Monday, October 26, 2009

The Wild World of Batwoman (1966)

Directed by Jerry Warren
Starring Katherine Victor, Lucki Winn, Suzanne Lodge

"She a real wildcat. I'd like to belt her one."

Jerry Warren (RIP) was a 1940's actor who became a 1950's exploitation flick huckster. He directed a handful of monstery snoozers like The Incredible Petrified World (1957) and Teenage Zombies (1959), and scissored together Mexi-horror imports like Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1964). He made his most audacious move, however, with this goofy hunk of junk, a crass and witless attempt to cash on Adam West-y Batmania. The film starred Katherine Victor (RIP), a minor 50's scream queen who was already well into her forties when she donned the ill-fitting Batwoman leotard. Her "Bat Girls" were plucked right off the street when a fleabag strip club suddenly shut down, leaving a dozen exotic dancers with nowhere to shake their moneymakers. And so began the epic superhero spoof/crime caper/serial homage/incomprehensible mess known as The Wild World of Batwoman.

It should be noted that Miss Victor concocted her own outfit, a hideous jumble of lycra, fake fur, and feathers. As Batwoman, she is the head of a very screwy crime fighting operation, one manned entirely by zonked hippy chicks who may or may not also be vampires. One thing's for sure, they like to dance. There's easily half a dozen dance breaks in this film. Some of them also look like White Panther styled revolutionaries, but I have no proof of their political affiliations.

Anyway, nefarious supercreep Rat Fink (Richard Banks) has one of Batwoman's girls kidnapped by two of his well-dressed goons. They take her back to his secret lair where a mad scientist, Doctor Neon (George Mitchell, shooting for a German accent, but landing somewhere near Apu from the Simpsons) and his Igor-esque assistant Heathcliff (Lloyd Nelson, RIP) keep her locked in a cage and occasionally feed her "Happy pills" to keep her docile.

Mr Fink nabs the girl's two-way... um, bracelet... and uses it to tell Batwoman herself what's up. Seems he needs her expertise for some bullshit, and he plans on holding her girl until she helps him out. What can she do? She flaps on over to the hideout and drinks chocolate milk and eats cookies with the bad guys until Rat Fink gets on his videophone and gives her the full skinny. He wants her to steal an atomic hearing-aid prototype from the 'Ayjax' corporation so that he can listen in on every phone conversation in the world. Just then, the doc plops a goofball into BW's milk, but she's on to him and switches the glasses. He ends up dancing drunkenly around the room, which affords our heroine the chance to drop a few smoke bombs, grab her girl, and vamoose. She gives the Ajax corp a call to let 'em know about Fink's nefarious plot.

They send Flanagan (Steve Brodie, RIP), their legal guy, over to BW's hideout to sort shit out. I know, that sounds underwhelming, but that's what happens. When he gets there, Batwoman is randomly mashing the keys on an organ while her tranced-out batgirls sit in thrall. It's a real wigged-out scene, man. Dude tells her the implications of the Atomic Hearing Aid - something about Cobalt liquid and the end of privacy as we know it - so she agrees to guard the precious item for him. As it's in the vault at the Ajax Corp, she heads over there with her girls, all of them brandishing pistols and shotguns. It's a very Patty Hearst sort of scene.

Doctor Neon and Fink's henchmen show up wearing goofy press-on mustaches and hand the girls chicken salad sandwiches. Vault-guarding is hungry business, so they greedily accept the food and chomp away. Problem is, said sangwiches are laced with happy pills, so they promptly drop their guns and start frugging furiously to the go-go beat in their heads. The crooks make off with the hearing aid.

For some insane reason, Batwoman decides that they best way to find out where the hearing aid went is to hold a séance. Unfortunately, the spirit she contacts doesn't speak English, so that's not much help. BW's Plan B is to send the girls out to find the mussing earpiece, but they get distracted by a beach party.

Meanwhile goofy henchmanTiger (Mel Oshins) captures the same Batgirl from the beginning again and locks her back up. She convinces him to take her to her apartment so she can pick up some records and teach him how to dance properly. I know, but that's what happens. To get there, they have to go out through the backdoor - a cave filled with skeletons. It's also got monsters!*

Somehow or another (I'm pretty sure somebody's dog ate the script by this point), Rat Fink ends up capturing all the Batgirls and chaining them up in Neon's lab. He wants to breed them with Neon's monsters. Seems valid.

Alas, he is thwarted when Batwoman shows up with her raygun and frees the girls. She attempts to unmask Fink, but he has another trick up his sleeve - a "Body Divider". He clones half a dozen Rat Finks and they all run amuck in the lab.

So, how does it all end? Like a particularly retarded Scooby Doo episode, pretty much.

A very odd superhero spoof, this no-budget hodge-podge undid Jerry Warren when DC Comics decided to sue him over the unlicensed use of the "Bat Woman" name. Not surprisingly, DC won, forcing Warren to retitle the film the even more ridiculous She Was a Hippie Vampire. Warren went broke soon after, and didn't make another film until 1981's Frankenstein Island, which also starred Katherine Victor. Anyone who thinks Wild World of Batwoman is a bad movie should take a look at the truly wretched Frankenstein Island. WWOB is a sparkling gem in comparison. Mystery Science Theater dissected Batwoman in 1993, which boosted its stature significantly. They needn't have bothered, however. The movie already lampoons itself quite nicely.

One of the all-time great jawdroppers, The Wild World of Batwoman manages to be horrible and awesome at the same time. And it's way better than Catwoman (2004), too.

*Said monsters were borrowed from The Mole People (1956).

Clip: Wild World of Batwoman trailer!

- Ken McIntyre

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