The Wild World of Batwoman (1966)

(aka She Was a Hippy Vampire)

This is probably Jerry Warren’s best film.

Yes, I know I said that about Frankenstein Island.  And, yes, I know that isn’t saying much.

But what we’ve got here is so strange and so…

Okay, I can’t help it, it’s the right word:

…”Batty”, that it defies any rational explanation.

Now, before we get started, I need to point out that this one has nothing whatsoever to do with Batman, or DC comics, or any of DC’s female iterations of Batman.  As with the Mexican film, La mujer murcielago [The Batwoman] two years later, DC had not yet used the name Batwoman so anyone could use it.

Although they actually sued Jerry over it and he won.  Then he reissued it as She Was a Hippy Vampire.  Which makes about as much sense as anything in this film.

Now, by the Sixties, Jerry was mostly buying foreign films and turning out his own Domestic market versions which generally made less sense than watching the original without subtitles.  So it is a bit of a surprise that he actually chose to make an original this time around (not that he didn’t manage to, ummm, “borrow” footage from other films along the way.

So we have the gang of lovely young ladies who really love to dance (which fills in a lot of the very short running time!) and who drink “blood” for their ritual initiation as “synthetic vampires (don’t worry, it’s only a strawberry yogurt smoothie), and who regularly recite a Girl Scout Oath of sorts, to show their loyalty to their leader, the famous crimefighter, Batwoman.  She doesn’t bother with the whole secret identity and lair business:  Batwoman is a superhero 24/7, works out of her mansion and is even listed in the phonebook!  They’re fighting the villainous Ratfink (no relation to the hero of Ray Dennis Steckler’s Rat Pfink A Boo Boo, sorry) who lurks around in a black cloak and hat, with a handful of minions and a mad scientist to come up with goofy new weapons for him.

And they do have to be goofy.  It’s that sort of movie.

Not only does Ratfink have a secret lair, he also has a second secret lair, a cave full of monsters created by his mad scientist.  They really don’t ever do too much, though, because, of course, they’re only in the shots Jerry Warren stole from The Mole People.

So Ratfink tries various ploys to capture Batwoman, not that he manages to hold onto her, or blackmail her into carrying out various schemes for him, which doesn’t work out much better.  There’s the usual MacGuffin Ratfink is after and Batwoman has been hired to defend — after all, we need something to generate a plot — and it’s really hard to miss the resemblance here to the Batman TV show Jerry was trying to cash in on.

To one of the lesser episodes, maybe, but hey, a resemblance is a resemblance.

There’s even a seance, conducted by the Batwoman herself (bet you never saw Adam West do that) which proves seriously unhelpful — for a very silly reason which is just so stupid that it actually got edited back into the Home Video versions after it was edited out of the TV version for being potentially offensive.

And, yes, we are talking seriously stupid here.

More than anything else, The Wild World of Batwoman reminds me of the equally silly Beach Movies that AIP churned out around that time era, with their deliberately unrealistic tone and absurd non-sequitur comedy and jiggling  bikini girls. Frankly, it’s a style of comedy only a few of them did well (much like the countless rip-offs of the ZAZ comedy stylings of Airplane! a decade later).  Not that I think much of it — if any — has really stood the test of time.

But that happens all too often with current films styles and what is enormously popular in our decade will probably be seen as quaint curiosities years from now.

Which is certainly something to hope for.

Let’s face it: this is a massively silly film, built upon one bad idea after another.  More than anything else, it looks like a TV pilot that just couldn’t make it.  And a bad Batman TV series rip-off.  And a particularly dumb Beach Movie.  And an excuse for showing pretty girls dancing and jiggling, heavy on the jiggling.

With a missing chunk from some mad scientist parody tacked on, of course.

Let’s face it: it’s massively stupid.

…But does it really count if you are trying to be stupid?

Okay, I’ll confess it:  I’ve got a real soft spot for this one.  It is so stupid, so silly, so wrongheaded, so absurd, and so deadpan serious about being stupid, the way Adam West always was, that it sort of stumbles into being goofy fun.  It’s one of those movies that goes well with heavy mockery — and some movie-grade popcorn won’t hurt, either.

And, no, I’m not just saying that because Professor. G. Octavius Neon slipped me one of his happy pills…

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And check out our new Feature (Updated June 11, 2020):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!

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