By Phil Hall | May 1, 2009

BOOTLEG FILES 281: “The Wild World of Batwoman” (1966 no-budget insanity).

LAST SEEN: The MST3K version is on Google Video.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: It has been released by Rhino Video.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Some people might believe this is a public domain film.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is available on commercial DVD, but the bootlegging continues.

Forget about Batman – my favorite movie crime fighter is Batwoman. No, you are not forgetting a big screen adaptation of a D.C. Comics action figure – that Batwoman, also known as Kathy Kane, has yet to find her way into a movie projector. The Batwoman I am referring to is the star of a no-budget romp from 1966 called “The Wild World of Batwoman.”

Who is this Batwoman? Her background is a mystery, and the film offers no back story. Her identity is a secret, too, and she is always seen wearing a large black mask. She is also seen wearing a strapless black leotard, stiletto heels, a fur piece on her right arm, a slinky cape, and a Patti LaBelle-approved wig. Oh, she also has a bat tattoo on her cleavage. Needless to say, Batwoman stands out in a crowd.

Batwoman is based out of a ranch-style house in the Los Angeles suburbs. She is supported by a small army of lovely young ladies who are known as the Batgirls. The Batgirls don’t have special uniforms – unless you consider bikinis and hot pants to be uniforms. The Batgirls offer their loyalty to their employer by reciting this mantra: “We the girls who are dedicated to Batwoman, take our oath with all sincerity. We the girls who are dedicated to Batwoman, take our pride with all sincerity. We the girls who are dedicated to Batwoman, fight against evil with all sincerity.”

The Batgirls appear to have been hired for their dancing skills (which are considerable) rather than their crime fighting skills (which, admittedly, require a bit more work to meet Gotham City requirements). In one early scene in the film, two of the Batgirls are hiding behind a garbage can in an alley, and from their vantage point they witness a robbery that turns into a murder. Just why they are hiding behind garbage cans is not explained, but they respond to the crime by turning on their wrist radios to call Batwoman, who then calls the LAPD. Clearly, it never dawned on the Batgirls to intervene in the crime before it turned fatal, or even to call the cops on their own.

Obviously, one doesn’t expect a low-rent operation like this to take on master criminals on the level of the Joker or the Penguin – or even Egghead and Olga. In “The Wild World of Batwoman,” the villain in question is Rat Fink, a masked fiend who dresses entirely in black. He, in turn, is supported by the German-accented Dr. Neon, who has his own stooges: the dim thugs Tiger and Bruno and the moronic Heathcliff, a mute hunchback who makes weird faces. Dr. Neon has created several scientific breakthroughs, none of which contribute to the advancement of the planet: a number of monster that are kept in a cave and a “happy pill” that causes people to get up and start dancing.

So how do all of these unlikely characters come together? Well, “The Wild World of Batwoman” moves into gear when Tiger and Bruno show up at a club where the Batgirls are dancing. They drug the drink of one of the chicks and carry her unconscious body into a waiting car. The Batgirl is taken to Dr. Neon’s lab, where she is caged and fed happy pills that keep her dancing. Her wrist radio is confiscated, and Rat Fink uses it to bring Batwoman to the lab.

Batwoman reluctantly agrees to go to the lab, where she communicates via TV screens with Rat Fink. During this chat, she learns that Rat Fink is eager to steal an atomic-powered hearing aid that was created by the Ayjax Development Corporation. While this is going on, Tiger serves Batwoman and Dr. Neon chocolate milk and macaroons. Dr. Neon put a happy pill in Batwoman’s glass, but she switches glasses and Dr. Neon drinks the spiked chocolate milk. When he starts dancing uncontrollably, Batwoman slugs Tiger and Bruno and frees the caged Batgirl, who is still dancing.

Batwoman gets in touch with the Ayjax executives, who hire her and the Batgirls to guard the atomic powered hearing aid. The Batgirls, brandishing rifles, are positioned in the executive suite that has the safe that houses the device. However, Dr. Neon, Tiger, and Bruno disguise themselves with clip-on beards and Groucho-style mustaches and pretend to be cafeteria workers serving cups of soup. The soup includes the happy pills, so the Batgirls forget their duties and begin dancing. The evil trio then go to a restaurant next door and slip the drugged soup to Batwoman and one of the Ayjax executive. They start dancing, too. With everyone dancing, Dr. Neon is able to steal the atomic-powered hearing aid – and Tiger snatches the Batgirl he kidnapped earlier in the movie.

Batwoman, who did not recall her way to Dr. Neon’s lab (it was too dark that night and she didn’t see any familiar landmarks), decides to seek extra help in recovering the stolen device. She hosts a seance, but the effort is interrupted by a Chinese speaking spirit (or at least by the voice of a white guy doing a horrible riff on what Mandarin sounds like). She then sends the Batgirls out to the local beach, where they wind up dancing (again?) to the sounds of a rock band that happens to be performing on the sand. Rat Fink spies the Batgirls and kidnaps them, chaining them in Dr. Neon’s lab.

However, Batwoman locates the lab and frees the girls. Rat Fink then turns on a cloning machine, creating a half-dozen versions of himself. For a few minutes, the entire cast chases each other in a circle around the lab while the soundtrack fills with rockabilly music. Batwoman figures out how to reverse the cloning machine, and Rat Fink is unmasked as…oh, why spoil the surprise?

Any way, cobalt is spilled into the atomic-powered hearing aid and everyone is blown up. Except no one actually gets killed. By the end of the movie, Batwoman and her Batgirls are poolside at Casa Batwoman, where Tiger (who is now offiically “in love” with the Batgirl he kidnapped) dances into the pool.

In case you are in doubt – yes, this is a real movie that was created by adults. And, not surprisingly, the “making of” story is just as bizarre as the film itself.

You might think “The Wild World of Batwoman” was the work of a raving lunatic, but it was actually conceived by Jerry Warren, an independent producer who specialized in importing cheaply made foreign horror films. On a few occasions, he helmed his own productions and gave audiences “The Incredible Petrified World” (1957) and “Teenage Mummies” (1959).

Warren seized on the popularity of the TV version of “Batman” by creating this distaff riff. Katherine Victor, a B-movie actress who played Dr. Myra in “Teenage Zombies,” was recruited by Warren to star as Batwoman. She would later recall that Warren promised her an expensive action film shot in color. Instead, the film was a bare bones black-and-white affair, with Victor creating her own costume. There was no money to create Dr. Neon’s monsters, so a few seconds of creepy creature footage from the 1956 sci-fi film “The Mole People” was scissored in.

Oddly, Warren was unconcerned over the potential of copyright infringement concerns relating to the “Batman” franchise. The initial release of “The Wild World of Batwoman” was halted when D.C. Comics sued Warren. Warren switched gears and shot a new pre-credit scene with three young Batgirls (none of whom were in the feature) performing an initiation rite involving the consumption of a red-colored drink. In this scene, the Batgirls explain they are “synthetic” vampires, and the red liquid they are swallowing is yogurt! Thus, in Warren’s mind, Batwoman was changed from a crime fighter to a would-be vampire. He also retitled the film “She Was a Hippy Vampire” – but D.C. Comics kept their lawsuit.

Warren, oddly enough, actually won in court and later reverted the film back to its original title. But his filmmaking career stalled, and he didn’t direct again until 1981’s “Frankenstein Island.” Katherine Victor was the star of that film, too – playing Sheila Frankenstein!

“The Wild World of Batwoman” was an obscure title until Rhino Video released it on VHS in 1989. In 1993, the film was featured on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and that episode was later released on DVD by Rhino.

As far as I can tell, “The Wild World of Batwoman” is not a public domain title. However, several labels specializing in PD titles have it as an offering. The MST3K version is also available in its entirety on Google Video, though it appears not with permission from the fun bunch on the Satellite of Love.

Okay, so what do I think of “The Wild World of Batwoman”? Quite frankly, it is one of the stupidest films ever made – and, also, one of the most wonderfully entertaining. Everything about the film is so terribly wrong – the illogical script, the overkill acting, the bad rock music score, the tacky real-life homes and offices used as “sets” – that it evolves into its own sphere of energy. The result is a movie that can be derided for sheer ineptitude and cheered as a diversion that will inevitable raise laughs with its weirdness.

And, hey, the Batgirls are pretty hot! Woo woo!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either for crass commercial purposes or profit-free s***s and giggles, is not something that the entertainment industry appreciates. On occasion, law enforcement personnel boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and distribute bootleg videos and DVDs, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. Oddly, the purchase and ownership of bootleg videos is perfectly legal. Go figure!

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  1. Jonathan Becker says:

    “the wild, wild world of batwoman” may very well BE in the public domain. if it’s still under copyright, jerry warren would have had to have re-registered it with the copyright office some time around nineteen eighty four. but by that time he was living in seclusion on a ranch, having retired permanently from the film industry. of course there is still the question of whether the “batwoman” character (as portrayed in the warren film) is the property of d.c. comics. and this still may be a questionable point. the warren-d.c. comics lawsuit never went to trial. it was settled OUT of court, and i very much doubt that d.c. actually ceded the rights to the “batwoman” character to jerry warren. (as you noted, the film was re-released as “she was a hippy vampire.”) so any print of the film titled and advertised as “the wild, wild world of batwoman” may still be infringing on d.c.’s copyright…………….

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