Like a film genre exploring Batarang that has passed the ellipsis of it’s flight I have returned to the source of my second to last review, the 1960s Batman. By which I mean I’ve gone from the 1966 Batman movie, to the exact opposite in the form of Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story and now I have rejoined Adam West & Burt Ward for what my be their most confounding adventure yet. The theft of the Batmobile. What in the blue hell am I on about? Click the link to find out.
Return To the Batcave: The Misadventures Of Adam & Burt is, other than being a film with an overly long title, a made for TV movie produced in 2003. It follows Adam West and Burt Ward, playing themselves, as they investigate the theft of the 1960s TV series Batmobile from a charity auction in aid of an orphanage. Both received mysterious invitations in the night to this charity gala but neither were originally on the guest list which obviously suggests a cunning ruse. Naturally there’s no time to call the police, despite everyone having a cell phone, and so it’s up to Adam and Burt to put their detective skills to the test to discover just who is the fiendish felon behind the theft.
I thank the Gods of whatever religion is currently trending highest on Twitter that at some point Adam West stopped trying to be an actor and instead created a persona for himself that has now become legend. These days he effectively plays a brilliant comedic version of himself acting very much like a senile version of the Bruce Wayne of the 60s show. He’s certainly gotten some mileage out of this acceptance of his most famous role, I suggest watching a pilot for a TV show called Lookwell for possibly the first incarnation of this version of Adam West. His and Burt Wards willingness to mock their own celebrity and persona is exactly what makes this TV movie a pure joy to watch.
As the not as dynamic duo’s adventure moves along they find themselves moving between various locations encountering the sort of strange scenarios that would have fit right in during their TV show days. They drive to Arizona after finding a clue, forgetting there’s a bar called Arizona around the corner from the charity auction they were attending. At the bar they manage to not recognise Julie Newmar, for the same reasons no-one recognises Bruce Wayne when he’s dressed as Batman we are informed. At the bar the patron all have their names on their shirts, the bartender even has the word “Bartender” on his. Villain is afoot though and a fight ensues. Obviously in true Batman style we’re aware that villainy is in the vicinity thanks to the Dutch camera angles. And why were the angles always so crooked? Because so is villainy of course. The references and in jokes smattered throughout this film come thick and fast. Anyone with just a passing knowledge of the show will be able to get the jokes. And to be fair Return To the Batcave is actually pretty damn funny at times.
Early on Adam West makes the sort of logical conclusion Batman was always famed for by suggesting that the villain of the piece may have his motives in the past, and so it’s up to Adam and Burt to reminisce on their days on the show. What this results in is a series of flashbacks to the 60s show, acting almost as a comedic biopic. Playing the young Adam and Burt is Jack Brewer and Jason Marsden. Both pull off the task of acting like no-one else can quite well and their adventures prove to be just as amusing as the real Adam and Burt’s.
Obviously a film like this isn’t meant to be winning awards for it’s writing or cinematography. It’s pure entertainment and fun and has no intention of being much else. On this level Return To The Batcave works very well. It’s genuinely funny with some good running gags involving absent stuntmen and Adam West’s ability to avoid paying for anything. What Return To the Batcave really excels at is just how much of a loving tribute to the show and it’s stars it really is. Granted by the time this was made there wasn’t many surviving cast members remaining so the list of cameos is fairly short. To their favour though the greatest of all performers from the 60s series is here in full force in the form of Frank Gorshin. He may have been very old at the time this was made but you can still see that comedic brilliance in him. Joining Frank is Julie Newmar (As mentioned) and Lee Meriwether who portrayed Catwoman only in the movie. Oddly in a scene that involves a sort of Batdance based tribute to Newmar, a scene she is actually in, video footage being played on a screen behind them is of Meriwether’s Catwoman. This is apparently down to licensing issues.
I was honestly quite surprised at just how solidly enjoyable this TV movie was. It’s fun, light hearted, knowing and littered with the sort of love usually reserved for fan made productions… and maybe a certain porn film director by the name of Alex Braun. The film features a nice little treasure for fans in the form of Lyle Waggoner’s original screen test for the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, which he lost. He does provide the voice of the films narrator, which Adam and Burt can hear. It’s a little tricky to track down this film so I suggest going online for it if your interest has been peaked. Conveniently you’re already online so that’s a time saver. It’ll be well worth your time to pick up if you ever grew up watching the Dynamic Duo’s adventures on TV as I did.