The very first Batman movie is free to watch right now.
“Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed.” “Roger, ready to move out.” With that said, the campiest of camp is now available for your “Holy Viewing Pleasure” as the 1966 Batman: The Movie can be seen for free on YouTube Movies.
For those of us who gloriously grew up watching the Batman series of the late ‘60s, the Batman movie was akin to today’s group of children watching, well, you can name any superhero movie of the past decade.
Batman: The Movie followed our POW! punching Caped Crusaders, Batman and Robin, as they tried to thwart a rouge’s gallery of villains from taking over the world. Batman, played to the dramatic campy hilt by Adam West, and Robin the Boy Wonder, played with equal, if not more, over-the-top style by Burt Ward, were just coming off the first season of the Batman series when approached to do a feature film.
As the series already had established West and Ward as the Dynamic Duo, the movie immediately took on the look, feel, and sound of the series from the narrator to the campiness of the material. The movie also brought with it original villains from the series that included Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, Cesar Romero as the Joker, and Burgess Meredith as the Penguin. Lee Meriwether took over the Catwoman role for Julie Newmar, who had to pull from the film due to a back injury.
The film immediately jumps into “camp” mode when Batman and Robin take the Batcopter on a rescue mission to save Commodore Schmidlapp from danger aboard his yacht. While attempting the rescue, Batman descends the bat-ladder to the yacht. As he gets to it, the yacht disappears beneath him, sending Batman into the ocean. When he is pulled out, a shark has engulfed his leg. Batman uses bat-shark repellant and in the nick of time. As the shark drops into the ocean, it explodes. Yes, folks, this is Batman of the ‘60s.
The real Commodore Schmidlapp has been kidnapped by the United Underworld (Riddler, Joker, Penguin, and Catwoman). Schmidlapp has invented a “dehydrator”, a machine that can turn humans into dust. Their goal is to turn the entire United World Organization’s Security Council into dust. Holy chaos!
The movie is filled with the ultimate camp as well as a little bit of romance between Bruce Wayne and Soviet journalist Kitayna Ireyna Tatanya Kerenska Alisoff aka Miss Kitka, who is Catwoman in disguise. The movie is also filled with the requisite Batman and Robin fights versus the villain’s henchmen, replete with the well-known Bam’s, Biff’s, Pow’s, and Ker-Sploosh’s.
Batman: The Movie also brought with it, along with the aforementioned Dynamic Duo and the rogue’s gallery of villains, other stars of the series to include Alan Napier as Alfred, Neil Hamilton as Commissioner Gordon, Stafford Repp as Chief O’Hara, and Madge Blake as Aunt Harriet.
William Dozier, creator and narrator of the series, had wanted the Batman feature film to be in theaters during the series’ first season as a way to generate more public interest. 20th Century Fox, in their ultimate wisdom, decided against that tact because they didn’t wish to foot the entire bill for the movie when they were sharing the cost for the TV series. The popularity of the first season changed their minds.
The series, which the movie was based on, ran for three seasons with some numbers unheard of in today’s television industry. Over those three seasons, Batman filmed 120 episodes. The first season alone consisted of 34 episodes, which in Disney+ terms equal to four-plus seasons of The Mandalorian. Even more remarkable is season two of Batman, a season that had 60 episodes in it. Season three was kind of light, only tallying 26 episodes.
Batman: The Movie cost Dozier and 20th Century Fox nearly $1.5 million to make, a big number at the time. Box office numbers were not given for the film but over the years, it has generated nearly $4 million in rentals.
The movie was also a critical and fan hit. Critics consensus on Rotten Tomatoes says the film “…elevates camp to an art form — and has a blast doing it, every gloriously tongue-in-cheek inch of the way.” The movie absolutely knows its audience, never taking itself seriously, while entertaining fans as only Adam West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin can. Major props are also given to Gorshin, Romero, Meredith, and Maywether for going all-in with their over-the-top villainy.
Batman and Robin eventually save the dehydrated United World Organization’s Security Council, but can Batman’s Super Molecular Bat-Dust Separator bring them back to life? You will get your answer if you watch it, same Bat-time, same Bat-YouTube Movie channel.