Batman: The Movie

You just knew that with all of FSR’s Batman coverage this week, we wanted to tackle a commentary worthy of the caped crusader’s name. Of course, we already handled Christopher Nolan’s sole DVD commentary contribution, and anything Joel Schumacher has to say has to be heard first-hand to be believed. Sure, we could have gone to Tim Burton for this one, but his track record on talking about his own movie is a big goose egg thus far. We didn’t want to chance it, so we went back, way back, to the swingin’ 60s and the POW, BLAM, and SPLAT of the colorful classic Batman: The Movie.

Originally intended to be the TV series pilot, the film ended up getting a theatrical release between the series’ first and second seasons. It would continue on for three seasons total, but that classic “Batman” series would continue in the hearts of little boy wonders and batgirls all over the world for decades to come. Even now, the fandom behind this series is undeniable. Thanks to the never-ending wonders of DVD and Blu-Ray, we have this movie in all of its campy goodness. What’s more, we have Batman and Robin themselves, Adam West and Burt Ward, providing appropriately quirky commentary. Check out what they had to say right here.

Holy Feature Length Amazement, Batman!

Batman: The Movie (1966)

Commentators: Adam West (actor), Burt Ward (actor).

  • The commentary begins with, “Hey, Adam, pass the popcorn.” followed by “Look. It’s a movie, Burt.” And our hearts soar.
  • Ward points out how familiar the opening credits laid over a brick background looks. “We’ve only seen it 82 times,” says West. Ward asks West if that’s him in the opening credits kissing a woman in the shadows. “No,” replies West. “They didn’t let me kiss and stuff.”
  • Lee Meriweather stepped into the Catwoman role, because Julie Newmar was busy filming Mackenna’s Gold. West recalls Meriweather’s audition and how nervous she was. She did win the producers over by acting like a cat giving herself a bath. “And did other things that the producers thought might work,” adds West. He also mentions Cesar Romero took Meriweather out to dinner a few times to put her at ease around the others. Sure, that’s why the Latin Lover takes anyone to dinner.
  • West points out that Bruce Wayne has a bigger pole down to the Batcave than Dick Grayson. We’ll just give West this one and move on.
  • Many of the gadgets used in the movie were ideas the producers and writers wanted to include in the series, but the show didn’t have it in its budget to bring the gadgets to life. They used the opportunity of the film to get these gadgets and vehicles made. Ward points out they didn’t use many of them for the series, though.
  • West does point out how fake the shark looks in the film’s most memorable scene. He also note how unhappy the producers were of the sound made when Batman is hitting it. West says he told them the sound doesn’t matter, because the shark looks so fake anyway.
  • West mentions it took 2,300,000 silk worms to create the suits the two wear. Only a million or so of them were union, though. He does note the pants were uncomfortable. “Holy understatement,” says Ward, who mentions he called them his “python pants.” “They were itchy,” adds West.
  • Originally, Commodore Schmidlapp’s name was to be Commodore Redhead. No reason is given for whey this was changed, but it was the ’60s, and those filthy commies were knocking on our door. It probably had nothing to do with that really.
  • NBC apparently had plans to pick the series up after ABC cancelled it. Ward notes that, had NBC picked them up to continue the series, they could still be going today. Okay, Burt. Okay.
  • Burgess Meredith lost his fake Penguin nose one day in the prop periscope, West remembers they had to stop filming one day to find it. He also mentions Meredith sold that nose off to a fan.
  • One of Adam West’s requests when they were planning to do this feature film was that he appears as Bruce Wayne more often, as he felt he was getting “buried in that mask.”
  • The crest on Bruce Wayne’s blazer was an in-joke. It has a saying in Latin sewn into it, but West notes it means something nonsensical. He doesn’t quite remember, but he thinks it was something like, “Don’t be a cheeseburger.” Words to live by.
  • West points out the device that launched Batman up the Batpole didn’t always work the way it was planned, and the steam that shot out of the device always caused him pain. “It was right up my f…cape,” he says.
  • The original idea for the villains was to have them flying around with jet packs strapped to their backs. The idea to have them rocket-propelled umbrellas came late in the film’s development.
  • During filming the series, West and Ward would sometimes be working on three, different episodes at the same time. West would have an assistant follow them around with all three scripts. The actor would snap his finger the number of times for the script he wanted to work on, and the assistant would read them a line at random. He goes on to mention filming the movie was something of a vacation from the hectic nature of filming the series.
  • They decided to shoot the movie after the first season of the series had aired because the studio behind it wanted to sell the series to foreign markets. According to West, it worked just as they had hoped.
  • West mentions a lot of times they would film he and Ward’s stunt doubles doing a scene while the actors were filming something else to keep up with the two-episodes-a-week schedule of the series. Ward mentioned this was the plan, but they ended up having to work with their stunt doubles to choreograph fight scenes and that he and West would have to do some of the more dangerous stunts themselves. “First episode, I was four days in a row in the emergency room,” says Ward. “I didn’t think I was gonna survive the first episode.”
  • According to West, there were 250 guest star appearances on the “Batman” TV series. Ward mentions more wanted to be on, but they couldn’t be fit in, Robert Kennedy being one of them. He also notes Frank Sinatra wanted the role of the Joker. Sinatra dressed as the Joker singing “Come Fly With Me.” That would have been a TV moment everyone would have remembered.
  • To achieve the effect of Batman and Robin scaling a wall, the actors were shot on a 45-degree angle with filaments strung through their capes to pull them out, simulating gravity. West notes he told them to let the audience see the filaments, and they did, and we can.
  • West claims he had to run around with the prop bomb for five hours to film the scene where Batman has to get rid of a smoking bomb. “It’s a good thing I was a jock, or I don’t know if I would have been able to do it,” he adds.

 

  • Ward points out that, unknown to many fans, most of the gadgets in the Batmobile really worked. West mentions the Bat-U-Turn was a tricky maneuver to pull off. Just calling something the Bat-U-Turn is a tricky thing to pull off.
  • West also notes the sidecar on the Batpod didn’t always go exactly where they planned on it going when Batman would jettison Robin out in it. The two remember one instance where the sidecar went way off-mark and into some bushes. Ward mentions he got caught up in some thorns. West mentions an anaconda. “That was a real pain in the ass,” says Ward.
  • As part of the promotion for the film, West and Ward were sent to New York City on a bus to make appearances at various theaters. Ward notes they were supposed to hit 36 theaters, but, due to the popularity of the show and being mobbed by fans, they only made it to 33. At one point, fans even tried tipping over the bus. West would exit the bus first and quickly race through fans, but Ward was stuck picking up the rear. He was subsequently drowned in fans. West remembers it as a fun football play.
  • West remembers that the producers of the series and film were reluctant to cast him in the lead role. He notes he was given several notes on how to play Bruce Wayne/Batman, but, as Ward points out, he stuck with his guns. In case you were wondering about the cadence of his voice, that’s all Adam West, and God love him for it.
  • There’s some debate in what exactly is in Adam West’s book. Ward says he read that West compared himself to Charlton Heston playing Moses or Winston Churchill. “No, I was comparing myself to Daffy Duck,” West responds. Judge for yourself.
  • During the climactic fight scene on the Penguin’s sub, one particular stunt went horribly wrong. After wrapping a certain shot, one stuntman was missing. They found him right after at the bottom of the pool where they were filming the water scene. He had hit his head on an underwater post while diving off the side of the sub and knocked himself out. Ward points out it’s the Penguin’s henchman who is wearing a green hat. This take is still seen in the movie when Robin kicks the henchman off the sub.

Best in Commentary

“What’s he see? Is it real, or is it an illusion?” -Adam West, and there are loads more where that came from.

“Look at him beat that shark off.” -Burt Ward

“That was better than Viagra.” -Adam West, when the Joker shocks Penguin and the Riddler.

“A pussy named He-Cat.” -Adam West, trying to figure out Catwoman’s feline pet’s name.

“It’s not the kind of tuna that I eat.” -Adam West, friend of the porpoise.

“Here comes the holy polaris.” -Burt Ward just before Robin says, “Holy polaris!”

“It means, Robin, that we get to drive the Batmobile again, and you did buckle up this time. You learned your lesson.” -Adam West, time traveling there for a brief moment.

“Whoa, is he a keeper.” -Adam West, talking about Adam West, in fact.

“Holy Formaldehyde. We’re both preserved.” -Burt Ward, commenting on how well he and Adam West have aged.

“It’s not formaldehyde I’m drinking, Burt.” -Adam West, telling the absolute, 100% truth there.

“Holy Shakespeare.” -Burt Ward, as Bruce Wayne quotes Edgar Allen Poe.

“Brazen snatch.” -Adam West, who’s commenting on a Gotham City Times headline, but it made him – and us – laugh nonetheless.

“This is wholesome fighting.” -Burt Ward about the bloodless nature of the film’s fight scenes.

“Look at the size of these ladies there having a little lunch.” -Burt Ward, also referring to them as “two of our biggest fans.” That’s just mean.

“Burt, do you have a website? I’ve got a website. AdamWest.com and AdamBatmanWest.com.” -Adam West, throwing out some cheap plugs, but who can really blame him? Also to note, these websites are no longer in service, and a single tear just dropped from our collective eye.

“Check the sign. Foam rubber in its crudest form.” -Adam West, regaling us with his vast knowledge of foam rubber.

“Rescuing that young pussy.” -Burt Ward, knowing full well what he’s just done.

“Look at those two idiots.” -Adam West, talking about himself and Burt Ward wearing surgical gear over their costumes.

“I put that little bow on top just for fun.” -Adam West, hoping everyone has a wonderful Christmas.

“You know, as we reminisce here, I don’t know whether we’re being modestly immodest or immodestly modest. All I know is, those days were fun and frightening and somewhat overpowering from time to time, but, in looking back at it, I really enjoyed every damn moment of it. It was just that much fun coming into work and playing Batman and Robin. How many grown men get to do that?” -Adam West

“To the Batmobile, Batman!” -Burt Ward’s closing words.

Final Thoughts

No, this commentary for Batman: The Movie isn’t the most insightful we’ve ever come across. Adam West and Burt Ward, not directors or writers on the project, have little more to share than personal anecdotes and generally enjoying the film in each other’s company. To be perfectly honest, that’s enough with this movie. It doesn’t give us loads of interesting items, but, as indicated by the biggest Best in Commentary we’ve come across to date, there is plenty to enjoy listening to these two talk.

They both understand the campy nature of the film and series, and they completely play into that here. It’s one of those commentaries you need to listen to for yourself, not because of the vast amounts of information they give us but just for the sheer entertainment value it and the movie have to offer.

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