The name Andy Warhol brings to mind Campbell’s soups, pop art, and maybe even The Velvet Underground. The one thing that doesn't come to mind when considering Warhol is Batman. As it turns out, though, Andy Warhol made a Batman fan film in The Factory right around the time that he worked on screen prints of American iconography. The film, Batman Dracula, is the first of many Batman fan films to transform the decidedly grim character into a more complex version of himself.
Andy Warhol produced films at an astonishing rate during the '60s and '70s, creating about 30 movies a year for his personal exhibitions. The movies aren't exactly atypical representations of American cinema, however. They’re quickly filmed, heavily edited, and devoid of much narrative. The Andy Warhol Batman movie is certainly representative of the artist’s other work from 1964 and it provides a fascinating look into the obsessions of the world’s most famous modern artist.
According to Andy Warhol history buffs, the artist grew up watching the Batman serials from the 40s and wanted to pay tribute to the character. Batman Dracula also demonstrates Warhol's obsession with secular iconography - the title itself draws in the viewer with the promise of two major literary characters before completely unraveling their expectations.
After DC Comics told the contemporary icon to stop showing the film in the mid 60s no one saw it again for quite some time; all reels of the footage seemed to disappear. While searching for footage about Jack Smith - the actor who played the title role - for the documentary Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, director Mary Jordan actually stumbled upon footage from Batman Dracula. This discovery sparked new interest in the lost film and led to the recovery of what exists now.
You might think that DC Comics would've been excited to have one of the most important visual artists of all time exhibiting his own Batman film, but they most certainly were not. Extremely brand conscious even in the 60s, the comic book company had Warhol pull the film from all public exhibitions as it didn't represent their vision of the Dark Knight.
Everyone has their own favorite version of Batman. For some that spot will always be filled by Michael Keaton. A few people probably even like George Clooney's reclusive Bruce Wayne. The actor who hardly ever gets enough bat-credit, though, is Jack Smith. His artistic work really pushes the boundaries of camp and trash aesthetics - a style that regards irony and ugliness instead of simplicity and beauty. Throughout the film, Smith swishes, sashays, and even does a few moves that would put the traditional Batman Batusi dance to shame.