TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

General goings on in the 1966 Batman World

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TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

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Director Leslie Martinson, in his TV Academy interview that we explored last time, kept coming back to the question “What is the director’s input” in a TV show or movie? When he pointed out his input to the famous “bomb” scene in “Batman: The Movie,” we became curious to see what other aspects of the film might show signs of “the director’s input.” So this time, we dig into the script of the Batman ’66 film to see where else Martinson’s fingerprints might turn up. We also find the origin of the name "Kitka" and why the Penguin-sub was seemingly customized in 1 week!

ALSO: The Nostalgia Choir (?) version of the Batman theme, your input on episode 142, and D’oh prizes galore for “Impish Humor Batman” sightings in the series!

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

Post by Ben Bentley »

This new episode fortuitously appeared as a push notification in my Podcast feed just as I was heading out for my daily constitutional...walk.

A few thoughts in somewhat of a chronologcal order:

- Tim mentioned Einser's remark about the movie being written before the series, that I believe features both in his book and in his TTBP blog entry - it's a tidbit that gets regurgiatated regularly over time. From what I can tell there is no real basis or corroboration for this at face value. Not to say that Lorenzo didn't have some sort of loose treatment for a Batman movie concept, but in terms of the nuts and bolts of the movie that we come to know, it's fair to say that even as late as mid-March of '66, Lorenzo had still not finalized the synopsis and subsequent screenplay that eventually crosses Dozier and Horwitz desks in late April. To this point is an interesting correspondence that Dozier sent to Semple on March 15th, 1966 in which he reminds Lorenzo that he needs to make sure he writes the Joker into the story and also makes a point of telling him to keep the "shrunken man" business to a minimum. See below...
Screenshot 2020-10-16 at 23.16.27.jpg
- In the first edition of Eisner's book, he makes reference to a few specifics from a first draft of the script - now that is something I would love to read, but have not come across in my research thus far.
Screenshot 2020-10-29 at 18.09.32.jpg
- Regarding Frank's performance and Paul's observations of a less manic approach; in all honesty i'm contiunally impressed by what Frank does actually manage to do given how little is actually on the page for either he or Cesar. It's not unfair (I don't think), to say that Riddler and Joker are ultimately superfluous to the otherwise Pengy and Catwoman oriented plot of the movie. It's yet another feather in the caps of Frank and Cesar as the irrefutible professionals that they are to be able to do so much with comparatively so little to work with on the page. As a a lot of the folks here on our message board know (from prior discussions over the years and as recently as our Video Bat-Chat sessions), one of my personal favourite Frank moments in the movie is: "I've got the perfect idea..."

Image (Any excuse to use this GIF!)

- The movie was shot on the same 35mm film stock that was used for the series, for the movie it was indeed (as Paul suspected) masked off to produce a widescreen presentation for it's theatrical release. Scott has a relevant anecdote to this effect that i'll tag him in to share...

- I believe Tim queried who the "Frank" in the memo was whilst discussing the Schweppes gag - Frank H Ferguson was in-house legal counsel at Twentieth Century Fox. Not to be confused with the actor Frank Ferguson of Peyton Place fame, who was also concidentally contracted at Fox at the time.

- The official contract for the movie Batcycle between "Kustomotive" and TCF/Greenway is dated April 12th, 1966, a week after the date on the final draft of the movie script and only six days before the finished Batcycle was delivered.
Screenshot 2020-10-29 at 18.29.44.jpg
- Just an additional "FYI" given that it came up in the Batcycle context, from what I can tell in the exchanges that took place between he and Dozier, Lorenzo was back in the US from Spain by late 1965/early January 1966.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

Post by FLOYDLEWIS »

I have a question (I have always wondered) ..in the Batman movie was the BAT shadow or silhouette behind Bruce Wayne on purpose? Adam West told me in 2012 "WOW I never really noticed that before ..cool"
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

Post by High C »

It's my oversight for not mentioning it in the script thread, but as far as Sterling Holloway (Major Terry) is concerned, this board has provided proof at least one of his scenes WAS filmed, via a scan of a vintage promo photo. Check it out:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1558&p=16183&hilit= ... way#p16183
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

Post by bat-rss »

Ben, Thanks for all the bat-facts - makin' us feel like rank Bat-amateurs :)
Ben Bentley wrote: Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:52 am
- Tim mentioned Einser's remark about the movie being written before the series, that I believe features both in his book and in his TTBP blog entry - it's a tidbit that gets regurgiatated regularly over time. From what I can tell there is no real basis or corroboration for this at face value. Not to say that Lorenzo didn't have some sort of loose treatment for a Batman movie concept, but in terms of the nuts and bolts of the movie that we come to know, it's fair to say that even as late as mid-March of '66, Lorenzo had still not finalized the synopsis and subsequent screenplay that eventually crosses Dozier and Horwitz desks in late April. To this point is an interesting correspondence that Dozier sent to Semple on March 15th, 1966 in which he reminds Lorenzo that he needs to make sure he writes the Joker into the story and also makes a point of telling him to keep the "shrunken man" business to a minimum. See below...

Screenshot 2020-10-16 at 23.16.27.jpg
D'oh. A memo that was in the stack but, as I was trying to absorb in running across it fairly soon before recording, I missed that one! Well, I think I did see it, but took for granted that the Big Four must have all been in it from the beginning, and didn't hit on the significance of the "Joker" coment.

Ben Bentley wrote: Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:52 am - In the first edition of Eisner's book, he makes reference to a few specifics from a first draft of the script - now that is something I would love to read, but have not come across in my research thus far.

Screenshot 2020-10-29 at 18.09.32.jpg
All of the assertions about the script on this page of the original Batbook are in the script we discussed on the podcast - actual JETPACK umbrellas, etc.
Ben Bentley wrote: Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:52 am - Regarding Frank's performance and Paul's observations of a less manic approach; in all honesty i'm contiunally impressed by what Frank does actually manage to do given how little is actually on the page for either he or Cesar. It's not unfair (I don't think), to say that Riddler and Joker are ultimately superfluous to the otherwise Pengy and Catwoman oriented plot of the movie. It's yet another feather in the caps of Frank and Cesar as the irrefutible professionals that they are to be able to do so much with comparatively so little to work with on the page. As a a lot of the folks here on our message board know (from prior discussions over the years and as recently as our Video Bat-Chat sessions), one of my personal favourite Frank moments in the movie is: "I've got the perfect idea..."

Image (Any excuse to use this GIF!)
In fact, they made so much out of their small parts that I didn't even notice that their parts were relatively tiny until it was pointed out to me!
Ben Bentley wrote: Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:52 am - The movie was shot on the same 35mm film stock that was used for the series, for the movie it was indeed (as Paul suspected) masked off to produce a widescreen presentation for it's theatrical release. Scott has a relevant anecdote to this effect that i'll tag him in to share...

- I believe Tim queried who the "Frank" in the memo was whilst discussing the Schweppes gag - Frank H Ferguson was in-house legal counsel at Twentieth Century Fox. Not to be confused with the actor Frank Ferguson of Peyton Place fame, who was also concidentally contracted at Fox at the time.
Yeah, the actor was all I could find, but there seemed to be no reason for Dozier to write to HIM about this! Thanks
Ben Bentley wrote: Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:52 am - Just an additional "FYI" given that it came up in the Batcycle context, from what I can tell in the exchanges that took place between he and Dozier, Lorenzo was back in the US from Spain by late 1965/early January 1966.
Wow, this surprises me. I was thinking I'd read that Semple was still in Spain throughout season one, and his distance from LA was why he didn't stay on as script editor in the last two seasons. Although, this has now jogged a memory that he had moved to, where, Boston??
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

Post by HELLOLARRY »

If the movie was truly going to introduce Batman to a 1966 audience I would think the start of the film had to be rewritten at some point. When you see how Bruce and Dick / Batman and Robin are introduced, it almost assumes we are already familiar with the Shakespeare head, Batpoles etc. The introduction of these things is far more theatrical and involved in the pilot episode.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

Post by Jim Akin »

This was a fun review of the feature film and script. Thanks for watching it one more time for all of us.

I never picked up on the fact that the movie script had Batman acknowledging his parents' murders at a press conference. That would have been an absurd breach of secret-identity protocol.

You noted the feature script's lack of description of all the pacing in Gordon's office as our heroes ponder who made the yacht vanish. That's interesting, since the constant pacing in the first-ever GCPD HQ scene in Hi Diddle Riddle isn't spelled out in the pilot script, either. I wonder if we can assume pilot director Robert Butler called for continual movement in that first scene in Gordon's office, and that Martinson took a cue from it, after studying the pilot as prep for the movie or for directing The Penguin Goes Straight.

As to whether the Zap-Pow titles that accompany Batman's fisticuffs also apply to Bruce, in Pop Goes the Joker, they do: When Robin comes to rescue Bruce and other wealthy abductees at Joker's art school, Bruce joins in a slugfest with Joker's goons and some of his punches trigger sound effects. That episode aired late in season 2, and much of Semple's "bible" for the show seems to have been jettisoned by then (even in Semple's own scripts), so it may not offer much insight into the battle of Ye Olde Benbow Tavern, but there you have it.

Thanks for the D'oh Prize. It's the stuff geek dreams are made of.
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High C
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

Post by High C »

Another fun discussion, guys. I liked some of the schtick, including Paul's question about whether Bruce Wayne was chairman of the Gotham City Riddle Commission. Tim, you had a great point about Penguin not having enough time in the script to have Penguinized the sub.

Thanks for the shoutout. I'm glad you got something out of that paperwork.

Now, I realize your mission statement was the director's input, and you did a fine job with it. And thank you, Paul, for giving a film professor's view of Martinson's work here.

But I must say I felt this was not Lorenzo's finest hour and he did not live up to the podcast's notion of the Semplian ideal. No, it is not yet a sitcom here, and Martinson certainly amped up the slapstick in the bomb sequence, as his TV Academy interview showed, but this is more slapsticky and less naively campy than most of Semple's season 1 work. It lacks a lot of the subtleties and the rhythms we all grew accustomed to in season 1 and exchanges them for much broader fare, and for me, it's not a good tradeoff.

The larger canvas also, as others have said, magnifies one of Semple's shortcomings--the inability to produce good deathtrap escapes. So many of the escapes basically happen off-camera that it's easy to imagine movie-going kids in 1966 exclaiming, 'what a gyp' once or twice in August 1966. Again, it's not the sitcom it would become by mid-to-late season 2, and it's not the abject disaster season 3 would become, save one or two new female characters ;) , but it doesn't quite feel the same as the carefully crafted phenomenon that had burst onto the scene merely seven months before. It's a bigger spectacle, but there's no sense of grandeur. And that's partly on Semple, although not as much as it is on Martinson and Dozier.

And in terms of secret-identity reveals, wouldn't Robin yelling, 'HOLY HEARTBREAK' RIGHT IN FRONT OF CATWOMAN/KITKA be a pretty blatant reveal?? I've thought that since the first time I saw the movie as a teenager. I know Semple tries to paper it over with a line from Batman, but it seems to me like 'holy heartbreak' is 'compromising' enough.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

Post by Dan E Kool »

Great show, guys. And fantastic post, too, Ben Bentley. You are both all-seeing and all-knowing.

As I wrap up your second take on Martinson and his direction of the movie, I'm reflecting on Hich C's hypothetical rewrite of the movie from last time. And so on a similar topic, I'll bring up an alternate 66 Movie scenario of my own.

If not Martinson, then who?

Tim and Paul discussed Martinson's career in TV direction. I wonder how the script might have been shot if it had been handled by someone with a feature-length resume behind them. For that matter, how might the movie have fared under the direction of a series regular like George WaGGner, Oscar Rudolph, or Robert Butler?

Personally, I'm leaning toward an imaginary movie as directed by Otto Preminger. Wild!

What do you all think?
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #145: “Batman: The Movie”: What is “the director’s input”?

Post by THE BATPHONE! »

“Personally, I'm leaning toward an imaginary movie as directed by Otto Preminger. Wild!

What do you all think?”

I’m sure he would have done a great job with his direction. But I wouldn’t even wish my worst enemy to suffer through a shoot with Preminger as director :?
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