Adam West may have portrayed the goofiest version of Batman ever, but he is a crucial part of Batman’s history that shouldn’t be forgotten. When he hit the silver screen in July of 1966, Adam West made history as the first caped crusader to entertain moviegoers.
Levels of campiness were off the charts as actors leaned into their characters with all their might. And although fans of Christopher Nolans Dark Knight trilogy might be embarrassed by this chapter of Batman’s story, I for one am glad that this version of Batman exists in the world.
I loved coming home after school and watching Batman ’66 reruns with my grandpa when I was a kid. When I learned there was a full-length movie I was floored.
The movie starts with this opening disclaimer:
ACKNOWLEDGMENT We wish to express our gratitude to the enemies of crime and crusaders against crime throughout the world for their inspirational example. To them, and to lovers of adventure, lovers of pure escapism, lovers of unadulterated entertainment, lovers of the ridiculous and the bizarre— To funlovers everywhere— This picture is respectfully dedicated. If we have overlooked any sizable groups of lovers, we apologize. —THE PRODUCERS
Oh yeah, it’s about to go down in this movie. This isn’t the Batman that threw people off the roof in his introductory comic. This is a Batman who is going to make you laugh, and he’s got no regrets about it.
The laughs start immediately as Batman is attacked by the fakest looking shark around and he tells Robin that he needs to Bat-shark repellent. The word “bat” gets slapped in front of so many gadgets and gizmos that if you made a drinking game out of identifying all of the “bat” items you’d be tipsy well before the halfway mark.
My favorite thing to do when watching the movie is to try to follow Batman and Robin’s reasoning as they solve Riddler’s riddles. Alas, my mental prowess is no match for the world’s greatest detective. No matter how many times I see the film, I cannot make the connection between a banana and Russians.
Perhaps the most curious aspect of the film is seeing Batman as a sort of deputized vigilante who has confined himself to the letter of the law. Oh, how times have changed. Today, although Commissioner Gordon is always portrayed as an ally Batman can turn to, crooked cops litter the police force in Gotham. If there was ever any doubt that public trust in law enforcement has eroded over the years, pop in Batman: The Movie and then go watch Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.
Batman: The Movie, in all its campy glory, cast a long shadow over film versions until 1989 when Michael Keaton took up the mantle. Movie studios were looking to recapture that campy feel that audiences enjoyed when they watched Adam West. Producers and screenwriters who were longtime fans of the Detective Comics refused to settle for anything less than a gritty reboot of the franchise. Enter Batman (1989), a box office hit that won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction.
So this year, as we celebrate Batman’s 80th birthday, let’s embrace the bizarre and the ridiculous. Let’s welcome pure escapism and take an adventure. But above all else, let’s give a big cheer to Adam West and Burt Ward for all that they did to keep Batman alive in the imaginations of comicbook fans young and old.
May your utility belts remain stocked, and your bat mobiles fueled friends.