Batman Returns (1992)

PG-13 | 126 mins | Adventure, Fantasy | 19 June 1992

Cinematographer:

Stefan Czapsky

Production Designer:

Bo Welch

Production Companies:

Warner Bros. Pictures , PolyGram Pictures
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HISTORY

According to a 14 Jun 1992 LAT article, Warner Bros. was very eager for Tim Burton to direct the sequel to his 1989 film Batman (see entry), which became the fifth-highest-earning film to that time, with a domestic box-office gross of $251.2 million. A 10 Jan 1991 LAT item confirmed that Burton would return as director, and a 14 Jan 1991 Var item stated that Michael Keaton was in negotiations to reprise the title role of “Batman/Bruce Wayne.”
       Sam Hamm, co-writer of the 1989 Batman, was hired to write a first draft, but the script failed to strike Tim Burton’s interest. Daniel Waters, known for his well-wrought female characters, was recruited to write a different script, with only one note from Burton: to avoid reducing “Catwoman” to a sexy vixen. The 14 Jun 1992 NYT stated that Batman Returns was “not conceived as a sequel” and the only tie to the earlier film was a reference to “Vicki Vale” as Batman’s ex-girl friend. Waters wrote a first draft, as noted in an 11 May 1992 Var brief. Wesley Strick was then brought in for a rewrite, and Waters returned to polish the script. A Writers Guild of America (WGA) arbitration granted Waters sole screenwriting credit.
       Although a 26 Jul 1989 LAHExam brief identified singer Jody Watley as the frontrunner to play Catwoman, and the 17 Aug 1989 LAT noted that singer-actress Madonna was vying for the female lead, Annette Bening was ultimately cast, with a reported salary of $1 million. However, after becoming pregnant ... More Less

According to a 14 Jun 1992 LAT article, Warner Bros. was very eager for Tim Burton to direct the sequel to his 1989 film Batman (see entry), which became the fifth-highest-earning film to that time, with a domestic box-office gross of $251.2 million. A 10 Jan 1991 LAT item confirmed that Burton would return as director, and a 14 Jan 1991 Var item stated that Michael Keaton was in negotiations to reprise the title role of “Batman/Bruce Wayne.”
       Sam Hamm, co-writer of the 1989 Batman, was hired to write a first draft, but the script failed to strike Tim Burton’s interest. Daniel Waters, known for his well-wrought female characters, was recruited to write a different script, with only one note from Burton: to avoid reducing “Catwoman” to a sexy vixen. The 14 Jun 1992 NYT stated that Batman Returns was “not conceived as a sequel” and the only tie to the earlier film was a reference to “Vicki Vale” as Batman’s ex-girl friend. Waters wrote a first draft, as noted in an 11 May 1992 Var brief. Wesley Strick was then brought in for a rewrite, and Waters returned to polish the script. A Writers Guild of America (WGA) arbitration granted Waters sole screenwriting credit.
       Although a 26 Jul 1989 LAHExam brief identified singer Jody Watley as the frontrunner to play Catwoman, and the 17 Aug 1989 LAT noted that singer-actress Madonna was vying for the female lead, Annette Bening was ultimately cast, with a reported salary of $1 million. However, after becoming pregnant with actor Warren Beatty’s child, Bening dropped out of the project. Vying to replace Bening, actress Sean Young, who had been initially cast to play Vicki Vale in Batman before an injury forced her off the project, dressed in a cat-suit and arrived unannounced at Tim Burton’s office at the Warner Bros. lot. Young was escorted out by security guards, according to Liz Smith’s column in the 18 Jul 1991 Newsday. The actress filmed a home video of the experience, which aired on Entertainment Tonight, and spoke about it on the Joan Rivers Show and Arsenio Hall Show, as noted in the 26 Jul 1991 DV and 5 Aug 1991 LAT. Warner Bros. responded with a statement that Sean Young did not fit the filmmakers’ vision for the role.
       Other actresses in contention to play Catwoman included Lena Olin, Ellen Barkin, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, according to the 29 Jul 1991. In addition, a 2 Aug 1992 Newsday item stated that Eartha Kitt, who had appeared on the Batman television series in the 1960s, was suggested to Tim Burton by her longtime manager, Jerry Kravat. In Jul 1991, Michelle Pfeiffer was signed as Bening’s replacement, and was set to receive $3 million, according to the 12 Aug 1991 issue of People magazine. Pfeiffer prepared for the role by training with Kathy Long, a kick-boxing coach who also served as the actress’s body double, as noted in a 17 Jul 1992 LAT article about a recent surge in the popularity of kick-boxing, attributed to Batman Returns.
       An 8 Aug 1989 LAHExam brief and the 17 Jul 1989 issue of People listed Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro as candidates for the role of “Penguin.” Neither actor appeared in the film.
       An item in the 25 Mar 1991 Var reported rumors that Warner Bros. was searching for a black actor to play Batman’s sidekick, “Robin.” Although black actor Marlon Wayans was cast in the role of “The Kid,” not “Robin,” the Kid was eventually written out of the script, according to a 4 Nov 1991 New York brief. Filmmakers later clarified that Batman Returns never included a Robin character.
       The production budget was listed as $50 million in several contemporary sources, including the 14 Jun 1992 NYT. However, an 18 Nov 1991 Var brief stated a “realistic budget projection” for the film was at least $75 million. An 11 May 1992 People item estimated production costs of $80-$90 million, and stated that there would be no time for test screenings, as Tim Burton was rushing to finish the film in time for its 19 Jun 1992 release date.
       Principal photography began 3 Sep 1991. The 20 May 1991 DV “Just for Variety” column stated that “giant sets” were built on Stage 16 at the Warner Bros. studio lot, and Stage 12 at Universal Studios. Six additional stages and the Warner Bros. ranch were reportedly on hold in case the production needed more space. According to a 14 Jun 1992 NYT article, sets eventually took up eight sound stages at Warner Bros. Production designer Bo Welch, who was enlisted to create a brand-new look for the film, took inspiration from fascist architecture of Third Reich Germany, and American Precisionist painters of the 1920s, as noted in a 14 Jun 1992 LAT article. Welch wanted to give the film a “bigger feeling” than Batman, and focused on “emphasizing the vertical.”
       The “Batsuit” was slightly modified by costume designers Bob Ringwood and Mary Vogt, with “suggestions of machine parts built into the torso” and a more “Darth Vader-like” appearance inspired by the film’s Streamline Moderne aesthetic, according to a 26 Jun 1992 LAT item. Forty-eight Batsuits, and Catwoman’s headpiece and mask, were constructed at a Burbank, CA, workshop headed by Vin Burnham. Seventy Catwoman bodysuits were made by Los Angeles, CA-based clothing manufacturer, Syren, and the remaining costumes came from Western Costume and the Warner Bros. costume department.
       Production notes in AMPAS library files state that the Penguin’s army consisted of several real Black-footed and King penguins; thirty penguin puppets, ranging from eighteen to forty inches high and covered in dyed chicken feathers, developed and operated by Stan Winston’s special effects studio; four forty-pound Emperor penguin suits inhabited by little people; and computer-generated penguins developed by Boss Film Studios. A 17 Jun 1992 LAT item noted that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) disapproved of the filmmakers’ choice to uproot penguins from their natural environments. Although they acknowledged the animals were not mistreated on set, PETA planned to protest the film.
       The 10 Oct 1991 DV reported that four stuntmen were treated for minor injuries after a planned explosion that took place during the filming of a scene at “Shreck’s” department store.
       Principal photography ended on 20 Feb 1992, as announced in DV the following day. Wood used to build the sets was donated to Habitat for Humanity, to build low-cost housing for the poor, according to a 21 Mar 1992 Long Beach Press-Telegram item.
       The first “teaser” poster showed a simple outline of Batman’s head with the word “Returns” and the release date. According to the 27 Feb 1992 HR, the poster was heavily criticized as “mundane” and replaced with a new one containing the traditional Batman logo under windswept snow and ice, with “The Bat, The Cat, The Penguin” above the logo, and the film’s full title and release date below it. A 21 Feb 1992 DV item reported that the first “teaser trailer” debuted at ShoWest in Las Vegas, NV, on 19 Feb 1992. Two days later, a two-minute, thirty-five-second trailer was released in movie theaters.
       Licensing for Batman Returns products began in 1990. A 16 Jan 1991 HR item stated that the first licensees on board were Signal Apparel Co. and the Shirt Shed, both of which were licensing partners on the film’s predecessor, which had taken in an estimated $500 million in merchandising retail sales. In late 1991, corporate giants McDonald’s and Coca-Cola signed on for global promotions that were expected to add an additional $35 million in advertising, while Warner Bros.’ prints and advertising expenditures were estimated to cost at least $20 million. By Feb 1992, Warner Bros. Worldwide Consumer Products (WBWCP) had made licensing deals with Ralston Purina, reprising its “Batman” cereal; Kenner Toys; Kmart; Target; Venture; and Sears, which planned to set up 300 “Batman shops” within department stores throughout the U.S. Calling it the “most widely anticipated film of the summer,” the 20 Apr 1992 Var noted that Batman Returns had also inspired a line of “Catwoman clothing” to be produced by Los Angeles-based company Chorus Line, and sold at Macy’s, Bullock’s, and Robinson’s department stores. Another promotional partner, Choice Hotels, sponsored The Making of Batman Returns, an hour-long television special. On 2 May 1992, the unveiling of “Batman the Ride” at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL, also helped boost the film, as noted in the 20 Apr 1992 Var. The “inverted” rollercoaster, which cost $8 million to construct, was later replicated at several other Six Flags locations throughout the U.S.
       Having encountered problems with counterfeit merchandise on Batman, Warner Bros. developed “special holographic hang tags” with a 3-D image of Batman to identify official Batman Returns merchandise, as stated in a 23 Apr 1992 DV item. The hang tags were anticipated to become collector’s items. Thievery was also an issue. As noted in a 30 Apr 1992 DV news brief, when 300 Batman Returns posters were first hung at bus shelters and public transit stations throughout Los Angeles, over two-thirds of them were stolen within days.
       On 16 Jun 1992, the film premiered at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, as noted in an 18 Jun 1992 LAT brief. An after-party, with an estimated 1,000 guests in attendance, followed on Stage 16 at the Warner Bros. lot. On 18 Jun 1992, in advance of opening night, Warner Bros. held special screenings at 1,000 theaters, according to an 18 Jun 1992 LAT brief. Batman Returns went on to set a record for the highest three-day opening weekend to date, taking in $44.6 million on a record 2,644 screens. Coincidentally, the previous record holder had been Batman, which had grossed $40.5 million at 2,194 theaters over a three-day opening weekend, according to the 22 Jun 1992 WSJ.
       The release marked the debut of Dolby’s “digital plus analog optical track format,” which had been “quietly tested” on two previous films, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, see entry) and Newsies (1992, see entry), as stated in an 11 May 1992 HR article. However, as of Batman Returns’ release, only about ten theaters had spent the necessary $20,000 to upgrade their equipment to read the digital track, which was located between sprocket holes on film prints.
       Critical reception was mixed. While the 19 Jun 1992 NYT review praised Burton for stepping out of Batman’s “murky shadow” and creating a “sprightly” sequel, the LAT review of the same date called it “cheerless” and likened the film to a version of The Addams Family if it were to be directed by Ingmar Bergman. The 15 Jun 1992 HR review criticized the script, arguing that the “central conflict is way too nebulous,” but praised Danny Elfman’s score. Similarly, the 15 Jun DV called the film “one big glob storywise” but praised its technical elements, including Bo Welch’s production design and Bob Ringwood and Mary Vogt’s costumes. Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance received consistent praise.
       Batman Returns received Academy Award nominations for Makeup and Visual Effects
       A 24 Jul 1992 LAT article noted Warner Bros.’ concerns that box-office earnings had fallen too quickly, suggesting the film would not have the longevity of its predecessor. To that time, it had grossed $145.4 million. On 21 Oct 1992, four months after theatrical release, a home video version was released by Warner Home Video, according to a 13 Aug 1992 DV news item.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 May 1991.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jul 1991.
---
Daily Variety
10 Oct 1991.
---
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1992.
---
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1992
p. 6.
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1992.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1992
p. 4, 24.
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1992
p. 1, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 1991
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 1992
p. 1, 59.
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1992
p. 1, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1992
p. 12, 28.
LAHExam
26 Jul 1989.
---
LAHExam
8 Aug 1989.
---
Long Beach Press-Telegram
21 Mar 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Aug 1989
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
5 Aug 1991
Section F, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1992
Calendar, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1992
Calendar, p. 82.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jun 1992
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1992
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1992
p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
19 Jun 1992
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jun 1992
p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jul 1992
Section E, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jul 1992
Calendar, p. 1.
New York
4 Nov 1991.
---
New York Times
14 Jun 1992.
---
New York Times
19 Jun 1992
p. 1.
New York Times
2 Aug 1992.
---
Newsday
18 Jul 1991.
---
Newsday
23 Jul 1991
p. 11.
Newsday
2 Aug 1991
p. 11.
People
17 Jul 1989.
---
People
12 Aug 1991.
---
People
11 May 1992.
---
Variety
14 Jan 1991.
---
Variety
29 Jul 1991.
---
Variety
18 Nov 1991.
---
Variety
20 Apr 1992
p. 3, 5.
Variety
11 May 1992.
---
Variety
15 Jun 1992
p. 56.
WSJ
22 Jun 1992
Section B, p. 4.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. presents
A Tim Burton film
Produced in association with Polygram Pictures
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
Dir, 2d unit
Dir, 2d unit
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc to the prod
Assoc to the prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Steady cam op
Chief lighting tech
Rigging gaffer
Asst chief lighting tech
Key grip
Best boy
Dolly grip
Flying rigs
Main title seq des by
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
Addl 2d unit photog, 2d unit
Chief lighting tech, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Supv art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept researcher
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dept, Stan Winston Studios
Art dir, Boss Film Studios
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Set des
Const coord
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Lead person
Gen const foreman
Propmaker foreman
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
Men's cost supv
Women's cost supv
Set costumer
Set costumer
Set costumer
Set costumer
Set costumer
Set costumer
Visual and tech cost eff supv
Cost eff
Cost eff
Cost eff
Cost eff
Cost eff
Cost eff
Cost eff
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus prod by
Mus prod by
Mus rec eng
Addl orch
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Utility sd (Cable)
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd eff
Dial ed
Dial ed
ADR supv
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Sd eff rec
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Prod sd mixer, 2d unit
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec Penguin eff prod by
Visual eff supv
Spec eff supv
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Visual eff coord
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Mechanical dept, Stan Winston Studios
Spec visual eff in Vistavision by
Visual eff supv, Boss Film Studios
Visual eff co-supv, Boss Film Studios
Visual eff prod supv, Boss Film Studios
Dir of photog - Miniatures, Boss Film Studios
Director of photog - Miniatures, Boss Film Studios
Dir of photog - Plates, Boss Film Studios
Chief financial officer, Boss Film Studios
Opt supv, Boss Film Studios
Model shop supv, Boss Film Studios
Matte dept supv, Boss Film Studios
Ed supv, Boss Film Studios
Digital eff supv, Boss Film Studios
SPFX foreman, Boss Film Studios
Rotoscope supv, Boss Film Studios
Tech supv, Boss Film Studios
Chief eng, Boss Film Studios
Visual eff line prod, Boss Film Studios
Opt supv, Boss Film Studios
Opt supv, Boss Film Studios
Opt cam, Boss Film Studios
Opt cam, Boss Film Studios
Opt line-up, Boss Film Studios
Opt line-up, Boss Film Studios
Digital eff anim, Boss Film Studios
Digital eff anim, Boss Film Studios
Digital eff anim, Boss Film Studios
Digital cam op, Boss Film Studios
Matte cam, Boss Film Studios
Rotoscope artist, Boss Film Studios
Gaffer, Boss Film Studios
Asst cam, Boss Film Studios
Lead modelmaker, Boss Film Studios
Modelmaker, Boss Film Studios
Modelmaker, Boss Film Studios
Modelmaker, Boss Film Studios
Modelmaker, Boss Film Studios
4-Ward Productions
4-Ward Productions
Visual eff supv, 4-Ward Productions
Supv dir of photog, 4-Ward Productions
Line prod, 4-Way Productions
Line prod, 4-Way Productions
Prod coord, 4-Way Productions
Assoc prod, 4-Ward Productions
Model and miniature set supv, 4-Ward Productions
Model and miniature set supv, 4-Ward Productions
Dir of photog, 4-Ward Productions
Dir of photog, 4-Ward Productions
Gaffer, 4-Ward Productions
Gaffer, 4-Ward Productions
Gaffer, 4-Ward Productions
Miniature set fabrication and operation, 4-Ward Pr
Miniature set fabrication and operation, 4-Ward Pr
Miniature set fabrication and operation, 4-Ward Pr
Miniature set fabrication and operation, 4-Ward Pr
Visual eff supv, Matte World Visual Effects
Visual eff supv, Matte World Visual Effects
Exec in charge of prod, Matte World Visual Effects
Matte artist, Matte World Visual Effects
Matte artist, Matte World Visual Effects
Matte artist, Matte World Visual Effects
Cam op, Matte World Visual Effects
Motion control op, Matte World Visual Effects
Cam asst, Matte World Visual Effects
Cam asst, Matte World Visual Effects
Prod coord, Matte World Visual Effects
Digital bats and Batmobile shields by
Video Image
Video Image
Video Image
Video Image
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
"Old Zoo" miniature eff by
Supv, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Supv, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Chief model maker, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Lead model painter, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Pyrotechnic supv, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
"Old Zoo" visual eff by
Eff supv, The Chandler Group
Eff supv, The Chandler Group
Dir of photog, The Chandler Group
Stage mgr, The Chandler Group
Motion control op, The Chandler Group
Cam op, The Chandler Group
Addl digital compositing by
Opt supv, PDI
Anim, PDI
Anim, DPI
Refrigeration eff by
Batboat, Batmissile and Duck car by
Circus train by
Mechanical eff supv, 2d unit
MAKEUP
Spec Penguin makeup prod by
Makeup supv
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hair supv
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Penguin makeup des
Penguin makeup des
Penguin makeup des
PRODUCTION MISC
Video eng
Scr supv
Project consultant
Prod assoc
Asst to Tim Burton
Asst pro secy
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Unit pub
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Casting assoc
Asst to Mr. Keaton
Asst to Mr. DeVito
Asst to Ms. Pfeiffer
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-captain
Craft service
Head animal trainer
Animals and blackfeet penguins provided by
King penguins provided by
Prod coord, Stan Winston Studios
Prod coord, Stan Winston Studios
Transportation captain, 2d unit
Puppeteer
Puppeteer
Puppeteer
Puppeteer
Puppeteer
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performers
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
ANIMATION
Addl digital compositing by
Opt supv, Pacific Data Images
Anim, Pacific Data Images
Anim, Pacific Data Images
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based upon characters appearing in magazines published by DC Comics Inc., and on comic book characters by Bob Kane.
AUTHOR
SONGS
“Face To Face,” words and music by Danny Elfman and Siouxsie & the Banshees, produced by Stephen Hague and Danny Elfman, performed by Siouxsie & the Banshees, courtesy of Polydor Limited and Geffen Records
“Super Freak,” written by Rick James and Alonzo Miller, orchestrated by Bruce Fowler.
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Title:
Batman 2
Release Date:
19 June 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 16 June 1992
Los Angeles and New York openings: 19 June 1992
Production Date:
3 September 1991--20 February 1992
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 June 1992
Copyright Number:
PA569651
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
126
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31845
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Gotham City, the wealthy Esther Cobblepot gives birth to a deformed baby. Disturbed by the child’s animalistic appearance, she and her husband, Tucker, drop the child into an icy river. Thirty-three years later, the boy has grown into the “Penguin,” half-bird, half-man, who lives in a lair in the sewer under the defunct Gotham Zoo. On the night of the annual Christmas tree lighting, as the Penguin observes through a sewer grate, the Red Triangle Circus Gang interrupts local business mogul Max Shreck’s speech, and wreaks havoc on Gotham citizens. Police activate the Bat-Signal, a searchlight that calls for “Batman,” the caped crusader. At home, billionaire Bruce Wayne sees the signal, and changes into his Batsuit. As Batman, he fights the Red Triangle goons and rescues Max Shreck’s secretary, Selina Kyle. Shreck flees underground and falls into a trap door that transports him to the Penguin’s lair, inhabited by actual penguins and members of the Red Triangle gang. Penguin accuses Shreck of hazardous business practices that poison Gotham’s water. Threatening to expose the toxic waste, Penguin demands Shreck’s help in becoming a legitimate Gotham citizen. Elsewhere, Selina Kyle arrives home at her lonely apartment and talks to her cat. A message on her answering machine reminds her to pull Bruce Wayne’s file at the office, in advance of Shreck’s meeting with him. Selina returns to the office, and studies Shreck’s proposal for a power plant that was denied public funding. Shreck, who hopes Bruce Wayne will invest in his latest venture, discovers Selina reading. He becomes paranoid when she points out that the proposed plant is actually a capacitor designed to hoard energy. Shreck pushes her out ... +


In Gotham City, the wealthy Esther Cobblepot gives birth to a deformed baby. Disturbed by the child’s animalistic appearance, she and her husband, Tucker, drop the child into an icy river. Thirty-three years later, the boy has grown into the “Penguin,” half-bird, half-man, who lives in a lair in the sewer under the defunct Gotham Zoo. On the night of the annual Christmas tree lighting, as the Penguin observes through a sewer grate, the Red Triangle Circus Gang interrupts local business mogul Max Shreck’s speech, and wreaks havoc on Gotham citizens. Police activate the Bat-Signal, a searchlight that calls for “Batman,” the caped crusader. At home, billionaire Bruce Wayne sees the signal, and changes into his Batsuit. As Batman, he fights the Red Triangle goons and rescues Max Shreck’s secretary, Selina Kyle. Shreck flees underground and falls into a trap door that transports him to the Penguin’s lair, inhabited by actual penguins and members of the Red Triangle gang. Penguin accuses Shreck of hazardous business practices that poison Gotham’s water. Threatening to expose the toxic waste, Penguin demands Shreck’s help in becoming a legitimate Gotham citizen. Elsewhere, Selina Kyle arrives home at her lonely apartment and talks to her cat. A message on her answering machine reminds her to pull Bruce Wayne’s file at the office, in advance of Shreck’s meeting with him. Selina returns to the office, and studies Shreck’s proposal for a power plant that was denied public funding. Shreck, who hopes Bruce Wayne will invest in his latest venture, discovers Selina reading. He becomes paranoid when she points out that the proposed plant is actually a capacitor designed to hoard energy. Shreck pushes her out the window. Although she falls several stories, a cluster of cats congregates around her lifeless body, and Selina is miraculously revived. In a trance, she returns home and guzzles milk, vandalizes her apartment, and fashions a bodysuit out of a black rain slicker. Soon, Red Triangle goons steal the Mayor’s baby during a televised speech. The baby is delivered to Penguin, who emerges from the sewer as if he just rescued the child. Despite his freakish appearance, the crowd is won over. When Penguin announces his desire to find his birth parents, Bruce Wayne questions his intentions and investigates his past, discovering that the young Penguin spent time in circus freak shows, but disappeared around the same time as many other performers. The coincidence links Penguin to the Red Triangle Circus Gang and confirms he is a threat to Gotham. Meanwhile, in her black bodysuit, Selina prowls Gotham as “Catwoman,” her powerful alter ego. The next morning, Bruce Wayne meets with Max Shreck. Arguing that Gotham has a power surplus, Bruce denies him funding for the “power plant.” A newly confident Selina Kyle interrupts, startling Shreck, who thought she was dead. However, he dismisses her as harmless. Desperate to finagle public funding for the power plant, Max devises a mayoral campaign for Penguin, who now goes by his birth name, “Oswald Cobblepot.” As Catwoman, Selina destroys Shreck’s Department Store, while Batman confronts Penguin on the street. Catwoman interrupts them, and Batman chases after her. They tussle on a rooftop, and she punctures his Batsuit with one of her “claws.” Soon, Penguin announces his bid for mayor. In their next meeting, Catwoman rejects Penguin’s sexual advances, but offers to join forces against Batman. He shows her the Red Triangle gang’s plans to bomb the Batmobile, but Catwoman insists it would be more effective to frame Batman. They develop a scheme to lure Batman into the town plaza the following night for a “re-lighting” of the Christmas tree. The next day, Bruce sees Selina on the street and invites her to an early dinner at his mansion. There, Selina asks about Bruce’s personal life. He remains vague, but confesses that his ex-girl friend, Vicki Vale, had trouble reconciling his “duality.” They kiss, but the date is cut short when a television news reporter announces that the “Ice Princess” who was supposed to re-light Gotham’s Christmas tree has been abducted. Both Selina and Bruce concoct excuses to cut their date short. In her car, Selina fumbles for her Catwoman suit, while Bruce retreats to his Batcave. In town, Batman attempts to free the Ice Princess, but Catwoman drags her to a rooftop. Batman gives chase and finds the Ice Princess tottering on a ledge. Penguin releases bats that cause the Ice Princess to fall to her death. When Gotham citizens spot Batman on the roof, they assume he is responsible. Later, Catwoman reprimands Penguin for killing the Ice Princess. He tries to retaliate by strangling Catwoman, but she frees herself. On his way home, Batman discovers Penguin’s goons have sabotaged the Batmobile. Remotely, Penguin takes control of the vehicle, and taunts Batman over a Batmobile screen as the vehicle plows through Gotham. Batman regains control just in time to jettison the sides of the Batmobile and squeeze through a narrow alleyway. Soon, Penguin gives a speech in the plaza, but Batman disrupts it with an audio recording of Penguin’s menacing threats. As the crowd boos, Penguin attacks them with his parasol that doubles as a firearm, and retreats into the sewer. He vows to take revenge against all of the first-born sons of Gotham. Later, Bruce sees Selina at a costume party hosted by Shreck. She reveals her plans to kill Shreck, but Bruce discourages her. They kiss under the mistletoe, and Selina quotes something Batman said to her. In turn, he quotes Catwoman, and they simultaneously register each other’s secret identities. Just then, an explosion sends partygoers flying. Penguin starts to abduct Max Shreck’s son, Chip, but Max sacrifices himself instead. Back in his lair, Peguin traps Shreck in an oversized birdcage, and announces his plans to drown Gotham’s children in toxic sewer water. When he receives word that Batman has saved the male infants of Gotham, Penguin amends his plan to attack all the city’s children. Strapping missiles to his army of penguins, he sends them into the plaza for a mass explosion. Batman interrupts Penguin’s radio signal and directs the animals back to the Gotham Zoo, where the missiles misfire. Batman arrives as bats attack Penguin, and Shreck frees himself from the birdcage. When Catwoman joins the fray, she and Batman remove their masks, revealing their identities to each other. Batman tries to stop her from killing Shreck, suggesting they turn him in to the police instead. Shreck shoots them both. Selina retaliates by electrocuting him. Penguin emerges from the water and tries to shoot Batman, but selects the wrong parasol. He topples over and dies, and penguins collect his dead body. Later, as Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, drives him through town, Bruce sees Catwoman’s shadow. However, when he gets out of the car, he cannot find her. A black cat approaches, and Bruce takes it with him. Back in the car, Alfred and Bruce wish each other a merry Christmas, as Catwoman stands on a rooftop and peers at the Bat-Signal in the sky. +

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.