The Wild World of Batwoman (1966) (part 1 of 9)
I think I’ve found it. I think I’ve found the worst intentional comedy ever put on film, as well as the worst superhero movie ever. Come with me on my journey into the heart of darkness, better known as the world of Jerry Warren.
Yes, Jerry Warren. While there are directors on this site who have made one or two contributions to the world of awful cinema, Jerry Warren’s entire filmography is a veritable ode to the notion that good acting, writing, editing, directing, lighting, sound, and any semblance of intelligence are not needed in order to make a film.
From his first producing gig Man Beast (1956), all the way to Frankenstein Island (1981), he single-handedly created some of the most unwatchably horrible movies in the history of the world. He also had a taste for purchasing the rights to bad foreign sci-fi films and editing in new footage he shot with actors such as John Carradine. Sadly though, Mr. Carradine is not in the film we’ll be examining here. Actually, that might be a good thing, as he didn’t have to suffer through making it, and we won’t have to suffer through watching him in it.
In 1966, the TV series Batman was ruling all the airwaves, inducting Adam West into the pantheon of stars who will never live down the role that made them famous no matter how hard they try. (To be fair, West seems to have made his peace with the fact he’ll always be known as Batman, but that’s a story for another day.) The Wild World of Batwoman was Jerry Warren’s attempt to cash in on the Batman craze, an attempt which led to a lawsuit from the parent company of DC Comics. Warren claimed the suit was frivolous, because he was doing a movie about Batwoman, not Batman. One might also assume that if he were to have made a knockoff of Superman called Pretty Damn Incredible Man, he would have used a similar argument.
In any event, the case was settled four years later in Jerry’s favor. But that didn’t stop him from changing the title to She Was a Hippie Vampire on some prints of the film, which makes about as much sense as the original title, as we’ll soon see.
And what about Kurtz? At first I thought they’d handed me the wrong dossier. I couldn’t believe they wanted this man—Oh, sorry. Had an Apocalypse Now moment. That’ll probably happen a few times over the course of this recap, so be prepared.
Okay, pray for me, folks. Here comes the pain.
We begin with a logo for Medallion TV, always a good sign when watching a theatrically released movie. One should also note that the logo is clearly meant to be a rip-off of the Warner Brothers logo, because it’s a shield set against a backdrop of clouds.
From this little bit of “encouragement”, we fade to three women, two blondes and a brunette, who I will refer to as Blondie, Dumb Rookie and Aimless Brunette. They’re standing in what looks like a broom closet that some putz installed an air conditioning unit in.
Whoops, sorry. It’s just a garishly over-lit beach house. Oh wait, it’s both!
Yes, it appears this scene was shot in one location for one angle, and another location for the other angle. Hoo boy, and we’re only a few seconds in. I hope my life insurance is all paid up.
One of the women gives the girl in the middle a “wrist radio”, otherwise known as a watch to us folks who don’t smoke our body weight in pot each day.
The girl in the middle, who we will refer to as Dumb Rookie, seems to be confused by it, until Blondie tells her to press the button to activate it. Aimless Brunette says in a few minutes the rookie will be in direct contact with Batwoman herself. Oh, thank god for that. Somehow partial contact with a really disgusting woman who lives in a small trailer with her cats pretending to be Batwoman just doesn’t have quite the same feel to it.
Blondie asks the rookie if she’s “ready”, to which the rookie replies in the positive. For some reason, the music has a rather tense feel to it here, despite the fact that the scene could be out of any sorority initiation with very few modifications. Blondie hands Aimless Brunette a glass containing a dark liquid. Aimless Brunette proceeds to deliver the first in what will be many stilted, awkwardly written bits of dialogue.
|Aimless Brunette: Under Article 21, Paragraph 2, we accept your allegiance as a Batgirl. You will obey all rules and obey all commands handed through channels. Now drink this.|
The rookie is given the glass but hesitates, asking if she has to. She’s told it’s part of the ritual. Yeah, in a good film, we might think that something sinister was going on, but seeing as the above quoted line of dialogue is about as sinister as a blade of grass, it doesn’t really take. Anyhow, the rookie drinks and remarks that it tastes good and not all like she thought. The others join in, laughing. Aimless Brunette (actually, I just realized she’s probably a redhead, but generosity is not on the menu right now) responds with this bit of dialogue.
| Aimless Brunette: Now that you’re one of us, I can tell! We’re vampires all right, but only in a synthetic sense. Drinking the real stuff went out with Count Dracula.
Dumb Rookie: So what’s this?
Blondie: A real groove.
Aimless Brunette: Honey, mint cherry and strawberry yogurt!
I should note that the actresses here do a fine job of playing people who can’t move any part of their bodies other than their forearms, upper torsos, and heads. Of course, this makes them look like the Lincoln exhibit at Disneyland, so there are a few drawbacks to this particular acting technique. We get a close-up of the three drinking as loud heroic music blares. Hey, Mr. Music Guy? The current shot is of three bimbos chugging something they probably made up when the bong water ran out. It’s not Superman leaping over a tall building in a single bound, so put a sock in it.
We then cut to the title card. If you’re hoping to see the three women from the prologue again, you’re out of luck, because not only do they have nothing to do with the story, they never appear again. You see, this bit was tagged on after DC Comics hauled Warren into court, in an effort to convince audiences that this “Batwoman” is a bat woman because she’s a vampire, not because she has anything to do with Batman.
We then get the opening credits over a city skyline shot from a lone rooftop. Doesn’t quite give you the same sense of grandeur that the first Batman film did, eh?
The music cuts out abruptly and we fade into the film proper, which is out of focus. Yep, the DP on this film evidently never learned how to adjust the focus on his camera. We’ll soon learn that his framing technique is a bit off as well, but that’ll be later. The shot finally straightens itself out to reveal a dark alley, cutting quickly to two guys who look like something out of Central Casting for Hill Street Blues.
They approach a Random Citizen who apparently leaves his office through the back entrance into the sinister alley every night. Suddenly, the random citizen changes from a man in a trenchcoat and hat who’s carrying a suitcase, to a guy dressed in casual wear and a rather bad shirt. He’s whistling the classic ditty of crime films, “I Know I’m About to Die In This Sinister Alley But Dammit I Gotta Sing!” He also seems to have suddenly transported himself into an old Mexican village straight out of a spaghetti western.
He stops as he hears a voice, apparently not noticing the shadowy figure he was walking straight into. By the way, I doubt that American muggers refer to their prey as “mate”. London and Queensland muggers? Sure. The States? Not very likely.
We then see that there are actually two muggers, and they’re about to pull a bait and switch routine. I should also note that these are not the same two guys we saw earlier. Or maybe they are, and the lighting was bad. Oh god, I’ve gone into the darkness! It’s cold! So very cold!
Ahem, sorry. Anyway, one of the muggers asks for a light, to which our victim happily obliges. Mugger #2 pulls a gun and the first mugger asks for the money. You know, it’s really more fluid and smooth when you mug someone by yourself. For one thing, it’s much less complicated in the police report the next day.
Our victim du jour backs away against the wall, always a good strategy. He then says that if they want his money, they’ll have to come and get it. You know, this basically proves Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection right here.
Suddenly, back in this movie, two blondes—who apparently just hide in alleys with their mouths hanging open all night—pop up from behind a row of trash cans. As they appear, a gunshot rings out and the victim is shot off-screen. Their reaction? Well, I wouldn’t call it a reaction, per se. More like the look on a person’s face after a trans-orbital lobotomy.
The mugger with the gun stares at his weapon like an ape who just discovered fire. Then he drops it in shock. Yes, he’s about to leave the murder weapon at the scene of the crime. Well, I guess if the innocent people and heroes in this film are going to be brain-dead, then the bad guys might as well be too. The muggers run off, but not before taking the guy’s wallet.
The blondes are shocked, and now here’s the funny part: They’re Batgirls. Yes indeed, folks! These two are supposed to be some of our heroes! The blonde (or redhead) on the left uses her wrist watch to contact Batwoman, referring to herself as “Batgirl 14”. Actually, I can understand this, because if there weren’t thirteen girls more competent than her, it would probably cause the universe to implode.
She tells Batwoman what happened and says the police should be notified, which is odd when you consider that most superheroes actually take care of crime themselves and let the police do the paperwork. You ever see Batman let the locals track down the Joker while he sits back and has a smoke? No, and there’s a damn good reason for that.