I watched this back to remind myself of what I love about Adam West’s Batman. If you love the series as much as I do, other things worth checking out are Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016), its animated continuation, and Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt (2003), a semi-biographical comedy about the making of the series told through flashbacks of the real Adam and Burt as they embark on a crime-fighting adventure of their own (I defy you to guess who the villain is).
What I love about Batman (1966) is the way that the source material’s distance from reality allows for a story that is about contemporary political concerns. There are things in here about the United States Navy being irresponsible and incompetent, the importance of local policing, and the way that the world’s nations must come to understand each other if there’s to be solidarity against the united underworld. Bruce Wayne describes himself as a capitalist, but in a purely descriptive way, which isn’t a condemnation of “Kitka”’s Russian attitudes – like her interpretation of the Riddler as a bourgeoisie that prays on America’s workers – but as a point-of-view (which is what it is). It’s surprising that there was no controversy around the acceptance of Western and Eastern values equally, or the accusation of the film promoting communist sympathy. But that’s because it’s hidden behind something which was otherwise a cash-grab for a popular property. I feel like the filmmakers had intellectuals in mind, who can see beneath the surface of popular art to find the philosophy and analysis. When Batman says “Some days, you just get rid of a bomb”, it was only a joke in execution; otherwise, it’s an accurate statement that is about the way there will always be collateral casualties and innocent bystanders, no matter what measures you try to take. And yet, none of it is inconsistent with the comics of the period, and it’s still an enjoyable film to the viewers that only see that surface. It’s amazing that this even managed to work; to be a legitimate political thriller grafted onto a live-action cartoon. It deserves applause that two so opposed genres were combined but remained true to what they’re meant to be, and that nothing like it has come along again – and that for a Batman film, it remains as relevant today as later adaptations. They’re all about the problem of evil (Batman, I’ve often thought, is a self-appointed saviour figure), it’s just that this one responds to it more optimistically. It’s a great zeitgeist and historical document of how America felt about the world in 1966, and how little things have changed.