The final shot in Batman Returns is arguably one of the most iconic moments in any Batman movie. As Bruce Wayne’s Rolls-Royce drives through the snow-covered, shadow-filled lanes, the camera pans up. A towering vertical labyrinth of skyscrapers rises to the sky. Snow softly falls on the Gotham skyline as the warm glow of the bat signal lights up the sky. Suddenly, a leather hood pops up from below the frame; Catwoman is very lively.
While it’s hard to imagine Batman Returns ending any other way, this shot wasn’t originally supposed to be in the movie. As detailed in the six-part documentary “Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight“The last frame was a hasty and extremely expensive last-minute addition. As explained in the documentary, the add-on was a studio entry by Warner Bros. who felt the audience needed a less ambiguous sign that Selina Kyle had survived, leaving the door open for a possible return.
The shot was filmed in a single weekend, costing $250,000, using a body double because Pfeiffer was unavailable at such short notice.
“In terms of the post-production of the film, it was really scary because we had a summer release date – you have to release these films in the summer – and we had a very tight schedule,” Producer Denise Di Novi. remember years later. “That was before computer editing, before CG… that was for a few weeks.”
“There was one shot at the end that cost a quarter of a million dollars,” recalls editor Chris Lebenson. “With Catwoman keeping her alive. It was a studio recording.”
“I remember I said I didn’t think it could be done in a meeting, but we’ll try,” recalls co-producer Larry Franco. “Followed by a flurry of phone calls. Literally the next day, we got the Catwoman costume from the warehouse and put it on someone. It was so fast. It was like a nightmare.”
It’s also the rare documented case where studio management made a film…better?