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Batman: The Movie Turns 50!

Written by  Published August 10, 2016 06:13
It was SUPPOSED to be a sort of "pilot" to whet peoples appetite for the TV series that was to follow in the fall of 1966. But, a hurried and unexpected need by the ABC network brought the TV series into prime time early. Fortunately, the gamble paid off, and it paid off big! The Batman TV Series of 1966 hit like a rocket, and garnered a legion of fans almost overnight. So no need to even produce the movie/pilot, right? Well, no. The go ahead was given, and the film went into production.

Batman with a bombBatman the movie premiered on July 30th,1966 in Austin Texas (why in Austin Texas?). This was due to a promise to the Glastron Boat Company of -- Austin Texas! The agreement was made due to the Bat-boat having been made BY the Glastron Boat Company of Austin, Texas.The cast and crew also came to the premiere, met the fans and had a great time. Tragically, two days afterwards on August 1, 1966, a disturbed University Of Texas student and former marine named Charles Whitman went to the observation deck of the school's clock tower and opened fire on the campus below. Sixteen people were killed and another 32 were injured before Whitman was shot and killed by the police. An eyewitness said that the police only had pistols, which were of no use as they could not reach Whitman at that distance. So, the police BORROWED more powerful guns from the people on the scene.

The producers used the film's bigger budget to build the Bat-copter and the Bat-boat and the Bat-cycle. Burt Ward, who played Robin The Boy Wonder, did NOT like riding in the Bat-cycle. This is because he would be in the sidecar and whenever Batman would press the button to disengage the sidecar, the car would (along with Ward) go careening off in any and all directions. There were no controls in the sidecar for Ward to use for steering.

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I first saw the Batman movie in 1979 (the first television broadcast of the movie was on July 4,1971). I enjoyed the film and was constantly watching the TV series. And now, some interesting tidbits hat are not as well known about the Batman movie of 1966: first, Julie Newmar reportedly suffered a back injury, and therefore could not play The Catwoman in the film. Producers replaced her with Lee Meriwether. Meriwether was 1955's Miss America. Meriwether was not cast when filming began. This is why Catwoman is not present in the opening scene in the Penguin's submarine. Lee Meriwether went on to play "Lisa Carson" (Daughter of "John E. Carson! Get it? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink) in a King Tut two parter during the second season. Star Trek's Grace Lee Whitney also apeared as King Tut's moll.

With a running time of only 105 minutes, this is the SHORTEST live action Batman movie to date! Madge Blake, who played Aunt Harriet is briefly seen in the beginning of the movie but has no lines in the film. Ward's character of Dick Grayson only had two lines in the film. A stuntman, in the big fight scene at the the end of the movie, accidentally hit his head on a metal stud on the bottom of the pond after diving into the water. He was knocked unconscious and had to be rushed to the hospital. The voice of then President Lyndon Baines Johnson, was provided by an actor by the name of Van Williams. Williams would become the Green Hornet on the TV Series of the same name just a year later!

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There was talk of a sequel to be released in 1967, in between the second and third seasons of the TV Show. This film was to serve as the introduction of Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon and the Bat-plane! But budget cuts and the audience's waning interest in the show helped scuttle the project. I have the rare 1966 novelization of the movie. The book must have been written based on the original script, as there are a few changes from book to film. The most prominent is the name of the late Reginald Denny (this movie was his last role) character. In the movie he is called "Commodore Schmidlap", but in the book he is named the more pedestrian name of "Commander Redhead!"

Happy 50th Anniversary to the 1966 BATMAN movie!!

Bryan Frazier

Bryan W. Frazier has been reading and collecting comic books for the past forty years! He has a love and fondness for the Vintage Comic Books, Comic Strips, Magazines, Books, Toys, TV Shows and Movies, and even radio shows  of the past (paying particular loving attention to the Pop Culture of the 70’s and 80’s! His personal “glory days”). He has two little poochies named Leyna and Layla, and an as yet unfinished novel  that he hope to turn into a series someday. His column is "Old School" and so is he!! He is Bryan W. Frazier -- Mr. Bronze Age!

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