Monday 28 February 2022

Go-go Bat Girls... The Wild World of Batwoman (1966)

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 might say?

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 sincerity

We 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!

Richard 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?


They can't stop dancing

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?!”