The 1966-1968 Batman Television Series makes its long awaited debut on home video with a deluxe Limited Edition Blu-ray box set (also available on SD DVD). Bat fans have been bat-clamoring for the release of this series for years, and Warner, having finally worked out the legal details with original series producer Fox, has delivered not just the episodes on disc, but enough extras to fill up the utility belts of both a caped crusader and a boy wonder.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 1.0 DD (Mono), Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 50 Hr. 19 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletDeluxe Limited Edition Box Packaging with collectibles. See "Special Features" for detailed description
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/11/2014
Batman (1966-1968)Created By: Wiliam DozierStarring: Adam West, Burt Ward, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp, Madge Blake, and Yvonne CraigThe Batman television series adapts the popular comic books following the adventures of millionaire Bruce Wayne (West) and his teenage ward Dick Grayson (Ward) who don costumes and fight crime in the city of Gotham under the alter egos of Batman and Robin. They are aided in their efforts by faithful Butler Alfred (Napier). Their missions are normally conducted at the behest of Commissioner Gordon (Hamilton) and Chief O'Hara (Repp) who alert them via the "Bat Phone" when Gotham is beset by villains too dastardly or clever for the Police to handle on their own. Their crimefighting activities are conducted unbeknownst to Dick's Aunt Harriet, who is an enthusiastic fan of their alter egos. For the first two seasons of the series, their weekly adventures were split into two parts that aired on consecutive evenings, always with some sort of cliffhanger at the end of part one and a narrated recap at the start of part two. For the third season, their adventures were limited to once a week with the cliffhanger format mostly abandoned in favor of a teaser epilogue introducing the next week's villain. Additionally, the dynamic duo was expanded to a dynamic trio with the addition of Commissioner Gordon's librarian daughter, Barbara (Craig), who dons her own mask, cape, and tights to fight crime under the guise of Batgirl.The Batman television series was massively popular when it first hit screens in 1966, hitting a sweet spot for kids taken in by the crime fighting adventures and adults keyed into the deadpan humor and satire that flew right over the kids' heads. It was all wrapped up in an outrageous pop-art style that nodded to the trends of the time while centering the action on the squarest personality imaginable in West's earnest caped crusader. Its popularity resulted in a steady stream of guest stars lining up to play the series' colorful villains, most notably Cesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, Julie Newmar as Catwoman (In Seasons 1 & 2), Eartha Kitt as Catwoman (in Season 3), and Frank Gorshin as The Riddler (except for one two-part episode in which Jon Astin played the part). Gorshin's Riddler proved so popular that the character was promoted from a relatively minor villain in the comics to one of Batman's primary antagonists ever since. Other prominent actors to play villains on the show include Vincent Price, George Sanders, Otto Preminger, Milton Berle, Tallulah Bankhead, Walter Slezak, Eli Wallach, Roddy McDowell, Ethel Merman, Rudy Vallee, Elisha Cook, Jr., Joan Collins, and, in reportedly the highest rated pair of episodes in the series' run, Liberace.This kid-friendly winking take on the caped crusader is 180 degrees out of phase with the brooding "Dark Knight" Batman that has dominated the last four decades of comics and films (or even the early years of the character before he was softened to comply with Comics Code Authority standards), but it works under its own rules and is undeniably a lot of fun. The satirical elements, which were present from the very first two-part episode in which The Riddler manipulated the legal system to constantly foil and embarrass Batman, stayed sharp through most of the series' run. My personal favorite example is the second season pair of episodes Hizonner The Penguin/Dizonner the Penguin that mercilessly lampoon electoral politics. The comedic sensibility of the series, which relied on West's completely earnest readings of wonderfully ridiculous lines, was a direct antecedent to the approach taken more than a decade and a half later by Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker in Airplane and the Naked Gun films. The series took the concept about as far as it could go over three seasons and a theatrical film and ended just before it seemed likely to wear out its welcome. Canceled at the end of the 1967/1968 season, it established multi-generational appeal when it was aired in syndication in after-school time slots throughout the 1970s.
The Production Rating: 4/5
Batman: The Complete Television Series Playlist
The episodes on disc are presented via AVC-encoded 1080p video "pillarboxed" to the original televised aspect ratio of 4:3 with a natural film-like quality and eye-popping color and clarity. Textures in costumes and props render details such as the materials of Batman's cowl and the pinstripes on Commisioner Gordon's suit very vividly. I was impressed by the quality of recent syndicated broadcasts of the show, but this Blu-ray presentation is on a whole other level. Attentive viewers can even tell when a cast member is having a good or bad make-up day via details such as how well blended Burgess Meredith's prosthetic Penguin noise is with his natural skin color. Very minor film artifacts pop up infrequently, and are never distracting.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The show's original audio is presented via a Dolby Digital mono track. The lack of lossless audio seems strange this far into the existence of Blu-ray, but it probably helped them to squeeze an average of more than four hours of episode content per disc without compromising video quality. There are some dynamic range limitations to the soundtrack given that the episodes were mixed for television presentation, but the episodes are missing at least one level of broadcast compression from any showing I have heard before, and the dialog and energetic music cues are rendered solidly if not spectacularly.
Audio Rating: 3/5
Special features are contained on a single dedicated Blu-ray disc. All special features are presented in English with available subtitles in English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian, or Spanish.Hanging with Batman (29:56) is a featurette about and narrated by Adam West. It features a combination of new and archival interviews with the actor. Archival footage consists of vintage stills, home movie footage,press clippings, an early screen test, television appearances, and public appearances. Topics covered include his early life in Walla Walla, Washington, his attraction to acting, his early career in Hollywood, and how he came to the Batman role for Fox. Post-Batman, West reflects on the show, its production, its success, its effect on his personal and professional life, his reaction to the show's cancellation, his relationship with his fans after the show, and its enduring popularity.Holy Memorabilia, Batman! (29:59). Looks at Batman themed merchandise and collectibles from the 1960s through present day. Adam West gets a tour of Ralph Garman's amazingly comprehensive Batman TV collection. The camera crew visits Kevin Silva's gigantic Batman collection, and Mark Racop shows off his custom built Batmobile replicas. On camera comments are provided by West, Radio Personality and Batman Collector Ralph Garman, "Toy Hunter" Host Jordan Hembrough, Batman collector Kevin Silva, and "Fiberglass Freaks" Owner Mark Racop.Batmania Born! Building the World of Batman (29:41) discusses the cultural and historical context of the show, the impact of the show when it was first released, the way the series worked on different levels for different audiences, the series' breakthrough use of color, the contemporary pop-art styles of the time that the show incorporated, the animated opening sequence, the cross influence between the comics and the show, the costumes, the two night episode with cliffhanger structure, the phenomenal popularity of the series, the cancellation after the third season, the backlash in the comics community, and the continued relevance and influence of the show. New and archival interviews yield on camera comments by Author and Historian Andy Mangels, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan Didio, Batman: The Animated Series Producer Bruce Timm, DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, DC Comics Animation Creative Director Mike Carlin, Batman Movie Franchise Executive Producer Michael Uslan, Batman TV Series Writer Stanley Ralph Ross, Burt Ward ("Robin"), Julie Newmar ("Catwoman"), Former DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz, West, Batman: The Brave And the Bold Producer James Tucker, Set Designer Tim Earls, Costume Designer Mary Vogt, Production Designer Vaughan Edwards, Costume Historian/Archivist Bobi Garland, Cesar Romero ("Joker"), Frank Gorshin ("Riddler"), Batman TV Series Executive Producer William Dozier, and former Batman Editor and writer Len Wein.Bats of the Round Table (45:08) is a round table discussion at the Smoke House Restaurant in Burbank, California between Adam West, Filmmaker Kevin Smith, Ralph Garman, Jim Lee, and Actor Phil Morris. The casual atmosphere allows the participants to express appreciation to West while asking questions from a fan's perspective.Inventing Batman: In the Words Of Adam West (59:09) is a visual commentary feature that allows viewers to watch the original two-part pilot (Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle) with audio commentary, picture in picture commentary, and occasional video interruptions from Adam West. West follows along in his hand annotated script for the episodes and offers reminiscences and observations.Na Na Na Batman! (12:15) is an appreciation of the series primarily from modern television actors and producers with varying levels of familiarity with the series. From Supernatural, we hear from actors Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, and Jared Padelecki as well as Producer Adam Glass. From Arrow we hear from actors Stephen Amell, Willa Holland, Emily Bett-Rickards, Caity Lotz, and David Ramsey as well as Producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg. From The Following, we hear from actors Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Bacon, and James Purefoy. From The Mentalist, we hear from actors Rockmond Dunbar and Tim Kang as well as Producers Bruno Heller and Tom Szentgyorgyi. From Shameless, we hear from Consulting Producer Mike O’Malley. From DC Animation, we hear from Director Jay Oliva and Creative Director Mike Carlin. Last but not least, we also get on camera comments from recently recorded interviews with Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar.Under the Heading of Bat Rarities! Straight from the Vault are the following vintage materials:
Special Features Rating: 4.5/5
- Batgirl Pilot (7:55) is a mini episode that served as a test for bringing Batgirl into the show's universe.
- Burt Ward Screen Test with Adam West (6:16) has the actors running a couple of scenes from the pilot episodes in makeshift sets with relatively crude costumes
- Actors Screen Tests: Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell (4:23) has these two actors who did not ultimately get the parts running some of the same scenes. Lyle Waggoner would go on to establish himself in the DC TV universe almost a decade later as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman
- James Blakeley Tribute (2:24) is an archival interview with the late series post production supervisor James Blakeley who discusses the uniques style of the show in general and the incorporation of the Biff! Bam! Pow! sound effect graphics in particular.
After years of waiting, Batman: The Complete Television Series has made its way to home video in style with this Limited Blu-ray Collectors Edition of all 120 episodes of the show's three seasons. Video quality will have bat-fans dancing the bat-tusi, and copious extras provide insight into the show's production and legacy from a variety of perspectives. The deluxe packaging of this Limited Edition includes some fun collectibles including a Hot Wheels replica Batmobile, a book of photos and commentary compiled by series star Adam West, and a pack of trading cards with vintage style Batman-themed art. Lack of lossless audio is a minor annoyance, but I would not refrain from recommending the set to fans for that reason.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden
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