When Andy Warhol Made a Batman Superhero Movie (1964)

Each of us has a favorite Bat­man movie. My own alle­giance still lies with the one Tim Bur­ton direct­ed in 1989, a pro­to­type of the mod­ern dark super­hero block­buster in which Jack Nichol­son made quite an impact as the Jok­er. But Heath Ledger made an even big­ger one in The Dark Knight, an espe­cial­ly beloved entry in Christo­pher Nolan’s acclaimed Bat­man pic­tures of the 21st cen­tu­ry. These days, with enough dis­tance, some even admit to enjoy­ing Joel Schu­macher’s ultra-campy takes on Bat­man from the late 1990s, or their spir­i­tu­al pre­de­ces­sor Bat­man: The Movie from 1966, an exten­sion of the self-par­o­dy­ing tele­vi­sion series star­ring Adam West. But before all of them there was Bat­man Drac­u­la, direct­ed by no less a vision­ary — and no less a Bat­man fan — than Andy Warhol.

Star­ring Warhol’s fel­low exper­i­men­tal film­mak­er Jack Smith in both title roles, Bat­man Drac­u­la pits the Caped Cru­sad­er of com­ic-book fame against the vam­pir­ic Tran­syl­van­ian count of leg­end, the mil­lion­aire vig­i­lante who seems to fear noth­ing but bats against the immor­tal recluse who spends much of his time in the form of a bat.

Smith may bear a faint resem­blance to Chris­t­ian Bale, Nolan’s Bat­man, but there all aes­thet­ic resem­blance to the “real” Bat­man movies ends. Shot in black and white on var­i­ous rooftops around New York and Long Island as well as in Warhol’s “Fac­to­ry,” Warhol’s unau­tho­rized approach to the mate­r­i­al seems to get as abstract and spon­ta­neous as most of the cin­e­ma put togeth­er by his coterie — or at least the sur­viv­ing footage makes it look that way. Though Warhol did com­plete Bat­man Drac­u­la, he only showed it at a few of his art shows before DC Comics called and demand­ed an imme­di­ate end to its screen­ings.

Nobody has found a com­plete print since, but you can watch a few min­utes of the sur­viv­ing footage cut to “The Noth­ing Song” by the Vel­vet Under­ground & Nico (a much more endur­ing prod­uct of the Fac­to­ry) in the video at the top of the post. Below that we have the LowRes Wün­der­bred video essay “Decon­struct­ing Andy Warhol’s Bat­man Drac­u­la,” which pro­vides more details on the mak­ing of Bat­man Drac­u­la and its con­text in the careers of Warhol and his col­lab­o­ra­tors. The Film His­to­ries video on Bat­man Drac­u­la just above gets into how the movie opened up a “Pan­do­ra’s box” of unau­tho­rized Bat­man and Bat­man-like movies, includ­ing The Wild World of Bat­woman and the Fil­ipino Alyas Bat­man at Robin. So many Bat­man projects, offi­cial and oth­er­wise, now exist, and so many more remain to be made. But will any of the mate­ri­al’s future stew­ards push its artis­tic bound­aries as much as Warhol did?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Evo­lu­tion of Bat­man in Cin­e­ma: From 1939 to Present

City of Scars: The Impres­sive Bat­man Fan Film Made for $27,000 in 21 Days

Watch Nos­fer­atu, the Sem­i­nal Vam­pire Film, Free Online (1922)

Warhol’s Cin­e­ma: A Mir­ror for the Six­ties (1989)

The Uncen­sored Andy Warhol-Direct­ed Video for The Cars’ Hit “Hel­lo Again” (NSFW)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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