Fullscreen, in Tagalog with English subtitles
Director Artemio Marquez Writers Pepito Vera-Perez, Artemio Marquez
Cast Dolphy (Batman/James), Boy Alano (Rubin), Shirley Moreno, Diane Balen
Even without subtitles, James Batman was already a rare example of
And yet , like other former colonial outposts
Dolphy began his career as a song and dance man and vaudeville comedian during the Japanese occupation during World War 2. The flourishing studio system in the early Fifties gave him a decade-long contact with Sampaguita Pictures, and he quickly graduated from bit roles and comic second banana parts to leading man in musical comedies. He encapsulated a droopy-shouldered and slightly pot bellied Pinoy Everyman: a henpecked, cowardly (if lovable) loser, or wily would-be trickster who both turn out "good" or at least functional to others in the end. Men identified with him, women adored him; before long he was making a movie a month, on top of TV and radio appearances. Parodies of Hollywood and European movies soon became Dolphy's forte, and he played the Pinoy version of everyone from the Lone Ranger to Tarzan, from - I kid you not! - Genghis Bond to Adolphong Hitler.
James Batman was released in 1966, at the height of the Filipino komik superhero AND spy craze, featuring Dolphy as James Bond AND Batman - and often in the same scene! The "international" crime fighters are both called in to weed out nefarious organization CLAW and their leader, the cartoonishly Oriental Drago. Dolphy is hilarious as Bond, complete with lecherous sneer and a checkered jacket that matches the bedspreads (cool!), and it's a role he's familiar with, having already starred in a slew of spy knockoffs - Dolphinger, Dr Yes, Operation Butterball to name just three. But it's his Batman where the film comes alive and he steals the scenes from himself: crazed fight sequences, sadly with no Tagalog equivalents of "BIFF!" and "POW!", but with exaggerated tilts and low angles, and Carding Cruz's ever-present stolen surfadelic score. There's an array of other villains, not to mention an army of nurses with pre-war tommy guns, an all-girl squad with low cut black cocktail dresses and executioners' hoods, and the ending in Drago's lair - complete with a huge hand for a chair spitting lasers from the fingertips - kicks the entire Manila-A-Go-Go enterprise up one big lunatic notch. Superb.
Apologies for the grain-streaked picture and appalling sound, but it's a miracle the movie still exists, considering most of the