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Batman: The Complete Television Series (Blu-ray TV series review).

June 28, 2020 | By | Reply More

Although I’ve been keeping my eye on the price of this ‘Batman’ TV series Blu-ray release from 1966 for some time and even saw it when it was first shown in the 1960s, I was really after it for a look at the extras. Even so, as an entity to itself, it is something to raise the spirits in our current trying times. It’s also amazing how many classic lines come up from memory when watching again.

Hands up if you know what Batman said when Molly (actress Jill St. John) was annihilated when she fell in the Batman nuclear reactor? Exactly. The same geekiness would also wonder why Batman had a nuclear reactor with an open top and no safety features, even if only to protect Alfred when he was dusting? Then again, Molly’s fate was sealed the minute she entered the Batcave posing as Robin and seeing the entrance. Alas, there never was a bat-amnesia spray in the early seasons.

With the ‘Mr. Freeze’ story creating ice in July, it seems equally crazy that Alfred is stoking a fire at stately Wayne Manor in the middle of the summer. Then again, you do have to wonder how Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson can go off to appointments without taking a car and Aunt Harriet not noticing that unless the walls really are soundproof. If you want a real conundrum, its seeing the batpoles and which side each uses comes down in reverse at the bottom. Oddly, I don’t think it’s a continuity error but the orientation of the batcave facing in the opposite direction. Speaking of the batcave, the batmobile is continually revolving so what are the odds that they enter and its facing the wrong direction.

It’s very weird watching the original American version of this series. We never had the few seconds at the end of the second-part showing who next week’s villain was for instance, although even they got it wrong at the end of the Zelda story in the first season announcing the Joker next and turns out to be the Riddler but then no more which looks like they were experimenting at the time or it happened a lot. Bearing in mind that American habit of shuffling stories in syndication, it was probably thought to remove it for foreign viewers.

The format is squarish than widescreen. I was tempted to adjust the setting on the Blu-ray player but decided to see it in its original format. The revamp for Blu-ray has improved the colours enough to see Adam West’s grey shave. Rather oddly, there is also a vast improvement in the blacks and if you thought the series was all about 4-colour, this actually adds some darker tones into the night scenes.

I did have a wonder at the batmobile after seeing Robin and Alfred fuelling it up through the rear exhaust from their nuclear reactor. Primarily it did make me think the batmobile blows out ignited fuel on ignition when driving so must be leaving a nuclear trail. When you consider Batman isn’t adverse to spraying objects with a radioactive spray for detection, even if it is low grade radiation, you would have to think that the Batmobile itself would cross-contaminate the air.

For the life of me, I can’t remember the twin episodes, ‘The Joker Trumps An Ace’/‘Batman Sets The Pace’. There’s certainly enough there to remember. The batmobile on the golf course and the smoke stack escape.

Over the season, I started totting up how many times the batmobile was stolen by the Penguin, Joker, Riddler and Bookworm. Oh, the Riddler is regarded as the best locksmith in Gotham. Oddly, the only black supporting person in the show was ‘Death In Slow Motion’ with actress Judy Pace as a movie theatre cashier. For the villainesses, of course, we had Eartha Kitt for a couple episodes. This was pretty much how it was done in DC Comics at that time and no one of any colour thought anything of it.

With season 2’s Minstrel story, there was a scene I couldn’t remember seeing before where Chief O’Hara (actor Stafford Repp) questions his own competency to Commissioner Gordon (actor Neil Hamilton) compared to the Batman. Stafford Repp really does a good job of this and if I had seen it before, then I would surely have remembered it. We always take it for granted we see all that has been recorded on TV but it has alerted me to pay attention to other things I can’t remember.

It’s worth pointing out that Bill Finger co-wrote the season 2 Clock King story. It does make me wonder if he shook up the routine of Batman and Robin always arriving at Commissioner Gordon’s office to find out what was going on. Certainly, the breaking out of a giant sand clock-timer has all his hallmarks.

In the first story of Egghead, the villain worked out that Batman could be one of three millionaires but failed to recognise only Bruce Wayne had a ward who looked uncannily like an unmasked Robin. Whatever the Batman reality, I’ve thought over the years that the best way to hide having your ward stand out is ensuring other millionaires have wards as well, even if it risks putting their lives at risk.

It’s rather interesting with the opening of the Sandman/Catwoman story that Mrs. Cooper actually wonders about the noise of the Batphone from Bruce Wayne’s study, although told by Alfred that it is the noise of a misbehaving stereo. Another two scenes I can’t remember from the TV viewing but it does explain that she’s not totally deaf. Even so, as I’ve said before it must be a puzzle how Bruce and Dick rush off to suddenly remembered appointments and not take a car. It isn’t as though they don’t have one as shown in a couple episodes.

I will make one remark about the bat-computer. Show me a modern computer where you can slot in a complete physical telephone directory and it can read and digest the info. Bearing in mind that back in 1966, computers were seen as magical machines and barely had a keyboard, nothing should be that surprising that they didn’t even need a keyboard and just twirled a few switches.

Interestingly, there is an interesting contrast when Bruce Wayne switches between his own voice and Batman and drops an octave, although both have the same diction.

Now here’s an interesting ponder. During one of their wall-climbing interruptions, Robin reveals to the guest, a clothes designer, in Gotham City that their costumes were commissioned from a specialised tailor. Assuming Robin never lies, then the gentleman must be aware who is under the masks. Afterall, the front of Batman’s cowl is designed to be a perfect fit. In fact, watching them in action, some of the time, you couldn’t see their eyes which might reflect (sic) to a similar comparison to the comicbooks. A side-track from this is did Barbara Gordon get her Batgirl costume from the same tailor or his sister.

Speaking of Batgirl, her apartment is not on the ground floor and her Batgirl Cycle is up there behind her secret closet. One can only presume there is some sort of hidden elevator to get it to the ground. It makes you wonder how she could do all that setting up without anyone noticing the noise. It’s rather interesting that this was demonstrated several episodes in when the apartment janitor was in Barbara’s flat unannounced trying to sort it out and the complaints of noise. Again, little scenes like this were not something I can recall seeing before.

Interestingly, following from that, there have been hints shown that Batman realising that Alfred knows who Batgirl is but didn’t pursue it. Equally, Barbara Gordon has been in Bruce Wayne’s study and Alfred narrowly avoiding her finding out two giveaways there as well.

Both Batman and Robin repeat that they are official representatives of the law in Gotham City and law-abiding citizens. That being the case, Batgirl must surely be the only vigilante in the room.

It’s only with the third season’s surfing story and a band wearing green wigs that it finally dawned on the producers that the Joker’s wig was a shade of blonde and was quickly changed for green for future appearances.

On analysis, season 3 has always been considered the weakest season, however I do think season 2 was too long. When they broke from the episodes with Batman and Robin in trouble and resolved the next, I think was a mistake. Having a different villain mostly each week made it a rollercoaster of giddiness, not helped with the introduction of next week’s villain and then in differently then. There were some exceptions with this and some three-parters but they still didn’t have as much danger as the first two seasons and Aunt Harriet down to two appearances.

I’ve read some people have considered Adam West looked a bit over-weight in his Batman costume, however in the final episode, where he was having a massage in Minerva’s beauty parlour, it is pretty obvious he’s pretty trim. I do think that his top was ever padded for protection and to match his stuntman or grey doesn’t look particular thin. Watching the stunt fights, it does look like West did more to the stunts than Burt Ward although Yvonne Craig does appear to do mostly her own unless they had a small stuntwoman who could do her high kicks. From the extras, West does explain it was all neatly choregraphed between switches between themselves and the stunt people.

Of course, to me, the important thing for buying the blu-ray was the extras disk. ‘Hanging With Batman’ is a 30 minute monologue with Adam West done in 2014 looking over his upbringing and early career and his childhood liking of Batman. He recognised he could be typecast but also loved the pilot script and now loved being one of the 1960s icons. Another half hour is devoted to ‘Holly Memorabilia, Batman!’ and a look at the collections of Ralph Garman and Keith Silva. Prepare to be jaw-dropped that’ll hit your geek spot. Of particular note is Adam West being shown around Garman’s collection and trying on his original cowl. Mark Racap makes his living creating replicas of the 1966 Batmobile and even prior to getting a chance to measure the George Barris original found that he was, at most, only a quarter inch out in his scale.

It’s rather interesting with ‘Batmania Born! Building The World Of Batman’ half hour how many pro-artists and writers from DC Comics were influenced by the 1966 ‘Batman’ series with barely a mention of the problems it presented for the company for over 2 decades to rein in some aspects of it. I know this extras have to be pro the series and I still think there’s room for all types of Batman but it could have covered why none of the, shall we say, more serious super-heroes have never gone this route since. Andy Mangels does point out something I hadn’t considered that the film odd angle shots was an influence from the TV series. Objectively, I would say maybe only up as far as the end of the 1950s but the likes of Green Lantern and Hawkman were already doing that. Without the series, I doubt it we’d have had Barbara Gordon as Batgirl.

‘Bats Of The Round Table’ in 2007 has Adam West sitting down for a meal and chat with Ralph Garman, Kernan Smith, Jim Lee and actor Phil Morris. I did wonder on the latter’s choice but as his dad, Greg Morris of ‘Mission: Impossible’ took him around the studio sets, it makes for a good choice and asked some more acting orientated questions. By the by, the waiter took away the meals mostly untouched. Seems the Americans have a limited time to eat over there. It’s a really cosy chat and you have to watch for yourself. The three things I was most hit by was Adam West explaining that they had 15 hour days, the bat-poles were 15 feet long and the Batmobile sped along at 32mph. Rather interestingly, the list of innovations in the Batmobile are things we use regularly today, well, maybe not the bat-beam, and they were the first to use them. I might question a couple of them with the early James Bond cars but it’s a valid point.

‘Inventing Batman: In The Words Of Adam West’ is probably the nearest thing to an audio commentary as, with his original notationed script for the first two episodes, he points out the things he used from the script for his performance. He acknowledges the absurdities of the character, saw Bruce Wayne as a square and wasn’t quite sure how people would feel when he stepped onto the stage the first time and found they were in awe. That helped him to play the role seriously, with thinking periods and dignity, avoiding criticism from the suits that they wanted him to play it more solid like the Lone Ranger until they saw the viewing figures. I also discovered Adam West was always short-sighted. There are some in-depth decisions for any actor for any role to learn from here.

The 12 minute ‘Na Na Na Batman’ has cast members from ‘Arrow’, ‘Supernatural’ and ‘The Following’ with brief cameos from Adam West and Julie Newmar reflecting on their childhood memories.

Finally, ‘Bat Relics: Straight From The Vault’ is mostly a mini-pilot and screentests. The first at 8 minutes is for Yvonne Craig as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl coming to rescue Batman and Robin from Killer Moth and his mob. Although they weren’t costumed, Killer Moth?! A little checking and he was first created in 1951 but you do have to wonder why he wasn’t used in the show. Interestingly, Barbara has her costume in a concealed room in the library and we see her sans mask and probably why the scene is cut when she disguises herself.

There is a ‘James Blakeley Tribute’ running at 2½ minutes where he explains his role as post-production supervisor and inserting the sound effects.

The ‘Burt Ward Screentest’ with Adam West is that of the episode scenes from ‘Hi Diddle Diddle’ running at 6 minutes. In the early draft, Mrs. Cooper was the housekeeper. Rather amusingly, rather than use the batpoles, they used the bat-door. It also becomes obvious why we never saw them put their bat-masks on. Rather interestingly, Burt isn’t quite so earnest as he later became but he demonstrates he could do falls and karate. What was more remarkable was the Batman costume which was based more on the Detective # 27 version or an improved Lewis Wilson costume and was actually a better pointed eared cowl although I suspect it was dumped because it looked too sinister.

The same screentest with actors Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell as the comparison made me think their voices a tad too high and Waggoner sounded more like Rock Hudson.

Objectively, I think the biggest thing missing is an interview with Yvonne Craig but other than that, this is all gold on the series and worth picking up.

For me, the biggest surprise was seeing more material from cut scenes that weren’t show on British TV which really was an eye-opener. It would be interesting to see if the same was true for showings in different parts of the world. Holy bat-conspiracy.

GF Willmetts

June 2020

(blue-ray region free: pub: DC Comics/Warner Bros. 13 blu-ray disks. 2717 minutes 120 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: I bought my copy for around £40.00 (UK). ASIN: B00Q6Z16F6)

cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp, Yvonne Craig, Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Julie Newmar, etc, etc.

check out website: www.warnerbros.co.uk

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Category: MEDIA, Superheroes, TV

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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