From the Archives: The Times’ original 1966 review of ‘Batman’
If the aim had been satire, Batman would be hanging by its feet as a critical flop. But producer William Dozier wisely brought Batman to television as a live comic book and ABC probably has its biggest hit in many seasons.
The twice-weekly series (Wednesday and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.) premiered this week with Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. They are flattering reproductions of cartoonist Bob Kane’s paper heroes.
Everyone in the cast overplays his part, particularly West, who delivers his comic book cliches with solemnity. Ward is suitably juvenile as the over-eager Robin.
Pompous and inept
Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon) and Stafford Repp (Chief O’Hara) are as pompous and inept as their cartoon counterparts. Unmistakably, casting was the strongest ingredient.
In the initial episodes Batman “the caped crusader” was momentarily outfoxed by the infamous Riddler (billed as “guest villain” Frank Gorshin). Later, Robin was captured by the Riddler and his moll, Molly (Jill St. John), of the dreaded Molehill Mob.
The resourceful Batman used all the tricks to return Robin to the roost (ie., Batmobile, Batrang, Bathook, Batray). The fight scene finale in Thursday’s episode was punctuated with “ZAP, BONK, WHACK, WHAM, BOP and ZOWIES” all written across the screen (just like the cartoon).
Gorshin’s portrayal was classic. He is the first in a list of impressive guest-star villains to come (Burgess Meredith, George Sanders, Anne Baxter).
As the Batman prologue states, the series is hissable and cheerable in the honored tradition of the bad types vs. the good guys. Critically, Batman is kicks, even though the intellectuals will call it “in” and “camp” (a device which allows them to lower themselves to enjoy it) and the kids will love it like when you and I were young, Annie.
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