REVIEW: THE NEW ADDAMS FAMILY (1998-1999)

MAIN CAST

Glenn Taranto (Crash 2004)
Ellie Harvie (The Cabin In The Woods)
Brody Smith (Rat Race)
Nicole Fugere (Cosas Que Nunca Te Dije)
Betty Phillips (2012)
Michael Roberds (Elf)
John DeSantis (Little Man)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Robert Moloney (Power Rangers)
Jerry Van Dyke (The Middle)
Christopher Shyer (V)
Monika Schnarre (Andromeda)
Gabrielle Miller (Highlander: The Series)
David Lewis (Man of Steel)
John Astin (The Frighteners)
Tabitha St. Germain (Ninjago)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Jennifer Copping (Slither)
Samantha Ferris (Along Came A Spider)
Jessica Harmon (Izombie)
Diane Delano (Jeepers Creepers 2)
Beverley Elliott (2012)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Bates Motel)
David Palffy (Stargate SG.1)
Richard Ian Cox (Ghost Rider)
David Lovgren (Antitrust)
April Telek (Walking Tall)
Gillian Barber (The Man In The High Castle)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
Morgan Fairchild (Chuck)
Beverley Breuer (Riverdale)
Mike Dopud (Stargate Universe)
Courtnay J. Stevens (Ripper)
Kirsten Robek (Critters: A New Binge)
Laurie Murdoch (October Faction)
Ellen Dubin (Robocop: Prime Directives)
Frank C. Turner (IT)
Peter Kelamis (Stargate Universe)
Linnea Sharples (The L Word)
Suzy Joachim (Being Erica)
Jason Schombing (Tin Man)

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The 1991 film The Addams Family had distinguished performers Angelica Huston and Raul Julia, and took over $100,000,000 at the box office. Both this film and its 1993 sequel, Addams Family Values, were based heavily on Addams’ original cartoons, and introduced a whole new generation of fans to the Addamses. A script for another sequel had already been prepared before the sudden 1994 death of Raul Julia ended plans for a third movie. Despite the apparent end of the film franchise, rumours of a return to the small screen persisted. In the meantime, original Gomez John Astin loaned his vocal talents to an Emmy award winning 1992 animated series, which lasted for two seasons. In 1998, the Fox empire negotiated the acquisition of the US Family Channel, which wud be re-launched in the fall under the Fox banner, with a large number of new original programmes and specials, produced in partnership with Saban International. Saban had established themselves as leaders in the field of economical children’s television throughout the 1990s. A number of original TV movies were to be produced for airing on the channel, with prior releases on the sell-through home video market. Among the initial raft of titles announced was Addams Family Reunion, which would star Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah. Produced hastily in California in the early months of 1999, it debuted on Home Video in the fall to almost unanimous derision.

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However, before production on the new film wrapped, Saban and Fox Family Channel announced that a 65-episode series of The New Addams Family would debut as part of the new line-up. The new series was to be a joint effort between Saban and Shavick Entertainment. The series, which would “mix characters from both the classic series and recent films”, was to be produced in Vancouver at a cost of $35 million and represented a near unprecedented advance commitment. Filming in British Columbia, with its generous tax incentives, not to mention a cast of relative unknowns, it was hoped that the series could be produced economically to a high standard. As a further budgetary measure, many of the specialist props, costumes and settings from Reunion were put to use in the new episodes.

With budget and the Vancouver location immediately precluding the participation of much of the Addams Family Reunion troupe, it would be a largely new cast which would front the new series. The new cast was assembled mostly from Canadian talent, with the exceptions of Nicole Fugere, who would reprise her role of Wednesday from Reunion and Glenn Taranto, a last-minute placement in the role of Gomez, cast after the initial choice proved unsuitable.

Originally, the producers had envisaged a Gomez more in line with the Hispanic silhouette Raul Julia embodied on the big screen. With this in mind, Frank Roman was initially cast in the role, beating out Glenn Taranto, who had offered an audition performance based on John Astin’s interpretation. However, once rehearsals were underway, it became clear that the tone of the episodes owed more to the series of old than the films, convincing the producers to reconsider their decision, awarding the role to Taranto. The actor had kept a signed photograph of the original Gomez, John Astin, in his possession for a number of years, and felt a special affinity for the role; over the years, a number of people had commented on his physical and vocal similarity to Astin.

Award-winning comedienne Ellie Harvie would play Morticia, along with Michael Roberds as Uncle Fester. Veteran performer Betty Phillips would play the wizened Grandmama Addams, whilst newcomers John DeSantis, Brody Smith and Steven Fox would essay the roles of Lurch, Pugsley and Thing, respectively. Production on the new episodes began in earnest in the Spring of 1998.

As it emerged, the new series owed much of its style and tone to the Addamses of the small-screen, and a large number of the original television scripts were adapted and revised as the basis for new episodes. This task fell largely to the show’s Executive Consultant, Peggy Nicol and her successors Arnold Rudnik and Rich Hosek. The remade episodes were generally heavily restructured and rewritten, often with only the barest bones of the originals retained.  The Fox Family Channel intended to use the established Addams format as the ballast for its re-launch, with stripped broadcasts throughout weekday evenings. With a mammoth episode count required in time for the October launch-date, the new cast would shoot at a frantic pace, with an average of only three filming days devoted to each episode.

A number of large regular sets were built in the studio to represent the Addams abode. Budgets and time precluded the building of an exterior to the mansion, which was instead realised with computer animation. A small exterior backlot set housed the gateway to the mansion, allowing for rare outside excursions. Like the original series, location shoots would be few and far between. With rapid production imperative, the crew often worked 14-hour days. Make-up alone could last as long as 90-minutes at a time. However, despite the highly demanding working conditions, the cast members generally relished their roles. Harvie, Taranto and Roberds based their performances heavily on their sixties counterparts, having watched the original show as children. Between them, they gradually brought their own broader interpretations to their roles, adding their own comic style.

An early seal of approval was found in the form of an inspired guest appearance by original Gomez, John Astin, in the role of Great Grandpapa Addams. Both Astin and the regular cast enjoyed the experience immensely, as Ellie Harvie recalled: “There was one scene where I was speaking French and he runs in and says, ‘Tish, that’s French!’ and starts kissing my arm and then Gomez walks in and says, ‘Grandpapa, what are you doing?’ There was a second there when he was kissing my arm and I thought, ‘This is too weird. I’m Morticia’!” Astin reprised Great Grandpapa for a further two episodes of the series. The New Addams Family premiered on the Fox Family Channel on October 19th 1998, following a huge publicity drive. Fox Family used the series as the cornerstone for their 13 Days of Halloween special, and followed soon after with The Addams Family Scareathon, a day of stripped repeats linked with specially filmed promotional spots by the characters.

In print, posters advertising the show appeared throughout the New York Subway system whilst TV-Guide magazine featured prominent advertisements for the show. A number of items were produced purely for promotional purposes. These included engraved cigar boxes, complete with a preview videotape, New Addams Family picture frames (filled with plastic bugs and bones) along with t-shirts, rucksacks and other sundries.

Concurrently, Cool-Whip dessert topping was showcasing a major promotion for Addams Family Reunion. The network aired huge numbers of specially shot promotional spots, whilst the characters themselves were featured as part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. Critical reaction was conservative, but generally positive.

Fox Family’s massive publicity drive paid off. In a press release issued shortly after the premiere, the network reported that: “Highlighting the prime time line-up was the debut episode of The New Addams Family, the highest-rated first-run series in Fox Family Channel history. Addams proved a particularly strong attraction to Kids 6-11, with the debut delivering a Fox Family Channel prime time series record 2.04 rating in that demographic. Having excelled as part of the Fox Family Channel’s re-launch, The New Addams Family was to prove a surprisingly short-lived revival, producing only one episode more than its television parent.

Sadly, the promising viewing figures and audience reaction were not enough to ensure a second number of episodes, and with its 65th episode, Death Visits the Addams Family, the new series bade farewell to its new-found fan base. Reportedly, during the final weeks of production an abortive proposal was made for a straight-to-video movie sequel. Ultimately, the motivations behind the cancellation are numerous, and neither Shavick nor Fox Family Channel have ever issued an official statement regarding it. However, certain facts and comments from production alumni do go some way to explaining the decision. For the network, it would seem that any interest in continuing beyond their contracted quota was minimal, as their huge order of episodes gave them a sufficient number of shows to exploit the series with its existing library. With large numbers of shows readily available, there was no immediate incentive for them to produce further episodes. The cast and crew had been engaged on fixed-rate contracts, which expired at the end of production. Having forfeited their rights to valuable residual payments for the series, it was inconceivable that they would agree to such frugal terms for a second run. While the news was disappointing to viewers, in fairness, the show’s production team had completed a quota of episodes far in excess of the annual 25 of most modern sitcom productions.

The disappointment of the cast and crew at the premature and abrupt nature of the cancellation was seemingly vindicated during the 2000 Leo Awards, where The New Addams Family retrospectively won eight awards out of a nominated nine

 

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE FRIGHTENERS

CAST

Michael J. Fox (Back to The Future)
Tina Alvarado (American Playhouse)
Peter Dobson (Modern Girls)
John Astin (The Addams Family)
Dee Wallace (E.T.)
Jeffrey Combs (Fortress)
Jake Busey (Fast Sofa)
R. Lee Ermey (Apocalypse Now)
Chi McBride (Human Target)
Elizabeth Hawthorne (Cleopatra 2525)
Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men)
John Sumner (District 9)
Jim McLarty (Evil Dead)
Anthony Ray Parker (The Matrix)
John Leigh (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive)
Stuart Devenie (The Almighty Johnsons)

In 1990, architect Frank Bannister’s (Michael J. Fox) wife, Debra, dies in a car accident. He abandons his profession, and his unfinished “dream house” sits incomplete. Following the accident, Frank gained the power to see ghosts and befriends three: 1970s street gangster Cyrus (Chi McBride), 1950s nerd Stuart (Jim Fyfe), and The Judge (John Astin), a gunslinger from the Old West. The ghosts haunt houses so Frank can then “exorcise” them for a fee. Most locals consider him a con man.

Soon after Frank cons local health nut Ray Lynskey (Peter Dobson) and his wife Lucy (Trini Alvarado), a physician, Ray dies of a heart attack. Frank discovers there is an entity, appearing as the Grim Reaper, killing people, first marking numbers on their foreheads that only Frank sees. Debra had a similar number when she was found.

Frank’s ability to foretell the murders puts him under suspicion with the police and FBI agent Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs), who is convinced Frank is responsible. Frank is arrested for killing newspaper editor Magda Rees-Jones (Elizabeth Hawthorne), who had attacked him in the press.
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Lucy investigates the murders and becomes a target of the Grim Reaper. She is attacked while visiting Frank in jail; but they escape with the help of Cyrus and Stuart, who are both dissolved in the process. Frank wants to commit suicide to stop the Grim Reaper. Lucy helps Frank have a near-death experience by putting him into hypothermia and using barbiturates to stop his heart. Dammers abducts Lucy, revealing that he had been a victim of Charles Manson and his “Family” in 1969.
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In his ghostly form, Frank confronts the Grim Reaper and discovers that he is the ghost of Johnny Bartlett (Jake Busey), a psychiatric hospital orderly who killed twelve people 32 years earlier, before being captured, convicted, and executed. Newspaper reports reveal that his greatest desire was to become the most prolific serial killer ever, showing pride at killing more than contemporaries like Charles Starkweather. Patricia Bradley (Dee Wallace-Stone), then a teenager, was accused as his accomplice, although she escaped the death penalty due to her underage status. Lucy resuscitates Frank and they visit Patricia. Unknown to them, Patricia is still in love with Bartlett and on friendly, homicidal terms with Bartlett’s ghost, and eventually kills her own mother, who had been trying to monitor her daughter’s behavior. Lucy and Frank trap Bartlett’s spirit in his urn, which Patricia has kept. The pair make for the chapel of the now-abandoned psychiatric hospital hoping to send Bartlett’s ghost to Hell.
image-w856Patricia and Dammers chase them through the ruins. Dammers throws the ashes away, releasing Bartlett’s ghost again before Patricia kills him. Bartlett’s ghost and Patricia hunt down Frank and Lucy. Frank realizes that Bartlett’s ghost, with Patricia’s help, was responsible for his wife’s death and the number on her brow, and that he is still trying to add to his body count (and infamy) even after his death.
Image result for the frightenersOut of bullets, Patricia strangles Frank to death, but Frank in spirit form rips Patricia’s spirit from her body, forcing Bartlett to follow them. Bartlett grabs Patricia’s ghost, while Frank makes it to Heaven, where he is reunited with Cyrus and Stuart along with his wife Debra. Bartlett and Patricia’s spirits claim they will now go back to claim more lives, but the portal to Heaven quickly changes to a demonic looking appearance, and they are both dragged to Hell by a giant worm-like creature. Frank learns it is not yet his time and is sent back to his body, as Debra’s spirit tells him to “be happy.”
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Frank and Lucy fall in love. Lucy is now able to see ghosts as well. Frank later begins demolishing the unfinished dream house and building a life with Lucy while the morose-looking ghost of Dammers is riding around in the sheriff’s car. Frank and Lucy then enjoy their picnic.a738d528-8aa4-4a8f-b8d1-5566fc118b64Frighteners might not make you believe in ghosts, but it will make you laugh, shiver, and maybe even shed a tear or two. Wildly funny, weird, gross, and sometimes really peculiar, this is Jackson’s splatter-gore at its best.

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)
Myrna 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)
Donna Loren (Dr. Kildare)
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)
Diane McBain (Thunder Alley)
Lee Meriwether (Barnaby Jones)
Grace Lee Whitney (Star Trek)
Tristram Coffin (Adventures of Superman)
Tallulah Bankhead (A Royal Scandal)
Kathleen Crowley (Target Earth)
Eli Wallach (The Holiday)
Elisha Cook Jr. (Rosemary’s Baby)
Billy Curtis (High Plains Drifter)
Joan Collins (Dynasty)
Linda Gaye Scott (The Party)
Ethel Merman (Call Me Madam)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
John Astin (The Addams Family)
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)
Jane Wald (Girl Talk)
Angela Greene (The King of Bandits)
Norman Alden (Back to The Future)
Jack Kelly (Forbidden Planet)
Shelley Winters (Lolita)
Walter Slezak (Lifeboat)
Vincent Price (Edward Scissorhands)
Estelle Winwood (The Producers)
Joan Staley (Broadside)
John Mitchum (Dirty Harry)
Sharyn Wynters (Westworld)
Terry Moore (Mighty Joe Young)
Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap)
Deanna Lund (Hammerhead)
Stanley Adams (Star Trek: TOS)
Meg Wyllie (The Last Starfighter)
Lisa Seagram (Caprice)

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.
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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.
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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.
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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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: GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH

CAST

Zach Galligan (Hatchet 3)
Phoebe Cates (Private School)
John Glover (Smallville)
Robert Prosky (Mad City)
Robert Picardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Christopher Lee (The Hobbit)
Haviland Morris (The Fifth Element)
Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood)
Jackie Joseph (The Split)
Gedde Watanabe (Gung Ho)
Keye Luke (Battle of The Planets)
Hulk Hogan (The Ultimate Weapon)
Kathleen Freeman (As Told By Ginger)
Howie Mandel (Lois & Clark)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Neil Ross (Babe)
Raymond Cruz (Breaking Bad)
Julia Sweeney (Pulp Fiction)
Dean Norris (Total Recall)
Henry Gibson (Sabrina: TTW)
John Astin (The Frigteners)
Bubba Smith (Police Academy)

After the death of his owner Mr. Wing (Keye Luke), the mogwai Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) becomes the guinea pig of mad scientists working at Clamp Enterprises, an automatic state-of-the-art office building in Manhattan, run by eccentric billionaire Daniel Clamp (John Glover). At the mercy of the chief researcher Dr. Catheter (Christopher Lee), Gizmo is rescued by his friend Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and his fiancee Kate (Phoebe Cates), both of whom work at Clamp Enterprises. Clamp quickly befriends Billy upon being impressed by his skills in concept design, also sparking the interest of Billy’s superior Marla Bloodstone (Haviland Morris). Gizmo is left in the office, where water spills on his head and spawns new mogwai, including Mohawk (voiced by Frank Welker), who then has Gizmo locked in the vents. They eat after midnight, turning into gremlins.

After Gizmo finds a way out of the vent, Mohawk tortures him while the other Gremlins cause the fire sprinklers to go off and spawn a Gremlin army that throws the building into chaos. Billy attempts to lure the Gremlins into the lobby, where sunlight will kill them; after Billy briefs Clamp on gremlin knowledge, he inspires Clamp to try to save the city; Clamp, realizing the good PR it will bring, escapes outside through a secret tunnel to cover the front of the building in a giant sheet depicting nighttime to trick the creatures. The Gremlins devour serums in the lab; one becomes the intelligent Brain Gremlin (Tony Randall), who plans to use a “genetic sunblock” serum to immunize the group to sunlight. Another Gremlin turns into a female, while a third becomes pure electricity and, after killing Dr. Catheter, is trapped in Clamp’s answering machine by Billy. All the while “Grandpa Fred” (Robert Prosky) catches the chaos on camera with help from a Japanese tourist named Mr. Katsuji (Gedde Watanabe), broadcasting it to the world; he dreams of being a proper anchorman but only works at Clamp Enterprises as the host of a late night horror show.

Murray Futterman (Dick Miller), Billy’s neighbor from Kingston Falls visiting New York City and still trying to recover from the trauma from the events of the first film, encounters a bat-hybrid Gremlin the Brain Gremlin used the serum on; he covers it with cement, effectively turning it into a gargoyle. Murray realizes that he is not crazy as everyone believed and that he has to help; when Clamp escapes the building using a secret route, Murray uses it to sneak inside the Clamp building to aid Billy. Billy and the chief of security Forster (Robert Picardo) team up, but Forster is stalked and sexually harassed by the female Gremlin who is attracted to him. Mohawk finishes torturing Gizmo and devours a spider serum, transforming into a monstrous half-Gremlin half-spider hybrid. He attacks Kate and Marla, but Gizmo (tired of being bullied, dressed up like Rambo) confronts Mohawk and kills him with an ignited bottle of white-out. Outside the building, a rainstorm frustrates Clamp’s plan as the Gremlins gather in the building’s foyer, singing “New York, New York” as they anticipate all the havoc they’re planning to cause.

Billy formulates a second plan to kill the Gremlin army: having Mr. Futterman spray the army with water and then releasing the electrical Gremlin, electrocuting and killing all of the army including the Brain Gremlin. Clamp charges in with the police and press, but sees the battle is already over; although disappointed he could not take part in the heroism, he is so thrilled by the end result that he gives Billy, Katie, Fred and Marla promotions and hires Mr. Katsuji as a cameraman. Billy and Kate then return home and Gizmo stays with them for good. Forster (covered from head to toe in lipstick marks) calls Clamp, explaining he’s trapped in a restroom with the female Gremlin (the only survivor of the army), and is dismayed when Clamp says it will take hours to rescue him as they clear the building. The female Gremlin’s initial lust reveals itself as a far more intensely passionate love as she approaches Forster in a wedding dress. After much horror and discomfort, Forster eventually gives in.Gremlins 2 is one of the funniest films that you will see. And I’m just a little surprised that Joe Dante isn’t still active so much in the business anymore. He made some great films and I would gladly see anything that he puts his name on.

REVIEW: STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES – SEASON 1-3

Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, and DeForest Kelley in Star Trek (1966)

MAIN CAST

William Shatner (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Leonard Nimoy (Transformers)
DeForest Kelley (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral)
James Doohan (Some Things Never Die)
Nichelle Nichols (Heroes)
George Takei (Heroes)
Walter Koenig (Babylon 5)
Grace Lee Whitney (60s Batman)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jeffrey Hunter (King of Kings)
Susan Oliver (Peyton Place)
Majel Barrett (Spider-Man 90s)
Malachi Throne (It Takes a Thief)
Meg Mylie (Lipstick)
Robert Walker Jr. (The War Wagon)
Eddie Paskey (Mission: Impossible)
Gary Lockwood (2001: A Space Odyssey)
Sally Kellerman (Meatballs III)
Clint Howard (Apollo 11)
Roger C. Carmel (Transformers)
Sherry Jackson (Batman 60S)
Sid Haig (The Devils Rejects)
Ted Cassidy (The Addams Family)
Kim Darby (True Grit)
Michael J. Pollard (Superboy)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Morgan Woodward (Cool Hand Luke)
Marianna Hill (Messiah of Evil)
Ricardo Montalban (Fantasy Island)
Madlyn Rhue (A Majority of One)
Arnold Moss (Gambit)
John Astin (The Addams Family)
Mark Lenard (Planet of The Apes TV)
Emily Banks (Gunfight in Abilene)
Elisha Cook Jr. (Rosemary’s Baby)
Diana Muldaur (The Survivors)
John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica)
Joan Collins (60s Batman)
Michael Forest (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
David Soul (Starsky and Hutch)
Billy Curtis (The Terror of Tiny Town)
Julie Newmar (60s Batman)
William Schallet (Innerspace)
William Campbell (Dementia 13)
Stanley Adams (The Great Gundown)
Michael Pataki (Rocky IV)
Frank Gorshin (60s Batman)
Charlie Brill (Bloodstone)
Ned Romero (Children of The Corn III)
Teri Garr (Tootsie)
Jeff Corey (True Grit)
Barbara Babcock (Far and Away)
Jack Donner (Stigmata)
Dick Durock (Swamp Thing)
Lee Meriwether (Batman: The Movie)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Yvonne Craig (Batman 60s)

The original Trek series established, within it’s brief 3-year span, the panorama of an ever-expanding Federation of planets & civilizations, of which Earth was, in the 23rd century, a founding member (tho the audience never saw Earth during this run, except in time travel stories back to our 20th century). This series also presented mankind as, first & foremost, explorers, embodied by the trio of dynamic captain James T. Kirk (Shatner), his number two, science officer Spock (Nimoy) and irascible but kindly Dr.McCoy (Kelley) – but Spock was, of course, an alien (a Vulcan), an example of the alliances Earth held with many extraterrestrial races. They operated from a magnificent starship, Enterprise (one of several such ships in Starfleet), with a crew of about 400. Creator Roddenberry used the series as a platform to address many social & political concerns of the time. The general consensus of most familiar with the show is that the 1st & 2nd years were superior; the 3rd suffered in the writing & budget dept’s.

The best episodes: “City on the Edge of Forever”-Kirk almost sacrifices Earth’s history for the love of a woman. Almost, and he might’ve done so had he known her a little longer; “Mirror,Mirror”-4 members of the crew switch places with their counterparts in a parallel universe, where the Federation is a hostile Empire; “Space Seed”-the crew awaken Khan, an old-time conqueror boosted by eugenics, who returned in the 2nd Trek film(“The Wrath of Khan”); “Arena”-Kirk battles a lizardian captain of an unfriendly race on a desolate asteroid; “The Naked Time”-the crew lose their inhibitions, back when this was original; “This Side of Paradise”-another one with everyone affected emotionally and forgetting their mission; “The Trouble With Tribbles”-hugely entertaining romp on a space station; “Shore Leave”-another romp on a weird planet; “Journey to Babel”-Enterprise hosts ambassadors, Spock’s parents included, dealing with intrigue & politics; “Where No Man Has Gone Before”-the 2nd pilot which green-lit the series and the 1st with normal humans acquiring godlike powers; “The Enemy Within”-examines duality of human nature; “The Doomsday Machine”-space epic about a huge alien weapon destroying planets; “Amok Time”-detailed look into Vulcan customs; “Balance of Terror”-warships testing each other in space,introducing the aggressive Romulan race; “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”-answering all questions on androids; and “The Devil in the Dark”-which shows you cannot judge monsters by appearance.
As the list above demonstrates, all the concepts we have come to know in later films and series (Next Generation,Deep Space 9,Voyager) were laid out just fine in the late ’60s by some inventive writing (the first film to follow this, for example, merely reworked the episode “The Changeling” with a $50 million budget). The 2nd season also ended with a pilot for an unrealized spin-off “Assignment:Earth” which would have focused on human agent of aliens ‘Gary-7’ in the present day. It was back then, also, that omnipotent beings, such as “The Squire of Gothos” and the Organians (“Errand of Mercy”-which introduced Klingons) popped up to work miracles. The final 3rd season show ended things on a hysterical note as Kirk’s body was taken over by an unbalanced woman – quite unPC these days but nonetheless intriguing & entertaining. The series was followed 4 years later by an animated version, which took place during the same mission. Yes, the original is still the best, and it’s easy to see why. Image result for star trek the original series