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

7 Nov, 2014 By: John Latchem

Street Date 11/11/14
$199.70 18-DVD set
$269.97 13-BD set
$39.98 5-DVD Season 1 set
Not rated.
Stars Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp, Madge Blake, Yvonne Craig.

This home video edition of “Batman” has been 48 years in the making, but it has been worth the wait.

The 1966-68 “Batman” TV show was nothing short of a phenomenon that brought untold popularity to the character and his rogues gallery, which is somewhat ironic given that the series is as much a parody of the Batman comics as it is an adaptation of them. It walks a fine line between camp and cheese, but gets away with it because the characters themselves are so utterly serious about the universe in which they exist.

A far cry from the dark and brooding vigilantes of the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan films, Adam West’s Batman is a glorified do-gooder with knowledge about every subject at his fingertips, with Burt Ward has his overeager sidekick, Robin. The villains, portrayed by a lineup of venerable guest stars, were too over-the-top to offer any real menace. And the formula was always the same, with Batman and Robin foiling a new scheme each week after escaping from a cliffhanger death trap.

It was the individual elements that made the show iconic. Think about the show for a second, and there aren’t really any signature episodes that come to mind (aside from, perhaps, a crossover with “The Green Hornet” series that co-starred Bruce Lee, or the episode in which Batman and Penguin ran for mayor). What stands out are the catchy theme song, wacky costumes, campy humor, celebrities popping out of windows, colorful villains, crazy gadgets that always came in handy just when needed, and, of course, the most iconic Batmobile ever. The show represents a triumph of attitude and tone over story.

By the third season, the show was clearly showing signs of fatigue, adding Batgirl into the mix hoping to appeal to female viewers (and providing an excuse to slip a girl crimefighter into a sexy outfit). But even as it was running out of steam, it never let up on its sense of fun.

For its home video debut, all 120 episodes have been painstakingly remastered in high-definition, and the results are amazing. Colors are vibrant and textures are clear enough to see all the fine details on the costumes. It’s not a stretch to say the show probably looks better on Blu-ray than it did when it first aired, since televisions of the 1960s weren’t pumping out crystal clear 1080p resolution.

Fans of the show will be thrilled by the chance to relive it with this Blu-ray edition, while Batman enthusiasts who might not be as familiar with it should be wildly entertained by it if they give it a chance.

The limited-edition Blu-ray is packaged in a box meant to be every bit as fun as the show is. On the side of the box is a button that plays the theme song. Inside, the set includes a Hot Wheels Batmobile replica and a deck of trading cards adorned with Batman artwork. Plus, there’s an Adam West scrapbook featuring rare photographs.

All the Blu-ray extras have been isolated onto one bonus disc, but there are some great retrospectives to be found here among the more than three hours of content.

Dipping into the archives, the Blu-ray offers the original seven-minute presentation reel introducing Batgirl, which isn’t a sophisticated piece of storytelling but does set up the basics of the character for how she would be used on the show. There are also screen tests that compare West and Ward with other actors to show just how well they fit into the roles.

The new content includes a 30 minute retrospective on the career of 86-year-old Adam West, who features heavily in almost all of the bonus materials.

He’s also the focus of an hour-long program in which he discusses his memories of making the two-part first episodes of the series, which starred Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. As the episodes play, West guides viewers through his script notes and talks about the impact of certain scenes.

West is also the centerpiece of a 45-minute roundtable that includes radio personality and comedian Ralph Garman, filmmaker Kevin Smith, actor Phil Morris and comic artist Jim Lee, who pepper West with their own reflections about the show. This looks like a good time, although it’s a little bizarrely staged in a restaurant that has music in the background and waiters serving desert as the panel is talking.

Another half-hour piece examines the Batmania surrounding the show, and how it became so popular. Then there’s a 12-minute bit consisting of several current CW show stars (mostly from “Arrow”) talking about how influential the show was.

Lastly, there’s a 30-minute featurette about the merchandise based on the show, looking at some big-scale collections, including that of Garman, who gets to show off his toys to West.

Still, of all the merchandise inspired by the show over the years, this has got to be the one fans have most wanted to get their hands on, and it’s well worth it.


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