Pure Escapism: Remembering Leslie Martinson, Director Of ‘Batman: The Movie’ (1915 – 2016)
ComicsAlliance is saddened to learn of the death of Leslie H. Martinson, who passed last Saturday at the age of 101.
Martinson had a prolific career as a director working in film and television that stretched from 1953 to his retirement in 1989, working on projects as varied as Mission: Impossible, The Six Million Dollar Man, CHiPs, Fantasy Island, and Airwolf. He is best known and remembered extremely fondly by us, however, for being the director of the classic 1966 Batman: The Movie.
Martinson also worked on the television show, directing the two-part adventure "The Penguin Goes Straight" / "Not Yet He Ain't," which thrilled viewers with the apparent death of Batman and Robin and started the trend of the Penguin as one of the few Batman villains who could convincingly go straight rather than just dabbling in umbrella crimes.
It was in the movie, though, that Martinson, along with screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr., producer/narrator William Dozier, and the incredible cast and crew of the film, provided some of the most memorable scenes in Batman's 77-year history. The shark-repellant Bat-Spray, the United Underworld, and of course, Batman racing all over Gotham City's waterfront trying desperately to get rid of a bomb; those all came from the movie.
What's really amazing, though, is that while Martinson embraced the camp and comedy of what he was doing --- just as he'd do on later projects like Fantasy Island and Small Wonder --- he also weaved in the genuinely emotional content that made it possible to be invested in the story as more than just a screwball superhero parody.
Bruce Wayne's romance with Miss Kitka, and Batman's heartbreak at the realization that he's been played by Catwoman, could have been shown to the audience any number of ways, but Martinson chose to show it as genuine rather than as a punchline. It heightens the comedy, but it also gives the movie an emotional core, and helps make it a true classic.
Martinson is survived by his wife, writer and television personality Connie Martinson.