Directed and screenplay by Artemio Marquez
Story by Pepito Vera Perez
James Batman is both a comic parody and wonderful homage to both the 1960s Batman TV series and the James Bond films. Legendary Filipino comedian Dolphy plays both title characters, as they team up to take down the ultimate terrorist organization, who has set its sights on conquering the world (typical!) Because this film is somewhat rare, you’re gonna get a long infodump in the beginning, and a long review as well. And if you don’t like to read, there will be a bajillion pictures and even a movie clip!
The Philippines have a long history of making Batman films that are completely unauthorized (along with a whole slew of other superheroes.) James Batman isn’t even the first Batman! 1965’s Alyas Batman at Robin has that distinction. It featured Bob Soler as Batman, Lou Salvador Jr. as Robin, and actress Nova Villa. James Batman was next in 1966. 1967 gave us Batman Fights Dracula in color, featuring Jing Abalos as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Ramon D’Salva, and Vivian Lorrain. (Batman seems to fight vampires a lot).
There was a trilogy of Batwoman and Robin films that began in 1972 with Batwoman and Robin. They starred female action star Virginia (aka Virginia Gaerlan aka Virginia Aristorenas) from Revenge of Lady Fighter as Batwoman, her real life son Robin Aristorenas played Robin, and Jun Aristorenas/Junar (Virginia’s husband) produced and directed. Tony Cayado took over directing duties for the sequel Batwoman and Robin Meet the Queen of the Vampires, but by 1973’s Johnny Joker, Jun Aristorenas was directing again and even starred as Johnny Joker. Virginia and Robin were back as well, along with Merle Fernandez as Catwoman, Freddie Webb as Spider Web, and Palito as Lastikman.
UPDATE: 2 stills from Johnny Joker can be found here. Warning! The stills will make you more angry the film is lost!
Fight Batman Fight! is a 1973 joint starring Victor Wood as Batman, Lotis Key as Catwoman, Rod Navarro as Joker, Pinky Montilla as Bat Girl, and Roderick Paulate as Robin. It also has an awesome-looking cardboard box robot. The final Batman flick is 1991’s Alyas Batman en Robin, which you will find out more about soon. Sadly, of all these wonderful films, only James Batman and Alyas Batman en Robin still exist in a watchable form. It is possible that there are vhs tapes of these surviving somewhere, but the original prints are long gone and most of the masters were destroyed at some point during the various political uprisings along with countless other films.
James Batman stars Dolphy, one of the most famous comedians from the Philippines ever. Born in 1928 as Rodolfo Vera Quizon, he began his career during the Japanese occupation at the age of 17 doing stage work. Two years later he made his film debut, playing mostly bit roles. After some exposure in radio, he began headlining films in 1952, and also began his long time partnership with fellow comedian Panchito (who would do his own Batman movie turn as Paenguin in Alyas Batman en Robin.) He has continued to work for decades, even gaining modern fame for his 2001 film Markova: Comfort Gay. Never married, Dolphy has 17 children from his five long term relationships, including several who have also entered show business. His spoof films covered almost every possible genre and most popular film series at the time. They include Tansan the Mighty (1962), Dolpinger (1965), Scarface at Al Capone: Espiya sa Ginto (1965), Alias Popeye (1966), Captain Barbell Boom! (1973), Da Best in da West (1984), and dozens more. Sadly, many of his films are considered lost, but thanks to sheer volume there are a lot still around.
Batman and Robin are presented just as campy as the TV series lays them out to be. But the jokes have to go further for this film, so we get random sight gags such as a machine that delivers food in the Batcave obviously being a guy in a box thanks to the all-too-human hand that comes out of it (is that Alfred???) and let’s not forget the random scene where Robin shows off how if you put a light bulb in his mouth it glows. Yeah. Music guy Caroling Cruz is not afraid to just rip the Batman theme directly, further cementing this as a bizarre fever dream episode of the series.