22nd September 2011
"Julie Newmar as Catwoman" Something Wild Video
So Anne Hathaway is going to be Catwoman in the new Batman film, Dark Knight Rises. No disrespect to Hathaway or Michelle Pfeiffer, Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether, (let's forget the Halle Berry film) but I suspect I'm not alone in thinking that the best Catwoman will always be Julie Newmar from the 1966 TV series Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Perhaps it is do with the fact that it was a TV show that I would watch as a kid and so she made an early fundamental impression. I still remember watching with my mother when I was about five and being puzzled when Catwoman and Batman seemed to be getting "friendly". The above (on the right-hand side) video is my small tribute to Newmar as Catwoman and indeed the whole series; the femme fatale relationship with Batman seems to fit Something Wild perfectly.
I've always cited the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach as the first instance of what Joseph Campbell termed "following my bliss" but having compiled the "Catwoman" video I'm starting to think that it was the 1966 Batman TV series, which I was crazy about as a boy. My father had to put bars up in my bedroom window to stop me climbing out on to the porch above the front door (I suspect you couldn't do that these days - Social Services would be round like a shot) and my grandmother went to great pains to try and make me a proper mask and cape. When the series stopped being broadcast I used to pray that "they" would bring it back (perhaps the closest I've come to being religious) and in its absence, I would frequently go back to my ViewMaster (a toy shaped like binoculars through which you could see twenty-one 3-dimensional scenes from films and TV shows) to look again at The Purr-fect Crime/ Better Luck Next Time, in my opinion the best Batman episodes (of which much of the above video is taken). You can imagine my frustration when a few years later I discovered that the "Batman" film from the series was being shown on TV one morning in the school summer holidays when a family day-out had been planned. I was not impressed that I couldn't be left behind and I hope all concerned still remember how "difficult" I was that day (:-). (I imagine those that still know me are thinking not much has changed.)
Of course now I'm (a bit) older I can see why the series is ridiculed. It is pretty silly in places, particularly the later episodes. But it still holds some magic for me. Perhaps I built it into something it wasn't, once it had been taken off air; or perhaps it's because I remember seeing certain scenes (another example - when the Green Hornet appeared with Bruce Lee as Kato) with my mother who died only a couple of years later. It kind of still transports me back to those times, almost like a time machine, before my life changed dramatically. I think both of those explanations have some validity but I also think there was something about the series, particularly the very early episodes before they got too bizarre and "pop" when they could be quite dark and thrilling. How often, for example, would you see a kids' TV show with the hero fighting a live tiger? Or being spun around on a large turbine? Hung on a giant bell? This was way before CGI and I understand there were quite a few accidents on set.
Although I've gone to the cinema in hope, none of the subsequent films have really captured the same magic for me. It's probably impossible in view of my romanticised memory of the series but I also wonder if the character isn't best suited to TV when you can have long story arcs and character development.
Anyway, that's my trip down memory lane and my impressionable childhood. It may appear immature to be making something out of an old kids' TV programme but actually it feels right that I should try to create something which is related to a period in my life that was so important to me and that I was so passionate about.