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Remembering Adam West Through His Bugged-Out B-Movies
culture  |  Jun 12, 2017

Remembering Adam West Through His Bugged-Out B-Movies

Outside his work as the OG Batman, the late West appeared in some off-the-wall B-films, including stints in grade-z horror and sci-fi flicks, softcore sex comedies, and a few that defy categorization.

Outside his work as the OG Batman, the late West appeared in some off-the-wall B-films, including stints in grade-z horror and sci-fi flicks, softcore sex comedies, and a few that defy categorization.

On June 9, 2017, the world lost Adam West, TV’s original Batman. History’s all-time hippest, funniest, and most psychedelic Caped Crusader was 88-years-old. Pack a bat-bowl today in his honor.

In fact, with its candy-colored pop art overwhelm, ironic put-on humor, and sound effects spelled out on in explosive eye-bombs (“POW!” “SPLAT!” “ZOWIE!”), the 1966 Batman may well have been the first network show to directly turn on early-adapter stoners with a knowing nudge and a cough. It lit up American culture like few things before it.

Of course, the show found the ideal deadpan hero in Batman himself—the late, great William West Anderson of Walla Walla, Washington, who later changed his name to Adam. Like many a head-rush, Batman’s meteoric peaked hard and crashed fast, leaving the lead actor to battle typecasting in the subsequent decades (you certainly don’t have to be blunt-numbed to see Adam West on screen anywhere and automatically blurt-out, “Yo, that’s Batman!”)

As a result, after hanging up his cape and bat-puns, Adam West spent the ‘70s and ’80s in some hugely enjoyable off-the-wall B-films that include stints in grade-z horror and sci-fi, softcore sex comedies, and a few that defy categorization. To celebrate the legacy of West, we wanted to spotlight his haziest projects that don’t involve a cape. Here are our picks for Adam’s most marijuana-friendly movies. Use this list to blaze up your own West Fest.

Poor Devil (1973)
Director: Early Barret
Non-Adam Cast: Sammy Davis Jr., Christopher Lee, Jack Klugman

Real-life Church of Satan swinger Sammy Davis Jr. stars as a wannabe seducer of souls who’s stuck in perpetuity stoking Hell’s actual furnaces.

When his big, bad boss Lucifer (horror icon Christopher Lee) gives Sammy one last shot at converting an Earth-dweller to the dark side, the downtrodden demon targets Jack Klugman as a sad sack whose wife is banging her employer.

Adam West plays the spouse-stealing boss, and he delivers a deliciously slimy turn, making eternal damnation seem like a reasonable deal to give this cad his comeuppance.

The Specialist (1975) 
Director: Howard Avedis
Non-Adam Cast: Ahna Capri, John Anderson, Alvy Moore

Adam turns on the charm in The Specialist as Jerry Bounds, a crusading environmental attorney who boasts the same initials and the same superhuman skills with the ladies as James Bond. Still, he is just a lawyer.

While Adam battles on behalf of Washington state’s water supply, the baddies at Big Toxic Waste dispatch a sexy female assassin named Londa Wyeth (Ahna Capri) to do him… and then do him in.

For the Love of It (1980)
Director: Hal Kanter
Non-Adam Cast: Adrian Zmed, Deborah Raffin, Barbi Benton

If über-’80s hairspray hambone Adrian Zmed is remembered at all these days, it’s either as William Shatner’s sidekick on the cop show T.J. Hooker, or as Tom Hanks’ sidekick in the 1984 raunch comedy, Bachelor Party.

For the Love of It showcases Zmed front-and-center as a Northern California good-time guy who gets steps hard into slapstick intrigue once the Army, the FBI, and the CIA all think he’s got a videogame chip that could lead to World War III.

While chasing Zmed as a government agent, Adam West doles out plenty of his signature desert-dry wit. Other members of the (insane) cast include more ancient sitcom stars than a week’s worth of Me-TV, including the brilliantly nasty (and also recently deceased) funnyman Don Rickles, and Pat Morita, aka Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid.

The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980)
Director: Alan Roberts
Non-Adam Cast: Martine Beswick, Phil Silvers, Richard Deacon

Perhaps Adam West isn’t who you’d immediately cast in the third film inspired by celebrity sex worker Xaviera Hollander’s bestselling 1971 memoir The Happy Hooker. Yet here he is. ZOWIE!

After the straightforward 1975 film adaptation The Happy Hooker, and the 1977 political satire The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, the flesh-filled Goes Hollywood is an R-rated meta-farce about the making of a Happy Hooker movie.

Martine Beswick plays Xaviera. Adam West shines as horny Hollywood mogul Lionel Lamely. Not only does Batman repeatedly bed with the titular Happy Hooker, we almost see what’s always been lurking beneath his Bat-Utility Belt.

Hell Riders (1984)
Director: James Bryan
Non-Adam Cast: Tina Louise, Renee Harmon, Ross Alexander

Batman meets Ginger from Gilligan’s Island! That’s what this psycho-biker schlock-lump promises and, oh, does it deliver so much less than that.

Tina Louise — aka the aforementioned Ginger — looks convincingly frightened by the motorcycle marauders of the title (or it could be the fact that she’s stuck in this piddle). Adam exudes at least a minimally paycheck-earning level of thespianism as “Dr. Dave,” the small town physician she flees to for hope.

No one else in the movie merits even that much praise, but still — come on, smokers — there is something inhale-worthy about the technical fact that, yes, Batman meets Ginger from Gilligan’s Island!

Young Lady Chatterley II (1985)

Harlee McBride – the real-life wife of comedy legend and High Times Cannabis Cup judge Richard Belzer — returns here as the bedroom adventurer from the original 1977 softcore hit, Young Lady Chatterley.

In fact, the first YLC flick proved to be such a smash in the early days of VHS and late-night “Skinemax”-style cable that this sequel arrived eight whole years later — and this time with Adam West as studly intellectual Professor Arthur Bohart Jr. to boot.

In the event you didn’t get enough of Adam West among naked breasts in The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, Lady Chatterley II will have you covered (and everybody else uncovered).  

Zombie Nightmare (1987)
Director: John Fasano
Non-Adam Cast: Jon Mikl Thor, Tia Carrere, John Fasano

Zombie Nightmare, which has been famously sent-up by Mystery Science Theater 3000, is the inaugural movie star vehicle of musclebound heavy metal maniac Jon Mikl Thor. (Rock-‘n’-Roll Nightmare, from the same director and later in the same year, is, frankly, the superior follow-up — meaning, in the best ways, it’s even worse).

After the dead rise with an unholy hankering for human meat, Thor turns for help to mustachioed Adam West as local police constable Captain Tom Churchman. Alas, it’s to no avail, as even Batman goes flesh-famished after suffering a ghoul bite.

It’s up to Thor, then, to save the world by ferociously beating the undead brains out of barely made-up walking corpses with a baseball bat. And, rest assured, human race — on that front, Thor comes through.

Night of the Kickfighters (1988) 
Director: Buddy Reyes
Non-Adam Cast: Andy Bauman, Marcia Karr, Michelangelo Kowalski

A quickie cash-in on Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Kickboxer, Night of the Kickfighters casts Adam as Carl McMann. He’s a scientist who seeks to save his kidnapped daughter by calling on Andy Bauman as Brett Cady, humanity’s greatest “kickfighter.”

Adam supplies the self-knowing wink for which he was famous, but, really, this is Bauman’s movie, and you’ll love (getting high to) him for it.

Bauman’s flabby physique, flabbier acting, and flabbiest-of-all martial arts mayhem make him a fantastically laughable action hero. And that’s true if he was, as the movie’s poster claims, the star of Ninja 2, Ninja 3, and Night Kill — except none of those films actually exist!

Omega Cop (1990)
Director: Paul Kyriazi
Non-Adam Cast: Ronald Marchini, Meg Thayer, Jennifer Jostyn

Omega Cop star Ron Marchini is a martial arts pro who is arguably most famous for losing to Chuck Norris in 1964. Adam West is the once-and-forever Batman. Together, they star as law enforcement agents in this post-apocalyptic blowout.

After a solar flare turns almost everyone alive into a murderous mutant, Adam becomes a bad guy. He plays the commander of the “Special Police” force for whom Marchini works, and he won’t let his top “Omega Cop” inside the agency’s safe bunker.

Lucky for us, that just means more gut-bustingly inept fight scenes and enjoyable moments of Adam West acting all mean while secretly signaling, as always, that he’s right there with us — in on the joke all the way. RIP, you gem of an actor! 

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Mike McPadden is the author of "Heavy Metal Movies" and the upcoming "Last American Virgins." He writes about movies, music, and crime in Chicago. Twitter @mcbeardo