The recent reboot of the Batman movie franchise with Christian Bale portraying The Dark Knight more realistically is popular and I like it, but for me, the über-campy 1960s series will always reign supreme.
“Batman” made instant stars out of Adam West and Burt Ward, who portrayed the Dynamic Duo, when it ran from 1966 to 1968.
The show was so popular that Burt Ward recorded a song called “Boy Wonder, I Love You,” that was written and arranged by . . . Frank Zappa.
It was topped in weirdness by Adam West’s spoken/sung single “Miranda,” that included the lyrics: “Would you like to see me make my muscles dance, Miranda? For someone powerful as me it’s no big task. Ask me to do anything for you, Miranda, but please don’t ask me to remove my mask! It’s attached to my special super thermal b-nuclear long underwear.”
Here’s my partial list of reasons why the 1960’s “Batman” TV series was awesome:
The Theme Song: It was simple, memorable and accompanied the cool animated opening sequence.
The Batmobile: Batman: “To the Batmobile! Let’s go!” Robin: “Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed.” Batman: “Ready to move out.” A jet exhaust blast followed by squealing tires then they’d zoom out of the secret exit of the Batcave. That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.
That funky tank/transformer Batmobile thingy that Christian Bale’s Batman cruises around in has nothing on the customized 1955 Lincoln Futura the TV show used. The Lincoln had an Emergency Bat-Turn Lever that released parachutes to enable quick turns, a Bat Smoke Screen and an emergency tire inflator, among other enhancements.
Villains: A case can be made for the quality of subsequent portrayals of the Joker by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, but Cesar Romero’s laughing lunatic was done quite well (Frank Sinatra expressed interest in the role initially, by the way). Then there was Frank Gorshin as the Riddler and Burgess Meredith as the Penguin: both deliciously campy. I like how when they showed the villains in their hideouts they were filmed at an angle. Crooked. Get it? So clever.
Batgirl: Yvonne Craig was added in the third season to boost female viewership. Probably got more males to watch, too.
Fight scenes: I loved how the fight scenes would be punctuated with colorful comic book phrases like “KA-POW!” and “WHAMM!” In fact, I loved them so much that I made laminated placards that I carry with me at all times to display when I come across a real-life corresponding sound. The most recent time I used one was at Joe’s Buffet, when the clerk ladled some delicious au jus sauce into a container to dip my roast beef into and I whipped out my placard reading “GLURPP!”
The Batpoles: The Billy Shakespeare bust with the hidden button that when pressed made the bookcase move, revealing the Batpoles leading to the Batcave, was cool. Even cooler was how they managed to go from street clothes to costumes on the way down. Some have speculated it was nanotechnology. I’m thinking trick photography.
Catwoman: Take your pick: Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather (who portrayed the feline foe in the 1966 feature-length TV movie) or Eartha Kitt. Purrrrrfect.
Window cameos: Celebrities poking their head out of the side of the building Batman and Robin were ascending or descending using their Batropes became an in “thing.” Among those featured on the show were Jerry Lewis, Dick Clark, Don Ho and Sammy Davis Jr. I liked how Batman always addressed them formally as “citizens.”
The Batusi: Popularized by John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction” but originated by West’s Batman, The Batusi, according to Wikipedia, is a dance “performed by making a horizontal V-sign with one’s index and middle fingers of both hands, and drawing them across in front of the eyes, away from the center of the face simultaneously, with the eyes roughly between the fingers.”
It is also the only dance I am good at.
Other reasons the show was awesome include its use of vibrant colors, ample humor, the gadgets and more. If you don’t agree that Adam West’s Batman was the best, then I will fight you anytime and anywhere. I’ll bring my placards.
Reach Fairfield Batwriter Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.