Further Reading: Dark Knight is Unforgettable, but Who Remembers James Batman?

Kim uncovers a strange copyright-flouting Filipino movie from the 60s.

Further Reading by Kim Newman
The Dark Knight is setting cinemas alight all over the world, but, as Kim Newman discovers, there are other Batman movies that aren't quite so well known... James Batman - which crosses the caped crusader with suave spy James Bond - probably didn't attract much Oscar buzz, nor was the word "masterpiece" mentioned in its reviews, but for completists, is it worth seeing? Does the Filipino film industry's flouting of international copyright law deliver a treat? Read on to find out...

So, riddle me this, trivia-hounds, can you name all the actors who've played James Bond or Batman in the movies? Including the likes of David Niven in the first Casino Royale and Lewis Wilson in the 1943 Batman serial? Well, dynamic dunderheads, did you know one actor has not only played Batman and James Bond but did so in the same film?

Step forward Rodolfo Vera Quizon (always billed as 'Dolphy'), the Peter Sellers or Roberto Benigni of the Philippines. Or maybe the Benny Hill or Don Knotts. Dolphy takes the two roles (three, if you count the 'Bruce Wayne' part separately) in the 1966 Tagalog-language multi-hero spoof James Batman -- which, with apologies to Christian Bale and Daniel Craig, is one of the darnedest things I've ever seen.

James Batman

Evidently the Filipino film industry of the 1960s deemed itself outside the reach of international copyright lawyers, and laughed maniacally at the cold-eyed franchise guardians of Eon Productions, 20th Century Fox and DC Comics, not to mention the Performing Rights Society folks collecting royalties for composers Monty Norman and Neal Hefti -- the familiar 'Bond' and 'Batman' tunes are played many times in James Batman in what sound like garage band arrangements.

As the title suggests, director Artemio Martez is managing a quick-off-the-mark combined parody of the 'Sean Connery is Ian Fleming's James Bond' saga initiated by Dr No and the Adam West-Burt Ward pop art/camp Batman TV series which debuted in 1965. The runaway world-wide successes inspired filmmakers everywhere to try and get in on the action with imitations and parodies.

James Batman

Of course, the funny fellows blithely ignored the fact that the 007 films stopped taking themselves seriously around the time 007 wore a duck decoy hat (Goldfinger, 1964) and the Batman show was always a send-up of the comic book and movie serial hero. So, this means that parodies have to go really broad in search of laughs. When Dolphy's Batman gets his tights pulled down during a cliffhanger, he is accompanied by the da-na-da-na-da-na Batman theme with a mocking 'wah-wah' instead of the traditional 'Bat-man'; and when his Bond gorily stabs an arch-villain, he pokes his tongue out rudely at the dying crook.

My Tagalog is a little rusty, but the plot is fairly easy to follow. A bearded Chinese criminal representing 'the Organisation', who could as easily be Fu Manchu or Dr No (though he looks most like Iron Man's comics nemesis, the Mandarin), strides into a meeting of a Pan-Asian United Nations-type set-up and reads out a list of demands and threats from a scroll. He illustrates this with stock footage from 1950s atomic tests and what I presume is newsreel material of the aftermath of a Pacific typhoon or hurricane, cackles in the approved master-fiend manner, and zaps someone with an electrical arc from his fingernail.

Weirdly, this promising baddie fails to reappear, though the Organisation also employs the Penguin (or a thinner, tougher, cigar-smoking variation thereof), a Catwoman lookalike who is apparently a Chinese movie villainess called the Black Rose, a sunglasses-sporting sniper with a mace for a hand, a hooded and partially metal-headed nasty called Drago whose chair is a giant hand with raygun fingers which can be slowly aimed and fired at those who displease him, and a horde of cowled, machine-gun-toting babes with plunging neckline mini-dresses.

Comments

arendr

Arend Anton

Wow, incredible. This reminds me of the Bollywood Superman movie.

Jul 24 - 08:16 AM

Dark Knight jr.

Kae LaFond

Now that's scary..

Jul 24 - 08:18 AM

evil pixie

Jennifer Fritz

I'm surprised the MST3K guys never got a hold of this one...

Jul 24 - 09:45 AM

bethehero7404

Paul Wulff

Evil pixie is right...MST3K would have destroyed this movie.

Jul 24 - 09:53 AM

h-town24

frank ford

WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, and I would have loved MST to handle this!

Jul 24 - 10:41 AM

nate2709

Nate 2709

Is Batman on a game show in that scene or something? If he is, it looks like the got the answer wrong.

Jul 24 - 11:01 AM

arendr

Arend Anton

Coincidence? http://webvillage.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/batman-suparman-02a.jpg

Jul 24 - 01:23 PM

genshiken

Bahamut He

What a crazy movie...those revolting dress
But maybe it wasn't worse than that stupid "Superhero Movie", I'd like to watch it if I found a copy XD.

Jul 24 - 06:38 PM

pynchmeawake

Tom Pynchform

MST poked fun at movies that took themselves seriously. The makers of James Batman were clearly fun-pokers themselves and must have been high on the same brainwaves that decades hence infused the creative chakras of Joel Hodgson... isn't that so, Tom?




Jul 24 - 04:00 PM

quentintarantado

quentin tarantado

For what it's worth, the director is Artemio MARQUEZ, not Martez. He's the father of model Melanie Marquez who has her own curious spin on the English language (translated: "My father is the only living legend I know who is alive"). Artemio Marquez is quite proud of the fact he can shoot his movies in two weeks.

Jul 24 - 05:00 PM

martinscorsese25

christopher cantos

you know.. i lived in the philippines and dolphy is the king of comedy hear cause he started doing comedy the time that no one else does comedy.. though he's jokes are kinda korny i still see him as a legend

Jul 24 - 05:16 PM

jocampo

Jerry Ocampo

Hi Kim, I'm Filipino, and I'm sure glad you enjoyed seeing this movie starring our country's top comedian, Dolphy. I don't know how you managed to get hold of a copy of this movie, as I myself rarely ever see any of the old comedies nowadays. In his heydays, Dolphy made hundreds of similarly camp comedies, and these have become part of the fond childhood memories of so many million Filipinos. For us Filipinos, when viewing these vintage comedies, we are reminded of a much more innocent time, when laughter was sparkingly naive and untouched by cynicism. I find your review very open-minded and refreshingly non-patronizing. By the way, Dolphy celebrated his 80th birthday in Manila recently by launching his memoirs.

Jul 24 - 05:18 PM

pynchmeawake

Tom Pynchform

More apt MST3K fodder than this one would be sci-fi mangas like "Appleseed" and "Ghost in the Shell". I'd love to see the MST debuggers make fun of these wetdream candies.

Jul 24 - 05:55 PM

genshiken

Bahamut He

What a crazy movie...those revolting dress
But maybe it wasn't worse than that stupid "Superhero Movie", I'd like to watch it if I found a copy XD.

Jul 24 - 06:38 PM

d4nugster

Justis Nuguid

if its any consolation, even we filipinos cannot watch this with a straight face...

Jul 24 - 06:40 PM

BeastyBrad

Brad Madden

What is MST?

Jul 24 - 08:03 PM

jocampo

Jerry Ocampo

mst3k = mystery science theater 3000, a tv series in the 90s. it featured a man and his robot critiquing b movies, specially scifi ones.

Jul 24 - 10:14 PM

pynchmeawake

Tom Pynchform

Mystery Science Theater... aka Mystery Science Theater 3000... aka "Beavis and Butthead Do the SciFi Channel"... and that's plain simile, not pun; I happen to be a huge MST fan myself.

Jul 24 - 10:16 PM

jocampo

Jerry Ocampo

mst3k = mystery science theater 3000, a tv series in the 90s. it featured a man and his robot critiquing b movies, specially scifi ones.

Jul 24 - 10:14 PM

pynchmeawake

Tom Pynchform

Mystery Science Theater... aka Mystery Science Theater 3000... aka "Beavis and Butthead Do the SciFi Channel"... and that's plain simile, not pun; I happen to be a huge MST fan myself.

Jul 24 - 10:16 PM

Poptique

Matt Richardson

I remember James Batman, in fact I even posted some poster art from it and other Caped Crusader cash-ins earlier this week ;) (Batman vs. Dracula included!)

http://poptique.blogspot.com/2008/07/fight-batman-fight-gregarious-gallery.html

Jul 25 - 05:54 AM

Ged2012

Gerard Espiritu

You haven't seen anything yet. There are still many spoofs of superhero movies in the Philippines, namely:

1. Superwantutri-- a "Superman" movie which appeared after Superman III. It stars Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey De Leon. Yup, three Supermen in the same movie. These three guys have made dozens of movies together, and are popular as a trio.

2. Gagambino-- a TV series on GMA which would start in a few months, which is inspired by Spider-Man, and which boasts impressive special effects (gagambino is a word taken from the Filipino word "gagamba", meaning spider).

3. Lastikman-- its more recent version was shown a few years ago, starring Vic Sotto (one of the Supermen above), inspired by Plastic Man. Yup, there have been several versions of the same hero in Philippine cinema before. His enemy this time was inspired by the Green Goblin, but without the mask, and looked more like Heath Ledger's Joker.

Jul 26 - 09:51 AM

ice_chiyo

Alexa Sylek

Wow. I'm surprised as my fellow Filipinos that you found a copy of this movie. There are loads of other Pinoy movies just like this (heck even Tarzan was parodied in Starzan by Joey de Leon) and in my opinion they are the fun kind of camp.

Jul 29 - 04:44 AM

What's Hot On RT

Weekly Binge
Weekly Binge

Check out Boardwalk Empire

Historical TV Shows
Historical TV Shows

40 TV depictions of past eras

24 Frames
24 Frames

Pictures of classic movie pairs

Annabelle Trailer
Annabelle Trailer

Horror spin-off of The Conjuring

Find us on:                     
Help | About | Jobs | Critics Submission | Press | API | Licensing | Mobile