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4/1/16

BATMAN IN SPACE - REVIEW


Believe it or not, this movie actually exists.

Or at least it did...

Back in 1975, we got a Superman musical TV special called It's A Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman. The BBC, wanting to cash-in on what they thought would be a big production unlike anything the world of television had ever seen, decided to produce their own superhero extravaganza.

The film cost about £10M which, in dollars, adjusted for inflation, is... like a lot.

It was titled Batman In Space and starred a young Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne/Batman with Jeremy Irons as Robin. The plot was confusing, to say the least, as no less than eight writers chipped-in ideas including an ageing Agatha Christie. The Joker (played by Michael Gough) having escaped Arkham Asylum, travels to the Moon in order to play the biggest, cruelest joke of all: destroy the world from a great distance. After finding out that a rocket has been stolen from NASA, Batman soon figures out The Joker's plan and Commissioner Gordon (Efrem Zimbalist Jr) arranges a space shuttle for the Dark Knight to fly after the Clown Prince Of Crime. Robin stays behind to direct Batman from Houston. Before reaching the Moon, Batman will have to dodge laughing comets and other dastardly attacks from his nemesis.

The tone of the film was all over the place: not quite as bright as the 60's TV show, not quite as dark as the 1989 Batman, it was more like the Superman movies except boring. Being a BBC production, the special was three hours long without ad breaks and was mostly composed of long conversations with the odd poorly green-screened action beat thrown in. Director Alan Napier famously couldn't make sense of the script so he secretly wrote his own on a shirt which he wore throughout the shoot, changing the dialogs as it went along. Another interesting bit of trivia is that every actor who's ever played Alfred since the old Adam West series is in this film including a then 11 year-old Sean Pertwee who has a small part as Child Eating Ice-Cream.

Every copy of Batman In Space was physically burnt and eaten so it's unlikely you'll ever get to see it, especially since it never aired when the BBC realised they had spent a lot of money on the worst idea they'd ever had although Jim'll Fix It would air instead...

Still, I felt it important to review this film since this April 1st marks its 41st anniversary and I had the honour of watching it at Michael Caine's house once before he burnt and ate his copy which, incidentally, was the size of a tangerine.

Since you'll never get to see it, I'll just spoil the ending: Batman blows up the Moon using his belt somehow.

Classic.

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