start calling that dude immediately. "I'm afraid there's trouble, Batman! A light's gone out in my office and Chief O'Hara misplaced the stepladder! We could be looking for it all afternoon if you don't get here quickly!" "Sure an' 'tis a dark day, Caped Crusader!"
David: I'm surprised O'Hara never, ever made it over to the comics. Did he even appear in flashback in Morrison's run? I know Aunt Harriet basically existed in the form of Aunt Agatha...
Chris: He actually shows up in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Dark Victory, where he meets a quick and ignoble death.
David: Oh, okay, that explains why I don't remember it, I never read Dark Victory.
Chris: It's not something I'd recommend. Anyway, while it is insane for Bruce to talk about hanging out with Batman when there were other people around to see that it was just him beating the crap out of goons, there are two things I absolutely love about this scene. First: Bruce Wayne walks into his house after being kidnapped, with his tux all torn up, and just breezes past the commissioner to tell Dick that they're "late for a demonstration at the fish hatchery."
David: It's a riddle, you see. They need to see a demonstration of their physical prowess at the place where the villains are being fishy. I don't think I matched this movie's twisted deductive insanity well, though.
Chris: Second, they turn around and head to the Batcave as soon as Gordon leaves, and Burt Ward slides down the bannister. I thought that was just the coolest thing ever when I was a kid.
Chris: I have no idea why it stuck with me as much as it did, but I still love it. It's a really nice reminder that Ward's playing a teenager. Meanwhile, back at the United Underworld, the villains decide to go with the Penguin's plan for killing Batman, and 57 minutes into the movie, the actual plot has finally arrived.
David: We finally see Schmidlapp's invention: a demoisturizer that turns you into a pile of dust. They test it on five goons, who just stand there as the Penguin kills them all in order, without even attempting to escape after they noticed that it, well, pretty much kills you while these douchebags laugh.
Chris: Ah, but does it kill them, Uzi? Or is this just the next step in their sinister plot? Besides, what do you want them to do, run away and take the chance of stepping on a hidden jack-in-the-box that tosses them into the path of an exploding barracuda?
David: We'll find out after Batman and Robin decide to return to their lair, giving us a big-screen version of the series' infamous ninety-degree angle climbing trick!
Chris: Robin and Batman give kids a strong moral lesson about the dangers of alcohol, except that they basically say that people are used to seeing crazy people in costumes because they drink a lot. So hey, kids! Don't drink alcohol, or you'll totally see Batman! We now come to what is probably the most famous sequence of the film, even more than the Shark-Repellant Bat-Spray.
David: Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb, kids. The entire scene is hilarious madcap slapstick, as Batman runs around the dock with the bomb being unable to find a place to throw it to explode that wouldn't kill some form of living thing. That's what puts Batman above the villains: he won't explode marine life. That's why he's a friend of porpoises.
Chris: This scene is fantastic for a lot of reasons -- the sheer number of things they throw at Batman to keep him running with that bomb, from nuns to ducklings to a couple necking to a woman with a baby carriage who seems to actually follow him around -- but my favorite is that Robin pretty much tells Batman he should've just blown up the bar because drunks deserve to die. That kid is ice cold.
David: It's a really famous scene, but I don't get what's up Robin's ass, unless they're intentionally writing him to discourage teenage drinking for some reason. I mean, he's a prep school kid with a playboy guardian.
Chris: He also refers to them as "riff-raff," thus confirming his status as an entitled young plutocrat. But as Batman and Robin are debating the worth of the 99%, they're suddenly approached by the Penguin, who has disguised himself as Commodore Schmidlapp. Sort of.
David: You'd think he'd make at least a token attempt to stifle the giveaway waugh. But my favorite part of this scene is that Batman and Robin figure out he's Penguin IMMEDIATELY, and then still take him with them to the Batcave.
Chris: Which is all part of his plan! That's what's great about this movie: Everyone from the heroes to the villains all have these crazy plans involving pretending to be someone else that are built entirely around people seeing through their lies. Batman and his radio transmitter were just a bluff to get his hands free for a beatdown, and now the Penguin's ascot and Michael McDonald cap are just an attempt to get into the Batcave. Because this is a Batman who needs solid evidence before he starts punching out a guy who he just literally threatened to murder 10 minutes ago.
David: With his mobile fingerprint lab in the Batmobile! I have to admit, I'd totally forgotten the resolution of the dehydration situation in the Batcave, but I'd also totally forgotten the absolutely incredible science Batman starts dropping at the end of the scene. I'd COMPLETELY forgotten about this bit, and I was seriously cackling in my chair, since while the movie's been ridiculous so far, this may be Batman's greatest monologue in the film.
Chris: Yes, once he's gained access to the Batcave, the Penguin pulls five dehydrated pirates out of his pants, adds water, and sets them to the task of killing Batman and Robin, because that is just how this movie rolls.
David: That's pretty great, but after a very short fight scene where all the goons immediately disappear and the Penguin runs away, it's revealed that the Penguin's used the heavy water they use to power their atomic core (seriously, Batman keeps a nuclear reactor in the Batcave) and that they've now become... antimatter.
Chris: Here's my question: Why in the hell is there a switch for Heavy Water from the atomic pile on the Drinking Water Dispenser?! Wayne Industries must've gotten so many lawsuits over this.
David: I love to drink heavy water all the time! That's how I become the Flash, right?
Chris: Since he has one quarter of the United Underworld trapped in his Anti-Crime Basement, Batman decides that the best course of action would be to pretend to believe he's Commodore Schmidlapp who has been operating under a post-hypnotic suggestion, and then let him steal the Batmobile so that they can follow him with a motorcycle that they apparently leave hidden on the side of the highway under a fake bush.
Chris: Seems like a pretty good idea to me.
David: Man, you really have nothing to say about the antimatter?! Or his revelation that the goons will return... in another universe?
Chris: What is there to say? There are mysteries of the universe that even we, with all our science, cannot understand, old chum.
David: Bruce Wayne seriously formulates the worst plans in this movie. But they always work.
Chris: I think technically, that makes them the best plans. He's like Cobra Commander that way. He and Robin take the camouflaged Batcycle to the airport, where Robin's sidecar splits off into a "go-kart," then hop in their helicopter to hunt down the bad guys and their submarine, where Lee Meriwether is contorting to scratch her back.
David: I really, really love the four-way periscope they use with the specifically labeled sides for each one of them. Also, that Penguin's logo is just a black triangle and a white triangle.
Chris: It's Minimalist Penguin! Gorshin is incredible in this scene, too. Of all the villains, he's the one that's most recognizable to the way we see him today, and the '66 era -- and this movie in particular -- had a real strong hand in shaping him. He's arrogant -- he says there's no way the Penguin could've succeeded in killing Batman and Robin -- and manic and lives to match wits with Batman. Which, in this particular instance, involves shooting yet another ICBM at the Batcopter.
David: At least they didn't repeat the stock footage! Thankfully, however, there's a foam rubber show going on in the area with a huge mat full of raw material for the Batcopter to safely land on. I'm serious.
Chris: The only thing I find unbelievable about this scene is that FoRubWhoSaCon wasn't made into an annual event.
David: I love how the way Batman and Robin get out of deathtraps becomes more and more ridiculous with each iteration of the movie. It's completely unafraid to pull utterly random deus ex machinas, between this and the flying porpoise.
Chris: Batman and Robin are hit with two more riddles, and since we've already been through the mind-boggling apophenia the first time we dealt with this, I'll skip to the highlights: Applesauce represents unification, and an egg is nature's perfect symbol of hope for the future. Remember that next time you have breakfast.
David: Not only that, but this somehow means the United World headquarters, which the villains' submarine, now with Penguin, is approaching. There's an AMAZING bit in this scene where Catwoman starts hissing and growling and purring and shaking her hips while looking through the periscope, and the pirate in Penguin's spot just does this slow astonished stare at her. I seriously went back and rewatched it like three times.
Chris: It is pretty amazing. While Batman and Robin run a three-minute mile to the United World headquarters, the bad guys have already arrived in their submarine with the Dehydrator. They zap the representatives from all over the world into powder, and end up escaping with the entire Security Council. Their evil plan has now come to terrifying fruition!
David: The Penguin personally Solid Snakes into the United World HQ, and gases everyone until they all fall onto each other like arches. It's amazing. I also continue to love the villains' insistence on wearing masks in public, like anyone's going to recognize the Joker. The world leaders are also all completely oblivious to the dehydrator's attack because they're too busy arguing. And, inexplicably, they all dehydrate into different colors of dust. Once they put them into capsules, they're practically like those little foam dinosaurs that expand in water.
Chris: Wouldn't our world be a better place if international affairs were settled by size-changing dinosaurs? I think so. After sweeping the representatives up into individual test tubes, the villains make their escape when Catwoman threatens to kill Miss Kitka if Batman makes a move to stop her. So just in case you were wondering: Yes. Lee Meriwether's hotness outweighs the actual possibility of nuclear annihilation.
David: Well, duh! As the villains run to the submarine, Batman and Robin run after them in the Batboat, outrunning an ICBM pointed at them with the power of stock footage by jamming the homing frequency. The villains are somehow surprised that Batman and Robin know how to jam a missile.
Chris: You have to imagine that the villains are getting worried at this point. I mean, they've already hit him with a nuke once, and he just keeps coming. Batman don't shiv.
David: Batman points out that they only need to make the submarine surface, not destroy it, since they don't want to hurt the world leaders inside. Which basically means he's totally okay with killing all four villains and their goons otherwise.
Chris: Hey man, he warned them not to harm Miss Kitka. After referring to Catwoman as a "feline floozy," which is amazing, Penguin commands the sub to dive, and Batman "circles them at full-thrust Bat-Speed," which I'm going to assume is pretty fast. And then Robin pulls out a bazooka.
Chris: Excuse me. Bat-Zooka.
David: It attacks it with sonic waves, and as he shoots it we actually see the capsules with the world leaders start to topple, so Batman and Robin are being pretty terrible at their "saving world leaders" jobs.
Chris: You can't expect them to make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Especially since Alfred does all the cooking.
David: They finally get the submarine to surface, and then Batman and Robin board the boat and fight the villains, leading to a protracted fight sequence featuring the film's only use of the show's famous visual onomatopoeia cues.
Chris: This is really the only fight scene with Batman and Robin, isn't it? Bruce fought the gang back at their hideout, but that's it.
David: Everyone gets overboard, Batman swordfights Penguin's umbrella, and throws a cat into a lifeboat while proclaiming, "bon voyage, pussy."
Chris: Any remaining doubt our readers may have had as to whether Dozier and Semple knew exactly what they was doing should be gone now.
David: They finally beat everyone off the boat and chase Catwoman inside, where she trips and falls and Batman finally discovers she's Kitka, leading to him staring at the camera for a few minutes while mournful opera music plays. "Holy heartbreak, Batman," Robin helpfully adds. I'd punch that kid in the face.
Chris: That's another one of those things that I completely bought into as a kid. It's a heartbreaker. Even if she was a commie.
David: Burt Ward looks legitimately mournful as he watches Batman try to deal with it, and then, of course, Bruce's coping method is essentially denial. "It means nothing."
Chris: Well if there's one thing we know about Batman, it's that he deals pretty well with emotional trauma.
David: Then Schmidlapp shows up and topples the entire container of world leader dust and sneezes on them to combine them all. Thank god Batman and Robin have a Super Nuclear Dust Separator! With a computer link that allows them to consider "various national and ethnic factors." Robin considers changing the personalities of the world leaders and playing god to cause world peace, but Batman says man cannot play with nature. I'd totally forgotten how absolutely nuts this movie got at the end.
Chris: It really does. They went all out to do an adventure that was bigger than anything they'd done on the show, and in doing so, they amped up the craziness too. Also, Batman wears his utility belt over his surgical smock. This movie is genius.
David: Batman and Robin separate out the dust and rehydrate them with "light water - soft" in the United World headquarters as the entire world anticipates to see if it's successful. Everyone has a "solemn moment" before Batman turns on a water faucet connected to a reservoir on the table leading to the dust, and then the leaders are brought back and continue arguing as if nothing had just happened. Also, the dude from Nigeria is speaking Spanish for some reason.
Chris: Oh Uzi. Don't you see? Those various national and ethnic factors got shuffled up! Maybe now they'll have a little more understanding of each other. In the world of Batman '66, world peace was achieved when the Joker shot the UN with a laser gun that turned them into powder that got sneezed on by an extremely gullible sea captain.
David: . . . I never realized this. Oh my God.
David: Seriously, how do I understand Grant Morrison's Batman, but not Batman '66?
Chris: You must've thought this was a hell of a down ending when you were a kid.
David: Much like Dark Knight, basically every actor here, except in a different way. They're all fantastic at the over-the-top, campy theatrical antics.
Chris: I love basically everything about this movie, but as our readers might've been able to guess from the subtle hints I've dropped over the past two weeks, I'm particularly fond of Lee Meriweather, who somehow managed to be almost as gorgeous as Julie Newmar.
David: Almost. To Chris Sims, Thanks for Everything, Lee Meriwether.
Chris: But really, there are so many great moments: The shark, the bomb, the bad guys using nuclear missiles for airborne graffiti rather than destruction, Robin's bizarre shift into total elitism...
David: The optimistic ending of personality transplants between the leaders of the free world... This is really just a really big episode of the TV show. Every single element of it was... oversized. The fights, the locations, the running time, the number of villains. But besides the dropping of the cliffhanger, it's very similar structurally and in style.
Chris: And even then, there are plenty of cliffhanger moments in the series. We broke it up with Bruce Wayne getting abducted, but they could've just as easily capped a show-sized chunk of it with the torpedo heading to Batman, or the helicopter falling out of the sky.
David: Yeah, exactly. It's got no shortage of tension, and ridiculous solutions to it.
David: I dunno. Schmidlapp, maybe? It's really hard to come up with one. The use of stock footage for the Polaris missiles and around-the-world reactions was kind of distracting, I guess, although all of this is part of the movie's appeal to a degree.
Chris: As much as I love this movie, and as dense as it is with action, it does take a hell of a long time to actually get anywhere. We dinged Batman Returns pretty hard for the seams showing in the script, and the first half hour is just as bad in that respect. The good guys figure out who the bad guys are right after the opening sequence, but then spend 20 more minutes figuring out who the bad guys are. There are places where it feels like padding that could've been used for more stuff with the villains interacting, which is where this movie really shines. But honestly? That's stretching to find something that's not great.
David: The dehydrator is introduced really late in the game, as well. I mean, if I wanted to sit here and find plot holes and parts that don't make sense I could, but that's not really the point of the movie, it's about ... conveying a feeling.
Chris: Exactly. I can't watch this movie without being swept up in it.
David: This was a hoot.
Chris: There's one thing about this movie that I'm sure isn't intentional, but if you watch this show as much as I have, there's this big connection that almost had to be completely unintentional.
Chris: Well like I said, when I was a kid, I totally bought Batman's heartbreak when Miss Kitka is revealed to be Catwoman. He's in love with her -- in a kid's show sort of conception of love, where you can be madly taken with someone that you've known for three hours -- and when he finds out that she's not real, it's so devastating. It really is like the bad guys killed Kitka, but almost worse. That's the way that scene hit me when I first saw it, and so it stuck with me. Batman will never love again. With me so far?
Chris: Well, the movie aired between the first two seasons of the TV show, and if you look at it that way, you can see that it's a turning point for Bruce Wayne. However, there's an episode near the end of Season 2 where Bruce Wayne is dating a beautiful socialite named Lisa Carson. Batman rescues her from King Tut, and at the end of the episode, she invites him into her apartment. He tells her that he's no good for her, that she's wasting her time with him, and tries to leave with a handshake. She ends up kissing him goodbye, and he goes into the apartment with her for "milk and cookies" -- after he turns to the camera and says "Man cannot live by crimefighting alone."
David: When here, he says that being betrayed like this is all part of a crimefighter's lifestyle.
Chris: Exactly! So it's these two huge changes in the evolution of this portrayal of the character! And you want to know the kicker?
Chris: Lisa Carson is played by Lee Meriwether.
Chris: Seriously, these are the things I think about in my spare time.
David: Well, I thought the movie was a lot of fun. We can't sit here and riff on the War on Terror in its aftermath, but it's a tightly crafted, very well designed, very funny movie.
Chris : It really is, and it deserves a lot more credit than certain fans want to give it. There was such a huge "fan" backlash against Batman '66, when in reality, all it does is prove that Batman can work in multiple kinds of stories -- and this one was for the lovers of adventure.
David: No offense to the other lovers out there!
Chris: And with that, we are officially done with our look at the Batman films. We hope you've enjoyed it, and if you have, don't worry. We'll be back next week with a special October surprise from the world of cinematic super-heroics.
David: Stay tuned for next week, kids!