Though I wasn’t born yet when the original Batman series first captivated audiences when it premiered in January of 1966 on ABC, I watched the series in the eighties, whenever it showed up in syndication. Always a fan of superheroes, Batman and Superman has always topped my list of favorites. There is something about Batman, a simple human crime-fighter that is immensely appealing.
Modern Day Batman fans are probably debating who played the better movie Batman: Christian Bale, Val Kilmer, George Clooney or Michael Keaton. While my money is on Keaton, oddly, Adam West doesn’t even enter into the discussion. Granted, the look and tenor of West’s Batman was completely different from the portrayals of the aforementioned actors more than twenty years later, but he does deserve a place in history for being the first actor to bring Batman to the masses in the fledgling media age of the 1960’s.
Batman – The Movie hit U.S. theaters in July of 1966, just as the Batman phenomenon was sweeping the country. The film starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as the boy wonder, Robin. The actors portrayed their secret identities of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, respectively. With a fairly substantial budget and big ambitions, Fox brought four of the most popular villains from the series on to the big screen. Cesar Romero brought his role as the Joker to the big screen, as did Burgess Meredith as the cigarette chomping Penguin and Frank Gorshin joined them as the Riddler. However, Julie Newmar who originally played Catwoman in the series was unavailable for the film, so former Miss America Lee Merriweather stepped into the role as the sexy female villainess. As they had in the series, Alan Napier portrayed Alfred and Neil Hamilton continued as Commissioner Gordon.
The film finds Batman facing the four most dangerous super-villains the world has ever known. The military has sold a surplus submarine to a man named P.N. Guin. The Penguin, Joker, Riddler and Catwoman have come up with a plan to get rid of Batman and Robin once and for all, and take hostage nine key members of the United World Security Council. To give any more details about the plot would take away from the hilarity of the film, but suffice to say, I enjoyed every second of this105 minute campy fun fest.
Writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Papillon, The Parallax View) faced a difficult task; how to expand a half hour series so dependent on campy and subliminal humor into a successful feature length project. Semple Jr. succeeded by sticking to the formula that made so many people fans of the series; he doesn’t seem to take any of it to seriously and simply gave viewers a double dose of the tongue-in-cheek humor that delighted audiences on the small screen. The jokes are so bad, you help but laugh, and Batman displays such a level of idiocy at times, you can’t help but root for the guy.
Watching Batman run around frantically with a seemingly never-ending fuse on a bomb while trying to dispose of the bomb and risking his life for some ducks is absolutely hilarious. If you have no taste or appreciate for pure camp humor, you’ll likely find Batman – The Movie completely unwatchable. The film clearly never intended to be taken seriously and wanted to be silly and fun. If you can just laugh and go along with the maze of illogical scenarios presented, Batman – The Movie, Special Edition just might be given a special place in your DVD collection.
Batman – The Movie, Special Edition is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the detail is okay, but the color is what makes this release truly stand out. This release captures the vivid palette of colors that where so important to this version of Batman–colorful costumes and larger than life sets.
The film is presented with a DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio mix. The original English Mono mix is also included. Subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin.
The special features included on this Blu-ray release are bound to please any Batman fan. Things begin with three audio commentaries by Adam West and Burt Ward. The two actors really seemed to enjoy getting together to reminisce about the film, and it’s clear they enjoyed their time as Batman and Robin. The second commentary by Lorenzo Sermple Jr. discusses the technical side of the film and comes across as fairly dry. The third track is an isolated score track. This provides only the Nelson Riddle soundtrack, and no sound effects or dialogue.
The Documentary “Batman: A Dynamic Legacy” (28:29) takes a look at the impact of the film and the television series on popular culture. Comic book fans will be pleased to see the likes of Paul Dini, Alex Ross, and Geoff Johns giving their thoughts on Batman and Robin throughout the documentaries.
“Caped Crusaders: A Heroes Tribute” (12:29) takes a look at the costumes featured in the film and series that were heavily influenced by the comic book.
“Gotham City’s Most Wanted” (15:51) examines the villains in the film–the Penguin, Joker, Riddler and Catwoman.
The additional features move away from the cast and put the focus on some other aspects of the film. The 2001 featurette (16:47) originally included in the first DVD release, was a 25th anniversary production that featured Adam West and Burt Ward. The presentation of this featurertte on Blu-ray is terrible. For some reason, the featurette only takes up about a sixth of the television screen in the left hand corner. It was too bad, because the featurette itself is quite interesting.
“The Batmobile Revealed With George Barris” (5:47) looks at the Lincoln Futura concept car through the eyes of its creator and reveals some interesting facts about the car.
“The Batmobile Interactive Tour” allows your remote control to navigate around some of the cooler features of the Batmobile. This is a good example of the kind of advanced features Blu-ray has to offer.
“Batman on Location: Mapping the Movie” shows a graphical map with facts, photos and directions that can be selected while watching the movie. “Holy Trivia Track, Batman!” shows popup windows while watching the film. This Blu-ray release also includes the original trailers and some photo galleries. All and all, the Blu-ray release of Batman – The Movie, Special Edition is a must-have for any Batman enthusiast.