It’s here! It’s here! I was thrilled to finally get Batman: The Complete TV Series Limited Edition (and you can see my pictures of the box opening). It’s been a long time (for complicated legal reasons), but the show is even more fun than I remembered.
The episodes are beautifully restored, vibrant, and colorful. The picture quality is so good you can even sometimes see Adam West’s five-o’clock shadow or Burt Ward’s much older stuntman. The show is broken up as follows: 3 discs for the 34 episodes of the first season; 6 discs for the 60 episodes of the second; and 26 episodes on 3 discs for season three. That set also includes the Special Features bonus disc. (Remember, when thinking about show length, the episodes aired twice weekly, with a cliffhanger between the two parts.) You can check out how brilliant the restoration looks in this comparison clip, with the much sharper and less washed-up new remastering on the right:
It is so much fun watching this show again. I have new appreciation for so much of this, particularly Burgess Meredith as the Penguin. And Frank Gorshin as the Riddler is mesmerizing, stealing focus whenever he appears. I now know who some of the other classic stars are, having seen the movies of, for example, Reginald Denny since I first saw the show.
The special features, while few, are more comprehensive than I realized they would be, with three featurettes at 30 minutes each.
“Hanging With Batman” mixes a current (2014) interview with Adam West with flashback material, including Batman screen tests and a much older interview, to cover his career, how he came to the role, and how it changed his life.
“Holy Memorabilia Batman!” is all about the collectibles associated with the show, mostly based on the separate holdings of Ralph Garman and Kevin Silva (who has the Guinness-approved world’s largest collection), which are amazingly extensive. They each have separate rooms featuring display cases. Also included is a guy who builds Batmobile replicas. It was interesting to note that none of these dedicated fans talk about comic books at all.
“Batmania Born! Building the World of Batman” is the more extensive piece. It starts with fans reminiscing about the show, including Bruce Timm, Dan DiDio, Jim Lee, Mike Carlin, and Paul Levitz. Also participating are Burt Ward (who points out some of the more suggestive material that I previously hadn’t recognized), Julie Newmar, and Stanley Ralph Ross, a writer on the original show (in what I think is archive footage). It’s striking how, although in the first special feature, West describes the show as a comedy, so many of the then-young viewers loved it straight. They thought it was the best adventure, although now they recognize the fantasy involved.
I liked the way many of the commentators placed the show in the cultural context of the 1960s, particularly in how it appealed to different age groups in different ways. They also discuss the design of the unique settings, costumes, and the animated opening, comparing it to the comics of the time. I hadn’t realized how important the Batman show was, as Carlin points out, to drive sales of color television, with the bright looks used. As this special progresses, they even talk about why the show ended and the effects of the series.
This is a surprisingly good documentary that I may end up watching again before I finish watching this set. Whoever selected the show clips to go along with it should get special recognition for picking out some amazing footage.
The longest additional piece is “Bats of the Round Table”, at 45 minutes. In it, Adam West, Kevin Smith, Jim Lee, Ralph Garman, and Phil Morris get together for a meal and discussion about the show. It’s really neat to see the emotion in West’s face as people talk about how much they appreciated him and the series. He lost a lot of years because of this show, and it’s great that he’s still around to see the effect he’s had, now that it’s again ok to like it (instead of looking down on it).
“Inventing Batman: In the Words of Adam West” features the actor walking us through the first two episodes, “Hi Diddle Riddle” and “Smack in the Middle”, commenting on the notes that he made in those first scripts about building his character.
The 12-minute “Na Na Na Batman!” has famous people, such as those starring on Arrow, The Mentalist, Supernatural, and The Following, remembering the show and the theme song. Holy cross-promotion, Warner!
My favorite was when the young lady who plays Arrow’s sister reminds them she wasn’t alive when the show was on. And how the folks from The Following apparently did commentary after filming a fight scene, since they have dried blood on their faces. Many of the guys ooh and ahh over Catwoman and Batgirl, and then the gals come back to talk about the Batmobile.
A section titled “Bat Rarities! Straight From the Vault” includes these few short but juicy items:
- Batgirl Pilot (8 min), starring Yvonne Craig, in which we learn that “Gotham City abounds in girls of all shapes and sizes — debutantes, nurses, stenographers, and librarians.” Nice to know those are the only options. Batman and Robin guest star as they all fight Killer Moth in the library.
- Burt Ward Screen Test With Adam West (6 min)
- Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell Screen Tests (4 1/2 min)
- James Blakeley Tribute (2 1/2 min), in which the post-production supervisor on the show talks about the use of the sound effects
(The studio provided a review copy.)