This week I give into existential peer pressure and put on my tights to honor Batman. Also, I’ll explore a few movies I haven’t seen on TCM wherein you get to see me do a dance trying to explain why you (and I) should give them a look.
First up, Batman: the Movie (1966) directed by Leslie H. Martinson and starring Adam West as Batman with a script from Lorezno Semple Jr. (Pretty Poison, Three Days of the Condor, the Parallax View). It’s one of the first films that I know of that is based on a television show at the time in which most of the cast of said show is in the film like Star Trek (1979). The glaring casting omission being Julie Newmar out in the role of Catwoman, Lee Meriweather in.
The film is essentially a comedy-action film in the vein of Indiana Jones with a slight slant towards the comedy side. None of the characters are given a backstory, we are thrown into the Batman world right away in the story with the characters being as they are as a given.
The villainous super group of the Joker, Catwoman, the Riddler, and the Penguin have broken out of prison and are hellbent on taking over the world. They break in the offices of the United Nations and kidnap the leading members of of UN Council via turning them into dust particles through a highly complicated hydrogen process that goes beyond my level of scientific expertise.
Batman and Robin are a step too slow in apprehending the villains which is a recurring theme throughout the film. There’s a love story sub-plot involving Bruce Wayne falling for a woman named Miss Kitka whom we learn early on is really Catwoman in disguise. I thought the scenes between Wayne and Miss Kitka were good showcases of Adam West’s charm as a performer and its a pity he wasn’t able to do more of those kind of films.
My favorite sequence in the film is the one where Batman runs up and down a pier trying to dispose of a huge bomb. He’s alone and everywhere he goes to get rid of the bomb, someone is in his way. At some point, he frustratingly says too himself, “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” Of course, eventually he does find a spot but it takes quite a while. It’s a thrilling and very funny scene.
The other main highlight is the brawl at the end atop of the Penguin’s submarine where everyone and their mother fight Batman and Robin. You get the signature “POW!” and “ZAP!” signatures from the show along with “SPLASH!” and “SPLAT!” as some poor soul falls in the water. The Dark Knight Rises withstanding, this huge battle sequence is still the best hand to hand combat fight sequence in a Batman film thus far. It’s hard to explain why all the other Batman films fail to deliver great fist fights between Batman and main villains.
If you enjoy a little comedy in your action, Batman: the Movie is one of the best places to fulfill that need.
Like the Dark Knight, I’m going to break one of my unspoken rules. I normally try to avoid recommending films I haven’t seen because a) it feels lazy, b) its a risky proposition, and c) it’s not as fun talking about movies you haven’t seen. You can only speculate and hope they’re good. It just so happens that there are a lot of unseen movies by me on TCM combined with the fact that the movies I have seen I either don’t like much or I deem them to be too “obvious” to recommend like Citizen Kane or the Searchers.
(Although, it would be fitting to see an Orson Welles film this week because there was a rumor in the 40’s that he himself wanted to do a film on Batman)
In any event, here are a few unseen choices that I recommend we give a try this week on Turner Classic Movies.
3am PT / 6am ET Thursday - Ladies They Talk About (1933) directed by Howard Breatherton and William Keighley is about a lady bank robber who becomes a cell block boss after she’s sent to prison. Barbara Stanwyck plays the woman who goes to prison. It’s a pre-code film. DP John Seitz is behind the lens, I’m sure I’ve mentioned him before but it is worth repeating he worked on such silent classics as The Patsy (1928) and the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (1921) and later on worked on such Billy Wilder classics as Double Indemnity (1944), the Lost Weekend (1945), and Sunset Blvd. (1950). Plus, it has an excellent run time of 70 minutes.
That film will kick off an entire morning of women prison films. Check em all out.
Lastly, to continue with the pre-code/Stanwyck theme TCM will show four of her pre-code films on Friday night in prime time!
I’m most interested in seeing is Shopworn (1932) the first film they’ll show that night (5pm PT / 8pm ET) directed by Nick Grinde because I have a crush on Zasu Pitts and she’s a comic genius. If she’s in a movie I’ll give it a try. Plus, I liked her dynamic with Stanwyck on the Locked Door from 1929. Hope they share some scenes in this film as well.
Batman the Movie teaser trailer
Batman trying to get rid of a bomb. No, he’s not trying to get rid of Schumacher’s Batman & Robin.
Excerpt of the big battle at the end
trailer for Ladies They Talk About
Articles on Ladies They Talk About
Article on Shopworn
Overview of the Pre-Code Stanwyck night
Batman: the Movie is on DVD, Blu-Ray, and possibly YouTube.
Ladies They Talk About is also possibly on YouTube and available as a part of the Forbidden Hollywood Collection volume 5. Available exclusively at WBShop.com
Shopworn is available as part of the newly released Columbia Pictures Pre-Code collection which as of this writing is only available on shop.tcm.com
And that’s all I have for now, see you next week!
See you next week!