Daily Archives: April 28, 2020

The Wild World of Batwoman (1966)

*. I’ve often thought of comic books as a kind of gateway drug to porn. Though not explicitly sexual they trigger budding hormones with depictions of women with exaggerated hourglass figures clad in impossibly painted-on costumes. Even in the earlierst superhero comics characters like Catwoman and Wonder Woman were basically pin-ups in action. Throw in some bondage and various forms of mind control and you’ve entered a pubescent fantasyland.
*. The Batman television series (1966-68) rolled with this, making Julie Newmar into a slinky fetish queen. The Wild World of Batwoman just takes this association of sex and superheroes and runs with it, giving us a Batwoman (Katherine Victor) with a full display of cleavage branded with a bat symbol that appears to have just been scribbled on with a marker. This Batwoman also has a bevy of batgirls who dress in party clothes and like to dance. Apparently most of them were strippers who found themselves out of work when the club they worked at was shut down by the police. An opportunistic casting director offered them work on the film.
*. Does this movie have anything to do with Batman? Not really. Enough so that DC comics sued for copyright violation, but they lost (though the movie was re-released as She Was a Hippy Vampire). Instead of a real comic-book movie it’s more just a beach movie where the girls have guns. The kind of thing Russ Meyer dabbled in and that Andy Sidaris made a career out of.
*. There is, however, some resemblance to the Batman TV show in the cultivation of a spirit of goofiness. One of the bad guys, Professor Octavius Neon, has developed a happy pill that makes people start to dance. Neon’s boss, the masked villain Rat Fink, wants to steal an experimental hearing aid powered by plutonium that will allow him to eavesdrop on any conversation in the world. The National Security Agency before its time.
*. Unfortunately, it’s such a cheap production it doesn’t quite rise to the level of true camp. Instead it mostly feels like a cash grab. Writer-director Jerry Warren took no great pride in his work: “I’d shoot one day on this stuff and throw it together. . . . I was in the business to make money. I never, ever tried in any way to compete, or to make something worthwhile. I only did enough to get by, so they would buy it, so it would play, and so I’d get a few dollars. It’s not very fair to the public, I guess, but that was my attitude.”
*. One aspect of this dedication to the bottom line (or biggest return for the least amount of effort) was Warren’s penchant for lifting material from other movies and just pasting it into his own. He would even sometimes make hybrid adaptations of other films that he introduced some new material into and redubbed (not an uncommon practice, executed perhaps most notably in Godzilla, King of the Monsters!). In this movie there are a few movies sampled, including The Mole People. To say The Mole People is awkwardly introduced would be an understatement. I’m still not sure what the point of the underground-city stuff was.
*. On the plus side, it’s short and has a few silly parts — the lethargic cage dancer, Batwoman’s DIY costume — of the type that would provide fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000. Mostly, however, it just astonishes at how very bad it is. More fun than it probably should be, and good-natured, but still trash.