The Wild Wild World of Batwoman
The Wild Wild World of Batwoman 1966
This is one of the last couple films that I’ve put on my 100 Essential Superhero Movies list that I had yet to see. There are a couple reasons that I added this film instead of a more well known, or better film. One is that it was essentially one of the first fan films, or probably more accurately a mockbuster. It was made by Jerry Warren who didn’t have the rights to the Batman character, but wanted to capitalize on the TV show’s popularity and so he made this Batwoman movie. There were enough changes made to the characters that even though he was sued for copyright infringement, he actually won the case. It was also one of very few superhero movies that became popular as a cult film when it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Watching it today, it is very obviously along the lines of an Asylum mockbuster where the characters seemingly know that they’re in a parody of a film even though it’s all supposedly being taken seriously.
The entire concept of the Batwoman in this film is much more like a Charlie from Charlie’s Angels or some type of secret agent with a group of Batgirls that have sworn allegiance to her and are also considered vampires for some reason, if the trivia for this film is to be believed, it was a result of winning the Batman copyright infringement lawsuit but that doesn’t exactly add up. Probably also because of the whole bat motif as well as a very minor excuse to make this Batwoman even more different than Adam West’s Batman, even though they are practically different in every single way possible. Here, Batwoman is just a random woman who speaks theatrically, wears a masquerade mask, has a huge hairstyle, low cut cleavage, and a bat drawn on the center of her chest with eyeliner. On top of everything else, even though she is seemingly respected for getting the job done, there’s a moment near the very beginning of the film where a group of her batgirls witness a robbery and do absolutely nothing to stop it as it escalates to murder. Instead, they just report it to Batwoman and it is never mentioned again.
With many of these low budget films of the past, there’s going to be an element of camp. Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it isn’t. Here, it very much feels intentional as there are plenty of moments throughout the film where it tries to play up the comedic angle of things. For instance, there’s the requisite mad scientist Professor Neon and his Igor-like assistant Heathcliff. Heathcliff has bushy eyebrows, hunches over, generally acts like an ape, and wears tattered clothing, but there’s a moment at the end of the film where an explosion knocks some sense back into him and it’s revealed that he was actually Neon’s benefactor and equal partner. It wasn’t until Neon experimented on Heathcliff that he became how he was for most of the film, and all it takes is a knock on the head with a rolled up newspaper for him to immediately revert back to his animalistic self.
The actual plan of the villain also doesn’t entirely make much sense. There is constant talk about this newly designed hearing aid. There’s something about it being explosive is something goes wrong, and the company was given thirty days to destroy it, but they were actually given only fifteen days and the CEO lied to the rest of the company, but if they get a patent on it then they won’t have to destroy it. The entire exposition was very confusing, not to mention that every single time one of the characters went into exposition mode, there would be some really distracting thing going on in the background. Like when the main villain Rat Fink is revealing his demands to Batwoman, Professor Neon starts giving into the effects of his “happy pill” that really just makes a person dance. There’s also a moment where the CEO goes to Batwoman’s headquarters to ask for help and there are two Batgirls fighting over a horseshoe. It almost feels like the director felt like there needed to be something interesting happening in frame instead of just having people sit and talk to each other, but he went too far and made it so absurd that it’s totally distracting.
It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise with such a convoluted plot that there are a couple big twists along the way. During the big fight at the end, Rat Fink uses some sort of duplication device on himself so that there are multiple Rat Finks running around being chased by Batwoman and the other Batgirls, and when he’s finally caught it’s revealed that he was really the CEO of the company that hired Batwoman in the first place. Also, there’s an ongoing running gag where one of the henchmen, Tiger gets infatuated with one of the Batgirls that he continuously kidnaps, and when all is said and done he ends up taking the oath to become a Batgirl himself, however that works. There’s also just way too much of a focus on dancing. Nearly a third of the run time of this film is dedicated to either watching the Batgirls dance, or making them dance due to the professor’s happy drug. It’s also the very 60’s style of Beach Blanket Bingo style dancing where they are just shaking their butts and waving their arms up and down to the music. It almost feels like a parody of some type of film, but it’s hard to tell what they were going for exactly. It’s not so much a parody of superhero films/tv shows as the only thing to copy was Batman and this feels nothing like Batman, nor does it feel like a parody of spy films, though it could be as I’m not too familiar with the spy films of this era. It’s just bizarre on all fronts, but it’s a unique oddity in and of itself. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.