Holy reunion, Batman!
Philip A. Kaufman
Running Time: 86 minutes
UK Certificate: 12
Country: United States
From 1966 to 1968, TV veteran Adam West and newcomer Burt Ward were the living embodiments of Batman and Robin, in 120 television episodes (as well as a feature film spin-off) of 'Batman'. Colourful, camp, corny, and full of lewd innuendo, the show may have dismayed fans of the original, much darker comic books, but it also revived interest, till then waning, in the caped crusaders – and, unlike so much other television from that time, its blend of nostalgic absurdity and subversive self-parody makes it still very entertaining to this day. The 1966 movie alone is, in my opinion, one of comedy's finest moments and certainly as funny as anything made since.
Some days, it seems, you just can't get rid of a bomb. The made-for-TV feature 'Back to the Batcave' (2003) takes its title from the 1994 autobiography of West, the square-jawed star of the series – and like West's book, the film offers an anecdotal history of the show's stars, production, reception, and all manner of associated trivia – Cesar Romero's refusal to shave off his moustache as 'the Joker', Burgess Meredith becoming 'the Penguin' only after Mickey Rooney turned the part down, the National Safety Council's insistence that Batman and Robin wear seatbelts in the Batmobile, the Catholic League of Decency's objections to the heroic bulge in Robin's trunks, West's womanising, and rumours that the Dynamic Duo were more than just good friends.
Yet these sections of sixties-set docudrama, in which Jack Brewer and Jason Marsden step into the suits of West and Ward, are ingeniously framed by a present-day caper in which the older West and Ward have to reach into their memories of the past to work out who has just stolen the original Batmobile from a charity car auction. Reunited for the first time in decades, the real West and Ward gamely appear as comic versions of themselves (“this is a job for actors”) – but in a hilariously postmodern twist, the pair seem no more capable than their fans of distinguishing themselves from their superheroic personae, and their investigation is played out as a geriatric episode of the series that made them famous, complete with dastardly riddles, cliffhanger voice-over, 'Kapow!' fight sequences, the inimitable 'Batusi' dance, and appearances from Lee Merriwether, Julie Newmar and Frank Gorshin (who played villains in the original).
While their younger stand-ins play their behind-the-scenes material relatively straight, the real West and Ward ham up their antics with abandon, showing that while they may have gained some pounds over the last forty years (no more tight costumes for these two), they have certainly lost none of their buffoonish magic making 'Return to the Batcave' essential viewing for all Batfans.
It's Got: Footage of the original screentest of Lyle Waggoner for the rôle of Batman (and a cameo by Waggoner); appearances by original actor-villains Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar and Lee Merriwether; Adam West still delivering his lines with deadpan ingenuousness, and showing that "only one man could dance" the Batusi.
It Needs: Its beyond conventional criticism - like the original series, its corny naffness is at the very heart of its success.
DVD Extras Scene section; choice of stereo 2.0/Dolby digital 5.1/DTS; optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing; trailer; biographies of Adam West and Julie Newmar (Catwoman); film notes. Version reviewed: Return To The Batcave - The Misadventures Of Adam And Burt (Anchor Bay) DVD Extras Rating: 4/10
Alternatives:Batman, Batman (1966), Batman and Robin, Batman Forever, Batman Returns, The Incredibles
Holy nostalgia piece! If there were any justice in the world, Adam West would be pope.