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The old 1960s Batman movie would, by any objective measure, be awful, if not for how awesome it is in its sheer, unmitigated ridiculousness.

Properly documenting all the examples of why this is so would end up reproducing the plot in full, so I’ll focus on a few highlights. In the first action sequence, Batman fights off a shark biting his leg while holding on to the Bat-Ladder hanging from the Bat-Copter. (Spoiler alert: Batman ultimately fends it off with Bat-Shark-Repellant, which is stored on the Bat-Copter alongside repellant sprays for other marine life.) What makes the scene great is how not only is the shark obviously made of rubber, but as Batman punches it, it makes exactly the sound you’d expect from someone punching a rubber shark.

Also, when the shark is ultimately dislodged, it falls into the sea and explodes. In case you’re wondering why the United Underworld (i.e., The Joker + The Penguin + The Riddler + Catwoman; see also: greatest team-up ever) didn’t rig the shark to explode when it bit Batman’s leg, well, obviously then the movie would only be a few minues long.

If that doesn’t convince you of my thesis, then consider the fight scene in the Bat-Cave that, in my opinion, reveals the truth behind Batman’s superpowers. To set this up, the villans have obtained an instant dehydration gun that reduces anybody to a pile of powder. The Penguin does this to five henchmen and scoops the powder into separate vials. He then disguises himself as the person the villans stole said dehydration gun from, and introduces himself to Batman and Robin.

The Dynamic Duo immediately see through his ploy — the nose and talking like Jon Stewart impersonating Dick Cheney are dead giveaways — yet for some reason see the need to scientifically prove The Penguin’s identity to The Penguin, so they take him to the Bat-Cave, which apparently has the only retinal scanner on the planet. Once there, The Penguin goes over to the Drinking Water Dispenser — like everything in the Bat-Cave, it is prominently labeled with its function — and hooks the vials up to it, thus rehydrating his henchmen.

However, while doing so, The Penguin accidentally moves the Drinking Water Dispenser’s control lever — let me remind you, this is a machine expressly for dispensing drinking water — from the “light water” setting to the “heavy water” setting. Yes, heavy water, which Batman later points out is also used in the Bat-Cave’s nuclear reactor. Obviously, this error results in the henchmen vanishing into nothingness as soon as anything hits them (something to do with antimatter, I think).

There is only one possible explanation for why anyone would ever connect a source of heavy water to what is, let’s face it, an overgrown drinking fountain. (Wow, all technology really was bigger back then.)

Batman drinks heavy water.

No wonder Batman can breathe in space.

And there’s loads more where that came from. The Joker and The Penguin wear masks across their eyes while pulling off various heists, apparently oblivious to the fact that they’re still dressed as The Joker and The Penguin. The Pentagon sells a fully armed surplus submarine to someone named P. N. Guin, and the admiral Batman talks to is oblivious to how selling something like that to someone who won’t even leave his address is not a good idea. The Riddler accidentally shoots down the Bat-Copter with a Polaris missile, but no one is hurt as the copter crash-lands on a pile of foam rubber. And, as Batman so eloquently observes, “some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

If I somehow still haven’t convinced you as to how awesome this movie is, how about this: Jet Pack Umbrellas.

But if strangely creepy is more your thing, try this on for size. The villans scheme to lure Batman into a fiendish trap (spoiler alert: it involves a jack-in-the-box and an exploding octopus) by kidnapping Bruce Wayne and holding him hostage. They lure him into a trap by dropping a riddle suggesting that “Kitka” (i.e., Catwoman not dressed like Catwoman) is going to be kidnapped, which leads Bruce into asking her out. Suspecting the villans will move against “Kitka” during the date, Bruce has Robin and Alfred-wearing-a-mask shadow them inconspicuously in the Batmobile and watch what’s going on on a monitor, presumably hooked up to an otherwise unmentioned Gotham-wide Bat-survillance-camera-network. (Holy 1984, Batman!)

The date ultimately leads back to Catwoman’s apartment, and it’s not hard to decode 1960s euphemisms for what Bruce is expecting to go on there. He shows no compunction, despite knowing Robin and Alfred are supposed to be watching all of this. That is, outside, in the car, in the dark, his young ward and his old manservant, one of whom is wearing tights and the other is also disguised, are supposed to be watching him “further international relations” with “Kitka”.

Fortunately, the disturbing potential of that setup is stopped by the intervention of, yes, Jet Pack Umbrellas.

In conclusion, I want a Jet Pack Umbrella, in case I ever need to escape from exploding marine life.

2 Responses

  1. You realize that the Adam West Batman is supposed to be a ridiculous parody, right?

  2. Well, yeah, but the movie manages to go beyond anything I remember the series ever doing. It succeeds very well at what it’s trying to do, and if it were actually trying to play everything straight, it would be prime MST3K fodder.

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