This review will be my views on the feature and also any references and/or trivia that I notice throughout. I have tried to make the points in this review follow the order of the feature itself but, as there are references to other things, and moments that set up events that unfold later in the feature there will be times that the review jumps around a little, in essence this is my version of one of those text commentaries that you may find on some DVD and Blu-Ray releases.
I will try to not simply retell what is happening on screen as you can, and if you are reading this, probably have, watch the DVD yourself, but where I feel I need to explain it for the sake of context, I have done so.
The opening to this feature is mostly taken from classic Batman comic book covers, with the comic book covers springing to life to create something similar to a motion comic. The Batman 66 comics having been online motion comics before they became more traditional print comics. The TV theme is slightly altered in this interpretation, with more of a lead in, building up the anticipation for the feature to follow.
The music overall for this feature feels very inkeeping with the original show. Kristopher Carter, Lolita Ritmanis and Michael McCuistion have done a brilliant job making this straight-to-DVD movie feel like a tribute and extension to the original show.
With a reunion of three of the original stars it becomes quickly apparent that at least vocally Burt Ward doesn’t seem to have aged since 1966! Were this film to feature only Burt it could easily have passed for a hypothetical Season Four episode.
However other people are involved. Adam West is wonderful as always, playing the character(s) of Batman and Bruce Wayne like only he can, but age has clearly become a factor in his voice, but it does not distract from another wonderful performance from the one true Batman.
We start with Burt Ward’s Dick Grayson practicing ballet moves and lamenting having to practice them, insisting that he looks “ridiculous in these tights”, a concern he doesn’t seem to fret about when in his other identity!
Bruce puts on Gotham Palace as even crime fighters can let their minds go with “mindless entertainment”. Gotham Palace whilst never referred to or featured on the show is a clear reference to the mid-60s show Hollywood Palace.
Hollywood Palace among featuring various Batman 66 alum such as Milton Berle (who has had a variety of connections to Batman 66, but I feel that’s a blog post for another time!), Liberace (Chandell/Fingers and Harry), Van Johnson and others, also featured our hero Batman as host and as guest in character.
The host of the fictitious Gotham Palace is Miranda Monroe, a clear analog of Marilyn Monroe. Her name also seems to reference the song Adam West put out in 1966, Miranda, in which he sings to the titular Miranda that she is unlike any woman he has ever met before but despite her insistance he cannot remove his mask for her, only to relent at the end with her in disappointment suggesting “Oh, please, put it back!”.
Since starting this review a while ago and coming back to it it has since come to my attention that apparently the whole third act was originally to center around this song.
You can read more about that here… https://io9.gizmodo.com/listen-to-adam-west-sing-the-strange-song-that-was-the-1787539430
An element that was rife in the show was alliterations and that is brought through to here in the introduction of the villains as they interrupt Gotham Palace by posing as the fictional band “Hector and the Ho-Daddies”. With such examples as the “black hearted bearer of a billion bumbershoots”, in describing the Penguin.
Just from a purely analytical sense it is interesting to note that in the Batman 66 continuity we now reach our third actor interpreting the Riddler, following in the shoes of Frank Gorshin and John Astin. We have renowned Bat-fan, curator of the currently running Batman 66 exhibit and voice actor extraordinairre, Wally Wingert. Wally provides us the closest interpretation of any of the voice actors in the rogues gallery here as he almost seems to revive Frank Gorshin with his channeling of the original Riddler.
We come to only our second Joker in Batman 66, as Cesar Romero unlike a few villains, was never traded out, for whatever reason, for another actor. The man to bring us the clown prince of crime in this outing is Jeff Bergman, the modern day voice of Fred Flintstone. Jeff Bergman channels the characterisation and voice very well but it is clear that this is not Cesar but it is certainly in the same vain. Perhaps a minor gripe, or simply something they didn’t want to reference, but, The Joker does not have moustache hair poking through here.
The most jarring difference in villains is with the second man to interpret The Penguin in this franchise. William Salyers plays a wonderful Penguin and the character works with that of Burgess Meredith’s interpretation but the voice sounds quite different. Yet again though, the writing and characterisation carries this through.
Despite having been played by three different actresses the first time round and despite replacements for the other three villains, we are treated to the vocal performance of the original princess of plunder, Julie Newmar, 5 decades on from when she first cracked her cat o nine tails whip! As with Adam you will not mistake her performance for being that of her younger self but she has not lost the character one iota!
Though The Riddler definitely said this in the show it does seem to me that the use of “Riddle Me This…Answer”, in which The Riddler is talking either rhetorically or to himself is overused, perhaps this is due to the extended run time, when comparing this feature with an episode of the TV show. It is arguably the quote with which Wally sounds the most Frank-esque, perhaps that may have something to do with it.
For the first time ever Aunt Harriet seems to realise the behaviour of her nephew Dick Grayson and the man of the house Bruce Wayne is guarded in some respect. This is played off later on as being simply that they were planning a surprise birthday party for her, but its implications bring to mind to other explanations, one, the one that we as an audience know, that they are really Batman and Robin, and the other one being their supposed homosexual tendencies/implications as brought to light by the book Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham.
We finally see the batpole transformation, as in the show they would turn the dial on the shakespeare bust, opening the bookcase to reveal the two poles allowing them transformation into Batman and Robin and access to the Batcave. However in the show when they start to slide down the poles invariably the title music and animation would hit and then when it finished they would be down in the batcave fully costumed. In this feature we follow Bruce and Dick down the poles as we see their costumes miraculously appear and fit onto them.
We see items in this bat cave we never saw in the original show making it similar to the Batman: The Animated Series and perhaps the comic version of the bat cave, these include the dinosaur and the giant Joker playing card, implying more adventures, perhaps off-screen ones, or ones that would in theory pre-date 1966.
Batman deduces a Riddle to mean Nothing. Nothing, Zilch, Goose Egg, and there has recently been a delivery of Goose Eggs, during the lunar eclipse to the laboratory of Professor Nichols , the relevance of which leads them onto their caper, realising that the villains will strike at that laboratory, proving once again that Batman is the world’s greatest detective, with his uncanny ability to piece together seemingly tangential information!
Robin is in a hurry to cross the road to get on with the mission at hand, but Batman warns him against jaywalking, and implores with gusto “to the crosswalk” perfectly in keeping with the moral and civic lessons that Batman would impart to the Boy Wonder in the show.
The henchmen that Batman and Robin encounter are interesting to note based on their appearances, or more accurately, based on their clothing. We see that Catwoman’s henchman is wearing a costume befitting of her first adventure, this seems in keeping with the fact we have the first Catwoman back. The Joker’s henchman is wearing a costume befitting of the Joker’s first adventure in which they were channeling famous comedians, although it should be noted that this particular henchman bares no resemblance to any comedian I am aware of, perhaps I am missing something? It should be noted that the henchmen costumes I have referred to were reused in later episodes featuring these villains.
The henchmen of The Penguin and The Riddler are a different kettle of fish though as they reference specific episodes and have more significance than the other henchmen’s costumes. Firstly the Penguin’s henchman’s costume is one that uses the acronym G.O.O.N. which stands for “the Government Of Occidental Night-hawks”, the henchmen contingent featured in the two parter Hizzoner The Penguin and Dizzoner The Penguin in which The Penguin runs for mayor of Gotham City, a personal favourite of mine and seemingly many Bat-fans out there.
The Riddler’s henchman’s costume choice is an interesting one. This henchman is wearing a light blue top with a design of a crossword puzzle on it, which refers to the episodes Batman’s Anniversary and A Riddling Controversy and their plot. This is a particularly interesting choice as this is the one Riddler story from the show in which Frank Gorshin does not play The Riddler but instead John Astin does. So despite Wally seemingly channeling Frank and the character design clearly being patterned after Frank, we get the henchman from the other Riddler. This is a nice subtle way of paying homage to the other interpretation. Curiously in issue 27 of the Batman 66 comic series The Riddler wears a mask which is broken by a batarang which bares more than a passing resemblance to John Astin’s face, it seems as though this feature and the comics that are both basing themselves on the original show, want to, much like the original show seemed to do, treat any and all interpretations of the character as the same character.
One of the fight words in the first fight is SPRANG which is a reference to Dick Sprang, a comic book artist and penciller best known for his work on the Batman comic book from 1943-1960.
When Batman falls onto Catwoman and they flirtatiously discuss the benefits of being good and being bad with each other, batman gets knocked on the head by The Penguin and sees three Catwomen representing Julie (the one in this adventure, the original, and the one who appeared the most), Lee Meriwether (Miss K.I.T.K.A./Catwoman in the full-length feature film) and Eartha Kitt (Season 3’s Catwoman).
The villain’s car seems to be a new Jokermobile, this Jokermobile seems much more fancy and functional than the one featured in Season 3, although I dare say it was easier to feature this vehicle here than it would’ve been to create it for the show!
The Batzooka in this feature is a large laser device they use to try and take the villains car out of commission whereas in the TV show the Batzooka was a completely different device which launched the batrope for Batman and Robin when it was impossible for them to attach it to the roof with a simple throw as they usually did.
The machine known here as the Bat-Analyzer has the information of two sets of encyclopaedias, this seems astounding in the context of the time period they are portraying but, laughable by the standards of today when the internet provides us with seemingly endless information at the touch of our fingertips and in the palm of our hands without the need for the massive computers used by Batman or the two encyclopaedias they are supposedly powered by.
In this batcave we see display cases of two Bat-costumes, with their comparatively odd-shaping they seem to reference 1943’s Batman and 1949’s Batman and Robin serials.
This is minor but seems unusual from Batman, he reminds Robin of “All the clues”when there are only two. Surely it would be “Both the clues” or simply “the clues”. A grammar fo pax from the usually astute Batman, a man who once chastised Robin for using the word “easy” when he meant “easily”, by telling him that “Good grammar is essential, Robin”, although arguably this is used for humour.
Entirely too much signage really drives home that they are coming up to an abandoned frozen food factory just like the show, which would be subtle in its portrayal of the heroes but barely subtle elsewhere.
The alliterations continue with the dialogue of the villains, such as Catwoman’s promise that with her “batnip” that “masked muscles will be mine to manipulate”. Penguin mentions that it’s been tried before by better crooks than her. This seems like either an oversight or strange reference, as Catwoman herself has tried it with the use of her drug “cataphrenic”, featured in the episodes That Darn Catwoman and Scat! Darn Catwoman. These episodes featured her sidekick Pussycat. Pussycat uses the cataphrenic and gets Robin under her spell, and refusing to fight Robin, Batman reluctantly succumbs to the drug but reveals later he was merely pretending.
The Penguin says that catwoman is a “feisty feline” and that soon she’ll be a “diva declawed” which hints at and sets up the male criminals double crossing Catwoman later on.
Unusually Batman and Robin utilise separate batropes, perhaps this is so their dialogue would be easier to focus on but it is something that was never utilised prior.
Batman lectures Robin on the perils of focusing on his upper body strength during his workouts this yet again paints Batman as a know-it-all, for better or worse, but also hints at Robin being a bit of a poser trying to draw in the ladies, something which he seemed to do relatively easily in the show despite, by his own admission, by rather naïve on the subject of women and dating.
Catwoman asks to fix her hair, again tricking Batman much like she did when asking to put make up on to avoid the possibility of being seen with a shiny nose in public as she did in the episode The Cat’s Meow, which would end up being a ruse so she could drug the dynamic duo. In this feature she uses what seems to be a hairspray to knock Batman and Robin out.
Perhaps this is me looking for jokes that aren’t there, but in a seemingly flirtatious moment as Catwoman applies her batnip, she says Batman will find his “principals less rigid” could this be an erection joke along the same lines as the “curious stirrings in my utility belt” that Batman once referred to, or Robin’s oncoming “thrust into manhood”?
The TV Dinner fire trap, though not exactly the same, seems very similar to the trap that Bruce Wayne finds himself in, in the closing moments of the episode Fine Feathered Finks and the opening moments of the episode The Penguin’s a Jinx, when he is caught planting a bug by The Penguin in his umbrella shop and is netted up and left to slowly be put into the fiery face of the furnace.
Aunt Harriet enters the “hallowed and forbidden no woman’s land” of Bruce’s study which is almost an exact quote from one of the season 3 Catwoman adventures Catwoman’s Dressed To Kill when Catwoman uses a female changing room to escape as Batman and Robin cannot enter this “hallowed and forbidden no man’s land”, something which she attests to and then Batman repeats when he comes to the changing room sign.
This is the first time we see Aunt Harriet in the study.
Bruce dismisses Alfred, whilst this comes to be a plot point later, it doesn’t address that even with slowly turn evil, Batman is letting one of the only two people who know his true identity just leave without even a whiff of Bat-nesia gas as used in the King Tut episode I’ll Be a Mummy’s Uncle on his henchmen. Catwoman did say that his principals would become less rigid, it would seem so to, does his sense of logic.
As Alfred is dismissed, Dick hugs Alfred, this hints to the fatherly bond that he and Bruce share with him, which isn’t shown much in the show, but is a nice touch here. The “camera” angle is “crooked” when Bruce dimisses Alfred implying something is afoot. As was often the case in the series, the camera angles were crooked too imply that the people and goings on were also crooked, i.e. the villains.
Robin kneeling/standing up in the Batmobile, whilst it has also featured in the show it as at odds with the seatbelt set up at the beginning of almost every adventure, as it is clearly not a safe idea.
Batman is sure to keep everything themed properly to ensure it is clear of the owner and user of the items, even his scuba and astronaut helmets have bat ears, just like his cowl!
Robin says “Holy Dragnet” in frustration to their having looked all over Gotham with no sign of the villains. This is a very overt reference to Dragnet, a vast police procedural franchise that has spanned Radio, Television and Film, starting on Radio in 1949.
Batman uses a latin phrase in unravelling the mystery, much like earlier on when he gets Robin to realise what he is doing on the TV dinner tray, rather than sensibly going about his actions, he always takes the opportunity to test and educate the Dick.
We are introduced to the Batrocket in this adventure, whilst a brilliant addition, wouldn’t people be able to see where it’s coming from? Wouldn’t Aunt Harriet notice the vibrations of it taking off from under her feet? Wouldn’t she see that within the realms of Wayne Manor a rocket is coming out emblazoned with the insignia of Batman? Perhaps it’s best not to think logically with this one and just enjoy it!
There’s much to enjoy too as the design is clearly inspired by the original Batmobile from the show, replicating its parts as close as is appropriate for a different shaped vehicle. Batman undergoes a similar “Ready to move out”, process with the rocket as he does with the batmobile, and there’s the rocket equivalent of the car phone the Batmobile had. It really feels like this could’ve been in the show.
“One small step for mankind” is quoted. This is referencing the 1969 moon landing which is somewhat at odds with the pre-1969 timing of this feature, Batgirl not being featured and Julie Newmar being Catwoman places this feature pre-Season 3 which was itself airing and based in 1967-1968.
Robin says that batwalks would be easier with the gravity boots they are using to climb the side of the rocket. Batman points out that whilst this is true in the short-term, eventually your leg muscles would atrophy, even with Batman slowly succumbing to Catwoman’s batnip, he is still on the side of being moralistic and hard-working.
When Batman saves Catwoman from the vaccuum of space, she says to him “Where’s your chivalry, Batman?”, “It’s impolite to rub your masculine superiority in a woman’s face.”. Now I know I’m not imagining this innuendo!
The Joker wonders How did Batman find them this time? “He’s Batman you moronic muttonheads, that’s how” says Julie Newmar’s Catwoman. This is at once a Batman Returns reference to the line “he’s Batman, you moron” spoken by Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, and also alludes to the meme “Because I’m Batman” the conceit being that no more explanation is required other than, he is simply able to do and achieve things because he’s Batman!
A subtly vicious Batman debates being outside of Gotham jurisdiction so he doesn’t have to follow the rules showing the signs of the batnip working slowly.
Rather than turning the gravity off, the villains turn the anti-gravity on! Maybe it’s my perspective but this seems unnecessarily complex. The anti-gravity fight seems akin to the underwater fight in John Astin’s Riddler story (the aforementioned Batman’s Anniversary/A Riddling Controversy episodes), complete with environment appropriate fight words like Swoosh.
The whole idea of Batman getting a little bit darker in this story seems to me a comment on how over the years in media Batman has gotten darker and darker, once the anti-gravity is successful turned off by a well-thrown batarang, the ensuing grounded fight drives this point home further.
When Batman puts on the Bat-Knuckles for a more vicious fight, his first two punches to The Joker, land with the following two fight words, “RIP”, “TORN”, referencing the actor Rip Torn, whilst landing these punches he quotes Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne’s lines from Batman (1989), “You wanna get nuts?”, “Let’s Get Nuts”.
Once Batman has taken the Riddler and the Penguin down he tells The Riddler “This is the operating table…and I’m the surgeon” referencing The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel by Frank Miller, a story a million miles away from classic Batman in terms of tone, but one that features an older Batman, so to hear this older Batman speak the line whilst portraying the character as he was in 1966 is an interesting choice.
In keeping with the higher level of brutality in this fight, the fight words get grimmer with things like “gore”, “fracture” and “bludgeon”, still keeping an element of humour.
When Catwoman escapes the space station Batman says “That tricky temptress. She won’t escape my grasp the next time we cross paths. But I’ll enjoy her trying”. The drug really showing its effectiveness now. This from a character who seemed nervous at the mere mention of Catwoman kissing him back in the episode, The Bat’s Kow Tow.
Bruce calls Aunt Harriet a “silly old woman” for suggesing that their fishing trip is anything but, and in the world of Batman 66 this simple act seems heinous, a far cry from Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy or Ben Affleck’s Batman branding people in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Comissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara seem flummoxed by actually having to do police work, this harkens back to a line from the episode The Devil’s Fingers, “Precisely, Chief O’Hara. The moment we’ve dreaded for years has arrived. This time, we’re going to have to solve a case ourselves”, showing the police department as being pretty ineffectual without the assistance of Batman and Robin.
Batman decides that he’s the best person for the job, any job it seems! He uses the replicator ray to replicate himself and slowly replaces a load of jobs in Gotham City. It starts with Comissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara and Mayor Linseed but slowly branches out to non-political jobs as well like becoming a chef!
When he replaces Mayor Linseed it seems to me both a reference to the time he ran for mayor against The Penguin in Hizzoner The Penguin/Dizzoner The Penguin, and a nod to the only other role he’s done enough times to even come close to Batman, Mayor Adam West of Family Guy.
When he takes over the Judge in the courtroom the case he cites as being reason that a citizen can replace a judge is Semple vs Dozier. A very random but interesting reference to Executive Producer (and narrator) of the original show, William Dozier and the man who wrote the pilot amongst other stories, including the 1966 movie Lorenzo Semple Junior.
As Batman’s personality continues to change the Bat-Symbol appears upside down to indicate things being all turned around, much like the crooked camera angles for the villains/fight sequences. As Adam West explains in Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, “Because they were crooked Burt!”
Dick was kicked out out of nowhere with no warning or preparation, so how did he get a whole wardrobe of Robin costumes, presumably kept at Wayne Manor originally? The calendar on Dick’s wall places this feature in 1966, so the vision of Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman is a bit of an anomaly as she didn’t appear in the TV Show until the 1967/68 Third Season.
When Robin realises the batnip has been working slowly, he seeks out Catwoman for an antedote. Catwoman states that she wanted Batman bad but not as bad as he’s become. Catwoman points out that were it not for his devotion to good they’d be an item. This is not the first time she’s hinted that it isn’t so much Batman’s personality that she’s interested in. In the episode The Cat’s Meow when Batman and Robin are trapped in the echo chamber she tells Batman it will turn his brain into “Yuk”, but it’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make as she can’t very well have her “cake and, eat it too”.
Catwoman both on the space station and when Robin is talking to her, talks about killing him, a suggestion she comes to in the episode Scat! Darn Catwoman, when Batman talks about how there’s an obstacle in the way of both he and her working together as partners, professionally.
After Robin and Catwoman agree to help each other in getting Batman to take the antedote, Catwoman gets her own Cat-Symbol, we see a different Catmobile than the one Eartha Kitt would use in Season Three, to which Robin proclaims “Holy Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill!”, an obvious reference to the film Faster Pussycat Kill Kill from 1965, which would have been released in the previous year in this continuity, and so, evidently, fresh in his mind.
When Catwoman asks if Robin is old enough to drive, he states that he has his learner’s permit and can drive as long as another adult is in the vehicle….again reinforcing that this takes place before Season Three’s first episode Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin in which Dick gets his full driver’s license.
Robin tells Catwoman that as he’s driving the Catmobile he will keep his eyes on her, she suspects that he always did. When he tells her that she’ll have to take some Bat-Sleep spray, she warns him to keep his hands to himself. This shows Catwoman as flirtatious in general, perhaps she is just teasing but it seems somewhat at odds with her assessment of Robin when she wants him and Pussycat to get together in That Darn Catwoman/Scat! Darn Catwoman when she implies that at “that” age, that all boys are interested in is baseball cards. Robin shows at least momentarily he has more on his mind than baseball cards as he has a quick glance at Catwoman before re-focusing on driving.
Showing the change of pace with who is leading the charge at this point, a Robin symbol indicates the change between scenes as Robin takes Catwoman into the Batcave
Catwoman seems amazed by the batcave, like she is seeing it for the first time, in theory this places this feature before the aforementioned That Darn Catwoman/Scat! Darn Catwoman episodes, as Catwoman was shown the batcave for the first time in those episodes too! When Robin brings Catwoman to the batcave she goes along with Batman’s insistance of them being together, and turns the table on the original quote by asking Batman, what will we do with Robin and Batman this time suggests “we’ll kill him”! She then turns to Robin to supposedly kill him but instead blows the antidote in Batman’s face, and in true Batman 66 fashion Batman is impervious to it as he’s already taken the Bat Anti-Antidote!
Robin states that Batman must be stopped, Batman challenges Robin, stating that he knows every one of Robin’s moves as he taught him everything he knows. Whilst this is not a disacknowedlegment per se, this doesn’t take into account Robin’s acrobatic past with the flying Graysons, which in all honesty is never properly referenced in the TV show.
Batman challenges Robin to a utility belt showdown, showcasing that Robin too has various Bat gadgets, something that isn’t really touched upon in the TV show as he, if anything just seems to use the button behind the belt buckle as a homing transmitter, as seen in the first episode, Hi Diddle Riddle and isn’t shown to have gadgets in his arsenal.
After an evenly matched utility belt showdown, Catwoman gets involved with the fight but Batman knocks her and Robin down and then out with the knockout gas, ties them up and leaves them to be dropped into the nuclear silo. This has slight shades of the one confirmed death in the show in which The Riddler’s Moll, Molly falls into the “Batmobile’s nuclear power source”, again from the Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle story.
As she’s about to be dumped into the silo, upon Batman asking for any last requests, she asks “masked muscles” for a kiss, which Robin interrupts as he did when Catwoman asked Batman for a kiss back in the episode The Bat’s Kow Tow.
After Robin and Catwoman realise there’s no logical way to escape, they inevitably escape! Robin reveals that as Catwoman was comatose in the Catmobile, he had sprayed them both with Bat Anti-Isotope Spray to guard them against any radioactivity. Robin’s intelligence knowing no bounds, he realised that the more superior skilled Batman would over power them and that their fate would be the silo!
This may be a stretch to count this as a reference but when Catwoman congratulates Robin on this, he prays that they haven’t lost “Batman Forever”, this being the name of the 1995 Batman movie starring Val Kilmer as Batman and Chris O’Donnell as the next live action Robin/Dick Grayson some 27 years after the end of the classic TV series.
Catwoman states that there isn’t anybody crazy enough to take on all the Batmen that Batman has created with the replica ray, to which Robin replies there’s a whole prison of them. Villains teaming up to do some good seems to be a theme in Batman features as of late, with this feature, The Lego Batman Movie and of course the most obvious (as it is indeed the premise of it) Suicide Squad.
As Robin and Catwoman go to break the villains out of Gotham State Penitentiary, they dress as older people and pretend to be prison inspectors. Their disguises whilst not exactly the same, bring to mind their disguises as Zubin Zucchini and Minerva Matthews respectively, from the episode The Cat and The Fiddle . Though not mentioned exactly by name we do have a prison warden with at least a passing resemblance to the original show’s Warden Crichton.
In the prison yard we see The Penguin, The Riddler and The Joker, the only ones that Catwoman does not assist in escaping. Once all the others have escaped, these three turn into coloured dust, just like the henchmen did in Batman: The Movie when they were first dehydrated.
We see Gotham Palace again, this time hosted by Batman who has tied up the orignal host. Taking on the mythology of the Batman character as a whole, Batman states “I use to think I dress like a bat to instill fear into Gotham’s super criminals, but recently I’ve come to realise that, actually, I just crave attention” poking holes in the whole idea of the character. Batman unveils his plan for attention by informing everyone that he’s attached VHF detonators to everyone’s TV anetennas and that if they change the channel or turn off their TVs their TVs will explode.
Robin and Catwoman appear to stop Batman, with a little help from their friends, some of whom we saw in the prison break scene. We see the following villains coming to their aid; The Clock King, False Face, The Mad Hatter, King Tut, The Minstrel, Louie The Lilac (originally played by Milton Berle, who hosted Hollywood Palace when Adam West was on!), The Black Widow (played by Tallulah Bankhead in her last acting role), Mr. Freeze (who for some reason appears here to be a hybrid of the 2nd and 3rd interpretations of the TV series version of the character, with elements of Otto Preminger and yet the hair of Eli Wallach), The Bookworm, Egghead, The Siren, Shame, The Sandman and The Archer.
There appears to be an issue with some likenesses here. Louie The Lilac seems to have a moustache for no reason, same with Comissioner Gordon throughout this, The Archer and The Minstrel also both have facial hair for no reason. This seems in keeping with the Batman 66 comics various issues with likenesses, such as Louie The Lilac being noticeably older and grey haired in the comics, with Mayor Linseed being a completely different skin tone and Roger C Carmel’s Colonel Gumm having his face covered in the Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman penned Batman 66 Meets The Green Hornet crossover comics.
To instigate the fight between the Batmen and the vilains with Robin the camera is set from “variety show” to “fight scene” and appropriately turns crooked as it so often did in the show. Whilst the camera is turning we see many Batmen descend and woman dancing (with Batman hairstyles with their hair pointed up like the bat ears and hair under their eyes like Batman’s cowl is) and Batmen on musical instruments setting up the familar theme.
Interestingly during the fight rather than using her voice, as she did on the show, the Siren seems to use a sonic device on her arm to emit a sound.
Batman refers to Robin as a “poor deliquent child”, in keeping with various times he’s referred to a misguided young woman under the employ of a super criminal in a similar way.
When two of the Batmen put Catwoman and Robin at the original Batman’s feet he states that “there will be no death trap. And I won’t be conveniently stepping away” referencing the TV dinner trap earlier and almost every trap ever conceived in the original show, and how they usually went.
Alfred in disguise and putting on a voice comes in with a seemingly alcoholic drink for Batman which contains the antidote, this being the last vestige of Batman being at odds with his normal self, as is stated in the episode Rats Like Cheese by George Sanders Mr. Freeze, “Oh, I am sorry, I forgot you do not drink”.
Batman realising that he’s been “slipped a mickey”, harkens back to the aforementioned pilot episode Hi Diddle Riddle in which he is given an “orange juice, Batman special” by the barman and realises that it has been “doped”. In both instances his vocal delivery comes to be somewhat exaggarated.
When Batman comes to, the Batmen come closer and seem poised to fight Batman, Robin and Catwoman but then turn to dust like Penguin, Riddler and The Joker did in Gotham State Penitentiary earlier. Batman mentions that the duplicates were always molecularly unstable, which is similar to when Penguin accidentally uses the hard water in the batcave to rehydrate his previously dehydrated goons and they are easily dispatched with one blow and converted to “anti-matter”, in Batman: The Movie.
Comissioner Gordon congratulates Batman on saving the town, from himself, to which he says the credit must go to Robin and Catwoman. Comissioner Gordon points out that despite her efforts and that they are thankful, Catwoman will still have to serve time. Batman promises to act as a character witness and hopeful get her an early parole in about 15 years.
She insists there is a better way for Batman to show his gratitude and Batman enquires what it is, and then they kiss, a kiss that has been 50 years in the making! Interestingly the batnip’s effects have gone at this point so Batman is willingly kissing Catwoman, he’s not under duress.
Alfred reveals himself to be the person who brought Batman the antidote. Batman and Alfred reveal that he had given Alfred instructions that if he were ever to fire him it would be because Batman was under mind control and that Alfred would need to make an antidote to Batman’s specific requirements which Alfred was able to do from living on the streets somehow.
Robin states that Batman is always one step ahead, leading him to realise he’s been one step behind the entire time, realising he never did aprehend Joker, Riddler, Penguin and simply put there duplicates in jail, and that they never did plan to duplicate earth as was theorised before but everything was merely a distraction. Realising everything has been a distraction so that The Riddler, The Penguin and The Joker could commit a massive crime spree Batman and Robin race to the Batmobile in which they see Catwoman, who convinces Batman to let her help them apprehend Joker, Penguin, Riddler.
Robin had theorised the distraction was so that they could loot Gotham City’s “priceless treasures and irreplaceable artwork”. When the Joker and Penguin are amazed by their own plan the Riddler says “look at our haul, priceless treasures and irreplacable artwork”, echoing his words exactly. This is much like the episode Batman is Riled and the newsreaders words being copied verbatim by the interviewer, interviewing Comissoner Gordon as they ask about Batman’s chances in apprehending the Joker.
Batman, Robin and Catwoman catch up to the three male villains and they make their getaway using a large umbrella to fly away on, just like the ones used in Batman: The Movie when they abduct Bruce Wayne from Miss KITKA’s apartment.
With Catwoman helping them she cuddles up to Batman in the Batmobile and rides on his lap as they ride the Whirli-bats. A nice addition to the canon that was never shown in the original series.
Robin points out the bad guys getaway vehicle which is a giant blimp that looks like a penguin. This is not dissimilar to the submarine used in Batman: The Movie. Riddler asks Penguin why he chose a getaway vehicle that was so slow, to which he uses booster jets to get away quicker. Seeing this Batman suggests using the exploding Batarangs, to which Robin exclaims “holy hindenburg”, referencing the 1937 Hindenburg disaster.
With Batman and Robin successfully hitting the propeller blades on the blimp causing it to stall but not explode, The Penguin suggests to his comic cohorts that they move atop the blimp to where the bird will have the advantage. This despite Penguin’s being flightless birds and The Penguin being an ordinary person not endowed with super powers of any descript.
Once Batman, Robin and Catwoman are able to get into and then atop the blimp, a fight breaks out between the males involved in the scene with Julie Newmar’s Catwoman making feline noises and hissing and scratching at the air , much like Lee Meriwether does in Batman: The Movie when she forgets herself as Miss KITKA and catches her out of character misbehaviour. Julie’s Catwoman also has the out of character realisation here, not because of a hidden identity but in this instance either because of a realisation of the absurdity of her playing along or because of a realisation of her changed allegiance.
After the henchmen, The Riddler and The Penguin are disposed of humanely and hilariously, we are left with The Joker.
This seems like an odd choice to me. Whilst I have nothing against the Joker and if this were a more recent interpretation of the Joker then by all means, he is and would be the main event, but this is Cesar Romero’s Joker. The character certainly feels like he’s playing 4th lead villain in Batman: The Movie. In that film’s main plot, everything kicked off with a riddle, Catwoman was the bait, and The Penguin was the leader, The Joker was good, but he was essentially superfluous, with Frank Gorshin playing upon what many would perhaps identify as Joker-esque qualities by today’s standards, with his maniacal portrayal.
Once The Joker is disposed of, we then go back to the blimp and see Batman and Robin revelling in their success. Catwoman then points out they have saved the treasures and artworks for her. She mockingly thanks the dynamic duo for being her “stalwart stooges” but proclaims she must “walk on the wild side again”. Batman implores the Catwoman to “consider the consequences of your actions”. Catwoman points out that Tigers don’t change their stripes.
Batman begs her to reconsider, what comes next is a wonderful piece of critique on a more recent interpretation of the Caped Crusader;
Catwoman: “I’ll give myself up on one condition”
Batman: “What’s that?”
Catwoman: “We run away to Europe together, sip tea in a cafe, and live happily ever after”
Robin: “Holy unsatisfying ending.”
Catwoman: “And of course we kill Robin”
In these 5 lines of dialogue, Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar are able to sum up the disappointment that many Bat-fans felt with the end of the final Christopher Nolan directed Batman film The Dark Knight Rises and manage to inject comedic menace and flippancy into the character of Catwoman that Julie Newmar pulls off so well.
Batman points out that this is not something he could not go along with. A jolt of the blimp causes Catwoman to lose hold of the treasures causing the bag of goodies to land in Robin’s hands. This echos the moment in the episode Better Luck Next Time, where she simply had to let a bag of treasures drop to survive the fall of a seemingly bottomless pit but her greed wouldn’t let her.
Batman offers to save her. She states that she’s “sorry, Batman but I won’t be put in a cage again”, and so leans back and into the chimney funnel of a factory. Batman then sheds a tear and blows his nose for his fallen nemesis and compadre and says “Loving you was wrong, but I had to do right”. This echoing Catwoman’s own sentiments in the show where she has asked him for a date and harkens back to earlier in this feature where she says to Robin were it not for Batman’s predilection towards righteousness they’d be together. This also references when Batman used his handkerchief in the episode Scat! Darn Catwoman, after a previous time he thought he had witnessed The Catwoman’s demise, this time, falling into a river from a great height.
We then come to Aunt Harriet’s birthday party in the grounds of Stately Wayne Manor. Aunt Harriet thanks Bruce and Dick for the surprise party. Dick enquires whether she was truly surprised and she raises the point that she knew a secret was being kept from her, but that she didn’t think it was the party. Bruce assures her not much could be kept from her. She starts to question whether she was only kept around for appearances, which she brushes off as being that Bruce wouldn’t have time for his Ward’s old aunt. But she reassures them that she is reassured that she is a valuable member of the family. She even says that they “can put an end to the fishing ruse”, one of the longest running and I believed most used excuses in the show.
It is at this point Alfred draws Bruce and Dicks attention to the bat signal behind Aunt Harriet.
The closing credits pay homage to two iconic moments from the history of Batman 66, Batman is running with and juggling bombs, which is intercut with Batman doing the Batusi on the left hand side of the credits, which slowly then has Catwoman dancing on the right hand side of the credits, and when the credits have finished rolling, they dance into each others arms and Batman covers them both with his cape.
Adding Catwoman to it was a nice touch, but this of course pays homage to the “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” sequence from Batman: The Movie where Batman simply cannot seem to get rid of the bomb planted by the villains in a safe manner. Ths also pays tribute to the Batusi which features in the first ever episode Hi Diddle Riddle and again in the King Tut episode The Pharoah’s In a Rut, both of which are prompted by Batman supposedly not being in full posession of his mind, although this is proved to be a ruse in the King Tut episode.
Overall, I thought this feature was a great commentary on the style and impact of the show,whilst also being in keeping with its style. Though not every characterisation and voice was spot on, it was certainly Batman 66 flavoured and at no point did I feel like it left the realms of being a Batman 66 production. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who either loved the show, or would want to pick up something in keeping with the tone of the show who perhaps wouldn’t want to fork out money on an entire 120-episode box set.
(Though much of this post has come from my own recollections and thoughts, it would be remiss of me to not credit the various sources I either re-called via memory or used as means of double-checking facts, or to correct myself)
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
Batman: The Movie (1966)
Batman and Robin (1949)
Batman Begins (2005)
Batman Forever (1995)
Batman Returns (1992)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Faster Pussycat Kill Kill (1965)
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt (2003)
Suicide Squad (2016)
Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
Family Guy (1999-2003, 2005- )
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders by Kristopher Carter, Lolita Ritmanis and Michael McCuistion (2016)
Miranda by Adam West (1966)
Batman 66 Volume 5 (Collecting Issues 23-30) (Specifically Issue 27’s Bane Enters The Ring Story) (2015)
Batman 66 Meets The Green Hornet by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman (2014)
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (1986)
The Official Batman Batbook by Joel Eisner (1987)
Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham (1954)
You can purchase Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders by clicking here or on the picture below;