29 July 2012

The Great Recasting Blogathon: "Batman: The Movie"

My pal Hannah brought this to my attention via Facebook this afternoon and it got me to thinking. Given how much my friends and I have talked about Batman recently, I decided it might be fun to "re-cast" the 1966 feature, Batman: The Movie. Now, the idea here is to recast a movie made after 1965 with actors from before that year. We'll toss aside the fact that this film was made from the TV series using its cast. I'm already a day late on this, but I figure since I'm not part of their section of the blogosphere, it'd be alright if I participated anyway.


BATMAN
Recast: Orson Welles | Original: Adam West

Batman is the ultimate straight man in this absurd comedy. We have to buy him as noble and daring, but he also has to fit into the zaniness of the rest of the picture. I think a young-ish Orson Welles would have had the gravitas and sense of humor to pull it off.

ROBIN
Recast: Casey Kasem | Original: Burt Ward

Robin the Boy Wonder has to be exuberant and earnest. Really, he's the character who links the straight Batman with the rest of the film so his chemistry with the lead has to be pitch perfect. Casey Kasem would have been perfect. There's the same age difference between Kasem and Welles as there is between Burt and West, plus there's the added bonus that Kasem voiced Robin in various animated series from 1968 through 1983.

THE JOKER
Recast: Frank Sinatra | Original: Cesar Romero 

This one might seem unlikely at first, but it's inspired by real life trivia: The Chairman of the Board wanted to play The Clown Prince of Crime when he heard the TV series was being developed, but Romero had already been cast by the time he spoke up about it.

THE PENGUIN
Recast: Peter Lorre | Original: Burgess Meredith

Lorre would have made a terrific Batman villain at any age, really. He demonstrated his ability to be truly sinister in Fritz Lang's M, but could also be disarmingly charming as in Casablanca.

THE RIDDLER
Recast: Dwight Frye | Original: Frank Gorshin

Of the entire picture, this is the hardest to recast because Gorshin owned that role. The only classic film performance I've seen that registers in the same league of mania is Dwight Frye's spellbinding turn as Renfield in the 1931 production of Dracula. Unfortunately, Frye passed away in 1943 at the age of 44 so that rather fixes when this dream cast could have been assembled. It would have still been possible, but Kasem was only 11 at the time and certainly not on any casting director's radar.

CATWOMAN
Recast: Ingrid Bergman | Original (Film): Lee Meriweather

Why Ingrid Bergman? Because I'm in love with her, that's why! I specifically imagine her in the scenes as Miss Kitka, and it all just seems so...purr-fect.

COMMISSIONER GORDON
Recast: Gary Cooper | Original: Neil Hamilton

Straighter even than West's Batman was Hamilton's Gordon, often teased by the cast for being the only one not in on the joke. Gary Cooper could have been a convincing police commissioner, and one imagines him being just straitlaced enough to ground the whole thing in some semblance of reality.

CHIEF O'HARA
Recast: Ernest Borgnine | Original: Stafford Repp

Casting Chief O'Hara isn't easy, either. Ernest Borgnine was versatile in dramatic and comedic roles, and it's easy to picture him yukking it up in the supporting role here as Gary Cooper's comedic foil. Provided we stick to making this in 1943 before Dwight Frye died, Borgnine would have been just 26 but somehow I think even at that age he'd have looked the part.

ALFRED
Recast: Boris Karloff | Original: Alan Napier

Only an actor from his era, with his work in pictures that walked the thin line around camp could handle the role of Alfred: imbuing the affair with his authenticity. Besides, who wouldn't have wanted to see him driving the Batmobile in a tux with a bowler hat and a flimsy eye mask?

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