Let’s be good / Let us not be bad / Let’s be good apart / Let’s be afraid of God

Sporting an all-star cast, Alyas Batman en Robin may just be the best Batman film you’ve seen. It’s a musical spoof of the 1966 Batman film produced to ride 1989’s wave of Batmania surrounding Tim Burton’s reboot — before Warner Brothers threw up some legal challenges, resulting in an undisclosed settlement and a delayed release in 1991. That doesn’t matter to American audiences, who have largely consumed it over the past three decades via bootleg VHS tapes, DVD rips and the right Internet forums. Portions are available on YouTube, including many of the show-stopping musical numbers, but to watch the entire movie from start to finish is a valuable journey into one of the strangest and most memorable visions of the Caped Crusader ever put to film.

The story? Well, Kevin (Keempee de Leon) is a young man with a dream, much to the chagrin of his serious-minded brother (Joey de Leon, Keempee’s famous comedian father). In truth, Kevin is inspired by the comic books he reads about Batman and Robin, and loves the later hero in particular. Thankfully he’s pretty hot, despite being a geek. Vina (Vina Morales) tells her friend, unsolicited, that Kevin “is so handsome and oozing with sexiness.” Can’t beat that, can you?

Unfortunately, Kevin’s handsomeness means other less-endowed suitors like Jocson (Rene Requiestas, also a famous comedian who died of tuberculosis soon after filming) have no chance with the cute girls. Striking out leads Jocson to adopt a new alias … the Joker! He teams up with his recently freed criminal uncle Tiyo Paeng, aka “Uncle Paen-guin,” (Panchito) to rob banks and commit all sorts of crimes. To combat them, Kevin and his brother suit up as Batman and Robin.

At this point the songs begin and they’re just wonderful. Most of their melodies are lifted from well-known pop songs, like “Surfin’ Safari,” but who’s judging? Globally recognized IP copyright law is a relatively recent phenomenon. You can watch all of the songs on YouTube.

It starts with the Joker and Uncle Paen-guin bursting into song while robbing a bank at gunpoint. The poor bank women, hands in the air, start to jive to the music as captive backup dancers.

We are lovers … OF CRIME!

The two sing more about crime later but not before Batman and Robin get their time to shine.

Holy smoke, Batman and Robin

Oh my god, Batman and Robin

Praise the lord, Batman and Robin

Shoot now, shoot, Batman and Robin

Let’s do Bruce Wayne now

Let’s do Dick Grayson now

They are a part of me

This isn’t the only time God is mentioned. I’m sure mistranslation has something to do with the lyrics being so wild, but I like them this way. The music itself is pretty catchy, and the seemingly odd take on the Batman character only adds to the film’s enjoyably nutty nature. Two more musical numbers, a bikini-filled dream sequence and a wacky final battle later, the four main characters — Batman, Robin, the Joker and Uncle Paen-guin — join together with a Spider-Man of short stature to dance out a final song and spread the message of love, peace and tolerance.

Let’s be good / Let us not be bad / Let’s be good apart / Let’s be afraid of God

Although a bizarre curiosity for modern audiences, Alyas Batman en Robin wasn’t a low-budget underground production. Joey de Leon, Rene Requiestas, Panchito, Keempee de Leon, Dawn Zulueta (as Batman’s love interest) and Vina Morales were all well-known stars at the time and remain so in the Philippines to this day. The production company, Viva Films, is still one of the largest studios in the country. Much of the spoof comedy is spot-on, and the silliness is largely intentional in the script. This isn’t another Batpussy situation where I found some weird shit on the internet and wanted to write about it. Alyas Batman en Robin is the real deal.

Well, insofar as it was produced with intent. It’s still weird as hell, and for fans of modern grimdark iterations of Batman, it’s probably incredibly off-putting, although Zack Snyder would probably lose his shit with excitement when Robin pulls a gun on Uncle Paen-guin. To me, though — mistranslations and specific cultural references aside — this is a funny and off-kilter version of a Batman and Robin story that entertains for its entire run-time. Characters like Batman and Robin are so universally recognized that they can take on infinite forms. It’s always nice to find someone’s unique take on them, even if it’s utterly insane.