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.


  1. It seems that you are quite knowledgeable about the Filipino Batman films, one question sprung to mind as soon as I read about fight Batman fight, how recently did you view it. I know for a fact that it did air on an local tv channel not too long ago and was wondering whether you maybe had an recording of fight batman fight or any of the others. It is a wonderful article and it only sparked more interest in the pinoy batman films, I have seen James Batman though it was wonderful to watch.

    If you have any please let me know

    1. Sorry, I don't own a copy of it. The last time I saw it was a loooong time ago, either late-80's or early-90's.