For those of us of a certain age, there is only one Batman. He was portrayed on early color television and in a 1966 movie by Adam West ( born William West Anderson), who just left us. And also for us “vintage” Bat-fans, there is just one Batmobile, and this is it:
Batman (As Millionaire Bruce Wayne): “Quick, to the Batpoles!” Whoosh! Dick Grayson (As Robin, in the car): “Atomic batteries to power… turbines to speed.” The hidden cave door drops, a sign falls, revealing it’s 14 miles to Gotham City. “Da da da da da da da da da… ‘BATMAN’!“
There have been “Batman” cartoons and comic books and TV shows and movies, but the one vehicle that carried the Dynamic Duo and won the popularity vote is George Barris‘ 1966 TV Batmobile. Originally a car show concept car, a 1955 Lincoln Futura was the donor vehicle for the Batmobile. And how much did Mr. Barris pay for the Futura? Try just one Bat-dollar!
There would be 3 more copies later, built from fiberglass molds onto stretched Ford Galaxie frames for public displays and such. Ghia of Italy built the Futura; it was used in “It Started With A Kiss” with Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford.
The Futura was sold to Mr. Barris since Ford had no use for it and was storing it at Mr. Barris’ shop anyway. The 21-day conversion included enlarging the tailfins, black paint, red trim, red flashing lights, new headlight fins, and new Bat-trim.
Wayne Enterprises (and Hollywood) added a high-energy Bat-beam, Bat-ray, nose-mounted chain cutter, direct connection to the Batcomputer in the Batcave, a mobile Batphone, Bat-zooka, Bat-tering ram, a portable inflatable Batmobile, and parachutes for the much-anticipated Bat-turns. A mobile “Batmobile Parachute Pickup Service” van would immediately dispatch and retrieve the discarded silk after each daring traffic maneuver. “Holy turn-on-a-dime, Batman!”
The first appearance of a Batmobile was in Detective Comics #27, May, 1939. Since then, the Batmobiles have reflected the trends and technology of the times, including today’s armored vehicle and Batpod. But the 1966 show was so far over the top with crazy gadgets and camp humor that this car remains the favorite of most Batfans.
Premiering on January 12, 1966, “BATMAN” changed TV forever. Color television was new, and this show made the most of it! There were three seasons before the show was cancelled by ABC. There would have been a fourth season and hopefully beyond, but the sets were bulldozed before word came down that NBC wanted the show.
Between the first and second season, the “BATMAN” movie was released, introducing us to the Batboat, Batcycle, and Batcopter. The higher film budget allowed these vehicles to be built, and footage from the movie was inserted into the series from time to time.
Anybody who was anybody wanted to be on the show. Sammy Davis Jr. (shown here), Vincent Price, Eartha Kitt, Ethyl Merman, Cesar Romero… the list goes on. From campy guest roles as villains to cameos in a skyscraper window, big names would beg their agents to be on “BATMAN”.
A question has come up as to why many of the scenes were filmed tilted. The producers later replied that the crooks were crooked, so the scenes were lensed crooked as well. The fight scenes may be best remembered with comic superimpositions like “CRAAACK!“, “FLRBBBBB!”, “WHACK-ETH!“, and “ZOWIE!.”
At first, the show was on twice a week, with a deadly cliffhanger sure to make you come back and see their daring escape (Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel!). Good thing Batman kept a can of Bat-Carousel-Reversing Spray handy in his utility belt at all times, as well as the Universal, All-Purpose Bat-Antidote.
Though Batman usually drove the Batmobile, Alfred the butler drove it a time or two (Robin was too young). The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) stole it once and made it the “Penguinmobile,” complete with an umbrella over the driver’s seat. Little did he know that Batman could maneuver the car by remote control, and the resulting ride was hilarious (Quack, quack, quack)!
“Holy Made-For-TV Reunion Show!” There was a GREAT TV movie in 2003 starring Adam West, Burt Ward, and the Batmobile, called “Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt.” Out of Bat-character, the two actors relived the years making “BATMAN”, under the premise that the Batmobile been stolen and they were going to find it. Frank Gorshin and Julie Newmar reprised their roles as “The Riddler” and “Catwoman”, arch-villains from the series and comics. Betty White makes the infamous window cameo in this TV movie.
The Batmobile has appeared in several productions over the years, including “Rock Star,” “The Simpsons,” and “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” (Look close at the Warner Brothers/Burbank Studios gate – it just drives by).
Newer Batmobiles have been made, but I think this car is the fans’ favorite. “Holy backfire, Batman!” And the car seems to be having a resurgence, as several new scale models have recently been released.
Bat-Image Credits: The DenOfGeek web site provided the Lincoln Future/Batmobile image. The Batmobile profile shot was found at PinImg.com. The front view is from 1966Batmobile.com. Technical stuff for this post came from “The Official BATMAN Batbook” by Joel Eisner, as is the climbing photo. Our “Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel” image is from SquareSpace.com. The “Return To The Batcave” image is from Wikipedia.