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Dubbing the Dynamic Duo : A comedy group creates its own story line for the 1966 film version of 'Batman' by providing new dialogue and sound effects.

August 07, 1992|RUTH STROUD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

On a ladder, Batman is dangling precariously from a helicopter piloted by Robin. A shark with big teeth has attached itself to Batman's foot, but the caped super-hero manages to get rid of the creature.

"How'd you kill the shark?" Robin inquires.

"It was easy," Batman says. "It was made of rubber."

The scene is from "Batman," the 1966 camp film classic based on the original Batman TV series. The movie that will appear on the screen at L.A. Connection Comedy Theatre in Sherman Oaks, beginning at midnight Saturday, is visually the same as the 1966 film, except for several strategic cuts.

But the dialogue and the story bear no resemblance to the movie, which starred Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin and Cesar Romero. The sound and music have been turned off so a cast of four men and one woman, seated with mikes in the front row of the black-walled theater, can create original dialogue and sound effects, ranging from car engines and running feet to elementary bodily functions.

Often the lips of the characters on the screen move in almost perfect sync with the live voices emanating from the darkness, eliciting hoots of laughter from the audience to lines such as Catwoman's, "I need to be alone now. I have to go breast-feed my cat," or Batman's exclamation after bussing Catwoman's hand, "I just licked a woman's hand, and I liked it!"

Kent Skov, founder, producer and director of L.A. Connection, who also provides the voice of Batman, has already debuted this madcap version of the film to enthusiastic houses at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles and the Ken Cinema in San Diego.

He and his company of 85 adult players (he recently added a children's improvisation group) also stage live improv shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Doing a good job of lip-syncing and creating a believable--but nutty--story line are the most important facets of dubbing movies, Skov says.

The stories are mostly scripted beforehand (though some room is left for improvised dialogue) and rehearsed for hours to get the lip-syncing just right. The whole process takes about 30 or 40 hours, Skov calculates.

He considers the features successful "if we can make people forget the original movie and get into our plot."

Even if people don't remember the story of the 1966 "Batman"--four villains (Catwoman, the Joker, the Riddler and the Penguin) plot to take over the world and turn major leaders into piles of dust--they will probably be amused by the L.A. Connection invention, which has the four villains crashing a boring party given by Batman and Robin.

But, even more than the plot, the satirical asides on topics such as Dan Quayle's spelling abilities, backups on the San Diego Freeway and the ineptitude of local cable companies aim to keep the laughs coming.

Both the director, Leslie Martinson, and Lee Meriwether, who played Catwoman in the 1966 "Batman" film, showed up for a recent screening of the movie at the Sherman Oaks theater.

Meriwether, looking chic and not particularly catlike in a cream-colored outfit and matching hat, elicited yowls of delight from the audience with her cat imitations. Martinson told anecdotes about the making of the film, which he said was shot in about 27 days on a budget of $1.5 million.

"In my 37 years of directing," he said, "I was never a more important man and never will be a more important man than when I was directing the Batman movie."

He was unfazed by the L.A. Connection adaptation. "They kept the mood," he said. Although, he added with a wink, "Batman isn't as pure as he was in our picture."

Meriwether called the dubbed "Batman" film "wonderfully irreverent," though edited "within an inch of its life."

The release of "Batman Returns" and of Warner Bros.' 1989 "Batman" seems to have increased interest in the original cast members, and helped make the L.A. Connection production more timely.

A taped interview with Meriwether and Martinson will be played before each midnight show, and audience members will have a chance to compete in a "cat's meow" contest.

Also playing at midnight tonight and every night through Sept. 25 will be "Reefer Madness II--The True Story," L.A. Connection's re-looped version of the original 1936 anti-marijuana film, "Reefer Madness," which Skov called a "poorly made, sensationalized, marvelously campy movie."

L.A. Connection, which Skov founded 15 years ago, is celebrating its 10th anniversary of dubbing movie features. It all began with "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman" at the Nuart and led to a regular spot on Alan Thicke's short-lived "Thicke of the Night" show and later to a nationally syndicated television series.

Skov currently has other irons on the fire, including creating short clips for an after-school pilot, tentatively called "National Lampoon's After School," which is debuting on the Fox Network in September.

The 40-year-old Skov, who appears more relaxed that his multiple projects would seem to permit, also plans to add 10-minute segments from old TV shows and films to his comedy revues, with original dialogue dubbed in live.

Skov, who grew up in Kentfield in Marin County, would like to franchise L.A. Connection to other cities, write an improv book, do another TV series and appear in a sitcom.

But, meanwhile, he can be heard as Batman in Sherman Oaks on Saturday nights.

Holy voice-over!

Where and When

What: "Batman 1966."

Location: L.A. Connection Comedy Theatre, 13442 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Hours: Midnight, every Saturday through Sept. 26.

Price: $10.

Call: (818) 784-1868.

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