Nah? Nah, na-na-nah? Nah, na-na-nah … Batwoman?
Even in these days when legacy characters are constantly
being “re-booted” as different gendered this concept would struggle. There is a
Batwoman on TV with a decent budget and a Bat Girl film on the
horizon but back in 1966 there was the Batman TV series which inspired
this low budget and heroically underpowered effort to cash in. Now, as the latest Batman epic is released it's as good a time as any to revisit this Batfilm...
Produced, written and directed (and edited) by Jerry
Warren, who was very good to take the blame, The Wild World of Batwoman
is clunky as hell with huge holes in plot and the action where a re-take should
have been or another few hundred feet of exposition. That said, it is, of
course, not without its charms… significant points for effort Jerry who had
form having already produced a number of schlock smashes: Frankenstein
Island, Teenage Zombies, Face of the Screaming Werewolf and Terror
of the Bloodhunters.
It’s unclear how the Batwoman ties into the
Batverse and this is exactly what DC Comics said at the time, leaving Warren to
play with the vampire concept only to dismiss it within seconds of the film’s
start. The film starts with a new Bat Girl being sworn in and being made to
drink what she thinks is blood – “we’re vampires alright but only in a
synthetic sense… strawberry yoghurt!”
As for The Dark Damsel’s powers, she seems quite
good at scanty fashion, fighting, playing the organ, gadgets and giving orders
to her acolytes… the Bat Maidens/Girls. All of the BM’s carry short wave wrist-radios
and swear an oath of allegiance to do right for their bat-tattooed leader and
to go-go dance at every opportunity. Other than this, Batwoman shows no
special powers… still, she’s THE Bat Woman and there’s a Rat Fink to nail! And
no, I don’t know how many drugs Jerry did at this period. What does seem likely
is that Jerry hired the girls for the role from local strip joints, allegedly during
police raids but that is just too perfect to be true. Certainly, the Bat
Maidens can dance, but, to a large extent they don’t act so, superficially, the
case looks solid.
The film’s titles mention musical directors and art
directors and is deceptively polished… there’s even a script supervisor! Batwoman
is played by Katherine Victor who made a fair few films from the fifties onwards
before becoming a script and continuity checker. She always felt that her work
in Warren’s films held her acting career back…
We cut to a darkened back street and mugging leading to a
murder, all witnessed by two Bat Girls who phone in the incident, descriptions
and location, behind the Star Club… Next we’re inside the Club watching some of
the Bat Girls dance to a song which cheekily features a bass line not a million
miles away from The Batman theme tune.
|Steve Conte, Suzanne Lodge and Mel Oshins|
Two of Rat Fink’s henchmen kidnaps a Bat Girl (Suzanne
Lodge who went on to enjoy a long career, although her next role was as uncredited
Argelian Waitress, wearing not much in Wolf in the Fold (1967), Star
Trek Season Two…). I’m not sure what her Bat Girl number if but let’s call her
KBG – Kidnapped Bat Girl. She’s been drugged by Tiger (Mel Oshins) and Bruno (Steve
Conte) as she’s one of the dolls working for Batwoman… Bruno uses KBG’s wrist
radio to contact Batwoman who does a Liam Neeson on him: This is Batwoman speaking to whoever you are that you’ve
taken on much more than you’ll be able to handle!
KBG arrives at the gang’s lair where Tiger decides to
call KBG “Little Doll” but let’s stick with KBG shall we. Tiger introduces the
rest of the gang, Professor G. Octavius Neon (George Andre, who’s giving it his
best shot!) who declares that he has “…
perfected some of the greatest scientific developments in history… “. There’s
also a strange individual exhibiting cringeworthy signs of mental distress - Heathcliff
(Lloyd Nelson) – all bout about by an experiment gone wrong; a bad trip you
|Rat Fink on the flat-screen TV...|
Meanwhile, at Batwoman’s Bat-Condo, the girls are in the
Bat-pool, wearing Bat-Slack and Bat-kinis all the better to present themselves
for roll call from Batwoman’s lieutenant Bat Girl #14 (statuesque Lucki Winn)
who leads the girls, including Pam Garry, Sylvia Holiday, Francis Bryan and Leah
London in their dedication:
We the girls who are dedicated to Batwoman, take our oath with all sincerityWe the girls who are dedicated to Batwoman, take our pride with all sincerity
We the girls who are dedicated to Batwoman, fight against evil with all sincerity
So, watch out villains!
Rat Fink uses the stolen wrist radio to contact Batwoman
and lay out his terms, he wants her to steal something for him in return for
her stolen Bat Girl. She insists on seeing that her girl is OK and after
travelling to the Rat Cellar, hears Bat Fink’s video instruction that the Ayjax
company has developed a powerful atomic hearing aid that could pick up any
conversation in the world. The government has naturally refused to patent and
ordered the one model in existence to be destroyed within 30 days! Batwoman rescues
her girl and takes advantage of Fink’s team’s lax attention to detail to switch
her drugged drink with the Professors, spaced out he cannot stop her knocking
out the henchmen and escaping with KBG.
Meanwhile, across town at Ayjax, chief executive JB (Richard
Banks) is talking to his number two, Jim Flanagan (Steve Brodie) worried about
the patent, they only had 15 days to destroy the hearing aid and the time limit
has run out. He’s even more worried after Batwoman has called to warn him of
Rat Fink’s planning for a theft. It’s a convoluted plot “I was afraid and
hoping for some kind of appeal to the patent office…” For some reason, Jim
reckons Batwoman can help… It’s very wordy and quite easy to miss some element of the crazy
plot that renders whole sections meaningless…
Jim goes to visit the crime fighter and finds her playing
organ music for the assembled Bat Girls… and why not? Every superhero needs a
hobby and music is an important part of her acolytes’ education. After Jim
explains that the atomic hearing aid was only intended for good until they accidentally
discovered its limitless powers after the introduction of cobalt… Batwoman agrees
to help protect the device and arrives at Ayjax with a bevy of Bat Girls all
heavily armed – you wouldn’t catch Robin using a gun!
Banks panics with Steve Brodie|
The baddies drug them all by placing some of the
Professors pills in their tea, these make everyone dance – as if the Bat Girls
need an excuse… and in the distraction they escape with the atomic hearing aid
and Tiger decides to re-kidnap KBG, or, if you will, RKBG, for whom he has
taken quite the shine.
Oh, what to do? Batwoman organises a séance to ask for spirit help in locating the device and Rat Fink’s lair… Surprisingly it doesn’t work and the men from the patent office arrive to hear it all. The pressure mounts… Will Batwoman save the day? Will there be more dancing?? Will Tiger and KBG fall in love??? Is Love all you need OR do you need the Professor to help you turn of your mind, relax and float downstream?
Dusty Verdict: It’s easy to mock.
OR… This film is designed to be amusing and I’m sure hopped-up teens would have cracked up in 1966 and probably even later. There’s a lot of silliness but at least there’s dancing and a beach party including The Young Giants as Themselves!
You can watch the film on YouTube and it is very deliberately so bad it’s good. Right at the end, Batwoman walks through the mayhem at a pool party and raises her hands as if to say, “what are you gonna do?!”