70 years of Batmobiles get their due in Warner Brothers documentary

Creators tell stories from the anonymous red 1939 hardtop to the Tumbler

We shouldn't need to say anything for this post other than: The official Warner Brothers flick "The Batmobile Documentary" is now free on YouTube, and, "Enjoy." In case anyone's still here, the doc is like an hour-long behind-the-scenes featurette for a screen star that's used a fire-spitting turbine to combine the best of Lassie and the Terminator. The caped crusader's ride didn't start out that way, though, a series of luminaries opening the film by explaining the anonymous red sedan that began this whole road trip. From the time Batman first hauled around town in an unspecified two-door hardtop in Detective Comics #27 of May 1939, it took two years for someone to christen his ride "The Batmobile" and decorate it with the bat hood ornament, giant batwing fin springing off the back, and dark hue it deserved. 

When Batman swung from comic books to movies in 1943, the Batmobile returned to its quotidian roots: Bruce Wayne drove a Cadillac convertible with the top down, Batman drove the same convertible with the top up. 

It wouldn't be until 1950 that comic-book Batman, stuck in a hospital recovering from a broken leg, drew up a dedicated, gadget- and trick-laden Batmobile that would sprout bigger fins and far-reaching derivatives throughout the decade, including a Bat Saucer and a Bat Tank. 

In 1966, the Bat-universe blew open with the "Batman" television series starring Adam West. Since Warner Brothers commissioned this documentary in 2012 and premiered it at San Diego Comic-Con in 2013, Adam West and George Barris were alive to tell the story of the car that established the Batmobile template. Barris said a show producer told him he had 15 days and $15,000 to build a car. Barris gave one of those dollars to Ford to buy the Lincoln Futura concept car Ford had debuted at the 1955 Chicago Auto Show, and we know the magic he made of it.

The documentary trail of directors, producers, and designers connects Barris' work to Tim Burton's just-as-famous, revamped, Chevrolet-Impala-based Batmobile that Michael Keaton drove in the 1980s, the lesser-favored Batmobiles that followed for Val Kilmer and George Clooney, and the literal mil-spec Tumbler Christopher Nolan blew us all away with in "The Dark Knight" trilogy. The trail ends before getting to Zach Snyder's rigs for Ben Affleck's Batman, which means we don't get insight into the mid-engined, muscle-car looking hootenanny Robert Pattinson will pilot in next year's "The Batman," either. That could be a good thing, but we'll just have to wait and see. The doc stands as a solid hour of the real definition of "infotainment," just a click away.

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