James Bond meets Batman in ‘James Batman’ (1966)
The year is 1966. Cinema goers around the world are treated to the likes of Oscar-winning ‘A Man for all Seasons‘, Michael Caine vehicle ‘Alfie‘, and Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor slobberknocker ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?‘ If only anyone could remember these forgettable entries into the annuls of Hollywood history. The real action was happening across the Pacific in the home of the Blockbuster.., The Philipines, where writer-director Artemio Marquz was readying one his four movies from that year, ‘James Batman‘. Incidentally the US were also preparing a Batman movie that year starring Adam West which I can only assume is a poor rip-off of this intricate classic.
I often bestow the tag wacky or barmy onto some of our most treasured b-movie greats, but if you really want a one-way ticket on Baron Bizzaro’s Banana Boat to Bellevue then James Batman is the film for you. Two icons of western culture are thrown together here in a bizarre cocktail that makes a Long Island Ice Tea look short on ingredients. Batman, Robin, and Bond are summoned to some kind of Filipino council to see off the threat of an evil emperor’s dastardly atom bomb plot…, with hilarious consequences. Batman and Robin have surprisingly good costumes that match-up fairly well to their West / Ward counterparts, except that Batman’s cowl is a little on the wonk and the bat-symbol has been replaced by some kind of snake motif. Also props go out to the Batmobile which does a pretty good impersonation of the US TV version. On the other end of the sanity scale there’s Bond, who has a penchant for hideous tartan style suits and Trilby hats and couldn’t look or act any less like his western namesake.
The plot is pretty hard to work out but it is in essence a standard Saturday serial tale of beating up goons and thwarting the bad guy’s evil scheme.., or at least that’s what I got from it. Saying that I don’t speak Tagalog so the whole thing could be an analogy for the plight of the Magdiwang rebels who sought independence from Spain back in 1892. Whatever the meaning it’s wacky but entertaining stuff with surprisingly enjoyable, incredibly camp fight scenes that really do echo those of the US TV Batman show, there’s even the odd bit’o pyro. Why Bond is in this at all is anyone’s guess. There are plenty of in-jokes including my personal favourite, Batman getting his lunch from his utility belt, take note Nolans. You’ll be hard pressed to track this down, conventions are probably your best bet, or the odd illegal online download that Deadly Movies doesn’t condone as such activities could ruin Warner Bros. and MGM’s respective profit margins. If I had a copy of this (and that isn’t an admission) it would be incredibly grainy with a strange pink hue that accompanies the proceedings and add’s to its already bonkers feel.