Batwoman and her Batgirls go up against the evil Rat Fink and his criminal goons when they attempt to steal a top secret telephone listening device known as a ‘Hearing Aid.’
Jerry Warren is a legend in the world of film. Well, the world of bad film anyway. Whether it was the movies he made himself or those he cobbled together from films made by other people – usually Mexican – the results were nearly always the same: completely atrocious. To be fair, occasionally he did come up with something that scaled the heights of being really poor – like ‘Teenage Zombies’ (1958) or ‘Man Beast’ (1956) – but these were the exception, rather than the rule.
Pleasingly, ‘The Wild Wild World of Batwoman’ (1966) finds Jerry at his absolute worst. Writing, producing and directing, he fashions an ‘entertainment’ so mind-bogglingly banal and tedious as to almost defy analysis. Undoubtedly aiming for the same level of camp as the hit Adam West TV show, Jerry cast his wife Katherine Victor in the title role and recruited the Batgirls from a local strip club that had just been shut down by police. He refused to hire a costume designer so Victor came up with the Batwoman look herself – a strange ensemble featuring a mask, tights, furry hat, furry cloak, and a tattoo drawn on her chest with black eyeliner.
On the other side of the ball, we have the masked and mysterious Rat Fink, who is usually seen (in what looks suspiciously like the same footage every time) on a small TV screen. That’s how he communicates with his hilariously incompetent criminal gang (oh, how I laughed at their antics!) and a ‘mad’ doctor and his ape-like servant. The Doc does suitably ‘mad’ experiments with ‘happy pills’ that make people dance like they have some kind of a medical affliction. Even Batwoman shakes a tail feather at a local café!
Wit and sophistication might have been able to overcome the totally non-existent budget, but Jerry’s script has neither and, coupled with his somewhat basic filmmaking technique, this makes for a truly terrible audience experience. As usual with Jerry, camera movement is… shall we say… a bit limited and the absence of edits within a scene means we are often left looking at a single ‘fixed’ shot for far too long. This is particularly evident during the execrable seance episode (no Bat-Computer for Batwoman!) when her contact with the other side is repeatedly interrupted by a spirit that speaks only Chinese. ‘No-one here is fluent in Oriental languages’ she snaps, delivering one of the script’s best zingers.
There are a couple of scenes where the Batgirls strut their funky stuff, presumably for the twin purposes of padding the running time (an epic 66 minutes) and having something to put in the trailer. Throw in some brief monster footage that looks suspiciously like it’s been lifted from ‘The Mole People’ (1956) and a finale that resembles a chaotic game of ‘musical chairs’ and there you have it. A film shot in someone’s lounge, in their garage and on the local beach when no-one else was about.
Perhaps the funniest aspect of the entire film (and I’m stretching the definition of that word a long way) is that most of the plot revolves around Batwoman and her Batgirls trying to find the villain’s lair. So what’s funny about that? Well…nothing really, only she’s already been there with one of the girls and they escaped! But apparently it was a bit dark and she’s forgotten where it was! Not exactly Wonder Woman is she?
DC Comics were not amused by all this of course and sued. Understandable and an easy win for a big corporation with a pretty solid case against a small time filmmaker. Not so. Jerry prevailed and even re-released the film a couple of years later under the slightly misleading title of ‘She Was A Hippy Vampire’. What???!
The Wild Wild World of Batwoman (1966) was not a success. Jerry didn’t make another movie for 15 years and that was his iconic swan song ‘Frankenstein Island’ (1981). But for sheer, world-beating levels of banality, he simply couldn’t top this one. I’m not sure anyone could.