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The Greatest Stories Ever Told

The 2010 Paramount Summer Film Classics

By Kate X Messer, May 21, 2010, Screens

Abduction: 'Batman'

It's not the darkest of Dark Knight sagas, yet this high-camp thriller has disturbed me ever since I first saw it. Between my tender ages of 3 and 4, my preteen sibs and a gaggle of Swedish neighbor kids walked me to see my very first film in a movie palace. We passed a lot of looming brick walls – which my overactive imagination construed as corridors of doom. Since I was the littlest and was about as academic regarding all things Dynamic Duo as one could be at that age, I, of course, imagined myself Robin, boy-wondering if Batman would save me or how I would escape from these blond absconders. It was summer rerun season, 1966, and the Batman movie was opening (coincidentally, having its world premiere that summer right here in Austin, Texas, at the Paramount). I remember that when we entered the theatre, it was dark. Very dark. Our house was never that dark when Batman was on TV. WTF? As the feature hit the screen, a very stylized, much-more-brooding-than-the-TV-show Nelson Riddle theme song accompanied monochromatic images of our heroes pursuing sneaky trench-coat-clad people against brick walls, which of course scared the crap out of me. Consequently, I have very little active memory of the actual movie – I was probably under my seat for the entire duration. Which is a good thing, because for the better part of the 105-minute epic someone is getting abducted by villains for the sole purpose of luring Batman (Adam West) into their evil lair. Right off the bat, our caped crew of two deduces – through crack Da Vinci Code-like melding of intuition and "hard" science – that a villain supergroup including the Joker (Cesar Romero), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether) has shanghaied an inventor and his invention. And before the evildoers pull off their plot to abduct (and use the invention to dehydrate!) the entire security council of the very U.N.-like United World Organization, Catwoman snatches Bruce Wayne (not knowing he's you-know-who) to lure Batman to the rescue. Horrifying. I am sad that as a child I was so sophisticatedly wily (and hence paranoid) about kidnapping, because otherwise I would have probably truly found scenes featuring phallic umbrella rockets, a lit bomb and flock of baby ducks, an exploding shark, a foam-rubber wholesalers convention, a submarine with a penguin-faced periscope, and all the BrokeBat subtext between (me) Robin and (fill in the blank) his mentor very enjoyable.

Batman screens Sunday, June 6, at 2pm, with Adam West in attendance (special event prices).

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