Friday, August 24, 2012

Alyas BATMAN Forever

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the world certainly loves its superheroes.  And just as there is a Japanese Spider-Man, a Turkish Captain America (what?) and about a couple Indian Supermen, the Philippines likewise has had, not one, but several Filipino Batmen.

Selected images from Video 48

Since the mid-1960's, there have been a number of Filipino films that were based on (or as my dear friend Mr. Anonymous would prefer, ripped-off from) DC Comics' Caped Crusader.  One would think, and rightfully so, that these movies were meant to capitalize on the Batmania craze launched by the campy 1966-68 television series, but it seems we've been at it even before that.  The first Pinoy Batman movie, Alyas Batman at Robin appears to have been released in 1965, a year before the TV show was first broadcast.  This version starred actor Bob Soler, who had previously portrayed the original Captain Barbell.  Another local Bat-film from the same year was Batman Fights Dracula, predating the the actual official meeting between the Dark Knight and the Prince of Darkness by 26 years.

One of the more well-known Pinoy Bat-movies is 1966's James Batman.  Parodying two popular 1960's trends, it starred the late Filipino Comedy King Dolphy in a dual role as both James Bond and Batman (It gets a little confusing when he appears out of costume, as it's hard to tell if he's playing "Bond" or "Bruce Wayne"). Rather interesting, if a bit weird film.  The action scenes are pretty good, and it's surprisingly violent for a comedy spoof.

Another odd one was 1973's Fight Batman Fight!, starring singer Victor Wood in the title role, a young Roderick Paulate as Robin, and Rod Navarro as a mustachioed, makeup-less Joker.  During that film's climax, Batman literally goes to Hell and has a fistfight with Satan himself (played by devilish character actor Romy Diaz in bright red tights!).

There was also a Batwoman and Robin movie in 1972 featuring mother-and-son team Virginia and Robin Aristorenas.  It was apparently popular enough to spawn two sequels, Batwoman and Robin Meet the Queen of the Vampires and Johnny Joker.  I've only seen the first one on TV when I was younger, and unfortunately, the last time I saw it, all the color had gone murky red.  So that's one more rare film lost to the ravages of time.

Coming full-circle, the last Pinoy Batman movie has a similar title as the first: Alyas Batman en Robin.  Released in 1991, it had actually been in production since even before Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie premiered, but was delayed by a lawsuit from DC Comics.  Eventually, the producers came to some sort of agreement with DC, and the film was finally shown a few years later.

This version starred comedian Joey de Leon, already famous for spoofing other popular characters in movies such as Starzan: Shouting Star of the Jungle, Long Ranger and Tonton: Shooting Stars of the West, and She-Man: Mistress of the UniverseAlyas Batman riffed mainly on the 1960's TV show, but it did have certain similarities to another incarnation of the Caped Crusader, one that would come some 4 years later: Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever.

What follows is a comparison of scenes from the 2 films.

Alyas Batman en Robin (ABR)
Comedian Rene Requiestas plays a Joker-obsessed high school student (in his 30's) who is jealous of his classmate (Keempee de Leon, son of Joey), a handsome Robin fan who gets all the girls.  He later becomes a cane-twirling Joker-wannabe and teams up with his gangster uncle, T'yo Paenguin (Panchito Alba).

Batman Forever (BF):
Comedian Jim Carrey plays a TV-obsessed scientist who is jealous of Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer).  He later becomes a cane-twirling villain, the Riddler, and teams up with the disfigured gangster, Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones).

When Robin first appears in costume, Batman notices the "R" on his uniform (which resembles the Regal Films logo).

When Robin (Chris O'Donnell) first appears in costume, Batman notices the "R" on his uniform.

Robin is courting a girl when all of her other suitors show up wearing identical Robin costumes.

Dick Grayson and his family all wear identical costumes (Okay, I guess this is a bit of a stretch).

Batman falls in love with a female reporter (Dawn Zulueta) and later visits her in her bedroom.

Batman falls in love with psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) and later visits her in her bedroom.

Having fallen in love, Batman decides to retire from crime-fighting.  Upset, Robin goes solo.

Having fallen in love, Bruce decides to retire from crime-fighting.  Upset, Dick runs away.

Joker and Paenguin kidnap the lady reporter.  Robin gets shot trying to stop them.

Riddler and Two-Face kidnap Dr. Meridian.  Bruce gets shot trying to stop them.

Near the end of the film, Paenguin and Joker are sent to prison, but later escape and disguise themselves as Batman and Robin, respectively.

Near the end of the film, the Riddler is committed to Arkham Asylum, where he insanely proclaims "I'M BATMAN!" (Again, I admit this is a stretch)

Bear in mind that ABR came out in 1991 while BF was released in 1995.  So, is this all just a wild coincidence, or was Schumacher ripping-off a rip-off?  After all, it's not as though ABR was this super-obscure foreign film that no one in the United States had ever heard of.  In fact, the American comic book news magazine Hero Illustrated even did a brief write-up on it in its November 1994 issue.

Whether or not Joel Schumacher had indeed swiped from ABR is anybody's guess.  But if he did, then there's one part of the movie which, given Schumacher's campy sensibilities, I'm surprised that he never incorporated.

A musical number.

Disturbing indeed.

Friday, August 17, 2012

ELIAS PANIKI - The Men Behind the Bat

Image from Video 48

Ang Mahiwagang Daigdig ni Elias Paniki ("The Mystical World of Elias Bat") was a 1989 movie directed by komiks writer-turned film director Carlo J. Caparas It starred veteran actor-senator Ramon Revilla, who carved his career portraying characters who possessed magical amulets or agimat.  In this film, he played the title role of Elias, a vampire slayer who derived his power from the petrified bat attached to his headband.


Now, we've bashed CJC here a few times, and certainly this film won't go down as a great masterpiece in the history of Philippine Cinema.  But still, it did have at least one moment of badassery.  I mean, what other vampire slayer actually waits for his prey inside its own coffin?


In 2009, the ABS-CBN Network launched Agimat: Ang Mga Alamat ni Ramon Revilla ("Amulet: The Legends of Ramon Revilla"), which adapted a number of classic Revilla films for television.  One of these was a re-imagining of Elias Paniki.

The series starred Jake Cuenca in a dual role as Elias (a witch-hunting albularyo in this version) and his own evil warlock father, Armando.  It ran for 13 episodes from May 29 to August 21, 2010.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Continuing Bat-Month, meet the  Dark Knight of the Rising Sun.  Created by writer/illustrator Hal Santiago, Japanese Bat ran from 1988 to 1989 in Shogun Qualikomiks Magasin, published by Graphic Arts Service, Inc.

Friday, August 3, 2012


For this August, it's Bat-Month, where we'll be taking a look at characters who were either inspired*  by a certain Caped Crusader or just happened to have something to do with bats in general.

*Yes, Mr. Anonymous, I am using the word inspired.  DEAL WITH IT.

In these early '80's newspaper strips by legendary cartoonist Larry Alcala, his rotund superhero Siopawman encounters an obsessed millionaire who stalks the night in the pursuit of-- bathing?