Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

General goings on in the 1966 Batman World

Moderators: Scott Sebring, Ben Bentley

User avatar
High C
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:01 am

Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by High C » Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:27 am

I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but I'll put it out there anyway. After all, this board is all about an exchange of ideas, within limits, of course. I was inspired to post this by the ongoing current discussion of how the movie fits (and more often doesn't fit) with the continuity of the show.

Believe me, I enjoyed the byplay among the four villains. But the more I watch it as an adult, I feel like the movie didn't really advance the series. By that I mean, to use a term from this era, it was comfort food for the audience that already liked the show. It gave the fans at the time an opportunity to see many of their favorite villains in action in one sitting, and that's fine.

But the movie, while not a flop, didn't do the box-office business Dozier and Co. had hoped for. As Dozier (who was filled with bravado in his quotes before the movie debuted) later admitted, many people were unwilling to pay for something they believed they could get at home for free. So, the show was preaching to the choir, in effect. It appealed to the core fan base but not to the average potential moviegoer.

And watching the movie with adult eyes, it is kind of like an arc of the series on steroids. Yes, there are more villains, more Bat-gadgets and more modes of Bat-transportation. And the stakes are higher than usual. Still, to me anyway, it doesn't have a big-screen feel.

The addition of an A-list star as a villain could have changed that. Of course, that would have meant his/her salary would have had to come at the expense of the Big 4 villains, meaning he/she likely would've been a solo baddie. I'm not saying it would have made it a better movie. But it might have made it more appealing to the general populace, a group for whom the Bat-fad already was fading. It also would've made it feel more like a theatrical movie, rather than a TV show merely transplanted to the big screen.

So my question is this--could an A-lister as The Duo's foe have made for better box office and thus increased the show's ratings going forward? I'm not necessarily asking for an opinion on whom that A-lister might have been, although if you want to suggest one, that's fine too--I mostly want to know if you think it could have made a difference in the show's popularity.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

User avatar
AndyFish
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 6:42 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by AndyFish » Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:04 am

What a great question!
Keep in mind that at the time of the film we've not had any villain team ups so I think they were banking on this sort of Legion of Doom matchup to be enough to get people into theaters.
What they went with makes sense if it's true the movie was planned to come out first because that would have been the first time you meet these villains. I'm not sure I've bought that idea.

If they had gone with an A-List actor--and who are we talking about in 1966-- Cary Grant, Liz Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Alan Arkin, Walter Matthau, Paul Scofield (who I never heard of but won the Academy Award for best actor in a drama) etc.

The question then becomes how would they have handled this? Sinatra as Two-Face? Might work. Elvis as one of the lamer soon to be seen second season villains like The Minstrel? Might not. If you put a big star in the movie does he overshadow Batman the way Jack Nicholson did in 1989?

I think the movie as it is stands up pretty well, but at the time it was released there were many TV series that were putting together 2-3 episodes and releasing them as feature films and BATMAN THE MOVIE may have suffered from that. While I get that people didn't want to see this on the screen because they could see it at home, at home most people still had black and white TVs so this would have been the chance for a lot of people to see it in color and as I said we'd not seen villain team ups yet.

In terms of driving the ratings, I don't think audiences abandoned Batman, I think the producers abandoned the audience and started to give them a parody of the show that had started out red hot. I just recently re-watched the False Face and first Catwoman episodes and they are top notch. The production values are there, the comedy is subtle, and the camp is kept in check. Lorenzo warned future writers not to resort to parody or they would kill their golden goose and he was completely right.

Would Batman Vs Godzilla have been a bigger hit? As ridiculous as the pairing sounds, I think it might have been. Godzilla was dancing on Planet X with Monster Zero at the time so the idea of him coming up against Batman isn't as far fetched as it sounds. At the very least you're giving the audience something completely different from what they got for free on Wed and Thursday nights at home.

And Godzilla was a pretty big star, at least among the kiddie audiences.

User avatar
High C
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:01 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by High C » Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:54 am

Andy, thanks for your reply. You raised a lot of terrific points which I'll try to address.

As an aside, you and your wife Veronica are incredible artists. I'm a writer by trade, but I literally cannot draw anything more than a stick figure, so I marvel (lower-case) at your work. Kudos to the both of you.

AndyFish wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:04 am
What a great question!
Keep in mind that at the time of the film we've not had any villain team ups so I think they were banking on this sort of Legion of Doom matchup to be enough to get people into theaters.
What they went with makes sense if it's true the movie was planned to come out first because that would have been the first time you meet these villains. I'm not sure I've bought that idea.
Those are all legit points. As for if the movie was planned to be out first, I don't know. Keep in mind Julie Newmar didn't sign on for the series itself until the show had begun airing, and her movie contract was dated April 1. Per Dozier's papers at the University of Wyoming, the first movie contract for an actor was signed on Jan. 3, 1966. Make of that what you will.
If they had gone with an A-List actor--and who are we talking about in 1966-- Cary Grant, Liz Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Alan Arkin, Walter Matthau, Paul Scofield (who I never heard of but won the Academy Award for best actor in a drama) etc.

The question then becomes how would they have handled this? Sinatra as Two-Face? Might work. Elvis as one of the lamer soon to be seen second season villains like The Minstrel? Might not.
Sinatra might have been a possibility. Again, we're talking about myth and legend perhaps mixing with reality, but the late Stanley Ralph Ross swore that Sinatra told him on a movie set he had wanted to be a villain. And other sources over the years have said The Chairman of the Board had his eyes on the Joker role.

Another legit possibility could have been Rod Steiger. Not a matinee idol but an A-lister who was getting starring roles at the time. Dozier's files contain a letter, per TV historian Martin Grams, in which Steiger expressed interest in being on the show. The exact letter isn't quoted, so perhaps he was thinking window cameo, although the intense Steiger might well have wanted to play a villain. It's a fascinating what-if.
If you put a big star in the movie does he overshadow Batman the way Jack Nicholson did in 1989?
Another board member (epaddon, to be specific) raised this question to me privately. We both thought that casting a woman might help alleviate this. Not that an A-list woman would've been less of a presence, but then you could set up a Kitka-like situation of Bruce Wayne chastely romancing her alter ego. It means more screen time for Adam and means his characters(s) would be more invested in the alter ego of the villainess. Let's be honest--Bruce Wayne palling around with a guy who turns out to be the villain wouldn't possess the same emotional impact of a CW=Kitka type reveal, UNLESS, obviously, it's Harvey Dent.
In terms of driving the ratings, I don't think audiences abandoned Batman, I think the producers abandoned the audience and started to give them a parody of the show that had started out red hot. I just recently re-watched the False Face and first Catwoman episodes and they are top notch. The production values are there, the comedy is subtle, and the camp is kept in check. Lorenzo warned future writers not to resort to parody or they would kill their golden goose and he was completely right.
There's no question you're right about this, although I will say the movie initiated another problem. I can't prove this, but I think it's a reasonable inference/extrapolation to believe that Dozier held Big 4 episodes back early in season 2 (other than Julie, who wasn't in the movie) in a feeble attempt to maybe squeeze out some more box office.

Starting season 2 with the first produced arc, the Pengy restaurant caper, would've been a much better alternative to Archer, which was SLAMMED by the newspaper critics and thus helped send the snowball rolling downhill.
Would Batman Vs Godzilla have been a bigger hit? As ridiculous as the pairing sounds, I think it might have been. Godzilla was dancing on Planet X with Monster Zero at the time so the idea of him coming up against Batman isn't as far fetched as it sounds. At the very least you're giving the audience something completely different from what they got for free on Wed and Thursday nights at home.

And Godzilla was a pretty big star, at least among the kiddie audiences.
I can't argue with this. Again, to use a 2010s term, this kind of a mashup could've been a grabber.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

User avatar
epaddon
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:09 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by epaddon » Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:51 am

Just to elaborate regarding the point I had made to High C about a woman "A-list" star as a villainess with a Kitka like alter ego, the two names I had in mind were Natalie Wood and Lee Remick. Both were in the "never do a guest shot on episodic TV" type, but at the same time neither I think would have necessarily overshadowed Batman the way that an Elizabeth Taylor would have done. Either one of them would have represented someone decidedly different than what we would have been able to see for free on TV.

User avatar
High C
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:01 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by High C » Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:03 pm

epaddon wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:51 am
Just to elaborate regarding the point I had made to High C about a woman "A-list" star as a villainess with a Kitka like alter ego, the two names I had in mind were Natalie Wood and Lee Remick. Both were in the "never do a guest shot on episodic TV" type, but at the same time neither I think would have necessarily overshadowed Batman the way that an Elizabeth Taylor would have done. Either one of them would have represented someone decidedly different than what we would have been able to see for free on TV.
Both Remick and Wood are good ideas for a villainess, IMO.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

User avatar
BATWINGED HORNET
Posts: 0
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:32 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by BATWINGED HORNET » Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:07 pm

Good topic, High C.
High C wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:27 am
But the movie, while not a flop, didn't do the box-office business Dozier and Co. had hoped for. As Dozier (who was filled with bravado in his quotes before the movie debuted) later admitted, many people were unwilling to pay for something they believed they could get at home for free. So, the show was preaching to the choir, in effect. It appealed to the core fan base but not to the average potential moviegoer.
True, and even though the so-called "superhero boom" had taken root in North America by 1966, it did not means superheroes were...well...bulletproof to the pount where anything produced would become a hit. Further, if looking through the eyes of audiences in the summer of 1966, by the time the movie was released, I'm guessing anything interesting about Dozier's Batman had been explored in that first season to the point where the movie probably inspired audiences--when watching the trailer--to say, "What? Why is this a movie?"

Audiences were not stupid--they knew there was no "there" there, aside from the well advertised Bat-vehicles and the novelty of four villains teaming up, but at the end of it all, it was just more of the same, not giving anyone a reason why this deserved their money.
The addition of an A-list star as a villain could have changed that. Of course, that would have meant his/her salary would have had to come at the expense of the Big 4 villains, meaning he/she likely would've been a solo baddie. I'm not saying it would have made it a better movie. But it might have made it more appealing to the general populace, a group for whom the Bat-fad already was fading. It also would've made it feel more like a theatrical movie, rather than a TV show merely transplanted to the big screen.

So my question is this--could an A-lister as The Duo's foe have made for better box office and thus increased the show's ratings going forward? I'm not necessarily asking for an opinion on whom that A-lister might have been, although if you want to suggest one, that's fine too--I mostly want to know if you think it could have made a difference in the show's popularity.
I'm not sure an A-lister would have changed the film's outcome. One, because the general quality of the Batman scripts had already headed south at the very end of the 1st season, so it makes it difficult to imagine any actor coming off in a more engaging fashion with the then-standard writing. Two, everyone was familiar with the formula, so in what way would a bigger star change the perceptions of / interest in the series?

In other words, I doubt an actor of any presence / stature would have saved the kind of plots and appraoch that was becoming commonplace at the time, and with the wrters not having the will--or creativity--to do break out of the format and challenge themsleves, the audience was not going to be challenged, either. Certainly not with a known product like a TV spin-off.

To be clear, I like the movie, believing it to be the very last time West and Ward were perfect in their roles (including physical appearance), and is superior to most of the series outside of season one. The main title sequence and Riddle's very non-Hefti take on a Batman theme (people tend to forget that he did create the 1st, original Batman movie theme) are unforgettable and I would rank it among the best in a decade where innovative main title sequences were beung created every other minute.That said, the film was just covering ground already explored, so I still do not know how an A-lister would have taken the feet-in-cement Greenway apprach, and moved it toward something more appealing to anyone other than the die-hards.
Beneath Wayne Manor

User avatar
Mark Racop
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 5:51 pm

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by Mark Racop » Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:49 pm

Interesting topic. It was my understanding that the movie served as a pilot to sell the TV show overseas. Others will know the timing better than me to know if this is correct, or just another rumor.

For me, it's all in the writing. I thought the story concept was far better than the final script. The production was rushed, all of Adam's scenes were shot at the beginning, and the final result was not the slick movie that it really needed to be.

User avatar
High C
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:01 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by High C » Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:53 pm

BATWINGED HORNET wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:07 pm
Good topic, High C.
Thanks!

True, and even though the so-called "superhero boom" had taken root in North America by 1966, it did not means superheroes were...well...bulletproof to the pount where anything produced would become a hit. Further, if looking through the eyes of audiences in the summer of 1966, by the time the movie was released, I'm guessing anything interesting about Dozier's Batman had been explored in that first season to the point where the movie probably inspired audiences--when watching the trailer--to say, "What? Why is this a movie?"
I suspect that was a common reaction, and one Dozier did not count on.
Audiences were not stupid--they knew there was no "there" there, aside from the well advertised Bat-vehicles and the novelty of four villains teaming up, but at the end of it all, it was just more of the same, not giving anyone a reason why this deserved their money.
Again, a fair point.
I'm not sure an A-lister would have changed the film's outcome. One, because the general quality of the Batman scripts had already headed south at the very end of the 1st season, so it makes it difficult to imagine any actor coming off in a more engaging fashion with the then-standard writing. Two, everyone was familiar with the formula, so in what way would a bigger star change the perceptions of / interest in the series?

In other words, I doubt an actor of any presence / stature would have saved the kind of plots and appraoch that was becoming commonplace at the time, and with the wrters not having the will--or creativity--to do break out of the format and challenge themsleves, the audience was not going to be challenged, either.
I agree with you to a point. The writing definitely had become a problem, and as much as I admire Semple for creating and setting the proper tone for the series, writing strong female characters wasn't his best attribute. So for a movie with Wood or Remick providing the villainy, Dozier/Greenway/Fox would've had to go out of their respective comfort zones and find someone else.

It's instructive to look at the 1967 Fox movie, Fathom, starring Raquel Welch as a dental hygienist/skydiver turned spy. (Yes, you heard me right.) The film was a box-office disappointment despite the lure of seeing Raquel Welch in a bikini. What did the movie have in common with Batman? It was written by Semple and directed by Leslie Martinson.

The movie and Welch got mixed reviews, although I liked her performance. But of course, in the climactic moment of Semple's script, Tony Franciosa has to run in and save her, because, you know, you can't trust wimmen to take care of themselves when the chips are down... :roll:

So you just might be right, in terms of that combo NOT being the one to transfer 1966 Batman to the big screen, if the goal is to get new eyes watching and to feature a strong new villainess.
To be clear, I like the movie, believing it to be the very last time West and Ward were perfect in their roles (including physical appearance), and is superior to most of the series outside of season one.
I agree 100 percent. I thought both West and Ward totally were on point at that juncture, and at the height of their respective performances. That's why part of me wishes Adam could have had the chance to play off someone such as Wood or Remick in their respective primes for extended scenes. I'm not saying it would have changed TPTB's assessment of Adam and prevented the future typecasting, but he deserved the showcase and I believe he would have risen to the occasion.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

User avatar
John Mack
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:15 pm

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by John Mack » Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:19 pm

Great question. But remember, one of the reasons Dozier and crew gave for such a slim Box office was that the Man from Uncle was tacking together TV episodes and turning them into "movies." People were upset at paying money for what they could have seen for free (I know you guys touched on that.) But the posters and lobby cards for Batman did read, "All new never before seen on TV" but IMO not prominent enough. Maybe if it had been written all across the top it may have stood out more?
You guys seemed to have all bases covered, so I'll just throw out names. But it should be interesting to note that there was not an at least recognizable star in the Bat climb scene. We did get Jack LaLane for the Batcopter fly over.

So here goes: Robert Wagner (sp?), Clint Eastwood (probably too busy with his Westerns), Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, Rod Serling--how cool would THAT have been doing his Twilight Zone pop up! Or heck, why not Alfred Hitchcock?

I agree, no one would have boosted the BO that much though.
Attachments
0e743797b9a507dd0da5b6dc3fe89fd7.jpg
Music. BAT! Music.

User avatar
Keith Mayo
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Oct 22, 2017 5:52 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by Keith Mayo » Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:47 pm

AndyFish wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:04 am
...........if it's true the movie was planned to come out first because that would have been the first time you meet these villains. I'm not sure I've bought that idea.
Is this really in doubt? I've read many statements made by differnt sources that all say the movie was originally meant to grab the tv audience's attention PRIOR to the show running in Sept of '66. When ABC moved the show to Jan '66 that idea was scrubbed. Filmed between seasons 1 and 2 caused the shift in the movie being used to sell to the overseas market.

If there's any documentation to the contrary, I'd sure like to see it.
"It's the very essence of our democracy". - Batman, S1 Ep 11

User avatar
epaddon
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:09 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by epaddon » Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:11 pm

John Mack wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:19 pm
Great question. But remember, one of the reasons Dozier and crew gave for such a slim Box office was that the Man from Uncle was tacking together TV episodes and turning them into "movies." People were upset at paying money for what they could have seen for free (I know you guys touched on that.) But the posters and lobby cards for Batman did read, "All new never before seen on TV" but IMO not prominent enough. Maybe if it had been written all across the top it may have stood out more?
But it seems to me though that if you use someone that the public *knows* is not a TV performer but is an A-list movie star type who wouldn't be caught dead as a TV series guest star, then you're doing much to signal that this is something you're not going to be seeing on TV. Names like Wood, Remick, or on the male side Jack Lemmon (who basically plays an outsized Bat-villain type in "The Great Race") would at the very least be a grabber who would get more people to look (and Lemmon is the best example of a male A-list star who wouldn't necessarily overpower Adam off the screen IMO).

elmrgraham
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:25 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by elmrgraham » Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:42 pm

I think that the 1966 Movie turned out ok.If it aint broke,do not fix it.

User avatar
BATWINGED HORNET
Posts: 0
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:32 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by BATWINGED HORNET » Thu Jun 21, 2018 2:40 am

elmrgraham wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:42 pm
I think that the 1966 Movie turned out ok.If it aint broke,do not fix it.

Well if the 1.5 million budget is accurate information, and only earned an estimated 1.7 million, that's broke for a movie coming off of a successful 1st season of a TV series. I think there's no way to say the film was anything other than a flop, and that's all the indicators of Dozier's Batman already being "broke", or the cracks already appearing.
Beneath Wayne Manor

elmrgraham
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:25 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by elmrgraham » Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:21 am

I respectfully disagree.

User avatar
Dr. Shimel
Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:14 am

Re: Did the '66 movie need an A-list star?

Post by Dr. Shimel » Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:01 am

Simple Batman math: A-Listers cost serious $$ + Dozier was cheap = Absolutely no chance of happening.

Post Reply