REVIEW: BATMAN VS. TWO-FACE

CAST (VOICES)

Adam West (Family Guy)
Burt Ward (Futurama)
William Shatner (Star Trek: TOS)
Julie Newmar (Return To The Batcave)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Jim Ward (Ultimate Avengers)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Lynne Marie Stewart (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure)
Jeff Bergman (The Cleveland Show)
Wally Wingert (The Ant Bully)
William Salyers (Pandora’s Clock)
Sirena Irwin (Justice League: Throne of Atlantis)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Lee Meriwether (The Munsters Today)

Batman and Robin are invited to a top-secret demonstration hosted by Professor Hugo Strange and his assistant Dr. Harleen Quinzel, that may eventually change the future of Gotham forever. Along the way, Batman takes a stop at Gotham State Penitentiary to visit Catwoman (whose suicide attempt from the first movie somehow failed) to give her a book on poetry by Elizabeth Barret Browning; something to keep her occupied for the next 36 months of her life until she is let out of prison for good. At the laboratory, they meet district attorney and Bruce Wayne’s ally in the war against crime, Harvey Dent, who is famous for having stopped a coin counterfeit, keeping a two faced quarter as a souvenir from the case.Batman-vs-Two-Face-previewHugo Strange believes that good and evil are all but one-sided and has created an “Evil Extractor” to which the volunteering criminals, Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Egghead and Mr. Freeze, will be purified of their corruption. Batman bluffs it off, saying that there are no easy fixes to the straight and narrow path, but Strange conducts his experiment anyway, despite the fact that it will make the jobs of Batman, Robin and Harvey obsolete. All goes well until the Joker entices his compadres to overload the machine. Noticing this, Professor Strange orders Dr. Quinzel to shut it down…but is too late, and Harvey (as opposed to acid from the comic book mythos) is horribly scarred by the explosion of the containment vat, with Batman being successful in saving the right side of his face.2Harvey, now re-christened Two Face, goes on a crime spree as seen in the opening credits, all of which his attempts are foiled by the Dynamic Duo. He is eventually whisked to a hospital where his face has been given reconstructive surgery. His sanity has apparently been restored as well. Now returning to his old job (as the assistant to the assistant district attorney), Harvey spends the next six months in charge of his own fate, but at the same time, King Tut and his henchmen have been robbing an biplane while at Wayne Manor, Aunt Harriet is getting ready for a soiree in Bruce and Dick’s place while they investigate the crime as Batman and Robin. After implying comparisons between King Tut and Two Face, Batman and Robin return to the Batcave where they realize that a double decker bus company are planning to hold the millionaires, including Alfred and Aunt Harriet, hostage. They arrive on the bus via Batmobile and fight Tut and the Tutlings while Alfred escorts the patrons to safety. Unfortunately, the Dynamic Duo are subdued by a pair of twin snakes with knockout venom.4In an urn trap as seen in King Tut’s debut episode, Batman and Robin are to be entombed in the foundations of the Pyramid Towers that are soon to be erected above the digging spot where they are trapped. Cement pours over them and when it appears as though they are doomed, they press the back of their soles against the sides of the jars, triggering the Batjets. They fly to confront King Tut in one final battle and a brick restores his memory. As they take him away, a pair of twins seize the jewels that were stolen by the Tutlings. Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara interrogate King Tut as Harvey waits in the shadows, with O’Hara constantly hitting Tut on the head with his baton. Lucille Diamond, the king’s defendant, intervenes and ushers them out of the room so that she can speak to him. At Tut’s trial, she implicates that the concussion is nothing more than a threat to a mild-mannered man. Chief O’Hara tearfully confesses to hitting Tut and Harvey calls Batman as his next witness, but Professor Mackel Roy himself admits his guilt, ready to suffer the minimum penalty of being rehabilitated in prison. After the sentencing, Harvey shares a highball with Bruce Wayne, much to Dick’s annoyance at bearing the hardships of a third wheel.3Harvey is then due to a attend a charity for underprivileged twins at the Winning Pair casino just as Bruce and Dick resume their identities as Batman and Robin once more. A package has arrived at Commissioner Gordon’s office, a World Atlas book marked for Batman…with its pages eaten away in three holes. Robin surmises the culprit to be Bookworm and the duo race off in the Batmobile to find him at the Gotham City Library where a fight ensues and the three priceless books that Bookworm had his eyes on have disappeared. Batman and Robin deduce that the stolen books were all about duality, but Two Face has already been reformed and try to find another way behind it. Regardless, they head to an abandoned sign factory with Two Face and the twins waiting for them. After defeating the twins, Two Face pins them with a large number two and the flip of his coin landing on the right side spares their lives. Once they have left, Batman believes that Harvey has made a lot of enemies in his career and they are all out to destroy it. Harvey, meanwhile is having some problems of his own after he makes a phone call to… Two Face, who kidnaps Professor Strange as part of their scheme.004a2326Robin is punished to his room by Batman after nearly getting into a row about Harvey’s involvement in Two Face’s plans and Catwoman, who by now has been stood up, escapes the pen by switching places with Lucilee Diamond. Following Harvey to the laboratory, Robin is ambushed by Two Face and Professor Strange corrupts him with the same gas of the extractor that mutates the left side of his body. Batman is forced to fight his beloved sidekick and cures him back at the Batcave, following Two Face to the casino where he is in fact revealed to be Dent, having suppressed his bad side (á la Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). Once the Dynamic Duo are strapped to a large silver dollar, he unmasks Batman and deduces Robin’s true identity, then Two Face invites the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Egghead, Shame, Clock King and Catwoman to an auction for the highest bidder of Batman’s true identity. With Catwoman’s help, Batman and Robin defeat the villains, but Two Face gets away on the biplane stolen by King Tut, intending to use the evil gas to remake Gotham City in his image. The Dynamic Duo manage to shoot him down towards a flaming factory where Batman goes one on one with Two Face having completely taking over Harvey’s body. In a battle of wits, Batman urges Harvey to regain self control and he does, defeating Two Face for good as they escape the factory.batman-vs-two-face-trailerThe next morning, Batman and Robin use the Batwing to cure the infected Gothamites and return that night to Wayne Manor where Harvey holds an auction for a bachelor party. Batman appears before everyone, and to his delight, ends up having the first person to bid for him being none other than Catwoman. In the post credits there is a memoriam for Adam West, who portrayed Batman. It also stated “Rest Well, Bright Knight”.1In the hearts of some, maybe even all, Batman fans, Adam West will always hold a cherished place. Batman Vs. Two-Face doesn’t satirize like its predecessor, but fully embraces the original series’ campiness, with one concession: the inclusion of a villain considered too dark and gritty for the series at the time. According to legend, Clint Eastwood was all set to take on the role of Two-Face before studio execs thought he’d scare off young viewers and put the kibosh on it. Always leave ’em wanting more. It’s sad for me to think of what might have been. If only someone had the brilliant idea of bringing Adam West and Burt Ward in to revisit the classic series in animated form earlier, we may have been able to witness the two squaring off against Poison Ivy or Scarecrow or Harley Quinn. But, as it is, this is as good of a send off as our Bright Knight could ever have asked for.

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REVIEW: BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS

CAST (VOICES)

Adam West (Family Guy)
Burt Ward (Return To The Batcave)
Julie Newmar (Star Trek)
Jeff Bergman (Gremlins 2)
Wally Wingert (American Dad)
William Salyers (Judging Amy)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Jim Ward (Ben 10)
Thomas Lennon (balls of Fury)

The official plot synopsis reads as follows, “It’s back to the 1960s as Batman and Robin spring into action when Gotham City is threatened by a quartet of Batman’s most fiendish foes – Penguin, The Joker, Riddler and Catwoman. This time, the four super-villains have combined their wicked talents to hatch a plot so nefarious that the Dynamic Duo will need to go to outer space (and back) to foil their arch enemies and restore order in Gotham City.

What a dose of Nostalgia. The opening credits incorporated many classic comic book covers with some fantastic animation. I could not stop watching. Fascinating, funny, festive, friendly, and very alliterative, the actors, writers, and animators knocked this out of the park.

I was thoroughly amused throughout. None of the dozens of punchlines are particularly surprising, but they are all fun, and many of them require the set-up, animation, and acting to be meaningful.

The movie does get a bit dark. In one particular scene, Robin is horrified by a punch that doesn’t follow Marquess of Queensberry rules. Robin’s reaction to that punch and subsequent actions keep the movie grounded and friendly. I have to give special acclaim for Burt Ward, here — his exuberance and delivery hasn’t changed an iota.

Does the movie get some things wrong? Like the Joker’s hidden mustache? Yes and perhaps. There are dozens of things that are not quite like the 60’s show, and hundreds of things that are spot-on perfect. I don’t recall hearing the Riddler’s music cue, but the Batman theme is incorporated well in many places. The producers have already mention that some of the “mistakes” are intentional, such as the colors of Robin’s logo being flipped in a throwaway shot, an homage to mistakes in previous animations. I will be watching this many times.

The sequel has already been announced, with William Shatner as Two- Face.This is the most enjoyable movie I’ve seen in years. Highly recommended.

REVIEW: RETURN TO THE BATCAVE

CAST

Adam west (Family Guy)
Burt Ward (The New Adventures of Batman)
Frank Gorshin (Star Trek)
Julie Newmar (My Living Doll)
Jack Brewer (Clueless TV)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Lyle Waggoner (Wonder Woman)
Lee Meriwether (The Munsters Today)
Betty White (Th Golden Girls)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Curtis Armstrong (New Girl)
Brett Rickaby (The Crazies)
Julia Rose (Something’s Gotta Give)
Erin Carufel (Untraceable)

TV reunions can be pretty painful to watch. It usually just seems like a bunch of overly familiar clips, fluffy talking head retrospectives, and maybe some misguided attempts at material that really should’ve been put to rest a decade or three earlier. If you happened to catch Return to the Batcave when it debuted a couple years back, you already know that this 90 minute special isn’t anything like that.
As you could hopefully guess from the title, Return to the Batcave takes a look back at the Batman television series that aired on ABC in ’60s.  The framing story is set in the present, as original stars Adam West and Burt Ward are delivered phony invitations for a charity auto show. Some cackling criminal offscreen swipes the Batmobile from under them, and to ensure that those orphans don’t suffer any more than they already have, he types with a sniffle, Adam and Burt set off to reclaim the Batmobile and Oof! Wham! Pow! whoever’s responsible. (It’s really not much of a mystery, but play along anyway.) Along the way, they stumble onto clues suggesting that the theft has something to do with their past, and as they reminisce about the show, it’s time to cue the flashbacks.
 The sequences set in the here-‘n-now are played with the same sort of campy, goofy sense of humor as the original series, down to the garish set design and Dutch camera angles. The flashbacks are treated a little more seriously, with Jack Brewster and Jason Marsden stepping into the roles of Adam and Burt. The camp may be dialed down, but these flashbacks aren’t dry, monotone re-enactments. They’re teeming with some of the lurid details from any one of the stars’ tell-all books, everything from Burt Ward’s divorce, Adam West’s relentless womanizing, Ward’s excessive man-basket unsettling the religious right, Fredric Wertham’s accusations of homosexuality between the Dynamic Duo, struggles with the censors, Ward almost getting skewered after a disastrous one-night stand, and internal bickering.  Since it’s not just E!’s True Hollywood Story with a bigger budget, everything from the original casting (including some actual footage of Lyle Waggoner testing as Batman) to the series’ numerous guest stars (including Cesar Romero demanding makeup be smothered over his moustache and a food fight with Vincent Price on the set, to rattle off a couple) to Burt Ward getting bruised, battered, and par-broiled during botched stunts (I don’t have a parenthetical reference for this one) is covered.
 This isn’t a shameless, half-thought-out ratings grab — Return to the Batcave manages to capture the spirit of the original Batman series. A lot of the gags in the framing story got a laugh, particularly quips about the structure of these sorts of reunion specials and more subtle ones like Adam West suggesting they drive his car because it’s already been established. I don’t know how many liberties the movie took with reality for the flashback sequences, but they’re certainly interesting enough, spouting off a bunch of stories I hadn’t heard before. If you’re a fan of the original television series, then…well, you probably already saw this when it originally aired…but if not, I guess you have a chance to now. There isn’t much on this DVD aside from the movie itself, but at least it’s cheap.
Return to the Batcave captures a lot of what made the original TV series such a blast to watch, and if you like the show, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll feel the same way about this reunion movie

REVIEW: LEGENDS OF THE SUPER HEROES

CAST

Adam West (Return To The Batcave)
Burt Ward (The New Adventures of Batman)
Frank Gorshin (Star Trek)
Jeff Altman (Highlander 2)
Charlie Callas (Switch)
Gabriel Dell (Earthquake)
Howard Morris (Splash)
Mickey Morton (Starchaser)
William Schallert (Santa Barbara)
A’leisha Brevard (American Pop)
Garrett Craig (The Blue Knight)
Howard Murphy (Satan’s Mistress)
Danuta Rylko Soderman (The 700 Club)
Bill Nuckols (Sunset Cove)
Rod Hasse (Hero at Large)
Barbara Joyce (Hothead)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Ruth Buzzi (Freaky Friday)
Pat Carroll (The Little Mermaid)
Alfie Wise (The Cannonball Run)
Ed McMahon (Bewitched)

On January 18, 1979, NBC aired Legends Of The Superheroes: The Challange, an hourlong special in which Adam West, Burt Ward, and Frank Gorshin reprised their Batman, Robin, and Riddler roles from the campy ’60s Batman series, alongside a cast of legendary TV comedians and generic hunks. The show had the heroes dealing with a series of traps laid by a team of supervillains, with each trap setting the stage for a wacky skit. Intended as a live-action Superfriends, LOTS came off more like a live-action version of Scooby’s All-Star Laff-a-lympics.But even The Challenge wasn’t as wretched at what NBC aired the following week: Legends Of The Superheroes: The Roast, in which the cast of the previous special returned for a series of painfully unfunny sketches and stand-up routines. According to the website TV Obscurities, The Challenge finished 58th out of 59 shows the week it aired, and The Roast finished 62nd out of 63. NBC and Hanna-Barbera’s experiment with live-action superhero slapstick was over.

The Challenge opens with the heroes and villains in their respective lairs, where the former have an orderly meeting, complete with a salute to elderly superhero Retired Man (played by William Schallert, better-known as Patty Duke’s dad on The Patty Duke Show), while the latter have a chaotic meeting complete with random acts of violence and lots of indistinct muttering, captured in an ugly-looking medium-long shot.
The villains seize on a doomsday plot put forward by Dr. Sivana (played by sitcom vet Howard Morris, a.k.a. Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show) and divide up, each tasked to find ways to slow the superheroes down. Sinestro (played by funny-faced comic Charlie Callas) poses as a gypsy and reads Green Lantern’s fortune.The Weather Wizard (played by fast-talking young comedian Jeff Altman) poses as a used-car salesman, and sells Batman and Robin a lemon. The Riddler pretends to be a psychiatrist and gets Captain Marvel to sit on his outdoor couch and talk about his feelings. Finally, the heroes locate the villain’s island hideout, where Batman and Robin hop on Jet Skis and chase the wizard Mordru (an obscure DC bad guy played by former Dead End Kid Gabriel Dell) before heading indoors for an old-fashioned punch-up.
Oddly enough, the cheesiness of the costumes are a point in favor of LOTS: The Roast, where the ridiculousness of everything is part of the concept. At the outset, host Ed McMahon jokes that he hasn’t seen so many crazy costumes since he last “had lunch at Alice Cooper’s house,” and adds that the heroes’ HQ looks like “Truman Capote’s closet.”
The Roast is a beast to sit through. The special includes several corny routines in which McMahon trades quips with guests like Hawkman’s mom (played by showbiz legend Pat Carroll, who jokes that when young Hawkman brought notes home from school, “they were strapped to his leg”) and hulking monster Solomon Grundy (who roars and threatens McMahon whenever he’s reminded of the word “swamp”), and, yet again, Retired Man.
Later, Dr. Sivana shows up, giving Howard Morris a chance to get uncomfortably close to Black Canary’s breasts.…and the inevitable Ruth Buzzi pops up as a gun-toting Aunt Minerva.
Also, gossip-monger “Rhoda Rooter” conducts an interview with the unlikely couple of The Atom and Giganta……and West and Ward participate in an interminable skit where Robin tries to keep Batman from finding out that he totaled the Batmobile. Again, it’s impressive—at least for an old DC devotee like myself—to see how far into the character pool the writers were willing to jump, and it’s not like the level of comedy here was any worse than moist shows of its time.  Hanna-Barbera use the occasion of this special to allow Jeff Altman to do a few minutes of stand-up material as Weather Wizard (complete with storms), and to have comedian Brad Sanders lay down some jokes along the lines of “If Hawkman walked through Harlem, by the time he got to Lennox Avenue, he’d be Kentucky-fried,” in the unfortunate guise of Ghetto Man. The Roast ends with Mordru doing a little song-and-dance routine, changing the lyrics to “That’s Entertainment” to something more villain-friendly……and then the whole affair should’ve been permanently consigned to the ash-heap of TV history. But alas, it was dug back up by warner brothers.
It’s a collectable piece for any DC fan as long as they don’t take it seriously

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE MOVIE (1966)

CAST

Adam West (Return To The Batcave)
Burt Ward (The New Adventures of Batman)
Lee Meriwether (The Munters Today)
Cesar Romer (The Little Princess)
Burgess Meredith (Rocky)
Frank Gorshin (Star Trek)
Alan Napier (Marnie)
Neil Hamilton (Tarzan The Ape Man)
Stafford Repp (Plunder Road)
Madge Blake (The Long, Long Trailer)
Reginald Denny (Of Human Bondage)

Batman is a faithful movie adaptation of the hugely successful live-action TV series, which for most of 1966 had been a genuine pop culture phenomenon comparable to the James Bond craze and Beatlemania, and almost unique for a TV show before or since. The Batman movie, filmed in the late Spring of ’66 and released that August, between the end of the first season and premiere of the second.
The story is relatively simple, far too simple to justify its 105-minute running time: Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny) is kidnapped – along with his fantastic new invention, a “Total Dehydrator” – by the United Underworld, an uneasy alliance of Gotham City’s most notorious villains: The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, replacing an unavailable Julie Newmar from the TV series).
As Bruce Wayne/Batman (Adam West) and his ward Dick Grayson/Robin (Bruce Ward) inch toward finding the villains’ lair and uncovering their dastardly plot, Bruce and his alter-ego fall for a Russian journalist from the Moscow Bugle (love that name!), Miss Kitka, actually Catwoman in disguise. Meanwhile, the villains come up with a plan to lure Batman into a trap, using a kidnapped millionaire as bait – Bruce Wayne! Oh bitter irony.
Like the TV show, the movie reaches two very different audiences at once: kids were attracted to the comic book elements while adults appreciated its deliberately campy humor. Many people were responsible for Batman’s success, but the biggest share must go to star Adam West, without whom the show probably wouldn’t have worked. Other actors could have played Robin, and some of the villains were played by different actors over the show’s three seasons. But West was the perfect match for this Batman: there is an earnestness in his consistently hilarious performance that only Neil Hamilton’s Commissioner Gordon comes close to matching. (Hamilton was an excellent “straight man” on this series and a fine actor late in life; by 1966, he had been making films for nearly half a century. See his appearance in the The Outer Limits episode “The Invisibles” as an example of his diversity.)
Handicapped by a cowl that severely restricted his facial expressions, West relied on a funny clipped speech, constantly adjusting its speed. Like Fred Astaire’s dancing, West makes something extremely complex seem easy and natural, but that precise type of delivery had to have required hours upon hours of thought and preparation: it’s a masterwork of comic timing.
In the movie, one also has a new appreciation for his talent as a physical comedian. The scene everyone remembers succeeds largely due to West’s funny, frantic movements: Batman darts around a pier with a lit bomb the size of a basketball, vainly trying to dispose of the thing before it explodes. In every direction is an obstacle, however: a group of nuns, lovers in a rowboat, a Salvation Army brass band, a family of ducks. Again, though hindered by a head-to-toe costume that would seem to limit most expression, West somehow conveys Batman’s sense of urgency, panic, and controlled frustration. For that gem of a scene alone, Batman is worth watching. (Interestingly, West doesn’t simply play Bruce Wayne as Batman unmasked, but in a much less stylized manner. I wonder if this was deliberate, or if wearing the costume somehow inspired him.). The rest of the film is hit-and-miss. Some ideas are quite funny: when the Batcopter is struck by one of The Riddler’s Polaris missiles, sending it crashing to earth, Batman and Robin are saved by an enormous pile of foam rubber – an outdoor display at the Foam Rubber Wholesalers Convention. (“I’d say the odds against it would make even the most reckless gambler cringe,” Batman says.) However, the picture makes the mistake of shooting its wad in the first half-hour. During that time everything there is to see is shown: the Bat Cave, the Batmobile, the four villains and their submarine, as well as several new gadgets, the aforementioned Batcopter and Batboat. After that the film becomes rather serial-like in its extreme repetitiveness. Almost every scene drags on way too long; had it been fine-tuned to 70-75 minutes instead of 105, it might have become a classic ’60s comedy instead of the kind of footnote it’s become.
The film will always be a classic and will always be fondly remembered

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.

REVIEW: TEEN TITANS GO!: THE HALLOWEEN EPISODES

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MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Scott Menville (Full House)
Hynden Walch (Justice League War)
Khary Payton (The Walking Dead)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Greg Cipes (Anger Management)

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HALLOWEEN

It is time to celebrate Halloween, but the Titans have lost interest due to growing up. So Raven tries to bring back their spirit of Halloween by turning them into little kids!. Raven decides to try and put the spirit back into Halloween.

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SCARY FIGURE DANCE

The Titans’ Halloween party is interrupted by the Hive Five robbing a candy factory, and after the battle hits a major shift, very strange things start happening around H.I.V.E Tower.

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HALLOWEEN V CHRISTMAS

When Santa tries to take over Halloween, it’s up to the Titans, the Halloween Spirit, and a few ghouls, to stop him.

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COSTUME CONTEST

Tired of losing to the H.I.V.E. Five every year, the Titans hatch a scheme to win the costume contest.

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Teen Titans Go! is a funny show and must be taken as the show it is a as a friendly kids show. These Halloween episodes are fun and light hearted they are short so you don’t have to worry about attention span.