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Old July 24 2011, 09:51 PM   #1
Warped9
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Batman: The Movie (1966)...

Back in '66 I was 7 years old and crazy for Batman on television. At that tender age I didn't know or understand what camp was. All I mostly saw was colourful adventure and some cool hardware. Flash forward a few years and I discovered Batman in the comics in late '69 and early '70s, right around the time Batman was being redefined and brought back closer to his roots. The issue cover I most vividly recall was of Batman pinned to a tree with a stake through his chest---pretty dark and dramatic stuff compared to the TV series. Of course it wasn't actually Batman who had been staked to the tree but someone else in costume. Nonetheless it was a startling image on the cover of a comic book.

Around that time I finally got to see Batman (the movie) rerun on television and the contrast between '60's live-action Batman and the comics was evermore marked.

Since that time back in the very early '70s I have stayed clear of the TV series and the film out of embarrassment. Since that time I discovered more and more about the history of the character and what a fantastic character Batman is. Overall he is my favourite superhero character. The '89 Batman with Michael Keaton was such a huge step up from 1966 even though today its elements of camp are now more apparent because of perspective enhanced by Christopher Nolan's take on Batman.

But today out of some perverse curiousity I watched the '66 film...

This film isn't just weird. It's outright manic. There isn't one scene where they don't milk it dry. Yes, there are some genuinely funny moments where it's just so fucking absurd you can't help but laugh with tears in your eyes. Other times your tears are likely ones of cringing embarrassment.

Since then other superhero films have been laugh fests because they're just bad and poorly done. But the '66 Batman is absurd on purpose! Although we have films like Kick Ass, The Incredibles, Megamind, Mystery Men and others that look at the lighter side of superheroes can you even imagine anyone today seriously setting out to spoof a hugely popular mainstream superhero character? It could happen, but likely not by deliberate design.

The '66 Batman isn't a film I actually like, but it does have balls and some genuinely crazily funny moments. The only other time I laughed so hard with something related to superheroes was when reading Warren Ellis' The Pro.
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Old July 24 2011, 10:27 PM   #2
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

What's often misunderstood about the '66 Batman is that it isn't really a spoof. If you go back and read the Batman comics that were published in the '60s, their storytelling was virtually identical to the show's, just as deliberately absurd and outre. Just the other day I saw an excerpt online from such a comic, a story where Batman fell off of the villains' helicopter but happened to deploy glider wings to take him to safety, after which Robin says, "It's good you thought of putting on your glider Bat-costume when we dashed out!" There are moments in the '66 show that are exactly like that, where Batman and Robin survive a deathtrap and then remark on how lucky it was that they coincidentally happened to wear a certain type of costume or bring along a certain gadget that was precisely what they needed to survive.

So the show wasn't mocking Batman. Since comic books of the era actually were intentionally comical and absurdist, anyone trying to do a faithful TV/film adaptation of a comic book would have naturally done it as an absurdist comedy. The '66 show was actually the most literal and exact screen adaptation of contemporary Batman comics that we've ever gotten, at least until the recent DC Universe DVD movies that are adapting specific story arcs (and some episodes of the '66 show actually were fairly faithful, if expanded, adaptations of Batman comics). If anything, the show was sedate compared to some of the sheer unapologetic goofiness of the era's comics (scroll further down in that link for the infamous case where Batman had to wear a different-colored costume every day, culminating in a garish rainbow-colored outfit).
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Old July 24 2011, 10:38 PM   #3
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

True, but the show had some of its own affectations which made it goofier. I'm sure the comics Batman delivered all the same straight lines as the show, but I doubt he delivered them like Adam West did. The show might not have been a send-up of the comics, but it probably exaggerated them.

And there were other alternatives, even in that era. Look at the Green Hornet. Produced by the same guy as Batman, I believe. Yet they played it completely straight.
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Old July 24 2011, 10:44 PM   #4
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

Yes, I know that the '50s and '60s era comic was goofy, but at the time I didn't know that. And since learning of it I'm saddened a bit as well because it's just so counter to how the character was initially launched and how he has been known since being straightened out in the late '60s and early '70s.

Some years ago I got a look at a test costume for Batman where it was just a black bat on his chest rather than with the yellow oval as was done in the series. It hints at something and you wonder about if they had gone a different direction.
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Old July 25 2011, 12:00 AM   #5
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

Silvercrest wrote: View Post
True, but the show had some of its own affectations which made it goofier. I'm sure the comics Batman delivered all the same straight lines as the show, but I doubt he delivered them like Adam West did. The show might not have been a send-up of the comics, but it probably exaggerated them.
You'd be surprised how little it did so. The people who wrote the comics back then weren't going for subtlety. They gleefully embraced the wildest, silliest, weirdest scenarios they could think of. It is impossible to overstate how exaggerated DC superhero comic books were in the 1950s and '60s. The show wasn't goofier, it was just goofy in different ways.

After all, you can't really define how lines are delivered when they're printed in voice balloons. Naturally there's going to have to be interpretation there. The style of delivery chosen for the show was hyper-earnest deadpan, the characters treating these ridiculous situations with total gravity. I'd say that's a reasonable interpretation of how the comics were written, because the characters within them certainly treated the events seriously no matter how ridiculous they got. (Or rather, the heroes and their allies played it ultra-serious, but the villains got to be as wacky as they wanted.)


And there were other alternatives, even in that era. Look at the Green Hornet. Produced by the same guy as Batman, I believe. Yet they played it completely straight.
But the Green Hornet was not primarily a comic book character. He originated in a radio series (from the creator of The Lone Ranger, whose great-nephew he was supposed to be) and was featured in two movie serials. There were a few dozen comics published between 1940-49, but that was it, and that was before comic books became as wild and bizarre as they generally were in the '60s. The Green Hornet as a television show was based on the tone of the radio show, a gritty adventure series.


Warped9 wrote: View Post
Yes, I know that the '50s and '60s era comic was goofy, but at the time I didn't know that. And since learning of it I'm saddened a bit as well because it's just so counter to how the character was initially launched and how he has been known since being straightened out in the late '60s and early '70s.
There's room for both interpretations. Both the '66 series and the current Batman: The Brave and the Bold are high-quality, satisfying comedy-adventure series, as worthwhile in their own right as other, more serious iterations of Batman.


Some years ago I got a look at a test costume for Batman where it was just a black bat on his chest rather than with the yellow oval as was done in the series. It hints at something and you wonder about if they had gone a different direction.
The only thing it hints at is that the people who made that test costume hadn't yet read the most recent comics. Carmine Infantino's "New Look" redesign (with the yellow oval) was introduced in the comics in 1964, and it made no difference in how the stories were told. If you look at the link I provided, you'll see that in those insanely goofy comics stories excerpted, Batman's costume lacks the oval.

Actually, if anything, the "New Look" heralded the first step toward the return of Batman to seriousness, because it was an initiative spearheaded by new editor Julius Schwartz, who later brought Dennis O'Neill aboard as writer and oversaw the reinvention of Batman as a more serious character. The only reason the oval-less Bat-symbol is seen in modern times as a symbol of a darker, more solemn Batman is because Frank Miller reintroduced it in The Dark Knight Returns.
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Old July 25 2011, 01:40 AM   #6
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

While the '66 series and film could have been considered valid back then today it really goes against the grain. Today's general take harkens back to the characters beginnings. And I've read those early stories and I'm thankful they went back to that. The '60's era reminds me of how poorly most people looked at comics and the superhero genre...and really how many people still look at it.

I read some of the '60's era comics. Batman and Superman were something I would have left behind me with a lot of other stuff that interests you only as a kid if they hadn't changed direction just as I was getting into my teenage years. Indeed the Marvel characters at the time struck me as more straightforward and more serious minded as I aged.
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Old July 25 2011, 02:31 AM   #7
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

Christopher wrote: View Post
What's often misunderstood about the '66 Batman is that it isn't really a spoof. If you go back and read the Batman comics that were published in the '60s, their storytelling was virtually identical to the show's, just as deliberately absurd and outre.
I disagree. Read Bill Dozier interviews of the time. He flat out admits that they did the show "over the top" deliberately. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. The show was made as a comedy, and plays out that way. So was the film from 1966. There's nothing embarasing about it, and no reason to be embarased because you watched it. I"m not.
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Old July 25 2011, 02:37 AM   #8
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

Christopher wrote: View Post
Silvercrest wrote: View Post
True, but the show had some of its own affectations which made it goofier. I'm sure the comics Batman delivered all the same straight lines as the show, but I doubt he delivered them like Adam West did. The show might not have been a send-up of the comics, but it probably exaggerated them.
After all, you can't really define how lines are delivered when they're printed in voice balloons. Naturally there's going to have to be interpretation there. The style of delivery chosen for the show was hyper-earnest deadpan, the characters treating these ridiculous situations with total gravity. I'd say that's a reasonable interpretation of how the comics were written, because the characters within them certainly treated the events seriously no matter how ridiculous they got. (Or rather, the heroes and their allies played it ultra-serious, but the villains got to be as wacky as they wanted.)
True. And I can envision comics Robin talking exactly like Burt Ward.

And there were other alternatives, even in that era. Look at the Green Hornet. Produced by the same guy as Batman, I believe. Yet they played it completely straight.
But the Green Hornet was not primarily a comic book character. He originated in a radio series (from the creator of The Lone Ranger, whose great-nephew he was supposed to be)
Good point. I suppose the perception would have been different. Although really it shouldn't have been. The basic concepts (and tropes) behind both characters are so similar that it requires a sizable blind spot to treat them so differently. Upstanding, wealthy citizens who moonlight as vigilantes, utilizing high-tech gadgets in their costumed crusade against crime. Why such different tones? The only real answer is what I call "cultural inertia"; i.e. "we've always portrayed them that way."

And people don't seem to remember that bit of trivia these days. Britt Reid, grandson of Dan Reid, who was brother to John Reid, aka the Lone Ranger.

I don't think the relationship can be officially referenced anymore, since the characters have different owners. Any idea when that divergence occurred?
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Old July 25 2011, 03:01 AM   #9
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
While the '66 series and film could have been considered valid back then today it really goes against the grain. Today's general take harkens back to the characters beginnings.
Actually that's no longer true. These things go in cycles, and over the past few years, we've seen comics and animation creators beginning to embrace the zany fun of the Silver Age as a change of pace from the gloom and grittiness of the past couple of decades. In TV there's The Brave and the Bold, as I said, and in comics, Grant Morrison has been consistently bringing back elements from throughout Batman's 7-decade history and treating them all as equally valid. This is what human beings do -- we always go to one extreme in one generation, then react against it and go to the opposite extreme in the next, and then back and forth again. Batman has gone from gritty to light to gritty, and now it's increasingly swinging back toward lightness.


RandyS wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
What's often misunderstood about the '66 Batman is that it isn't really a spoof. If you go back and read the Batman comics that were published in the '60s, their storytelling was virtually identical to the show's, just as deliberately absurd and outre.
I disagree. Read Bill Dozier interviews of the time. He flat out admits that they did the show "over the top" deliberately.
You're not disagreeing with me at all. My point is that the actual comics of the time were also deliberately over-the-top comedy. If you read the Batman comics of the 1960s and compare them to the show, they're actually remarkably similar, a lot more so than most other Batman adaptations have been to their contemporary comics.

And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. The show was made as a comedy, and plays out that way. So was the film from 1966. There's nothing embarasing about it, and no reason to be embarased because you watched it. I"m not.
That's exactly right. I agree with you completely. My point is that the same is true of the Batman comics of the time.


Silvercrest wrote: View Post
Good point. I suppose the perception would have been different. Although really it shouldn't have been. The basic concepts (and tropes) behind both characters are so similar that it requires a sizable blind spot to treat them so differently. Upstanding, wealthy citizens who moonlight as vigilantes, utilizing high-tech gadgets in their costumed crusade against crime. Why such different tones? The only real answer is what I call "cultural inertia"; i.e. "we've always portrayed them that way."
How can there be anything wrong with taking more than one creative approach to the same concept? What a thoroughly bizarre notion. Any story idea can be used as the basis for either comedy or drama. What you call a blind spot, I call a choice to embrace variety.

And it's not like these characters existed in a vacuum. Dozier was adapting them both in the form in which they were best-known. What we forget these days is that Batman was only grim and gritty for a year or two. Batman comics began lightening up as soon as Robin was introduced in 1940. At the time the '66 show was made, Batman had been a light, colorful, fun character for far longer than he'd been a dark, grim, violent character. We forget that now in the post-Frank Miller era. Nobody at the time would've thought of Batman as a "vigilante." He was a superhero. He inhabited a totally different world than the Green Hornet did.
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Old July 25 2011, 03:08 AM   #10
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

I've watched The Brave And The Bold and while it has a lighter tone it's nowhere as stupid as the '60's era series and film.
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Old July 25 2011, 05:05 AM   #11
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

Christopher wrote: View Post
Silvercrest wrote: View Post
Good point. I suppose the perception would have been different. Although really it shouldn't have been. The basic concepts (and tropes) behind both characters are so similar that it requires a sizable blind spot to treat them so differently. Upstanding, wealthy citizens who moonlight as vigilantes, utilizing high-tech gadgets in their costumed crusade against crime. Why such different tones? The only real answer is what I call "cultural inertia"; i.e. "we've always portrayed them that way."
How can there be anything wrong with taking more than one creative approach to the same concept? What a thoroughly bizarre notion. Any story idea can be used as the basis for either comedy or drama. What you call a blind spot, I call a choice to embrace variety.
Well, no. They weren't embracing variety for its own sake:
Dozier was adapting them both in the form in which they were best-known.
It just seemed odd to me that such similar characters would be treated so differently in a medium, which, you must admit, tends to stick to formula above all else.

But it's a good point that no one would have applied the word "vigilante" to Batman, and that makes all the difference. They wouldn't bother comparing him to the Hornet if they didn't categorize Batman that way in the first place.
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Old July 25 2011, 05:50 AM   #12
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

The Adam West Batman is still my favorite version of that character and his universe.
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Old July 25 2011, 07:29 AM   #13
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

I love the 88 batman!i was 1 year and my mom said the 1st time i stand up was watching the tv show! i miss the lightheart batman! i wish they make a cartoon movie that not all dark
love don
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Old July 25 2011, 08:02 AM   #14
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

I will always have a soft spot for the 60's show and movie - West and Ward's movie commentary track is pure entertainment in it's own right! And of course the TV show had Julie Newmar. 'nuff said.
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Old July 25 2011, 08:17 AM   #15
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Re: Batman: The Movie (1966)...

Although I prefer the Nolan take on the character and have been a HUGE Batman fan ever since I was little (and too young to relaize how silly the TV show was) For me the ideal Batman series was Batman : the Animated Series...a wonderful take on his dark side and the use of film noire style imagry. Mark Hamil's Joker still gives me chills as well as tickle my funny bone

"You Killed Captain Clown!"

I just recently watched the 66 Batman movie and I do have to admit I agree with Warp's tyake on the film but still as he said there are moments that literally had me laughing out loud. The image of Batman running all over the pier carrying a cartoon cannonball like bomb complete with a slow burning lit fuse was simply comic genius...he runs into a salvation army band...some tourists and even a family of baby ducks...

"Somedays you just can't get rid of a bomb!"

The scene and the shark repellant always have me in stiches...that and the sacrifice of the noble porpoise

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