Why Adam West Is The Perfect Batman

Greetings and salutations! Boy, oh boy, am I excited today! This is my
 contribution to the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon of 2015 (sponsored by Flicker Alley), with the era I’m taking part in (Modern) being hosted Ruth of Silver Screenings. So, my part in this affair shall be taking a look at the history behind the at-least-4th best Batman film (behind the Nolan trilogy), Batman: The Movie (1966), and its massive influence on superhero cinema, being the first superhero movie, discounting serials and Zorro movies. I mean, seriously, why does Wikipedia consider Zorro movies to be superhero movies anyways? He’s just a guy with a sword!

Now, I’m going to say this now: I end up going a lot more in-depth on the TV series than the film, making this barely qualify for the blogathon, so, be warned. I warned you. Though, in all honesty, the Batman film is basically your typical three-parter from the TV series cut into a movie, creating one hour and a half block instead of three thirty minute blocks. Nothing more, nothing less. But that’s not a bad thing. The TV series is fantastic. I highly recommend that you check it out if you haven’t seen it, it’s a comedy classic, and one that actually represents the core elements of Batman better than the Burton/Schumacher films (and even some parts of the Nolan films *cough* blowing up ninja temple, killing dozens to not kill one *cough*) ever did. And I’m not here to solely talk about the movie, but about the character. About Adam West’s interpretation, why it’s the best interpretation of the character, the most fun, the most entertaining, the most timeless, and the one with the biggest cultural impact.

Adam West’s Batman is a cool, trustworthy, honest guy. So trustworthy, in fact, that he stores his helicopter at an airport, not some soggy cave on private property. He works fully within the law, as a deputized agent, unlike the others, who are dirty low-down criminals. He’s so cool that he can wear this, and nobody laughs. Well, nobody laughs except when they’re meant to laugh.

When was the last time you saw another Batman dance, huh? In fact, when was the last time you saw a Batman that was allowed moments of levity, jokes, humor that’s not cringe-worthy, and good old-fashioned fun?

Not only that, he’s the toughest of all Batmen. Keaton’s Batman is constantly knocked over by ordinary guys, Kilmer’s is cursed with nerd glasses, Clooney’s is greying, and Bale’s can’t even fight off a dog! Adam West’s Batman takes on a shark, single-handedly! Sure, he had a spray, but he was prepared for such a situation! He also punched it in the face several times.

He’s also the best detective of the bunch. Why, just read this exchange that proves his detective genius in figuring out who pulled the caper:

Gordon: Could be any one of them, but which one? Whi…which…ones?

*collective gasp*

Batman: Pretty fishy what happened to me on that ladder.

Gordon: You mean where there’s a fish there could be a Penguin?

Robin: But wait! It happened at sea. See? for Catwoman!

Batman: Yet, an exploding shark…was pulling my leg!

Gordon: The Joker!

O’Hara: It all adds up to a sinister riddleRiddle-r…Riddler!

Gordon: Oh, a thought strikes me! So dreadful I scarcely dare give it utterance.

Batman: The four of them. Their forces combined!

See how he came to that conclusion? Through some middlingly (BTW, that’s totally a word!) clever wordplay, he was able to string them all together, proving they were linked. Wait…that doesn’t make sense! But, it was the sixties. I’m sure that was pretty commonplace for detective work to make no sense. And the Riddler was involved. He probably planned it this way. Besides, it’s not easy to string together such tenuously random links like that.

Just look at that smolder! Flynn Rider would be proud.

Not only is he intelligent, he’s also classically handsome and wonderfully charismatic, in a deadpan sort of way. He was the Batman who could smile, have a laugh, have real friends, be open to socialization, dispense with all the brooding, and include Robin without it being creepy. Well, not very creepy. Also, his Robin isn’t annoying, unlike Chris O’Donnel.

He also has the coolest car of any Batman. As in, he has the only Batmobile that I would ever want to actually drive. The one from the serials is too bulky, Burton’s is overly stylized, Schumacher’s is a neon mess, and Nolan’s is a tank. Who wants a tank when you can have this?

Oh, yeah, that’s cool.

All of these itty-bitty details add up to equal one charismatic, witty, and fun lead in a show that became a smash hit with audiences. Is it such a surprise that it became such a hit? Where else would audiences have gotten their superhero fix? Huh? Riddle me that, Frank Gorshin!

Oh, umm, Frank Gorshin played the Riddler in the ’66 Batman TV series…so…yeah…

Think back all the way to 1966. If you weren’t born then, like moi, just use your imagination! What was there in terms of cinematic superhero entertainment? Well, you had yourself your awful, awful film serials like Batman, Captain America, Superman and the Mole Men, etc. In terms of TV, the Adventures of Superman TV show starring George Reeves had been cancelled back in 1958 (that’s 8 years ago, for all you math deficients out there), with Reeves himself dying only a year later. There was your odd animation like the Superman theatrical shorts of the 40’s, a Superman/I Love Lucy crossover episode, and that was it. None of these, outside of Reeves’s Superman, had been particularly successful, and it seemed like there wouldn’t be one that would. Certainly no cultural phenomena. Until Batman, that is.

Let’s dive into the history books, shall we? Blue Skidoo, we can too!

By the way, I notice he’s entering a painting, not a book. I also don’t care.

If you want more detail, read on Wikipedia (where I read about it) here. Dateline: Early 60’s. Ed Graham Productions purchased the TV rights to Batman, planning a juvenile adventure show, akin to Reeves’s Adventures of Superman and The Lone Ranger.

Not that one, the good one.

The show is planned to be mostly serious, until an ABC executive and Bat-fan contacts other ABC executives who were already planning a TV series based on a comic-strip hero, and proposes that they suggest a prime-time Batman show in the hip, fun style of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. [Funnily enough, the current Superman, Henry Cavill, is starring in a reboot of this very TV series (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., that is).]

When negotiations between ABC and Ed Graham Productions stall, as negotiations so often do, DC Comics quickly takes back the TV rights and makes a deal with ABC, who proceeds to farm the rights to 20th Century Fox to produce the series. Fox then hands the project to William Dozier and his production company, Greenway Productions (as these studios seemed determined to involve as many studios as possible), who turns Batman into the lovable camp-fest we know and love today. Funnily enough, one of the most-loved, campiest part of the series, the famous cliffhanger with the “How will Batman and Robin get out of this one? Tune in next time…” and so on and so forth (narrated by Dozier himself) actually arose through the ABC’s cramped schedule, having only two separate, 30 minute blocks available per week, forcing Dozier to cut the planned hour-long episodes in two. This emulated the movie serials of yore, but to a much lesser extent, as those had like 15-20 chapters, each (usually) with their own cliffhangers, therefore making the story ridiculous when viewed all at once. With only one cliffhanger, the story feels much more natural.

People went through a lot of trouble to get this show on the road is the basic point of those last paragraphs, and boy, oh boy did it pay off for them. The show was called by many “the biggest TV phenomenon of the mid-1960’s.” It was extraordinarily popular amongst families, and you can certainly see why. There’s something for everyone to enjoy. Action, comedy, slapstick, gadgets, cars, everything!

Now, how was it that a movie happened to come about in the first year of the TV show? Was it just “that popular?” No, actually. The movie was always intended to happen before the TV series, in order to generate buzz, but Fox refused, seeing it as too much of a risk. Dozier was still insistent on getting a movie made even after the series aired, and Batman: The Movie was released at the end of July, 1966 (the series premiered in January), to the tune of $3,000,000 domestically. What was the worldwide total? Nobody on the internet seems to know. Odd. Anyways, this movie was nowhere near as successful as the TV series, perhaps because people saw no reason to pay to watch what they could already watch on their television at home. I understand that argument. The one difference is: the movie teamed up the villains. Whoop-dee-do.

The TV series was cancelled in 1968 after 3 seasons and 120 episodes, with the bulk of episodes occurring in Season 2. The series was briefly revived in animated form from 1977-’78 with Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their roles in voice form, and, after that, it sort of faded into the back of public consciousness, especially after the smash hit that was Superman: The Movie. People just sort of let it be, until they began picking on it in the angsty 90’s after Burton’s inexplicably loved film. But, that’s a tale for another day. And by that, I mean I don’t like talking about Burton’s Batman. Also, that’s another period of cinematic history.

Question of the day: How do the film and the show hold up? Amazingly, not at all surprisingly. They never took themselves seriously, so when you laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, you’re laughing with Batman, not at him. The film and TV show are camp classics, fantastic pieces of cinematic history that ingrained themselves in popular culture. References to them abound, from the Shark Repellent Bat-Spray (often misstated as Bat-Shark Repellent) being the most remembered bat-gadget to SpongeBob’s Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.

Young Mermaid Man was even voiced by Adam West.

In fact, Adam West even returned to voice himself in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, as part of a game feature: Adam West in Peril, which had you saving the TV star from various dangerous situations. Just give him a commercial break, he can get out of it himself! By playing through a ’66 Batman themed bonus level within the game, you can play as Adam West’s Batman himself, who has access to all the gadgets that normal Batman has to earn. The fact that a children’s game was willing to reference something that no child would understand is truly a testament to the long shadow that Batman ’66 has cast upon public memory.

Adam West, immortalized in plastic.

The show and movie have been long-remembered, and there’s a reason that it was the “big thing” that was re-released in HD for Batman’s 75th birthday instead of the serials, or a box set of the movies: it’s simply the best, most-loved, and fondest-remembered of all of classic Batman, and that’s something worth dancing about.

Even if your dance is scary and nobody likes it. Dance on, Adam West, you beautiful dreamer, you.

Well, there ends my history overview thingy. It’s not a review, I know. I hope that fits in with the rest of the blogathon, I tried really hard, you guys. BTW’s, don’t forget to check out the rest of that blogathon. I’ll know if you don’t! I’m watching, always watching. Anyways, there you go. You’ll see the next 10 in my ongoing series about My 100 Favorite Films on Friday the tomorrow-eth, and then a review of something on the following Monday. I don’t know what yet, I’ll tell you on Friday. Well, uh buh-bye!

47 Comments Add yours

  1. Holy bat blogging, Batman! This is an awesome post, and a wonderful tribute to the über iconic Batman movie/TV series. You’re right about the long reach Adam West and Co. have extended into popular culture.

    This is also a great addition to the blogathon. I don’t think you can talk about film in the 1960s without AT LEAST mentioning Batman. Thanks for joining us!

    Like

    1. Thanks so much! I kept debating whether it was good enough or not. I guess it was! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d have never imagined that anyone would even TRY to make a case for Adam West as the best of the Batmen, but yours is pretty convincing and very entertaining. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! In live action, I will stand by West being best. Including voice actors, though, I’d say Kevin Conroy’s better.

      Like

  3. Gary R. says:

    Thanks for providing new info on the “Batman” TV show. Up to now, I’d always heard that producer William Dozier was the first to think of using the character for a TV series, but apparently that’s not the case. Makes me wonder what an early ’60s “serious” version of Batman would’ve been like, considering the comic book stories at that point had already become pretty campy.

    BTW, I have to disagree with your opinion of “Adventures of Captain Marvel” as being an awful serial. It’s actually considered one of the best (if not THE best) superhero/costumed hero serial of the 1940s by many cliffhanger fans, myself included.

    Enjoyed your enthusiastic contribution!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope I’m right about the history side of things. 🙂
      I just don’t really care for film serials in general, and I’m actually not sure whether or not I’ve seen the Captain Marvel one. 😉
      But thanks for commenting! 😀

      Like

  4. Phyl says:

    I love Adam West as Batman!!!!! He is the only Batman to me. And he has awesome gadgets. The Bat Shield anyone??

    Great post! Love the Blues Clues gif haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? He has the most oddly specific, yet still most believable gadget array! 😀
      And I absolutely love how he manages to escape from death because of luck every time, and it never seems to phase him. My favorite cliffhanger is an episode (I believe it was a Penguin episode), where he was trapped in a car being crushed in a trash compacter for the cliffhanger, which was resolved through some badly explained magnet stuff.
      When I was typing this, I knew that a Blue skidoo gif was necessary as soon as I typed “dive into the history books.” 🙂

      Like

  5. Excellent post and very informative. Thanks for sharing with us.

    I would also like to let you know about my upcoming blogathon in August. I would love for you to participate. The link is below with more information.

    https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/in-the-good-old-days-of-classic-hollywood-presents-the-barrymore-trilogy-blogathon/

    Like

    1. Sure, why not? I’ll leave a comment on the post when I find a subject soon.

      Like

  6. emmakwall says:

    Kapow!

    Well I think you make a terrific argument and I loved the old Batman show when I was a kid, I even had it on VHS (I know you love a VHS!)

    I like what you say about Adam West’s Batman being a trustworthy and honourable guy 🙂

    And I’m SO glad you included a ‘the shark hanging off his leg episode’ picture!!!!!

    Personally I’ve never taken that much to Nolan’s Batman, I always had a soft spot for the Michael Keaton version!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that Nolan’s Bruce Wayne is great. His Batman, not so much. Keaton’s is pretty good, aside from all the murdering he does. 🙂

      Like

      1. emmakwall says:

        Probably a lot of it is just the nostalgia!

        Interesting, I like the Bruce Wayne / Batman differentiate!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I used to not mind the Bat-voice so much, but it’s gotten more irritating over time. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. emmakwall says:

        Ohhhhh do you mean the Clint Eastwood impression? That’s what I call it.

        (I know….I’m hilarious!)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You’re so conceited! 😉
        Yeah, I’ve never thought of it that way, but I guess it kind of is that!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. emmakwall says:

        The moment he says “do you feel lucky” will be the best moment of my life.

        Conceited!! I prefer the word….hmm…….humble? Lol 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I wonder how soon after the new movie people will stop making fun of the Nolan Bat-voice. Or if they will at all? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      7. emmakwall says:

        Never!!!!! When is the new movie due out?? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Next year. Then we’ll have whatever voice Ben Affleck chooses to do as Batman as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. emmakwall says:

        What do you think of Ben Affleck being Batman? I have faith!

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I have faith! I think he’ll be great! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      11. emmakwall says:

        He certainly has the look! He’s one of those actors that’s never quite been given credibility by people (except on the films he directed) – hopefully this will be his time to shine!

        Liked by 1 person

      12. I think he’s got it down, as long as he distinguishes himself from Bale’s portrayal. I really like Ben Affleck as an actor. He’s even not terrible in Daredevil!

        Liked by 1 person

      13. emmakwall says:

        I like him too! I’ve had a soft spot ever since he made me laugh in the Jay and Silent Bob movies 🙂

        And he won’t have any “you f*cking amateur!” moments on set. Hopefully!

        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      14. Lol! That Terminator Salvation rant is hilarious. I’d say it’s better than the actual film. More entertaining, at least. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      15. emmakwall says:

        I totally agree with you!! And it could actually be a really good blog post topic! “Why Bale’s rant was better than his movie” lol

        Liked by 1 person

      16. I’d write that, but then I’d have to watch Salvation a few times…I don’t want to do that. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      17. emmakwall says:

        I think Sir, that’s reason number one right there! (bet you’d listen to the rant two more times!) 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      18. Yes, yes I would. I’ll put that idea on the back burner. Maybe write it up when the 100 favorite films thing wraps up…I’ve started posting twice weekly, should probably keep it up. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      19. emmakwall says:

        That’s great, well done! I’ve been pretty lazy recently I should set some similar goals 🙂

        If you do ever want to do that post maybe we could do a joint one together? Be fun! The thought his rant is better than his film does tickle me!

        But of course no rush 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      20. Sure, a joint post sounds like fun! 😀
        If I do do it, it’ll be at least five weeks from now, so, yeah. No hurry. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      21. emmakwall says:

        That suits me (sir)! End of August / beginning of September shall we say? If you have a posting schedule I can fit in with it fine, I only post sporadically really 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      22. Basically everything’s open for me. I literally pick what to review only a week in advance. That’s why what I review never correlates with anything. 🙂

        Like

  7. swanpride says:

    Whenever two people discuss if Keaton or Bale is better, I am always nearly ashamed to say that Adam West still beats them both in my eyes. And there certainly never was a better Robin than Burt Ward. Or a better Catwoman, Riddler or Penguin.
    I think what really shows the quality of the show is that it is from the 1960s…and at least in my country it was part for the free-TV daytime program on one of the main channels in the 1980 and 1990s. I mean how many shows are still on air after 30 years and not on some obscure special interest channel? Precious few.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Who is there to try to compete with Burt Ward? Chris O’Donnell and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s pseudo-Robin? Poor competition, indeed. 🙂

      Like

      1. swanpride says:

        Well, I guess you could argue for some of the voice actors who have take the role over the years, but I don’t think any of them ever delivered a “Mark Hamil as the Joker” performance, so there is that….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t even know who did voice work for Robin in anything…The Animated Series voice was good, but not on Burt Ward’s level.

        Like

      3. swanpride says:

        Well, he was barely in there either way.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. He was in it like once every five or six episodes, I think. Even when he did show up, he didn’t do a lot.

        Like

      5. swanpride says:

        Yeah, but he also was in a couple of other animated series, like Teen Titans and Young Justice…but like I said, I don’t think any of the voice actors really stood out. So Burt Ward is it. Holy tough act to follow.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. thesquonk says:

    The 66 is Batman series is one of the greatest TV series of all time…and the movie is loads of fun too. I would bet that if I laid out every Batman film ever made in front of my 13 year old son and said “which one should we watch tonight,” he would go for the Adam West version. I’ve tried to raise him right, after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The 66 series is campy Batman done right. For an example of campy Batman done wrong, one need only to turn to Batman Forever or Batman & Robin. *shudder*
      But the 66 series is hilarious.

      Like

  9. Wendell says:

    I love Batman ’66. I grew up on it and the series which ran in syndication foe nearly all of my childhood. Can’t count how many hours I spent watching this show. I revisit the movie from time to time and it always strikes me how risque many of the jokes are. I realize that while I had lots of fun watching it as a kid, I really didn’t get everything that was going on. This was censorship dodging at its finest.

    You are so right about the film’s and show’s far-reaching cultural impact. We actually wouldn’t have the character as he is viewed now without it. I honestly love the darker/grittier person he’s become. However, every single step down the road to becoming this was purposely taken in an effort to distance Batman from what West and co. did. I take that as a sign of how huge it was in our collective psyche. In making him so dark, it also helps me appreciate even more what the show did. Like you said, it’s campy done right. It’s what Joel Schumacher tried to do and failed miserably. I still personally roll with Bale as the top live-action Batman (of course, Conroy tops them all), but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who put West in the #1 spot. Glad to have read this post.

    If you care to read it, my review of the movie…

    http://dellonmovies.blogspot.com/2012/07/batman-movie.html

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to check that post out. I really love what you wrote here.
      I can’t honestly say I’ve watched a ton of the series, but it’s so great that I will, once I can trick myself into splurging on the box set. I’ve watched quite a few episodes, but only when they rerun, which is unfortunately none too often.
      I have a soft spot in my heart for good old-fashioned camp, which is why I will always adore Adam West, Roger Moore, etc. When a film/show/anything can take a step back, laugh at the ridiculousness of the scenarios involved, and not feel as though it’s mocking the audience, that’s a true achievement.

      Like

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