Blu-ray Review: Batman (The Complete Television Series)

Meanwhile, behind the façade of this innocent looking review!

I grew up watching the ’60s Batman series. In fact, Adam West and Burt Ward’s turn as the dynamic duo may very well have been my introduction to the caped crusader. I have owned Batman: The Movie on Blu-ray for some time and it is still one of my most watched of all the Batman films – “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” However for years, the complete television series eluded me. Now, to the cheers of Batman fans around the globe, all 120 episodes are finally available and in Blu-ray no less!

I fully recognize that most of my love of this show is tied up in nostalgia. I imagine that to be true for many people out there willing to shell out $200 smackers for this elaborate box set that includes all 120 episodes, a photo album, an episode guide, a Hot Wheels replica of the Batmobile, and a deck of playing cards all wrapped up in a nice looking box complete with a button on the side that plays the show’s theme song. On top of all that, this is a limited release, with only 95,000 produced. That may seem like a lot, but I’m sure it will be out of print before we know it.

Kids today might be a little confused when presented with this lighthearted colorful, even comedic Batman. With Nolan’s trilogy and even the 90’s animated show, most kids these days know Batman as a dark character. So a show with clever one-liners (and not so clever one-liners) silly villains and plots, and over use of Dutch angles might not connect with today kids. Yet those like me who grew up on this show and do have the nostalgia factor know what they’re getting themselves into and are more than ready for the barrage of Robin’s “Holy ____, Batman!”, Penguin’s quack, Riddler’s cackle, Joker’s laugh and Catwoman’s meow. They’re ready for all of Batman’s lessons and advice and all of the “Biffs”, “Bams” and “Boofs” of the poorly choreographed fights scenes.

One of the more interesting aspects of this show was the way the episodes aired. Two thirty minute episodes aired each week. The first would always end in a cliffhanger with one or both of the dynamic duo, or someone else in a life-threatening situation. The second episode (Same Bat-time, Same Bat-channel!) would begin with the person whose life was in danger being saved and Batman and Robin figuring out the villain of the week’s evil scheme and thwarting them once again.

The Joker (Cesar Romero), Catwoman (Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt), Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and The Riddler (Frank Gorshin and John Astin) were the biggest reoccurring villains, however several great guest stars appeared lesser guest villains. The best of those include: Mr. Freeze (George Sanders, Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach), Egghead (Vincent Price), Bookworm (Roddy McDowell), Olga, Queen of the Cossacks (Anne Baxter), Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle), Mad Hatter (David Wayne) and King Tut (Victor Buono). It’s very obvious that all of these actors enjoyed the hell out of playing these villains and ham it up to the Nth degree.

You can’t talk about the cast without discussing Alan Napier who played the best Alfred ever. Yes, you heard me, the best Alfred ever! The chemistry between Neil Hamilton and Stafford Repp (Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara) is always good for a laugh. Then there was Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, the show really took a big step forward when she joined the cast. Sadly, she didn’t show up until season 3.

There is no argument that this was an extremely silly show, this was a comedy and it was meant to be a comedy. I mean a show that labels everything from the bat poles to the bat computers obviously can’t be taken seriously. Sure, today’s Batman is about as far from this as possible, but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of this show. Joel Schumacher even enjoyed this show so much that he tried to model his two Batman films after it. Sadly, this great show did not inspire two great movies, now let’s never discuss them again. If you grew up watching this show then there is no doubt you’re going to want this amazing box set as part of your collection.

The episodes are presented in 1.33:1 full screen and Dolby Digital 1.0 mono sound. I’ve been watching some reruns of the show on TV lately and I was struck how scratchy and aged the show looked. However, now that the series has been remastered for high definition, it looks better and brighter than ever. The vibrant colors of the show really pop off the screen.

In terms of extras, you get Hanging with Batman: (30 min.) Adam West tells us his life story and how doing Batman affected his life and career. This is a great interview. Holy Memorabilia Batman!: (30 min.) A couple hardcore collectors show off their massive collections and Adam West gets to visit them. Also there is a guy who builds replica Batmobiles. That’s pretty awesome. Batmania Born!: (30 min.) A look at the fanaticism and mania that the 60s Batman series created. This one is a little full of itself; the people interviewed make this show seem a lot more important than it was. Bats of the Round Table: (45 min.) Adam West, Kevin Smith, collector Ralph Garman, Phil Morris and Jim Lee sit down to discuss Batman. This is pretty fun, West shares some good stories. Inventing Batman in the words of Adam West: (60 min.) Re-watch the first two episodes of Batman (“Hi Diddle Riddle” and “Smack in the Middle”) with some insight from Adam West. It’s a mix of audio commentary, picture-in-picture and sometimes the episode pauses and cuts to West sitting in a chair discussing the moments in the episode. Na Na Na Batman!: (12 min.) People from WB TV shows discuss the show; kind of random. Bat Rarities! Straight from the Vault (21 min.) Included here is the Batgirl TV Pilot (maybe the best special feature included here), complete Burt Ward and Adam West screen test, another screen test featuring Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell as the dynamic duo and clip of the show’s Post-production Supervisor, James Blakeley talking about how he came up with the idea to use the Biff Bam Boom texts to punctuate the fight scenes.

Each episode opens with the title screen “Batman in Color!” That’s because back in the mid sixties people still had black and white TV’s and the producers wanted the viewers to know they were missing something. Now just about everyone as big flat screen TV’s and the color of Batman is bigger and brighter than ever. This set is most definitely a must own for all the Batman fans out there.

Warner Bros. presents Batman: The Complete Television Series. Created by: William Dozier. Based on characters created by Bob Kane. Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Yvonne Craig, Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt. Running time: 3019 minutes on 12 discs. Rating: Not Rated. Released: November 11, 2014.

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