Wednesday, January 12, 2011

James Bond + Batman = James Batman!

No pop culture icons were more popular in 1966 than Batman, then being played by Adam West in the nova-hit ABC television series, and James Bond, whom Sean Connery had played in four motion pictures to that point. Leave it to the Philippines film industry, thousands of miles from American or British copyright lawyers, to jump on to the Bond/Batman bandwagon and make a movie ripping both heroes off at the same time. Thus, JAMES BATMAN, in which Filipino actor Rodolfo Quizon, known to audiences as Dolphy, tackles both in a tour de force dual role.

Artemio Marquez isn’t much of a director, using too many static long takes and shooting the comedy from the other side of the soundstage so we can’t see the sight gags clearly. There’s also the problem of doing a parody of two characters who were already parodying themselves at that time. You can’t mock Adam West if he’s already beaten you to it. That doesn’t mean JAMES BATMAN can’t be fun. The many fight sequences are energetically staged and often use crazy camera angles to punctuate the action. It’s like Marquez didn’t care about the dialogue scenes and got them out of the way as quickly as possible so he could get to shooting the fun stuff.

The plot is straight-on pulpy fun: Batman and James Bond (and Robin, played by former child actor Boy Alano) are called to action to save the world from destruction by an international criminal cartel called CLAW, which includes a Fu Manchu guy who shoots rays from his fingers (and threatens the United Nations with a silent elderly sidekick played by a hilariously out-of-it extra) and the seductive Black Rose who mesmerizes her enemies with both force and her enticing cleavage. The Penguin is a cigar-smoking ham dressed like Mr. Peanut who chases a naked Bond on a beach.

The comedy isn’t especially funny—or, more likely, doesn’t translate that well to the Western world—though Dolphy has his charms in both roles, and the biggest laughs come through his interplay with Alano. Strangely, instead of a tuxedo, his James wears a loud plaid jacket that belies the character’s alleged suavity. Though there isn’t much dignity in dressing only in a palm leaf and getting bitten on the ass by a centipede.

JAMES BATMAN is broad, silly, extremely crudely produced, and haphazardly directed. It also happens to be a lot of fun if you’re in the right mood. The humor is in good spirits, though the jokes are dispensed with near the end, so JAMES BATMAN can climax with a heavy cacophony of zap rays and machine guns and karate kicks set to a Riddlesque jazz score that certainly owes royalties to Neil Hefti.

1 comment:

sleestakk said...

Yep, looks like something I'd like. Available other than in pieces on Youtube? Also worth noting how Adam West's Batman was so popular it fueled the revitalization of the comic book, which was still floundering / getting pummeled by Marvel.