With the instant popularity of the campy 1966 Batman TV series, 20th Century Fox decided a big-screen adventure was in order. Production commenced only six months after the series debuted, with writer Lorenzo Semple Jr pumping out just a single draft of the script in just four weeks.
At $1.5 million, the budget was pumped up, enabling the crew to build a new Batcycle (with a sidecar for Robin), Batcopter and Batboat. But the shoot was shockingly fast – filming was completed in 26 days and post-production lasted under a month, with the film rocketing into US cinemas on 30 July 1966.
The plots were still ludicrous and the dialogue even sillier, but as always, stars Adam West and Burt Ward played their parts with a straight-laced sincerity that made things all the more hilarious.
The dastardly deeds begin when the arch-villains of The United Underworld – Catwoman, The Joker, The Riddler and The Penguin – combine forces to dispose of Batman and Robin as they launch their fantastic plot to control the entire world.
From his flipper-powered submarine, Penguin and his cohorts hijack a yacht containing a super dehydrator, which can extract all moisture from humans and reduce them to particles of dust.
The evil-doers turn the nine United World Security Council members into vials of multicoloured crystals.
Batman and Robin track the villains in their Batboat and use Batcharge missiles to force the sub to surface. But first, they have to defeat a ticking time bomb, an exploding octopus and a shark with a six-foot vertical leap!
Fans went crazy for several instantly iconic moments: Batman running around Santa Barbara pier trying to get rid of a bomb while avoiding kids, nuns, a Salvation Army band, and baby ducklings (“Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”); Batman fighting off a shark with Shark-Repellent Bat Spray, calmly and rationally looking for a way to discourage the beast biting his leg; and the United World Security Council being turned to coloured dust.
Much of the film also concerned Bruce Wayne’s infatuation with beautiful Russian reporter “Miss Kitka” – Kitanya Irenya Kerenska Alisoff of the Moscow Bugle – who, unbeknownst to him, is secretly his arch-nemesis, Catwoman (Lee Meriwether).
The film was well-received, with Variety citing its “uniformly impressively improbable” acting.
Vice Admiral Fangschliester
Leslie H Martinson