Batman: The Movie (1966, directed by Leslie H. Martinson)


One day, while defending Gotham City, Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) learn that there is a plot to abduct Commodore Schmidlap from his yacht. Quick! To the batcopter! Flying over the ocean, they locate the yacht but it turns out that the whole kidnapping plot was a ruse for a shark to attack Batman!

“Holy sardine!” Robin exclaims!

With the help of porpoise who bravely sacrifices its life to protect the Caped Crusader, Batman manages to escape. Back at police headquarters, Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton), and Chief O’Hara (Stafford Repp) wonder which member of Batman’s rogue’s gallery of villainy could have been responsible for the ruse.

Batman says that it was pretty “fishy” what happened and that could possibly mean The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) was involved!

Robin points out that it happened “at sea” and C stands for Catwoman (Lee Meriweather)!

Batman then says that the shark was “pulling my leg” and that might mean it was working for The Joker (Cesar Romero)!

Chief O’Hara says that it all adds up to “a sinister riddle,” which can only mean one thing: The Riddler (Frank Gorshin)!

“The four of them,” Batman says, “working together…”

“Holy nightmare!” Robin exclaims!

As you can probably guess, the tone of 1966’s Batman: The Movie is far different from the tone of more recent Batman films. That’s because Batman: The Movie was based on the light-hearted 60s TV show that made Batman a household name even while transforming the character from being a shadowy vigilante to being a comedic straight arrow, a proud square who regularly lectured the citizens of Gotham about respecting the forces of law and order.

Batman: The Movie was released after the conclusion of the first season of the Batman televisions series and it featured nearly the entire cast of the show. (Lee Meriweather replaced Julie Newman in the role of the purring Catwoman.) The movie feels like an extended episode of the show, still using the same famous music and featuring scenes of Batman and Robin running in place with a street scene projected behind them. The attitude is one of affectionate parody, as opposed to the more cynical campiness of Joel Schumacher’s infamous films from the 90s. Adam West expertly deadpans his way through the main role while the underrated Burt Ward energetically plays the naïve and easily amazed Robin. Of the villains, Lee Meriweather is a sexier Catwoman than Anne Hathaway and there’s never been a better Riddler than Frank Gorshin. (Of the many actors who played Batman’s villains on the TV series, Gorshin was always the only one who seemed to understand that he was supposed to be playing someone dangerous.) At 104 minutes, Batman: The Movie runs out of steam before it ends but there’s still much here to entertain fans of the television show.

Of course, when I was growing up in the 90s, there was no easier way to lose credibility with most diehard Batman films than to admit to liking anything about the television series. The Batman TV series was widely blamed for people thinking that comic books were only meant for kids. Tim Burton was a hero for treating Batman seriously. Joel Schumacher was hated for taking the opposite approach. Batman and Robin was criticized for being too much like the TV show, right down to George Clooney doing a poor man’s Adam West impersonation in the main role. Despite the acclaim that greeted Batman: The Animated Series, It wasn’t until Christopher Nolan took control of the character that the cinematic Batman truly returned to his grim roots.

Since the conclusion of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, there have been several versions of Batman. Ben Affleck took over the role for two films. Young Bruce Wayne and his doomed parents briefly appeared in Joker. Robert Pattinson is set to take over the role in The Batman. Now that everyone knows Batman as a grim avenger and countless actors have bragged about how they prepared for their roles in the Batverse by reading either The Killing Joke or The Dark Knight Returns, it’s easier to appreciate the more light-hearted approach of something like Batman: The Movie. After two decades of grim and serious Batmans being used as a metaphor for everything from PTSD to the surveillance state, the sight of a paunchy Adam West trying to find a place to safely dispose of a ridiculously oversized bomb can be a relief.

“Sometimes,” Batman says, “you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

Tell me about it, Batman.

Under the Sea: Goliath Awaits (1981, directed by Kevin Connor)


1939.  War is breaking out across Europe.  The British luxury liner Goliath is torpedoed by a German U-boat.  Presumed to be lost with the ship are a swashbuckling film star, Ronald Bentley (John Carradine), and U.S. Senator Oliver Barthowlemew (John McIntire), who may have been carrying a forged letter from Hitler to Roosevelt when the boat went down.

1981.  Oceanographer Peter Cabot (Mark Harmon, with a mustache) comes across the sunken wreck of the Goliath.  When he dives to check out his discovery, he is shocked to hear big band music coming from inside the ship.  He also thinks that he can hear someone tapping out an S.O.S. signal.  When he looks into a porthole, he is stunned to discover a beautiful young woman (Emma Samms) staring back at him.

Under the command of Admiral Sloan (Eddie Albert), who wants to retrieve the forged letter before it does any damage to the NATO alliance, Cabot and Command Jeff Selkirk (Robert Forster) are assigned to head an expedition to explore Goliath.  What they discover is that, for 40 years, the passengers and crew have survived within an air bubble.  Under the leadership of Captain John McKenzie (Christopher Lee), they have created a new, apparently perfect society within the sunken ship.  Cabot discovers that the woman that he saw was McKenzie’s daughter, Lea.

McKenzie is friendly to Cabot and his crew, explaining to them the scientific developments that have allowed the passengers and crew to not only survive but thrive underwater.  The only problems are a group of outcasts — the Bow People — who refuse to follow McKenzie’s orders and Palmer’s Disease, an infection that only seems to infect people who are no longer strong enough to perform the daily tasks necessary to keep McKenzie’s utopia functioning.   Even when people on the boat die, they continue to play their part by being cremated in Goliath’s engine room and helping to power the ship.

Everything seems perfect until Cabot announces that he has come to rescue the survivors of the Goliath.  Even though Goliath is starting to decay and will soon no longer be safe, McKenzie is not ready to give up the perfect society that he’s created.  McKenzie sets out to prevent anyone from escaping the Goliath.

Goliath Awaits is a massive, 3-hour production that was made for television and originally aired over two nights.  (The entire 200-minute production has been uploaded to YouTube.  Avoid the heavily edited, 91-minute version that was released on VHS in the 90s.)  It’s surprisingly good for a made-for-TV movie.  Because a large portion of the film was shot on the RMS Queen Mary, a retired cruise ship that was moored in Long Beach, California, Goliath looks luxurious enough that you understand why some of the passengers might want to stay there instead of returning to the surface.  Beyond that, Goliath Awaits takes the time to fully explore the society that McKenzie has created and what it’s like to live on the ship.  McKenzie may not be as benevolent as he first appears to be but neither is he a one-dimensional villain.

Mark Harmon is a dull lead but Robert Forster is just as cool as always and Christopher Lee is perfect for the role of misguided Capt. McKenzie.  The movie is really stolen by Frank Gorshin, who is coldly sinister as Dan Wesker, the Goliath’s head of security.  McKenzie may by Goliath’s leader but Wesker is the one who does the dirty work necessary to keep the society running.

Goliath Awaits also features several character actors in small roles, with John Carradine, Duncan Regehr, Jean Marsh, John McIntire, Jeanette Nolan, Alex Cord, Emma Samms, and John Ratzenberger all getting to make a good impression.  (Ignore, if you can, a very young Kirk Cameron as one of the children born on the Goliath.)

Goliath Awaits is far better than your average made-for-TV movie from the 80s.  With any luck, it will someday get the home video release that it deserves.

 

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #39: Where The Boys Are (dir by Henry Levin)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of 2017!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

wheretheboysare

Before I talk about the 1960 film Where The Boys Are, I’m going to admit something.  Nearly a month ago, I started this mission to clean out my DVR.  I had 52 films to review and I said that I’d have it all done by Thanksgiving.  Of course, I failed to take into account that Thanksgiving is a holiday and, when you’re celebrating a holiday, that doesn’t always leave time to write 52 reviews.  So, I gave myself until the end of the first week of December.  And that’s when I realized that 52 reviews is not a small amount of work.  Especially if you want to make them decent reviews, as opposed to just posting a few sentences.  So, I’m abandoning all of my arbitrary deadlines.  I’ve got 14 more movies to review and I really hope that I’ll be done by the end of the year.  Maybe I will be, maybe I won’t…

But, seriously, I really hope that I am!

Anyway, now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s go to Where The Boys Are!

Released in 1960, Where The Boys Are was one of the first spring break films and it set the template for many films that would follow.  Because it is a piece of history, it’s one of those films that seems to regularly pop up on TCM.  It last aired on TCM on November 13th.  That’s when I recorded it.

Where The Boys Are tells the story of four girls who go to college in Maryland.  When we first see them, they are trudging across a snowed-in campus and there’s a distinct lack of handsome men around.  We listen as Merritt Andrews (Delores Hart) debates her far older professor about whether or not a girl should be “experienced” before getting married.  The professor thinks that all girls should wait for marriage.  Merritt disagrees.  What makes this scene interesting is that it’s almost totally done in euphemism.  Merritt never says sex.  Instead, she says making out and the professor has to ask her to explain what that means.

I mean …. 1960, amirite?

Anyway, it’s spring break so Merritt and her friends go down to Ft. Lauderdale.  After all … that’s where the boys are!  All of the girls have their own defining characteristic.  Merritt is the leader of the group, an intellectual with an I.Q. of 138.  Tuggle (Paula Prentiss) is smart and no-nonsense.  She’s a self-described “good girl” and her hope is to be a “baby-making machine.”  She intimidates some men because she stands 5’10.  Angie (Connie Francis) is athletic and naive.  And then there’s Melanie (Yvette Mimieux), who overcomes her insecurity and loses her virginity as soon as they arrive in Florida (though, of course, this is all handled via euphemism).

Over the course of spring break, all four of the girls meet a man or two.  Merritt meets Ryder (George Hamilton), who is not only an Ivy League student but has a tan to die for.  Ryder it turns out is very experienced (the film doesn’t seem to have the same issue with men being experienced as it does with women) and Merritt is forced to consider whether she’s really as ready for sex as she claims.  Melanie also hooks up with an Ivy Leaguer but it quickly becomes obvious that, despite going to Yale, Franklin (Rory Harrity) is a total heel.  (Oh, how you will hate Franklin.)  Tuggle finds herself competing for the attention of TV (Jim Hutton).  And Angie falls for a myopic jazz musician, Basil (Frank Gorshin).

Watching Where The Boys Are was an odd experience.  It’s an extremely dated film and it’s hard to believe that its euphemistic sex talk and extremely modest swimsuits were ever considered to be controversial.  There’s a hilarious scene where the girls are getting ready for their dates by changing into dresses that look more appropriate for cotillion than a night in Ft Lauderdale.  Needless to say, nobody is seen smoking weed or skinny dipping or doing any of the other stuff that we’ve come to take for granted as far as spring break films are concerned.  (That said, I get the feeling that both TV and Basil may have been stoned.  But definitely not Ryder.  From the minute Ryder shows up, you know he’s going to end up running a successful business and probably serving as an advisor in the Trump White House.)

There are a lot of jokes about people getting drunk, however.  It’s nice to see that, even in 1960, college students on Spring Break couldn’t hold their liquor.  I also found it interesting that not only did almost everyone in Where The Boys Are smoked but most of them looked really cool doing it.  In fact, I’d say that this film was probably the best advertising for cigarettes that I’ve ever seen.

For the most part, Where The Boys Are is a hit-or-miss comedy that’s distinguished by perfect casting.  Even though the film itself was dated, I felt that I could relate, in one way or another, to all of the girls.  Hart, Prentiss, Mimeux, and even Francis captured universal emotions and feelings in their performances and their friendship felt very true.

About 70 minutes into the film, Where The Boys Are takes a very serious turn and the film actually ends on a rather melancholy note, a reminder that not even a somewhat light weight comedy could escape the harshly judgmental morality of the time.  The sudden shift in tone took me by surprise but the film actually handled it well.  I just wish that it didn’t feel as if the filmmakers were punishing our characters for questioning the dictates of society.

On a final note, it’s interesting to note that Delores Hart, who played the sexually free thinking Merritt, later gave up her film career and became a nun.

So much for where the boys are.