Batman (1989)

PG-13 | 124 mins | Adventure | 23 June 1989

Director:

Tim Burton

Producers:

Jon Peters, Peter Guber

Cinematographer:

Roger Pratt

Editor:

Ray Lovejoy

Production Designer:

Anton Furst

Production Companies:

Warner Bros. Pictures , Guber-Peters Company, PolyGram Pictures
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HISTORY

While Kim Basinger’s character is credited as “Vicki Vale,” her name is spelled “Vicky Vale” on the cover of a Time magazine seen in the film.
       End credits include the statement: “Filmed at Pinewood Studios, London, England.”
       The project was announced in a 16 Oct 1977 HR news item, which stated that executive producer Benjamin Melnicker’s Batman Productions had teamed with Warner Publishing chairman William Sarnoff to option Batman from DC Comics and produce a feature film for release in 1981. However, two years later, a 28 Nov 1980 HR article reported that Batman was slated to be the next project for Melnicker and executive producer Michael E. Uslan, who had written Batman comics “while working his way through law school.” HR made no further mention of Sarnoff, who does not receive onscreen credit. Melnicker and Uslan planned to produce the film as part of their deal with Polygram Pictures, with Warner Bros. Pictures set to finance the $15 million production budget and filming slated for 1981 in New York City. The project was further delayed, and on 29 Dec 1982, LAHExam announced that a script had been completed. Shooting was pushed to fall 1983, with “big names” expected to fill cameo roles and younger, unknown actors playing “Batman” and “Robin,” although, according to a 10 Jun 1981 LAHExam item, Burt Reynolds’s name had been linked to the lead role. Adam West expressed interest in revisiting his role as “Batman” from the television series of the same name (ABC, 12 Jan 1966—14 Mar 1968), but Polygram vice-president Adam Fields ... More Less

While Kim Basinger’s character is credited as “Vicki Vale,” her name is spelled “Vicky Vale” on the cover of a Time magazine seen in the film.
       End credits include the statement: “Filmed at Pinewood Studios, London, England.”
       The project was announced in a 16 Oct 1977 HR news item, which stated that executive producer Benjamin Melnicker’s Batman Productions had teamed with Warner Publishing chairman William Sarnoff to option Batman from DC Comics and produce a feature film for release in 1981. However, two years later, a 28 Nov 1980 HR article reported that Batman was slated to be the next project for Melnicker and executive producer Michael E. Uslan, who had written Batman comics “while working his way through law school.” HR made no further mention of Sarnoff, who does not receive onscreen credit. Melnicker and Uslan planned to produce the film as part of their deal with Polygram Pictures, with Warner Bros. Pictures set to finance the $15 million production budget and filming slated for 1981 in New York City. The project was further delayed, and on 29 Dec 1982, LAHExam announced that a script had been completed. Shooting was pushed to fall 1983, with “big names” expected to fill cameo roles and younger, unknown actors playing “Batman” and “Robin,” although, according to a 10 Jun 1981 LAHExam item, Burt Reynolds’s name had been linked to the lead role. Adam West expressed interest in revisiting his role as “Batman” from the television series of the same name (ABC, 12 Jan 1966—14 Mar 1968), but Polygram vice-president Adam Fields stated that the company did not wish to associate their production with the television series; furthermore, the 50-something West was not considered age-appropriate. Ultimately, Batman did not go into production until fall 1988, and the character of “Robin” was not in the final script.
       Before Michael Keaton was cast as “Batman/Bruce Wayne,” Bill Murray was considered for the role, according to a 5 Feb 1989 NYT article. When Keaton’s casting was announced, an 11 Sep 1988 LAT item reported that the news was met with significant backlash from comic-book fans who felt the actor was not serious enough, and lacked the proper physical stature. Some dissenters went so far as to take out advertisements and organize letter-writing campaigns to Warner Bros. and DC Comics. According to an article in the 18 Jun 1989 LAT, Keaton’s salary was between $2 and 3 million.
       Although the 11 Sep 1988 LAT stated that Batman creator Bob Kane would play a cameo role as a newspaper cartoonist, Kane is not credited in the cast, while Dennis Lill appears in the role of “Bob the cartoonist.”
       A 13 Jun 1989 HR “Rambling Reporter” column noted that director Tim Burton first offered the role of “Joker/Jack Napier” to Robin Williams, who expressed interest but needed to rearrange his schedule to accommodate the role. However, before Williams could confirm his availability, Jack Nicholson was cast. A 30 Jun 1988 LAHExam brief stated that Nicholson was paid $5 million for three weeks of work playing the Joker, while an 18 Jun 1989 LAT article reported the salary as $6 million. According to a 7 Oct 1988 HR brief, the script was amended after Nicholson joined the project so that the Joker would sound more like him. Nicholson’s “Joker” makeup took two hours to apply and one hour to remove, as noted in a 7 Nov 1988 DV brief. Rumors of on-set tensions between Nicholson and Burton were mentioned in a 29 Oct 1988 Long Beach, CA Press-Telegram item, but Warner Bros. denied the claims as “rubbish.” Production notes in AMPAS library files quoted Nicholson as saying Batman was the “most carefree production” he had ever worked on. Regardless, the actor refused to participate in the Warner Bros.-sanctioned documentary, The Making of Batman, according to the 5 Feb 1989 NYT article.
       Although Sean Young was cast as “Vicki Vale,” as announced in an 18 Sep 1988 LAT news item, the actress was replaced by Kim Basinger after suffering a horseback riding injury. According to a 12 Aug 1991 People item, Young’s injury took place during a rehearsal for Batman, and she later lobbied to audition for “Catwoman” in the Burton-directed sequel, Batman Returns (1992, see entry). However, Young was not considered for the role, even after she went to the Warner Bros. lot dressed as the character.
       Production designer Anton Furst combined different periods, ranging from the 1930s to present, for Gotham City’s architecture, and modeled the church after Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi’s work. His design of the twenty-foot-long “Batmobile” was inspired by 1930s Bonneville Salt Flats racers, 1950s and 1960s Corvettes and Stingrays, and modern-day fighter airplanes, as noted in an 18 Jun 1989 NYT article. At a cost of $250,000, two Batmobiles were constructed using two 1968 Chevrolet Impalas, and parts from Harrier fighter jets and Rolls-Royce Olympus Speys, as noted in a 12 Jun 1989 LAT article. The vehicle’s black exterior was made of Kevlar, and Batman’s suit was fashioned from sculpted latex. According to the 5 Feb 1989 NYT, costume designer Bob Ringwood designed twenty different bodies, along with twenty-five “cape ‘looks’” and six separate heads for Batman. Keaton described the costumes as very uncomfortable and reportedly sweated through two Batsuits each day.
       Principal photography began 3 Oct 1988 in London, England, according to 21 Sep 1988 Var production charts. Shooting took place at Pinewood Studios, where thirty-five major sets were constructed, some fifty-feet high; in total, eight blocks of Gotham City were built, as stated in 12 Jun 1989 LAT and 18 Jun 1989 NYT articles. According to production notes, a “75,000-square-foot abandoned power station” served as the location for Axis Chemical Co., and two historic homes, Hatfield House and Knebworth, stood in for Bruce Wayne’s mansion. Filming was completed the week of 23 Jan 1989, as reported in a 30 Jan 1989 DV news brief.
       The 5 Feb 1989 NYT referred to Batman as “the biggest Warner Brothers film of 1989.” According to a 31 May 1989 Var article, the picture cost $35 million; however, a 29 Jun 1989 HR item listed the cost as $60 million, with a prints and advertising budget of $20-25 million. Various contemporary sources, including the 18 Jun 1989 issues of LAT and NYT, cited production budget figures ranging from $40 to $57 million, and a 21 Mar 1991 LAT article stated that prints ultimately cost $9 million, while $62.4 million was spent on advertising and publicity.
       According to the 18 Jun 1989 LAT, public awareness of the film prior to its release exceeded any picture in Warner Bros. history. A thirty-second trailer for Batman began screening on Christmas Day 1988, while commercials, film clips, and interviews aired heavily on television. According to an 18 Jun 1989 LAT article, nearly 130 licensees created merchandise for the film, from T-shirts to coffee table books, and fast food restaurant chain Taco Bell offered promotional tie-ins, as stated in a 17 Jun 1996 DV item. The 19 Jun 1989 premiere at Los Angeles, CA’s Bruin and Mann Village Theaters drew a crowd of 8,000 onlookers, as reported in a 20 Jun 1989 LAT article.
       Critical reception was mixed, although consistent praise went to Jack Nicholson’s performance and Anton Furst’s production design. Along with set decorator Peter Young, Furst won an Academy Award for Art Direction. For his “Batman Theme,” composer Danny Elfman won a GRAMMY award for Best Instrumental Composition, while Jack Nicholson received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.
       A 19 Dec 1989 DV item reported the film’s domestic box-office gross, after 174 days of release, as $251,188,924. To the time, only 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and 1983’s Return of the Jedi (see entries) had grossed higher amounts on their initial releases. According to a 30 Nov 1989 LAT item, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) paid $20 million for television broadcast rights to the film, while Batman’s box-office success also helped bolster reruns of the Batman television series, which gained twenty-seven markets around the time of the theatrical release, as reported in a 13 Jul 1989 HR brief.
       The song “Batdance,” by Prince, included in Batman’s soundtrack, reached the number one spot on Billboard magazine’s chart after only three weeks, according to a 14 Jul 1989 LAT brief.
       A 22 Oct 1993 DV item stated that Michael E. Uslan and Benjamin Melnicker sued Guber-Peters Company, Polygram Pictures, and Warner Bros. for withholding their thirteen-percent share of net profits. At the time, Warner Bros. contended that the film still had a deficit of $20 million. Guber-Peters Company was dropped from the suit and, on 25 Jan 1994, HR announced that all charges against Warner Bros. and Polygram had been dismissed after Los Angeles Superior Court judge David Yaffe found no evidence to support Melnicker and Uslan’s claims. Despite earning $300 million, the film was still not profitable, partly due to gross profit participations. Polygram made $4 million from gross profit points, while producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters earned $16 million. According to the 21 Mar 1991 LAT, Jack Nicholson’s deal guaranteed him fifteen percent of gross profits until the film earned a certain amount, at which point the actor’s take increased to twenty percent. Nicholson’s earnings on the film reportedly exceeded $50 million. Although Judge Yaffe found Polygram guilty of failing to consult with Melnicker and Uslan during production and illegally replacing their producer titles with executive producer titles, no money was awarded to the plaintiffs, who had asked for “40% of whatever their ‘partners’ got…net or gross.”
       In another lawsuit, magician David Copperfield sued collector Michael Eisenberg and auctioneers Butterfield & Butterfield for $1 million after buying a Batmobile at auction for $189,500, then discovering that the vehicle had been used for publicity purposes only and had not appeared onscreen, as reported in a 9 Apr 1996 LAT news brief. The lawsuit was settled, according to a 10 Aug 1996 LAT item, and the same Batmobile was later purchased by the Words & Pictures Museum of Fine Sequential Art in Northampton, MA.
       In anticipation of a sequel, two different endings were shot, including one in which the Joker survived, as noted in a 2 Apr 1989 LAT item. Plans for the sequel, Batman Returns (1992, see entry), were announced in a 25 Feb 1991 DV article, which stated that Batman had become the “fifth-highest grossing domestic pic of all time” and Warner Bros.’ most successful film to date. Michael Keaton reprised his role in Batman Returns, which was also directed by Burton. Two more films were produced in the series: Batman Forever (1995, see entry), and Batman & Robin (1997, see entry). While Burton stayed on as producer, Joel Schumacher replaced him as director of Batman Forever, in which Val Kilmer starred in the titular role, and Batman & Robin, which featured George Clooney as Batman. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
7 Nov 1988.
---
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1989.
---
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1989
p. 2, 15.
Daily Variety
19 Dec 1989.
---
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1991
p. 1, 22.
Daily Variety
22 Oct 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1977
p. 1, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1980
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1989
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1994
p. 1, 41.
LAHExam
10 Jun 1981.
---
LAHExam
29 Dec 1982
Section A, p. 2.
LAHExam
30 Jun 1988.
---
Long Beach, CA, Press-Telegram
29 Oct 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Sep 1988
Section K, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
18 Sep 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Apr 1989
p. 27.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jun 1989
Section D, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1989
Calendar, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
20 Jun 1989
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jun 1989
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jul 1989
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
30 Nov 1989
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
21 Mar 1991
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
9 Apr 1996
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
10 Aug 1996
Calendar, p. 2.
New York Times
5 Feb 1989
Section A, p. 11.
New York Times
18 Jun 1989
Section A, p. 1.
New York Times
23 Jun 1989
p. 12.
People
12 Aug 1991.
---
Variety
21 Sep 1988.
---
Variety
14 Jun 1989
p. 7.
Variety
31 May 1989
p. 5.
Variety
17 Jun 1996.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Guber-Peters Company Production
A Tim Burton Film
Produced in association with Polygram Pictures
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
1st asst dir
Unit mgr
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
3d asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Focus puller
Focus puller
Clapper loader
Clapper loader
Key grip
Key grip
Stills photog
Gaffer
Best boy
Rigging gaffer
Cam op, 2d unit
Follow focus, 2d unit
Clapper loader, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
Gaffer, 2d unit
Best boy, 2d unit
Originated on
Colour film from Kodak
Lighting equip by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Supv art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Prod illustrator
Art dept asst
Art dept junior
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Prod buyer
Const mgr
Asst const mgr
Const buyer
Sculptor/Modeller
Sculptor/Modeller
Decor & lettering artist
Decor & lettering artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
HOD carpenter
HOD scenic painter
HOD rigger
HOD master plasterer
HOD stagehand
Standby carpenter
Standby painter
Standby rigger
Standby plasterer
Standby stagehand
Prop master
Supv propman
Chargehand standby propman
Standby propman
Standby propman
Supv drapesman
Chargehand drapesman
Chargehand drapesman
Dressing propman
Dressing propman
Dressing propman
Dressing propman
Dressing propman
Dressing propman
Dressing propman
Dressing propman
Prop storeman
Chargehand standby propman, 2d unit
Standby propman, 2d unit
Standby carpenter, 2d unit
Standby painter, 2d unit
Standby rigger, 2d unit
Standby stagehand, 2d unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ms. Basinger's cost by
Asst cost des
Ward supv
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward runner
Ward asst, 2d unit
Ward asst, 2d unit
Mr. Nicholson's clothes tailored by
Selected menswear by
Selected menswear by
Selected ladieswear by
Batsuit made by
Batsuit made by
MUSIC
Songs wrt and performed by
Mus supv
Mus ed
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Conductor
Mus played by
Mus rec at
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd maintenance
Sd ed
Foley ed
Dial ed
Addl sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst re-rec mixer
2d asst re-rec mixer
Sd mixer, 2d unit
Boom op, 2d unit
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Spec eff supv
Visual eff ed
Asst visual eff ed
Visual eff coord
Travelling matte cam
Rear projection
Addl opticals
Addl matte artist
Addl matte cam
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Sr spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Asst spec eff tech
Asst spec eff tech
Wire eff tech
Visual eff by
a member of the LEE Group of Companies
Prod mgr, MMC visual eff unit
Unit mgr, MMC visual eff unit
Financial controller, MMC visual eff unit
Prod accountant, MMC visual eff unit
Asst accountant, MMC visual eff unit
Visual eff photog, MMC visual eff unit
Cam op, MMC visual eff unit
Cam op, MMC visual eff unit
Focus puller, MMC visual eff unit
Focus puller, MMC visual eff unit
Clapper loader, MMC visual eff unit
Clapper loader, MMC visual eff unit
Clapper loader, MMC visual eff unit
Video op, MMC visual eff unit
Motion control cam, MMC visual eff unit
Motion control cam, MMC visual eff unit
Motion control cam, MMC visual eff unit
Motion control cam, MMC visual eff unit
Visual eff art dir, MMC visual eff unit
Carpenter, MMC visual eff unit
Rigger, MMC visual eff unit
Gaffer, MMC visual eff unit
Best boy, MMC visual eff unit
Sr spec eff tech, MMC visual eff unit
Spec eff tech, MMC visual eff unit
Spec eff tech, MMC visual eff unit
Model workshop supv, MMC visual eff unit
Model maker, MMC visual eff unit
Model maker, MMC visual eff unit
Model maker, MMC visual eff unit
Model maker, MMC visual eff unit
Model maker, MMC visual eff unit
Model maker, MMC visual eff unit
Buyer, MMC visual eff unit
Opt cam, MMC visual eff unit
Opt cam, MMC visual eff unit
Rotoscope, MMC visual eff unit
Matte cam, MMC visual eff unit
Matte artist, MMC visual eff unit
Matte artist, MMC visual eff unit
Stagehand, MMC visual eff unit
Title seq by
MAKEUP
Chief make-up artist
Make-up artist
Trainee make-up artist
Joker make-up des
Prosthetic make-up artist
Prosthetic tech
Chief hairdresser
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
Ms. Basinger's hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Supv prod accountant
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Project consultant
Asst to Mr. Kenny
Asst to Mr. Burton
Floor runner
Prod runner
Prod runner
Scr supv
Asst scr supv
Video supv
Asst prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Accounts asst
Casting asst
Pub asst
Pub asst
Asst to Mr. Nicholson
Asst to Mr. Keaton
Physiotherapist
Action vehicles
of Motors for Movies
Prod driver
Prod driver
Prod driver
Prod driver
Prod driver
Prod driver
Prod driver
Prod driver
Scr supv, 2d unit
Scr supv, 2d unit
Video op, 2d unit
Video op, 2d unit
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Movement double
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Colour by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based upon characters appearing in magazines published by DC Comics, Inc. Based on Batman characters created by Bob Kane.
AUTHOR
SONGS
"The Future," "Vicki Waiting," "Electric Chair," "Partyman," "Trust," all written, produced and performed by Prince
"Scandalous," written by Prince with John L. Nelson, produced and performed by Prince
"Theme From A Summer Place," performed by Percy Faith and his Orchestra, written by Max Steiner, courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department
+
SONGS
"The Future," "Vicki Waiting," "Electric Chair," "Partyman," "Trust," all written, produced and performed by Prince
"Scandalous," written by Prince with John L. Nelson, produced and performed by Prince
"Theme From A Summer Place," performed by Percy Faith and his Orchestra, written by Max Steiner, courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department
"Beautiful Dreamer," performed by Hill Bowen & Orchestra, written by Stephen Foster, courtesy of CBS Special Products, a service of CBS Records, a division of CBS Records Inc.
"There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight," written by Joe Hayden, M. Theodore, A. Metz.
+
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
23 June 1989
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 19 June 1989
Los Angeles and New York openings: 23 June 1989
Production Date:
3 October 1988--late January 1989 in London, England
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
7 July 1989
Copyright Number:
PA417162
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® Cameras by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
124
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29761
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Batman, the caped crusader, operates as a vigilante in crime-ridden Gotham City. Although police do not acknowledge his existence, journalist Alexander Knox publishes a story about him in the Gotham Globe, enduring the ridicule of his fellow newspapermen, who believe Batman is a myth. However, a beautiful photographer named Vicki Vale approaches Knox at his desk, reveals that she shares his enthusiasm for the Batman story and presents her latest work, photographs of a foreign war that recently made the cover of Time magazine. Knox eagerly agrees to work with Vicki, who suggests they start by attending a benefit held by local businessman, Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile, Carl Grissom, head of Gotham’s crime syndicate, worries that newly elected district attorney, Harvey Dent, plans to investigate Axis Chemical Co. Since Grissom’s syndicate has ties to Axis, Grissom sends his underling, Jack Napier, to raid company files before police get to them. Napier, who is secretly having an affair with Grissom’s mistress, grudgingly follows orders. That evening, at Bruce Wayne’s mansion, Knox attempts to glean information about Batman from Police Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent, while Vicki seeks out the party’s host, who eventually reveals himself and confesses he is a fan of her photography. Grissom betrays Napier by calling in an anonymous tip to the police, and Gordon gets word that Axis Chemical is being raided. The commissioner rushes to the scene with Police Lieutenant Eckhardt and a team of policemen. ... +


Batman, the caped crusader, operates as a vigilante in crime-ridden Gotham City. Although police do not acknowledge his existence, journalist Alexander Knox publishes a story about him in the Gotham Globe, enduring the ridicule of his fellow newspapermen, who believe Batman is a myth. However, a beautiful photographer named Vicki Vale approaches Knox at his desk, reveals that she shares his enthusiasm for the Batman story and presents her latest work, photographs of a foreign war that recently made the cover of Time magazine. Knox eagerly agrees to work with Vicki, who suggests they start by attending a benefit held by local businessman, Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile, Carl Grissom, head of Gotham’s crime syndicate, worries that newly elected district attorney, Harvey Dent, plans to investigate Axis Chemical Co. Since Grissom’s syndicate has ties to Axis, Grissom sends his underling, Jack Napier, to raid company files before police get to them. Napier, who is secretly having an affair with Grissom’s mistress, grudgingly follows orders. That evening, at Bruce Wayne’s mansion, Knox attempts to glean information about Batman from Police Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent, while Vicki seeks out the party’s host, who eventually reveals himself and confesses he is a fan of her photography. Grissom betrays Napier by calling in an anonymous tip to the police, and Gordon gets word that Axis Chemical is being raided. The commissioner rushes to the scene with Police Lieutenant Eckhardt and a team of policemen. As they arrive, a shootout ensues, and Napier releases toxic chemicals to stave off his pursuers. Batman appears and captures Napier, but Napier’s man, Bob the Goon, holds Gordon at gunpoint, forcing the caped crusader to release his captive. Napier shoots Lt. Eckhardt, then fires at Batman, who deflects the bullet back to his attacker’s face. Napier falls into a vat of chemicals and the police leave him for dead. Later, as Knox attempts to cover the story, police claim Batman was never there, but Knox is unconvinced. Vicki accepts an invitation to dine with Bruce Wayne, and the two forgo his formal dining room to eat in the kitchen with Albert, Bruce’s butler and trusted confidant. That night, in a makeshift operating room, a doctor performs surgery on Napier’s mangled face, and the gangster laughs hysterically when he sees his reflection in the mirror. Aware that he was set up, Napier surprises Grissom at his office and reveals his new look: green-tinted hair, a chalky, white face, and a permanent, grotesque grin painted red. Still laughing, Napier instructs Grissom to call him “Joker,” then shoots the man dead. After waking up in Bruce Wayne’s bed, Vicki tries to arrange a second date, but Bruce claims he must leave town. Meanwhile, Napier’s new alter ego, the Joker, leads a crime syndicate meeting and announces Grissom has gone away and left him in charge. He kills Tony, one of the syndicate men, and his henchmen usher the others away at gunpoint. Suspicious that Bruce lied to her, Vicki follows him into town and observes as he leaves two red roses on the sidewalk in front of a shuttered hotel. At the Gotham City courthouse, Vinny, one of the syndicate members, files an affidavit for control of Grissom’s holdings, and a crowd forms outside as Knox questions him. Bruce gets there just before the Joker and his henchmen arrive. Marching up the courthouse steps, the Joker kills Vinny with a poisoned pen, then escapes in a car. Later, Bruce informs Albert that Napier is still alive and has taken control of Grissom’s operation. He requests police files on Napier, and learns that the gangster has a history of violence and psychological problems, as well as an interest in chemistry. At the Axis plant, the Joker oversees production of new chemicals, and soon, women begin dying with wide grins on their faces from poisoned cosmetics. Despite the rash of deaths, Gotham’s mayor insists that a 200th anniversary celebration for the city will go on as scheduled. Meanwhile, after seeing a photograph of Vicki in the courthouse crowd, the Joker decides to make her his next girl friend and lures her to a museum, where she believes she is meeting Bruce. As she waits at a table, Vicki receives a box containing a gas mask and a note instructing her to wear it. Suddenly, toxic gas spills into the museum, incapacitating everyone but Vicki. The gas clears and the Joker marches in with his goons, who deface paintings and sculptures at his instruction. He asks Vicki about Batman, but she claims to know nothing. Batman crashes in through the ceiling, rescues her, and drives her away in his heavily armored Batmobile. However, they are forced to proceed on foot when the vehicle crashes. The Joker’s henchmen catch up to Batman, but when they shoot, they discover he is protected by body armor. As Batman fights off his attackers, Vicki secretly snaps photographs. Afterward, he retrieves the Batmobile and leads her to his headquarters in a cave outside the city. Batman shares his findings that the Joker has poisoned hundreds of cosmetics, but the poisoning effects only take hold when certain components are mixed, like hairspray with lipstick and perfume, and provides her with a report to be printed in the Gotham Globe. The next morning, Vicki discovers that Batman stole the film from her camera, but, with the help of Knox, she gets Batman’s story printed on the front page. Unaware that he is Batman, Vicki reprimands Bruce for not returning her calls when he comes to her apartment later that day. He attempts to explain his dual identity, but they are interrupted by the Joker, who aims his gun at Bruce and asks if he “ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight.” Bruce recognizes the phrase, but crumples to the ground when the Joker shoots him. Vicki rushes to Bruce’s aid but finds him gone, realizing that he used her silver tray to stop the bullet. At the Gotham Globe offices, Knox shows Vicki a newspaper clipping about the murder of Bruce’s parents, which he witnessed as a child, and she deduces that the scene of the crime was the spot where Bruce left the roses. In a televised announcement, the Joker tells Gotham’s citizens that he will drop twenty million dollars on the streets at midnight as part of the 200th anniversary celebration, and challenges Batman to a duel. Meanwhile, Bruce looks at the newspaper clipping of his parents’ killing and recalls the shooter asking, “You ever dance with the devil by the pale moonlight?” Bruce suits up as Batman and drives the Batmobile into Axis Chemical Co., where he drops a bomb that destroys the plant. At midnight, the Joker enters Gotham City on a parade float and throws money on the crowd as promised. However, several large balloons tethered to the float release poisoned gas, causing revelers to drop to the ground, lifeless. There to cover the story, Knox orders Vicki inside his car and dons a medical mask as he attempts to fight off the Joker’s goons. Batman flies over the city in his airplane, the Batwing, collecting the poison-filled balloons and sending them into the upper atmosphere. Angry over the stolen balloons, the Joker shoots Bob the Goon dead, then fires at the Batwing, causing it to crash into a church. Vicki rushes to the Batwing, but the Joker kidnaps her and leads her inside the church. Batman emerges from the crash and follows them into a stairwell leading to the belfry. Joker releases one of the bells, which crashes to the first floor and blocks police from entering. However, Batman continues his pursuit and faces off with several of Joker’s henchmen before tussling with the Joker himself. Although Batman knocks him over the side, the Joker lands on a ledge and pulls Batman and Vicki over. As they dangle from the ledge, a helicopter arrives to rescue the Joker, who takes hold of a rope ladder dangling from the aircraft. Batman uses his grapple gun to shoot wire around Joker’s ankle. The other end of the wire is tied to a gargoyle that breaks off the belfry as the Joker is pulled away, but the weight of the gargoyle causes the archvillain to lose his grip, and he plummets to his death. Later, Harvey Dent holds a press conference and reads a letter from Batman, who promises to fight the forces of evil if they return to Gotham City. Dent also reveals a bat-shaped spotlight Batman provided for police to call on him. Viewing the spotlight with a smile, Vicki greets Albert, who awaits her with a car and informs her that Bruce will be a little late for their date. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.