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Classic Movie Review
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward
Review by Anthony Acri
The Dynamic Duo faces four super-villains who plan to hold the world for ransom with the help of a secret invention that instantly dehydrates people.
IT WASN’T A DARK AND STORMY KNIGHT
One thing I learned from dealing with comic books aficionados is that the more incongruously serious they take the books, the less they like the Batman film and tv show of the sixties, seeing it , as one personal actually called it in a blog, a ‘heresy’.
But, as a kid, me and my friends all loved that Batman, as in those pre ADD days, even a kid could get a joke. Not now, god knows, a satirical mind lends you to being given a time out, and in our serious self important days of now, satire is dead, empire is here and self righteousness is our only sacrament. Yet, back when, we adored Adam West since he was the perfect hero. He was part square and yet, with enough self awareness and enough of a sly grin that he was eminently more acceptable than the wholly Ernest Captain Kirk, who seemed his equally psychedelically colored yang, whose desperate needs and wacko undercurrent of devotion mad him the perfect symbol of parody by SNL in its first great season. That sketch has the resonance, to this day, and certain candidates for president seem as unwilling to move on as did Shatner in that sketch, I think because it was a nearly prefect manifestation of the Square stature, comic book jawed, rather loopy and by the book Call me Bill Shatner. But our true hero, his strange blood brother, Adam West, as amplified in this movie, was already a parody, he was already a joke, and from their his humanity grew outwards whereas Shatner was just the lug in the center of the cardboard playacting, and seemingly believed as real painted starry night. room.
The film is a basic comic book come to life. For all the wailing of fan boys about how insidious that great TV show and its subsequent film were, actually, most of the plots came ready-made and were taken out of the old Carmine Infantino books, anyway.
This was the era of batman things made famous on the internet like “the Jokers big boner”, and such like classics, as it was a day and an age when superman, that dick, tried all manner of things to never have top kiss Lois, but that is another story, or part of the same story. The film then could be more than a usual two parter, and gains a rolling of these collected stories, like those 100 page comic giants dc sold when I was a kid. And, the cliffhangers, as would be in later Indiana Jones, just flow right into the next scene, like a serial all pasted tighter, like that of a dickens novel with actually less homo erotic variants.
Now, here, as opposed to the innocent….?…DC comics books, the homo- erotic undercurrent to the material was its creed, as how could a story about a man dressed in tights with a circus boy near him not have loads of homo erotic intentions…? And, thank fully, to the chagrin of the fan boys yet unborn then, it was all played for laughs, as back then, adults were adults andcomic books were not seen as literature, but then, Tennessee Williams wrote plays back then, and others of his ilk wrote often, so why would anyone have to see dc cosmic as a font of literature…? .
The four master criminals of the series are united together in a brilliantly satirical waterfront dive where even the floors are crooked, and they plot and scheme incessantly away, below a giant octopus icon as owners of the earth something which would later be done, without the laughs, at the offices of the vice president. But, since this was done when America was still a republic, Bruce Wayne—batman , whose inner demons in a more innocent time are not worn on his sleeve, but occasionally seep out in a way which is actually more adult and more thoughtful than the now constant mudslides of tempestuous fraught emotions, is hot on the trail of the four fiends. He is out to capture them before and lest they try that most unthinkable of things, to take over the entire world, and thus make littering and nuclear proliferations, gum disease and weather machines possible in every corner of the earth. One or two or even three of the greatest criminals of earth might be after just the city of Gothem,– yet to become a hell hole waiting for its black and gray Giuliani to clean things up,–or even the good old usa, but all four, …they are after that world which beguiles these men in colorful clothing as nothing else does.
Shakespearean actors like Burgess Meredith and Vincent Price, and Victor Buono , an aging Latino mgm swashbuckler , and a pretty , sensual brunette in spandex and cat ears, to me , always lent a satirical heft either lost on the fan men of perpetual boyhood, or was a satire they didn’t want to see. Frankly, having flipped through a Batman essential collection when he was at his most Capoteasque, the TV show and film cleaned it all up a bit, and made the humor at easy, at least knowingly, homophobic. The show and film, especially, was where the gay stuff was toned down in exchange for Adam west and a feline brunette—no longer seen in blond America– and so didn’t rely on the odd unintended gay knock knock joke which have made their famous way to the internet, like thought balloons about Robin and the famous bat touch. Here batman is played as farce, god forbid among the comics as art crowd, but it is Art too, in ways that that crew never knows. It is pop art, a Warhol spasm, a four color illuminated manuscript come to life, like a fresco of purple and red and blue and green, made out of in within a plaster which never dried completely, thus always allowing it to shine. Batman is that hero of the dying republic then, half rko and half Castro street, part Carmine Infantino, part Furlinghheti, too, and is a delightful remixture and reinterpretation of both. He is Dick Tracy meets easy rider, and wholly American and thankfully, the result isn’t like later heinous exemplars like Joe or Archie Bunker, for batman is above all things here decent and honest and a true boy scout which is why even sissyes want to be included., deep down. HE IS HERE THE AMERICAN HERO, an outgrowth of MARSHALL DILLON, A LONE RANGER AMID INDIAN HATERS AND RACISTS WHODESPITE THAT OR BECAUSE OF IT, BELIVES IN TRUTH, and he is always sobered ,and yet always funny, but decent too. And, when the black suited cat suit wearing woman is revealed as the woman he started to love, the actual second of his disillusion is priceless and touching too, and is better than a thousand different throughly ungay and purposefully made ungay in the atomic age of will and grace as less than Virgil gay clowns, black and un-purple batmen falling from crushed skylights. It is a farce, to be sure, but never becomes the mere pie fight of silliness, though I think they may have had a few pie fights actually, and always returns back to him as good and decent American.
He doesn’t, as the caricature later would, become a suit of armor or a knight errand amid a city of squalor , and eschews that most favorite pejorative of the lost boys era, post Lucas crowd, Dark, whhhhhhheoooooooooo. Batman 1966 as It is referred almost derisively, was as America once was itself, played for laughs, as things were in the republic of Jack Webb –who ironically as violence teems on the screens of the age of mommies boys and hectoring nannies, never fired a gun. The last third is the weakest part, and the ending is too farcical even for it, and the old actor’s creek and punch off a suberine, as the act is getting old in this extended form and things have to be quickly tied up. But there is a scene in the brilliant middle, before the obligatory fight scene and its splats and pow sound effects, which gives away its heart. At the docks, Batman, the real batman, yes the only real batman all you other batmen are just imitating, … is confronted by a giant carton bomb, complete with a a black ball and fuse, which was expressly put in to lampoon the parent company about to destroy it as a passé Phenom, ABC. Batman takes the bomb and runs around madly looking for a place to dispose of it, but cant let himself just hurl it at the jetsam of the docks and the waterfront, since he cant just indiscriminately kill ore maim these miscreants, as they all had mudders too as the Lenny the Penguin,– tell me about the penguins George– would surmise, and that they were human beings too. Not even baby ducks in the river can he hurt, for still within him is the early version of American resolve, not to get even with the nuclear fact which made him, the killing of his parents , or to elicit others pain, but to never reach that heinous level himself, and to never be a miscreant himself. This is underhandedly brilliant, and is a subtlety lost on the fan boys who like things ‘Blewed yup reeel good’ by men in tights. It is a kind of oath of the purple tighted centurion. As a moment, it is sweetly conceived of and played . The set piece is a gem of a frame in a sweet Mod movie, and it is last glimmer of a decent America before Lyndon, Richard, Jimmy and the rest of the fools of power would themselves regretfully go against the ethics and the oaths taught to them as kids in an America, which would no longer be there. Then, the Shakespearean demise of Richard would be sadly replaced by a dim wit actor , a corpus in rouge, whose indecency and cruelty, like Nero say, was the closet thing he had to a thought process or a belief system. Moreover, batman was finally blown to bits.
And now, the darkeners have won this civil war and another, incessant, perpetual batman appears on the scene. This time with a clown fag villain who went made himself a strange martyr before it opened wide, thus robbing Flattop—I mean Joker, of any playfulness or joy, not that he or our latest Toxic avenger selling popcorn as a true ethic, the now national lampoon re casted and re created Batfart was going to have any, anyways. In Batman 1966, film came as close to pop art and to a Lichtenshien verve, as they were even going to come, and now, Guarnicas of plaster and bad lighting and explosions and mayhem, with strangely more exceedingly silly rubber nippled black hooded vigilantes, seen spinning through the rubble skipping un gay men seem everywhere.
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