In the first of a new feature here at Flickering Myth, Sam Thorne delves into the history of the superhero movie genre; first up is The Punisher and The Wild World of Batwoman…
The advent of the superhero genre, and its insane popularity is an unlikely one. It may seem hard to remember a time when these kind of films weren’t pulling in several hundred million dollars. There’s so much writing, interest, and academia in this golden age of superhero films, that the last 30 years of the genre trying to claw its way to legitimacy has mostly been forgotten. Before money-raking juggernauts like Avengers Assemble, before artistically respected material like The Dark Knight Trilogy, the superhero genre had it hard struggling with minor audiences and shoestring budgets.
The Punisher (2004)
The Punisher may be unspectacular to most, but it serves as a huge indicator of where the genre headed after its release. Marvel played it safe, and headed towards the family market. Meanwhile DC was still trying to shrug off the inherent campiness of the last 30 years from its major characters. Ironically as soon as Marvel switched gears, DC released Batman Begins in 2005, a much grittier and edgier progression of an iconic character. There isn’t necessarily any correlation, but it’s certainly quite amusing. On that note, time to introduce my second film this week on Behind The Cape.
The Wild World of Batwoman (1966)
Now, this is a film I can’t defend. The Wild World of Batwoman (Also known as She Was a Hippy Vampire) is an unbelievable joke of a film. ‘Batwoman’ is seemingly just a woman in a leotard, and her ‘batgirls’ are just relatively attractive teenagers with guns. It also exists in that realm of evil scientists, instead of actual super villains. Then again, its not actually even vaguely related to DC comics. The film came about when atrociously bad b-movie director Jerry Warren decided he wanted to cash in on the Batman mythos for a cheap buck. It was taken to court under copyright infringement, but surprisingly Jerry Warren won the case.
So if The Wild World of Batwoman is an abominable film not even sanctioned by DC, why would it be worth a mention? Since the success of landmark titles like Batman (1966) and Superman: The Movie (1978) film-makers have clamoured to recreate that sheer iconography and financial success. Of course, replications almost always fail because you not only need iconic and well-written material to base the screenplay on, you also need a very keen directorial eye that can bring that vision to life. The Wild World of Batwoman is a perfect example of how this almost never works, but also how little was understood about the genre in its infancy. It’s still recommended viewing, for sheer hilarity and awful entertainment value. Conveniently it can be found on YouTube in an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, as seen below.
Well that’s it for this week on Behind The Cape. Each week I’ll continue delving into two superhero films that perhaps deserve a little more attention than they get, in scope as to what they mean inside the genre. Until next time.