The 1960s Batman TV show and film weren’t just a TV show and a film. It’s live action Pop Art. An exhibition of colors and absurdities. Every line of dialogue is inane, and every story point is absurd. It shouldn’t work. It’s too kitsch for its own good, but it does work and it’s as fun now as it was half a century ago.
Released after the first season ended, the first Batman film follows the TV show nicely and gives an ensemble of rogues like no one had seen before. We have the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin and Catwoman. They have a fiendish plot of world domination, which includes kidnapping the handsome millionaire bachelor, Bruce Wayne and never not being in a dutch angle.
The cast is legendary, but they don’t get enough credit for just how good they are. Adam West is perfect as this iteration of Batman. He isn’t a great actor, but William Shatner isn’t either, but both found perfect roles for their wooden delivery. Frank Gorshin chews the scenery as The Riddler, even more than Cesar Romero as the Joker—with white face paint over his mustache. Lee Meriwether is aces as Catwoman, Michelle Pfeiffer took a note or two from her performance, and what can be said about two-time-Oscar-nominee Burgess Meredith as Penguin? The man is iconic in every role he took on, it doesn’t matter if he is the last man on earth and without glasses or if he is training Rocky. He is always perfect.
The film is mostly famous now for the infamous shark scene. Batman holds on to dear life on to the badlatter, hanging down from the bathelicopter, and there is a shark gnawing on his leg. He shouts to Robin to bring him the shark repellent batspray. Robin delivers and Batman is free.
That’s the level of the whole film, but it’s played in a totally straight manner. Everyone portrayal of their characters are on the level of how Leslie Nielsen portrayed Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun films, and that’s why this all works.
The film and the series aren’t for everyone, however, if you enjoy the more absurd of post-90s cartoons, think Cow and Chicken and everything thereafter, you might just have loads of fun with the caped crusader and the boy-wonder.