REVIEW: BATMAN: THE COMPLETE 60’S SERIES

CAST

Adam West (Family Guy)
Burt Ward (Legends of The Super Heroes)
Alan Napier (Marnie)
Neil Hamilton (Tarzan The Ape Man)
Stafford Repp (Plunder Road)
Madge Blake (The Long, Long Trailer)
Yvonne Craig (Olivia)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Frank Gorshin (Star Trek)
Jill St. John (Diamonds Are Forever)
Burgess Meredith (Rocky)
David Lewis (The Apartment0
Leslie Parrish (Sex and The Single Girl)
Cesar Romero (The Thin Man)
Nancy Kovack (Marooned)
George Sanders (All About Eve)
Anne Baxter (I Confess)
Susan Silo (James Bond JR)
David Wayne (The Andromeda Strain)
Malachi Throne (Catch Me If You Can)
Myma Fahey (House of Usher)
Julie Newmar (Mckenna’s Gold)
Ziva Rodann (Forty Guns)
Victor Buono (Beneath The Planet of The Apes)
Olan Soule (The Toweing Inferno)
Francine York (The Family Man)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Sherry Jackson (Brenda Starr, Reporter)
Julie Gregg (The Godfather)
Barbara Nichols (Where the Boys Are)
Art Carney (Last Action Hero)
Van Johnson (The Caine Mutiny)
Phyllis Diller (A Bug’s Life)
Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects)
Michael Pataki (Rocky 4)
Bruce Lee (Enter The Dragon)
Van Williams (Surfside 6)
Shelley Winters (Alfie)
Walter Slezak (Lifeboat)
Vincent Price (Edward Scissorhands)
Liberace (Another World)
Woodrow Parfrey (Dirty Harry)
Otto Preminger (Anatomy of Murder)
Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family)
Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man)
Ted Cassidy (Genesis II)
Maurice Evans (Rosemary’s Baby)
Michael Rennie (The Day The Earth Stood Still)
James Brolin (Hotel)
Lesley Gore (The Pied Piper of Astroworld)
Bob Hastings (batman: TAS)
Roger C. Carmel (Star Trek)
Alex Rocco (The Simpsons)
Seymour Cassel (Rushmore)
Lee Meriwether (Barnaby Jones)
Grace Lee Whitney (Star Trek)
Tallulah Bankhead (A Royal Scandal)
Eli Wallach (The Holiday)
Elisha Cook Jr. (Rosemary’s Baby)
Joan Collins (Dynasty)
Ethel Merman (Call Me Madam)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Milton Berle (Hey, Abbott!)
Glynis Johns (Mary Poppins)
Rudy Vallee (Sunburst)
Eartha Kitt (Holes)
Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide)
Dina Merrill (Caddyshack II)
Linda Harrison (Planet of The Apes)
Ida Lupino (High Sierra)
Howard Duff (Kramer vs Kramer)
Zsa Zsa Gabor (Jack of Diamonds)

This is the show that set the tone for the Batman franchise for decades, good and bad, as its indelible mark is hard to erase. The power of the show is in how iconic it was, with every element so vibrant that it’s impossible to forget. Yes, it had the advantage of being the first modern-era mass-media representation of the character, and it also basically had the stage to itself forever, but there was so many memorable ingredients that made it the definitive Batman for generations. First among those were the performances of Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Playing it completely straight–West with thoughtful gravitas, Ward with youthful enthusiasm–these actors kept the show from descending into parody. The world may be crazy, but our heroes remain vigilant defenders and detectives. The contrast makes their square-jawed heroics comedic, and the effect is enhanced when things get unusual like seeing Batman dance or surf, or when the Dynamic Duo are chilling out in the Batmobile eating burgers.
The structure of the series, which leans heavily on the style of the old serials and a well-defined formula, was also a big reason for the show’s success and long-lasting legacy. During the first two seasons, stories were split over two half-hour episodes, shown twice a week. The first episode would always end with Batman and Robin on the edge of destruction in some sort of insane death-dealing set-up, with the now classic refrain “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel” reminding viewers to come back to see the story’s weekly conclusion. These cliffhangers, along with the emphatic narration, the atmospheric music, the wonderfully detailed sets and costumes and the choreographed fight scenes, which feature the show’s famous “Pow!” and “Bam” visual sound effects, all serve to create a larger-than-life adventure series that’s great fun to watch.
Though West doesn’t appreciate the show being described as campy, it’s hard to think of a word that fits the series better. The thing is, you have to separate the ideas of bad and camp. Camp doesn’t have to be bad. It just has to be absurdly silly. So much of the show is obviously aiming for comedy, be it the way Batman solves impossible clues impossibly quick, the goofy names of the bad guys’ labeled henchmen, the villains’ strange obsession with personal branding, the overly literal signs seen all over the place, or the strangely specific gadgets Batman always has at the ready. I mean, really…an empty alphabet soup bat-container? Then there are the overtly humorous parts, like the cameos when Batman and Robin climb up the sides of buildings, which feature celebrity cameos from Sammy Davis Jr., Don Ho, Santa Claus and Lurch from The Addams Family. Elements like this earn plenty of chuckles throughout the series, but they don’t take away from the fun of the action or the crime-fighting plots. They also serve to make for what might be the most accessible Batman ever; enjoyable for young and old alike.
The show burned brightly, but only for three seasons, crashing hard considering the show’s immense popularity. Perhaps it was overexposure due to the twice-a-week schedule, with 58 episodes in season two, but the show was definitely showing signs of slowing down in the final season before cancellation, including mostly eliminating the cliffhanger, instead linking episodes via a coda at the end. Whether it was an artistic choice or otherwise, the weird way the show started to use “suggested sets,” in which parts of a set were placed in an otherwise black room to create the idea of the setting, made it seem like something had changed for the worse. Another major change in the third season also stood out somewhat negatively, as Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl (the crime-fighting alter-ego of police commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara) was added to the show as a regular. She didn’t bring a great deal to the party though, outside of a great costume design, as she often needed saving as much as she helped the team.
The other issue with Batgirl was she was further evidence of the show being a product of its time, as, in addition to the clothes, sets and language all being heavily dated to the ‘60s (especially in the third run), sexism is rampant throughout the series, whether display via the eye-candy molls of the villains or the drooling narration for the new distaff member of the Bat-team. The portrayal of women is pretty much entirely negative in the show, with flippant remarks about the vanity of women or their value, while one villain, Nora Clavicle, is actually a women’s rights activist, who replaces the police force with women, who are only interested in coupons and recipes. The rampant misogyny is odd considering the show was progressive enough to have an interracial flirtation between West’s Batman and Kitt’s Catwoman.
Though the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder are obviously the stars of the show, the villains are what defines the series, as has always been the case with Batman. In addition to his traditional rogues gallery, including Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman, this series introduced a number of freshly-minted felons, some of which eventually were incorporated into the comic books, like Victor Buono’s over-acted King Tut. The oft-ridiculous nature of these baddies, which were often created to give big celebrities of the day a chance to play, like Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Minerva, Milton Berle’s Louie the Lilac or Liberace’s Fingers, was a big part of why the show was viewed as campy.
As goofy as the new creation were, the originals were wonderfully evil, especially Cesar Romero’s Joker, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler and Julie Newmar’s Catwoman (though that shouldn’t take anything away from Eartha Kitt’s purr-fect turn in the cat suit in the show’s third season.) These three each brought something special to the show, be it Romero’s manic glee, Gorshin’s dark intensity or Newmar’s unrestrained sensuality. The problem with having the villains be such a focal point of the show is it makes the series uneven, as a weak villain, like Van Johnson’s Minstrel or Maurice Evans’ Puzzler, usually makes for a weak episode. The exception to that rule would have to the two-part “A Piece of the Action”/”Batman’s Satisfaction”, which had a terrible nemesis in the stamp-forging Colonel Gumm, but which is great fun because of a crossover with The Green Hornet, which meant Van Williams and Bruce Lee were on hand for twice the crime-fighting action. Just seeing Lee on Batman was great, but having two masked heroes and their rich alter-egos interacting without each other knowing made for a fun twist on the heroes.

Looking at the set as a whole, it’s easy to wonder why the first 12 discs are extras-free. There’s not a commentary to be found. Considering how long the wait has been, and how influential and popular the show is, you’d think there would be plenty of people that would want to sit down and talk about this show. It’s bad enough that the lengthy delays have resulted in many of the cast and creators passing before its release, but to not have any contemporary perspectives is just doubling down on this problem.
There’s also the fact that two separate releases of bonus content that have been released in the past, “Holy Batmania!,” which offered four documentaries on the series, and “Adam West Naked,” a collection of recollections produced by West himself. Some of this contest should have been included on the third disc of season three, which has just two 30 minute episodes. What’s worse is Warner Brothers is offering “Adam West Naked” as part of an odd package online that includes the first 64 episodes, the Batman ‘60s movie and some ephemera.
Thankfully the 13th disc fills in a lot of the gaps holding all of the set’s bonus content, most of which is courtesy of master extra maker Alexander Gray, who has produced and directed this kind of material for loads of DC-related DVDs. It all starts with “Hanging with Batman” (29:56), which focuses on West, looking at his life, from his childhood to his acting career, with plenty of time on his experiences as Batman and the legacy of that performance. The piece, which is loaded with archival photos and video, isn’t fluffy in any way, touching on some of the darker moments of West’s life, including controversy that surrounded him at his peak as a star and his personal and professional struggles in the wake of the show’s cancellation and the character’s rebirth with the Tim Burton movies. An excellent profile of a charismatic man with an interesting life.
“Holy Memorabilia, Batman!” (29:59) looks at the fans, a few in particular, and the collecting that sprung up around the show, including the key pieces and the process of acquiring them. With Toy Hunter’s Jordan Hembrough providing expert (and some personal) perspective, the featurette checks out the collections of actor Ralph Garman (Family Guy, the Hollywood Babble-On podcast) and Guinness record-holder Kevin Silva, as well as the work of Mark Racop, who builds replica Batmobiles. The Garman segments also feature a visit by West to check out (and even try on) the goods, and the result is an excellent look at a side product of the series.
An odd inclusion is “Na Na Na Batman” (12:15) which features a huge roster of producers and directors from Warner Brothers-produced series talking about the Batman series, including their memories of watching the show (if they are old enough) along with the costumes and villains. The connection to the show for most of these participants, which include Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Mike O’Malley, Stephen Amell, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and Jensen Ackles, is beyond tangential, which coats the whole piece with a sheen of promotion, but if you’re a fan of shows like Supernatural, Arrow, The Following and The Mentalist, perhaps you’ll enjoy these worlds crashing together. Wedged in here with all these people is West and Burt Ward, bringing things back to center a bit.
The point of “Batmania Born!” (29:41) isn’t entirely clear, as it can get a bit scattered in terms of the subject matter, but it seems to mainly talk about the look of the series, and mainly features the voices of people from the world of comic books and related TV series, though some production design and costuming people sneak in as well to discuss the visuals of Batman, including the influences of the comic books, the animated opening, the tights and, most interestingly, the negative effect the show had on comic books in the larger world of entertainment. Among those sitting down to chat are Jim Lee, Bruce Timm and Julie Newmar, long with archival clips of Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin, making this catnip for comics fans.
Lee and Garman return in “Bats of the Round Table” (45:08), joining Batman superfan Kevin Smith and actor Phil Morris (Smallville), as they sit down for a meal with West. Unsurprisingly, the chat is dominated by Smith–a natural conversationalist–but they all chime in at some point, peppering West with questions and actually getting some interesting answers, including talk about dealing with a difficult Otto Preminger, who West’s favorite guest star and favorite Catwoman was, life on the set and a fun story about Ward and Bruce Lee. One wonders how the mostly unconnected Morris got in on this group (though he does have a Batman story of his own to share), but they all interact well in a smooth-flowing get-together. The ending may be slightly cheesy, but it’s a satisfying featurette.
Though there are no commentaries in this set, there are two pseudo-commentaries, in the form of the two-part “Inventing Batman: In the Words of Adam West.” These pieces, which run a total of 59:08, feature West, in occasional picture-in-picture appearances, reading excerpts from his shooting scripts for “Hi Diddle Riddle” and “Stuck in the Middle” while the episodes play. There’s a tremendous amount of dead air (probably more than half the episodes are just the original audio), which may explain the lack of commentaries, but it’s great when West shares the notes he made on the script during the production process and his thought process for the character.
The bonuses wrap up with a quartet of rarities, which are mostly great to check out. First up is the 7:54 pilot for Batgirl. This never-aired “episode” was intended to show the character could work, in advance of her introduction in Batman’s third season. This compact adventure, which features Batgirl fighting Killer Moth and his gang alongside the Dynamic Duo in a library, feels just like the Batman series, complete with the “Pow!”s, but with a lot more sexism, courtesy of the narrator and Batman himself. Today, it’s really kind of creepy.
Also included are a pair of screen tests for the show, which are truly fascinating. First up is West and Ward (6:16), in a proto-Wayne Manor and the Batcave, doing a pair of scenes, following by a brief tumbling and karate demonstration by Ward and some silent footage of the pair in the ‘Cave. The performances were so fully formed right off the bat (no pun intended) that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the roles. That’s solidified when you see Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell try out for the parts (4:23), doing the same roles on the same sets, with the same sketchy costumes. Robin is more childish in Deyell’s performance, while Waggoner doesn’t bring the same measured intensity as West. Watching it though, allows you to picture an entirely different history for Batman.
The final entry is a James Blakely Tribute (2:24). The title is a bit misleading, as it’s just a clip of Blakely, post-production supervisor on the show, discussing the story of the series’ development and the idea of editing in the show’s iconic sound-effects graphics. It’s not really a tribute in the traditional manner.
 It’s only natural that waiting so long for these episodes to arrive on home video has made expectations unmeetable, but between the wonderfully silly show, the quality of the presentation and the excellent extras that actually have been included, this set is one all Batman fans will want to own.
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REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN – SEASON 1-3

CAST

Lynda Carter (Supegirl)
Lyle Waggoner (Love me Deadly)
Beatrice Colon (Happy Days)
Richard Eastham (Toast of The Town)
Norman Burton (Valley of The Dolls)
Saundra Sharp (The Learning Tree)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Red Buttons (The Longest Day)
Stella Stevens (The Poseidon Adventure)
Cloris Leachman (American Gods)
Christine Belford (Outlaws)
Lynda Day George (Chisum)
Anne Francis (Forbidfden Planet)
Dick Van Patten (Spaceballs)
Linda Carpenter (Apoclaypse Now)
John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family 1964)
Debra Winger (Tears of Endearment)
Pamela Susan Shoop (Halloween 2)
Robert Loggia (Scarface)
Robert Reed (The Brady Bunch)
Tim O’ Connor (The Naked Gun 2 1/2)
Robert Hays (Airplane)
Harris Yulin (Ghostbusters 2)
Charles Cyphers (Halloween)
Fritz Weaver (Creepshow)
Bettye Ackerman (Rascal)
Jessica Walter (Arrested Development)
Brooke Bundy (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3/4)
Barry Dennen (The Shining)
James Hong (Agents of Shield)
Beatrice Straight (Poltergeist)
Bob Hastings (Batman: TAS)
Eve Plumb (Fudge)
Denny Miller (Wagon Train)
John Colicos (The Changeling)
Celeste Holm (High Society)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Dick Rambo (Another World)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Anne Ramsey (The Goonies)
Frank Gorshin (Batman 60s)
John Rubenstein (Angel)
Ed Begley Jr. (Veronica Mars)
Hal Englund (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Leif Garrett (The Outsides)
Martin Mull (Sabrina: TTW)
Lance LeGault (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation)
Craig T. Nelson (My Name Is Earl)
Mako (Conan The Barbarian)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
George Cheung (Rambo: First Blood)
Sheryl Lee Ralph (Moesha)
Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop)
Donnelly Rhodes (Tron Legacy)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Joan Van Ark (Knotts Landing)

Wonder Woman is a somewhat forgotten show, it’s not on syndication much, but it’s gotten a boost from a successful release on DVD. The first season takes place in the 1940s with Wonder Woman constantly fighting to dismantle the Nazi’s schemes. The following two seasons take place in the 1970s, and they will be released on DVD soon.

The show is always bordering on the level of high camp, but like most every show from the 1970s, it tells its’ story in a very plain straightforward fashion. Wonder Woman comes to the aid of Steve Trevor, who can never seem to help himself (the male in distress). Someone they know turns out to be an undercover Nazi spy, who is trying to steal valuable information or hurt many Americans.

Lynda Carter, first of all was amazing. She seemed to hit her stride in the part as the series continued and she is often so charming and innocent that you can’t help but like her. Her values and strength of character are idealistic, but they’re also missing in today’s female heroes, who are so dark sometimes, they lose their charm. In many ways, watching Lynda as Wonder Woman is a breath of fresh air and of course, there still doesn’t seem to be a woman other than her who could wear that outfit and pull it off. When Wonder Woman first walks on the city streets in the pilot, you don’t know what to think, but Lynda plays her so innocently she’s fantastic.

She is the driving force, but the innocent quality of the show (good vs. bad) is unique from today’s perspective. The comic book captions at the leads of scenes give it a tie to the comics. The guest stars are often interesting and have good roles and Lyle Waggoner is consistent in a rather thankless role as Steve Trevor.  It may not hold up perfectly today, but it’s a nice time capsule series and Lynda Carter does hold up well in a role she was born to play. And along with the Hulk, this was the best of the slew of comic book hero shows from the 1970s-early 80s.

REVIEW: BATMAN & MR.FREEZE: SUBZERO

CAST (VOICES)

Kevin Conroy (BAtman: TAS)
Loren Lester (Red Eye)
Michael Ansara (Buck Rogers)
Efrem Zimbalist JR. (Hot Shots)
George Dzunda (The Deer Hunter)
Robert Constanzo (Total Recall)
Bob Hastings (Wonder Woman TV)
Mary Kay Bergman (Extreme Ghostbusters)
Marilu Henner (The Crazy Ones)
Dean Jones (Jailhouse Rock)

Since his last encounter against Batman, Mr. Freeze has found a home in the Arctic and started a family (of sorts) with the still cryogenically-encased Nora, an Inuit boy named Kunac, and two pet polar bears, Hotchka and Shaka. Nora’s condition begins to rapidly deteriorate due to a submarine accidentally emerging from underwater directly underneath them, shattering her containment vessel. Freeze returns to Gotham City with his companions. He enlists the help of Dr. Gregory Belson to find a cure. Belson determines that Nora needs an organ transplant, but due to her rare blood type there are no suitable donors available.
Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero
Freeze declares that they will use a live donor, even if it means the donor will die in the process. Belson is at first reluctant to kill an innocent girl, but Freeze bribes him with a gold nugget and even more gold from an entire vein in the Arctic that will put an end to Belson’s financial problems. Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) is a perfect match, and Freeze learns from her roommate that she is at a restaurant with her boyfriend, Dick Grayson (Robin). Freeze attacks the restaurant and kidnaps Barbara, taking her to an abandoned oil rig where he and Belson are hiding. Freeze and Belson explain the situation to Barbara, who claims that she is willing to help Nora for the “blood transfusion”, but not at the oil rig, prompting Freeze to keep Barbara imprisoned. When the time for the operation comes, Barbara realizes that they are lying when they say she will need to be put under for a mere transfusion. She escapes with the help of Kunac. Belson gives pursuit and almost catches her, before the arrival of Batman and Robin.

Freeze follows, and in the ensuing confrontation, Belson accidentally shoots one of the fuel tanks and starts a rapidly spreading fire as Freeze traps Batman and Robin. Freeze insists that Belson perform the operation, despite the oil rig blazing and ready to explode, but Belson betrays Freeze and attempts to escape alone, only to be killed by falling wreckage. Freeze’s leg is broken, but he tells Batman to save Nora and Kunac first, along with Barbara. Nora, Kunac and Barbara are taken to safety in the Batwing with the help of Robin, but Batman fails to save the weakened Freeze in time, as the platform collapses beneath them, hitting him in the shoulder, and sending Freeze plummeting into the ocean below.

Batman manages to get aboard the Batwing just before the oil rig finally explodes, but Freeze escapes just in time, holding onto the swimming Hotchka and Shaka. Freeze then returns with his polar bears to the Arctic to resume his life alone, having frozen his leg in an ice cast. He sees on a television in a research station that Nora has been revived after an organ transplant operation funded by Wayne Enterprises, moving him to tears of joy. Then he walks away, limping with a wooden stick for support, with his two polar bears as the screen fades.

Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero

Alongside Mask of the Phantasm, this movie is a great tribute to the Animated Series that brought Batman into children’s lives. This movie, even though it was animated, was serious, realistic, and had a great plot. The fact that it came out after Shcumaker’s Batman & Robin, is a shame, due to the fact that this movie, an animated movie, blows the big screen movie out of the water. Just goes to show the difference between a great movie and director, and a horrible movie.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN/SUPERMAN MOVIE

CAST (voices)
Tim Daly (Private Practice)
Dana Delany (Body of Proof)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Lisa Edelstein (What Women Want)
Bob Hastings (McHales Nacy)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Joseph Bologna (Big Daddy)
Robert Costanzo (Total Recall)
George Dzundza (The Deer Hunter)

With in seconds of the opening credits, I was glued to the screen, transfixed at what I was seeing there. A very classy, if somewhat gaudy representation of the two characters I grew up with. Batman and Superman, at first not willing to work together to stop The Murderous Joker and Side Kick Harleyquin on a vendetta to kill Superman, love those plot devices, but latter using their own unique style of vigilante justice in unison to bring the evildoers in. I really should write comics.

Animation wise it’s a step above the usual Saturday morning cartoons. Written by long time Batman writer Paul Dini. The man who is 90% responsible for bring the fantastic Batman animated series to us over the last 4 years, he really went and out did him self here. The dialogue is both witty and fresh with out being overly corny. Written with just enough innuendo and savvy to keep the older viewers smirking. When Bruce Wayne (Batman’s alter ego) is seen to be making moves on Superman’s main squeeze Lois, Clark remarks, `Of course you have been dividing your time between work and Lois.’ Bruce replies with genuine arrogant charm `Is that a problem?’ With Deadpan seriousness Clark retorts, `Let’s just say I’m concerned. Your reputation is… dubious. In and out of costume.’ I dare you to find better dialogue any where on Saturday morning television.

The film flows with some modest attempts to flesh out the human sides of the characters This straight to video release is basically the 3-episode arc.  Besides some enjoyable action sequences the fun comes in picking the actors who voice the main characters. Mark Hamil, yes Luke Skywalker himself, pulls of a Nicholson-esque joker while Tim Daly of `Wings’ fame does the Man of Steel. Kevin Conroy does Batman. On whole very enjoyable and fans should watch to see the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight actually done well.

REVIEW: BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM

CAST (VOICES)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Dana Delaney (Desperate Housewives)
Hart Bochner (Urban Legends: Final Cut)
Stacy Keach (W.)
Abe Vigoda (The Godfather – Part II)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (The Deep Six)
Robert Costanzo (Total recall)
Bob Hastings (The Tall Man)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
During a conference of crime bosses held in a Gotham City skyscraper, gangster Chuckie Sol is killed by a mysterious cloaked figure, shortly after Batman bursts in on the meeting. Due to the killer’s resemblance to Batman, the Dark Knight is blamed for Sol’s death. Councilman Arthur Reeves tells the media that Batman is a public menace (despite Commissioner Gordon’s protests), then later attends a party at the mansion of billionaire Bruce Wayne, Batman’s secret identity. Reeves teases Bruce about his bad luck with women and for having allowed an old girlfriend, Andrea Beaumont, to get away.
In a flashback to 10 years before, Bruce meets Andrea in a cemetery while visiting his parents’ grave. That night, in one of his first crime-fighting attempts, Bruce foils an armored car robbery while disguised in a black ski-mask and leather jacket. Though he succeeds, he is discouraged that the criminals did not fear him. Around the same time, he begins a romance with Andrea. Eventually, Bruce decides to abandon his plan to become a crime-fighting vigilante and proposes marriage to Andrea. Soon afterward, however, Andrea mysteriously leaves Gotham with her father, Carl Beaumont, ending her engagement to Bruce in a Dear John letter. Believing that he has lost his last chance of having a normal life, Bruce dons the mask of Batman for the first time.
The mysterious killer finds and murders another gangster, Buzz Bronski. Around the same time, Batman discovers that Andrea has returned to Gotham for the first time in 10 years, and she ends up finding out that Bruce is Batman. Batman soon finds evidence linking Andrea’s father with gangster Salvatore Valestra, for whom both Sol and Bronski once worked as enforcers. When he visits Andrea to try and get more answers, she rebuffs him over the choices that he made while she was away. The killer later targets Valestra, who turns to the Joker for help. The killer arrives at Valestra’s house, and finds the gangster already dead at the Joker’s hands; the house explodes, with the killer barely escaping. Batman pursues the killer, but is interrupted by the police, who try to arrest Batman. Andrea rescues Batman in her car, and they spend the night together at Wayne Manor. Andrea explains to Bruce that she and her father had left Gotham and had been hiding in Europe from the Valestra mob, to whom he owed a lot of money. Batman comes to suspect that Andrea’s father may be the killer, but later gets Reeves (who was told of Batman’s innocence by the Joker before being poisoned by him, as he believed the Councilman to be the killer) to confess that he told the Valestra mob where Beaumont was hiding in return for campaign contributions, and that the mob ordered Beaumont’s death.
The killer tracks the Joker to his hideout — an abandoned world’s fair amusement park — and removes its ominous costume: the killer is Andrea, intent on avenging her father’s death at the hands of the Joker, who is revealed to be the last surviving member and professional hitman of the Valestra mob. Having already deduced her identity, and ready for her attack, the Joker fights her. Just before he can kill Andrea, Batman arrives and saves her from the Joker, and begs Andrea to give up her quest for revenge. She refuses, stating that the mob ruined her life by taking away her future with him; she tells Batman that he himself is driven by revenge before disappearing. Batman battles with the Joker, a struggle that ends in a stalemate. Moments later, Andrea returns and seizes the Joker, bidding Batman goodbye before vanishing with the maniacally laughing clown in a cloud of smoke as the entire amusement park erupts in a series of rigged explosions. Batman barely escapes by falling into a waterway and being swept away to safety by the current.
Alfred later consoles a heartbroken Bruce, telling him that no one could have helped Andrea. Bruce finds a locket containing a picture of himself and Andrea left behind in the Batcave. Meanwhile, Andrea is shown standing alone on the deck of a departing ocean liner. In the final scene, Batman stands alone on the top of a Gotham building; when the Bat-Signal appears in the sky, he swings off into the night to continue his war on crime.
A film noir atmosphere, gothic design concept, a tragic romantic sub-plot this movie has it all. Gangsters, guns, gadgets intrigue and mystery. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil are on top form as usual and Shirley Walker’s musical score should have even Danny Elfman muttering with jealousy. In short a must have for any self respecting batman fan!

REVIEW: THE INCREDIBLE HULK (1977-1982)

Image result for the incredible hulk tv logo

MAIN CAST

Bill Bixby (Goodnight, Beantown)
Lou Ferrigno (The Scorpion King 4)
Jack Colvin (Child’s Play)


RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Susan Sullivan (Castle)
Ted Cassidy (Mackenna’s Gold)
Lara Parker (Dark Shadows)
William Daniels (Girl Meets World)
Gerald McRaney (Mike & Molly)
Martin Kove (The Karate Kid)
Loni Anderson (Nurses)
Pamela Susan Shoop (Halloween II)
Julie Gregg (The Godfather)
Jennifer Darling (Aladdin)
Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser)
Julie Adams (Murder, She Wrote)
Sheila Larken (The X-Files)
Rosalind Chao (Star Trek: DS9)
Lance LeGault (Stripes)
Mickey Jones (V)
James Daughton (Blind Date)
Ned Romero (Children of The Corn II)
Sally Kirkland (JFK)
Mako (Conan The Barbarian)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Brion James (Blade Runner)
Kerrigan Mahan (Power Rangers)
Christine Belford (Ruffian)
Billy Green Bush (Critters)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Austin Stoker (Assault on Precint 13)
Carol Baxter (A Chorus Line)
Fred Ward (Tremors)
Sherman Hemsley (The Jeffersons)
Kim Cattrall (Big Trouble In Little China)
Morgan Woodward (Dallas)
Gary Graham (Alien Nation)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Ray Walston (Star Trek: Voyager)
Bob Hastings (Batman: TAS)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Mark Lenard (Planet of The Apes)
Anne Lockhart (Buried)
Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Melendy Britt (She-Ra)
Henry Polic II (Webster)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Dick Durock (Swamp Thing)
Brett Cullen (Ghost Rider)
Faye Grant (V)

The first season of The Incredible Hulk premiered with its pilot in 1977 and went on to run for eleven additional episodes. This is the one that started it all and in the opening moments of the series we are given a glimpse at Dr. David’s origins and how he came to possess the abilities of the Hulk. With the introduction out of the way the first season more or less hits the ground running as it established itself with some strong episodes and character development. Granted there are a few clunkers in between the good parts, but all around it was a solid start for Hulk.

“Death in the Family” is the first episode after the pilot and it’s a nice way to get the series going as it establishes the formula early on. This episode sees Banner making his way through California only to stop and help a handicapped girl after she faints in an orchard. It leads to David getting into the middle of a plot to kill the girl, so naturally only he and the Hulk can save her. When he’s done with California, David hitches his way to a new city where he befriends a wannabe boxer involved with some shady dealings. After that he moves on to working in a zoo in an episode that actually features the Hulk fighting a gorilla. Both of these episodes were kind of weak after the pilot and “Death in the Family”, but the season gets much better from here on out.

One of the strongest notes comes from the fifth episode, “Of Guilt, Models, and Murder”. I found this episode entertaining due to the way it played with David’s amnesia after he becomes the Hulk. The episode starts out with the doctor waking up in a room with some dead fashion models, and naturally his mind heads down dark, guilty paths as he blames the Hulk for killing them. The rest of the episode sees him investigating the murders and trying to get the bottom to find out whether or not he was actually involved.

From then on the first season has some ups and downs as it makes its way through the remaining seven episodes. Of the better episodes, “Terror in Times Square” stands out as it features David helping out an arcade owner who is being pressured by some people for “protection”. What better protection could you ask for than having the Hulk on your side for some good ‘ol fashion smashing? “The Hulk Breaks Las Vegas” was a great episode as well. I mean, just think about it, the Hulk running through the streets and casinos of Vegas! After these episodes the only other one that stands out in this season is “Earthquakes Happen” which has David /the Hulk attempting to stop a meltdown after a massive earthquake.

The second season of the Hulk starts out with David heading to Hawaii and getting married to a woman named Carolyn. Of course, being cursed as he is, things naturally don’t end well for the doctor. In the end though, this “Married” episode was interesting because it was more or less two parts and presented itself as a much larger story than we had become accustomed to. The thing with The Incredible Hulk is that most every episode followed a strict formula and you could basically expect the same structure over and over again. Due to that fact it is always a nice thing when the mold is broken, which did happen from time to time with the series.

That “mold” is broken again later in this season with a two-part episode entitled “Mystery Man”. This storyline features the very definition of a close call when David is involved in a car accident that renders him with amnesia. It is bad enough he doesn’t remember what happens when he’s the Hulk, but now he just plain doesn’t know what’s going on. Because of the accident his face is bandaged and he winds up spending a lot of time with McGee when they are involved in a plane crash together. You’re left wondering throughout the episode whether or not the reporter will actually put two and two together.

Aside from these two breaks from the standard set by the first season, the rest of this year’s batch of Hulk episodes are formulaic. It works for many episodes, but there are others which just aren’t quite as sharp. “The Antowuk Horror”, “Alice in Disco Land”, “Killer Instinct”, and “Stop the Presses” all stand out as prime examples of the show at its best, while “Wild Fire”, “Vendetta Road”, and “The Disciple” are a few of the lower points.

All in all, the second season of The Incredible Hulk was much better than the first, but then again in the opening year the show was just finding its footing. We still see a little bit of that here though it’s safe to say that the show handles this material better than most science fiction programs of the era. Many of these episodes and plots are cliché beyond reason, but the series handles them seriously and with a hefty flare for the dramatic. This was definitely one of the feathers in the Hulk’s cap and because of that the series retains much of its entertainment value some thirty years later.

For the third season no multi-part episodes were included, so there really wasn’t much continuity here by comparison to the previous year. That serious tone that helped the series out in the second season was back for this one, but there were still some bits that just didn’t feel right. Having the Hulk freak out on an acid trip, party at a disco, and David fight his moustache wearing evil twin proved to be moments that were really hard to take. Little bits and pieces like this invaded just about every episode and some of the plots get downright ridiculous. Even so there were still some good episodes all around this season, but they were slightly harder to find.

Of the good stuff “Homecoming” definitely stands out as one of the best here. In this episode David goes home to his family for Thanksgiving. While there he spends a little time trying to help out with a problem on the farm, but that’s not what makes this episode so entertaining. For the entire time we’ve known David, we haven’t really learned much about his history prior to being big and green. This episode provides plenty of opportunity for the writers to explore his character and some of his background.

Another solid episode from this season include “The Snare” which has David being invited to an island where he’s hunted by a madman. “The Psychic” is an interesting episode that puts David’s morality on the line when he learns that Jack McGee is going to die. David’s life sure would be a heck of a lot easier if the nosey reported wasn’t around, but could he live with that? This episode really got into David’s head and we got a nice glimpse at how he ticks. Aside from these episodes, most of the other ones here are simply passable. In all honesty it seemed as though by this point the show had already begun to slip though it still retained most of the quality.

Up through the third season the thing that really kept The Incredible Hulk going was solid character development. Though each tale was more or less episodic, traveling with David every week provided a much needed amount of humanity to counterbalance the hulking insanity. The third year started a slide in quality with more gonzo episodes leading the way. Unfortunately that trend continues with the eighteen episodes included in this season.

Despite the overall lacking nature of the fourth season, there are still plenty of enjoyable adventures for David and his big angry friend. The most notable episode here is the season opener which is a two-part story that has David getting stuck mid-transformation. The military gets involved as they think David is actually an alien so they take him back to the lab for further examination. Another two-part episode in this season sees David tracking down another “monsters”. This one has plenty to appreciate for fans of the show and it even offers the Hulk something other than a thug, brick wall, or car to beat up on! Other than the extended episodes here this season more or less splits right down the middle in terms of quality.

After watching the fourth season it’s not too difficult to see why the series was cancelled early on in the fifth. With only seven episodes to its name, the final year is a sore spot compared to the earlier ones, which featured many highlights. The episodes here simply weren’t very entertaining, most were poorly written, and even the actors didn’t seem as invested in it. It’s a shame that the series couldn’t have found a suitable ending and that it ended with such a whimper, but while it lasted it was a comic lovers dream come true.

Even if you weren’t into the comic, The Incredible Hulk was quite a show for the time it was released. The dark nature of the program coupled with Bixby’s acting skills and some “decent” writing presented a unique television experience that became an icon. While the later seasons of the show definitely weren’t the best, the first three seasons were rock-solid entertainment. Tuning in each week to see David turn into the Hulk was a hoot and reliving the show again thirty years later proves to be a nice nostalgic trip into the history of everyone’s favorite green giant.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 1-3

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MAIN CAST

Tim Daly (Wings)
Dana Delaney (Hand of God)
David Kaufman (Justice League: Doom)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Joseph Bologna (The Nanny)
George Dzundza (Species II)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Mike Farrell (MASH)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Joely Fisher (Til Death)
Victor Brandt (T.J. Hooker)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Finola Hughes (General Hospital)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Malcolm McDowell (Heroes)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Dorian Harewood (Earth: Final ConflicT)
Brad Garrett (Finding Nemo)
Bruce Weitz (Hill Street Blues)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Brion James (Blade Runner)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Larry Drake (Firefly)
Michael York (Logans Run)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Ron Glass (Firefly)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Marion Ross (That 70s Show)
Cam Clarke (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 80s)
Robert Hays (Airplane)
Gilbert Gottfried (Aladdin)
Sandra Bernmhard (2 Broke Girls)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Lori Petty (Tank Girl)
Mae Whitman (Boogeyman 2)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Arleen Sorkin (Duet)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Bob Hastings (McHale’s Navy)
Robert Costanzo (Total Recall)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (77 Sunset Strip)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Jennifer Lien (Star Trek: Voyager)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Peter Gallagher (American Beauty)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Paul Williams(The Muppet Movie)
John Glover (Smallville)
Henry Silva (Above The Law)
Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina: TTW)
Jason Priestly (Tru Calling)
Chad Lowe (Unfaithful)
Sarah Douglas (Superman 2)
Billy West (Futurama)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Olivia Hussey (IT)
David Warner (Tron)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)

I think people can generally divided into two categories: Batman people or Superman people. Either you are into the dark, gloomy and atmospheric or the optimistic and all-American. I’ve always considered myself a Batman guy. As such, I was estatic when “Batman: The Animated Series” hit the airwaves. An excellent portrayal of the Caped Crusader, it set a new standard for cartoons, not on in terms of the look, but also the stories. Cartoons didn’t have to be made for children, but could aim higher.

So after the success of “Batman: TAS,” it was only natural for Superman to get a new chance at the small screen. The creative minds behind the Dark Knight’s cartoon renaissance took on Big Blue, and took him to heights not seen since the early Fleischer cartoons made him the original animated superhero standard bearer. By sticking to the character’s roots, but not allowing themselves to be restricted by a slavish attention to the comic books or movies, the creators created a cartoon Superman that fans could embrace, but those without a comic-book education would enjoy as well.

The majority of the episodes follow something of a pattern, as Supes faces a challenge from a villain, is overcome and figures out how to overcome that challenge just in time to get the bad guy before 22 minutes are over (unless it’s a multi-episode story arc.) When the show shakes free those format shackles is the moment when the series shines. Episodes like the series-opening three-show “The Last Son of Krypton,” “Speed Demons,” which co-stars The Flash and “My Girl,” which introduces the all-grown-up Lana Lang, are among some of the most enjoyable in this volume. That’s not to say that the straightforward adventures aren’t fun, as “Two’s a Crowd” and “Fun and Games” show.

Superman aficionados will enjoy appearances by Toyman, Bibbo, Metallo, Brainiac, Darkseid and a raucous two-episode appearance by the Main Man, Lobo. There’s also plenty of celebrity voices to listen for, including Lori Petty, Tim Daly, Dana Delaney, Ron Pearlman, Leslie Easterbrook, Lauren Tom, Brad Garrett, Mike Farrell, Shelley Fabares, Christopher McDonald, Malcolm McDowell, Bud Cort, Joe Bologna, Michael York and Joely Fisher. If you don’t know which characters they play, I won’t ruin it. It adds another layer of enjoyment to watching the show.

these shows are great, with great writing and animation in every episode. Highlights from this second volume include the episodes “Identitiy Crisis” which introduces Bizarro and “Heavy Metal” which introduces fellow superhero Steel, who teams up with Superman to battle Metallo.

“World’s Finest” is a three-part episode that teams Superman with Batman for the first time as they both take on their respective arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor and the Joker.

Other episodes feature appearances by a variety of villains and guest heroes – Dr. Fate shows up in “The Hand of Fate” – but the best episode of the collection has no guest appearance by a crime fighter or a super villain. “The Late Mr. Kent” is perhaps the most complex and best written of the 18 episodes in this volume – and perhaps the entire series. The story revolves around Clark Kent’s attempts to clear a man on death row before he is executed. For his troubles, someone tries to kill the intrepid reporter, and most people believe he is dead, leaving Superman alone, without his alter ego to rely upon. For a show that clocks in at less than thirty minutes, it offers some complex insights into the relationship between mild-mannered Clark Kent and his crime-fighting counterpart Superman.

The main arc of this season borrows from the comic book universe and brings Darkseid and his homeworld to the forefront. Hinted at earlier in the show, it’s in this third volume that the Lord of Apokolips finally gets his payoff – and his payback. In a trio of two-parters, Apokolips… Now!, Little Girl Lost, and Legacy, Superman fights one of his most ruthless foes in a series of episodes that offer some excellent action, drama, and science fiction fun.

While these episodes are very faithful to the mythos, we’ve also got a great selection of original stories that go to prove that with a character like Superman, there is no limit to the stories that you can tell. One of my favorites is Knight Time. When Batman goes missing, Superman pays a visit to Gotham City and tries to find out where his friend has gone. Supes inadvertently ends up masquerading as Batman – dressing up in the Dark Knight’s costume and everything! – and teams up with Robin to solve the mystery of the missing Bruce Wayne. Not only is the episode entertaining, but it’s also got a great sense of humor. Seeing Superman do his best impersonation of Batman is wonderful – Clark doesn’t know which utility pockets contain what, and his attempts at being grim (nodding his head instead of speaking) are great.

Watching these shows you get the feeling that it was during this final stretch of episodes that the show’s producers were finding new ways of playing with the formula that they had designed, and perfected, with both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. Not only do these Superman episodes have a lot of two-parters, but we’ve also got some great guest-stars; it seems that this show is the precursor to Justice League.

We’ve got heroes, Kyle Rayner from In Brightest Day, and villains, Ra’s Al Ghul in The Demon Reborn, and everyone in between – everyone’s favorite master of the sea, Aquaman in Fish Story. We also get an expansion of the Superman supporting cast when Supergirl makes a welcome appearance in the Little Girl Lost two-parter.

In one of the episodes found in this collection, Superman pays his final respects to a recently departed friend. In the graveyard, Superman comes to realize something very important: “In the end, the world didn’t really need a Super man. Just a brave one.” This show gives us a character who is both brave and super. It gives us a real hero. It gives us Superman… as good as he’s ever been.