James Batman (1966)
Director: Artèmio Marquez
Film review #478
SYNOPSIS: The evil CLAW organisation is threatening to destroy the nations of Europe and Asia unless they submit to the “red government.” With hope dwindling, the combined nations call upon two of the world’s greatest heroes to hep them out…James Bond and Batman.
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: James Batman is a 1966 superhero crossover film from the Philippines featuring James Bond and Batman. It will not surprise you to know that this crossover was unlicensed, and the characters were used without permission. The film opens up with a convening of nations (I guess meant to be the United Nations), where the countries of Europe and Asia are explaining that the evil CLAW organisation has given them five days to submit to the “red government” or be destroyed. A member of CLAW turns up to terrorise the meeting, sending panic through the nations of the world. In response, the only option seems to be to call upon two of the world’s greatest heroes: James Bond and Batman. This unlikely duo must learn to work together to defeat CLAW and save the world. The plot of the film is fairly straightforward and just revolves around James Bond and Batman (and Robin) saving the world, like you’d expect really. It is probably obvious that the makers of the film did not have the rights or licence to use the Batman or James Bond characters, but back in the pre-internet times, people could get away with making these films and even releasing them in cinemas without the licence holders ever knowing about them, leading to quite a few of these type of films being made far way from Hollywood’s purview. The film is basically a comedy/satire, as it presents the titular heroes as buffoons, and emulates many elements of the 60’s Batman series. The climax of the film does take quite a dramatic and serious tone though, as the villain’s daughter pleads with him not to basically destroy the world. As mentioned, the story is pretty straightforward and essentially moves between James Bond and Batman getting into various hijinks, and overall the film holds itself together fairly well: the characters have their own arcs, the action and comedy are well paced, and even though it is obviously a cheap production copying other material, it does make some effort to replicate this material somewhat faithfully.
Obviously the main selling point of the film James Batman is the cross-over between the two main characters James Bond and Batman. As mentioned, the film is mostly comedic in tone, and their characters mostly act as buffoons for comedic effect. Batman and Robin work well together, as Robin winds-up Batman and Batman reprimands him with some slapstick violence. Apart from the personalities, they are represented surprisingly accurately, with the costumes, bat cave, and batmobile making appearances. James Bond is similarly portrayed, but his original character is obviously a lot more serious than the Batman of the TV series his is based off, so the difference is more marked. He still feels like Bond though, as the film parodies certain mannerisms of his character and scenes from the films. Interestingly, 007 is only ever referred to as “James” throughout the film, surely they can’t be scared of using his full name (or codename) but okay with using every other aspect of the character. The rest of the characters aren’t too interesting, but you’re not watching the film for them, so it’s not much of an issue.
I am quite impressed with how the film is made, particularly with regards to its recreation of the main characters: Batman and Robin have outfits that resemble the ones work in the 60’s TV series fairly accurately (except Batman’s cape is striped for some reason). There’s also a very good attempt at recreating the batmobile from the same series. The film even uses the themes from the Bond films and Batman series, although it swaps them around sometimes so you’ll be hearing Batman’s theme when Bond is running around, which is pretty funny. There’s clearly a fair amount of effort and consideration that has gone into this film, and some competency with the camera work and sets. The fight scenes are pretty bad, and the punches clearly don’t hit anyone most of the time, but I think there’s a very basic sense of choreography that the actors are following. James Batman is, overall, a silly low-budget knock-off that nevertheless has a fair amount of effort and competency put into it. It’s still a bad film, but you can have a laugh and be entertained by it’s ridiculous fight scenes and bizarre concept. The acting is alright, and provides enough entertainment and action to live up to the character’s names…well, in the most ridiculous way possible.