REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 1

Starring

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
Loren Lester (Red Eye)
Bob Hastings (General Hospital)
Robert Costanzo (Total Recall)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Beak)
Clive Revill (Transformers: The Movie)
Marc Singer (Arrow)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Meredith MacRae (The Rockford Files)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Mari Devon (Digimon)
Henry Polic II (Mork & Mindy)
Pat Fraley (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Ingrid Oliu (Real Women Have Curves)
Michael Pataki (Halloween 4)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Dorian Harewood (Space Jam)
George Murdock (Star Trek V)
Jim Cummings (Aladdin)
Justin Shenkarow (Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse)
Robert DoQui (Robocop)
Murphy Cross (Taxi)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Townsend Coleman (The Tick)
Jeff Doucette (Bedazzled)
Peter Jason (They Live)
Josh Keaton (Voltron)
Eugene Roche (Soap)
Lndsay Crouse (Buffy: TVS)
Paul Williams (Adventure Time)
Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Michael Bell (Transformers: The Movie)
Adrienne Barbeau (Argo)
Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager)
Mary McDonald-Lewis (Grimm)
Neil Ross (An Americal Tail)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Michael Gross (Tremors)
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Jean Smart (Garden State)
Brock Peters (Star Trek IV)
Adam West (60’s Batman)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Ed Begley Jr. (Better Call Saul)
Dick Gautier (Get Smart)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Aron Kincaid (Transformers)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Jeffrey Tambor (The Hangover)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Kimmy Robertson (Speed 2)
Loretta Swit (M*A*S*H)
Takayo Fischer (Moneyball)

MV5BYTcwYzdlOTctNmRmMS00ODkxLThjZDgtNDRiMzMwNTgzZWFhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyODkwOQ@@._V1_In 1992, Warner decided to revive Batman for TV as an animated series. Luckily, they had a couple of talented individuals already working on Tiny Toons – animator Bruce Timm and background artist Eric Radomski, who were keen to take a stab at the character. They created a pilot film involving Batman and a Gotham City that was at the same time modern and a throwback to the pre-50’s styleMV5BNGQzNzZmNTgtYmJkZS00MzFlLTk0Y2YtOWUxZTg5M2FiMWM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_It’s fitting that this set is called ‘Volume One’ and not ‘Season One,’ as the episodes were aired completely out of order, with a few episodes of this set not reaching airwaves until the second year. However, you get the first 28 shows to see production, which arguably contain the best of the series’ four-year run as well. As this series is a reinterpretation of the world created in the comics, most of the episodes here are origins of the villains, and for the most part the episodes work very well. What allowed this series to age so well (in fact, I think I can appreciate it even more now than when I was twelve) is that the writing is top notch. Each episode feels like a self-contained short film, and the writers have at once managed to give every character a great deal of humanity and individuality to underscore the directness of the visuals.MV5BODY0MmZlYmEtOWExMC00ZGFhLWEyZmEtZjFlZGE1ZjBjZTY5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Paul Dini had been writing for television a decade prior to this, but Batman was where he finally got his chance to shine, and the episodes he crafted, particularly Heart of Ice are some of the most effective of the series. Timm, Dini and Radomski were able to create a world that was iconic without being one-sided or silly. The idea of a guy who runs around in a cape essentially beating enemies into submission can’t be presented effectively at face value, and the creators of this series were more than willing to delve into the psychological aspects of their characters. Batman is never entirely good, nor are most of his enemies entirely evil. Rather the show focuses on people who have been emotionally scarred in life, and deal with those scars by either seeking to help other people, or harm them. What drives Batman isn’t too different from what drives his villains. It’s not uncommon to feel more sympathy for one of the show’s villains than the hero himself, because more often than not the villain isn’t even entirely sure what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.MV5BNjBlMjNmMWUtMjczYy00YWU5LTg5MzEtNzIwM2I3MDQwMWMwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_The Two-Face episodes are a prime example of the quality of storytelling in the series, because the character, who is such a silly concept (a two-faced man flipping a two-headed coin to decide evil deeds) is handled very subtly, with the emphasis placed on childhood trauma and emotional repression. Not every episode shines, however. The two part introduction to Catwoman, The Cat and the Claw, is plagued with generic characters and situations, and plays too heavily on the environmental card. And there are a few other stinkers, although you can generally tell which episodes are going to be good by who’s writing each. MV5BN2MxNWJkZDktN2U5YS00OTc5LWI2NjMtODI5YjViYTJjMmEzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Casting is absolutely perfect. As vocal director Andrea Romano discusses in the extras, rather than hire trained vocal artists to develop new characters, the producers instead sought out actors with specific character already in their voices. Mark Hamill has the performance of his career as the Joker, with just the right mix of menace and hilarity. Hellboy’s Ron Perlman shows up as Clayface for a few episodes, ’70s bombshell Adrienne Barbeau is sultry as Catwoman and Edward Asner features as a prominent crime boss. The cast list is an absolute who’s-who for any film buff.MV5BNTIxOTc5MDQtMGIxMi00ODgzLWFlMmMtOWI4ZmExMDc0NDAwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_But it’s episodes like “Beware of the Gray Ghost” where the casting really shines. Batman teams up with a former television hero who’s down on his luck. In an inspired decision the producers cast former Batman Adam West for the role, who brings such humanity and poignancy to the part that it ends up one of the best episodes in the series.MV5BOWIyOTg5ZTYtMjM4NC00MzMxLWFiMmItOGEzYTA3ZTNlYzQ5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_All minor quibbling aside however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another collection with writing, acting and visuals this stellar from the early 90’s. The impact of “Batman: The Animated Series” was overwhelming to television, with a noticeable shift from the slapstick “Animaniacs / Tiny Toons” style to markedly darker action fare, many of the shows still being overseen today by Timm, Radomski and Dini themselves. “Batman: The Animated Series” changed what American TV animation could be, and this set is a fantastic glimpse into the origin of that.

 

REVIEW: HALLOWEEN IV: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

CAST

Donald Pleasence (The Great Escape)
Danielle Harris (Left For Dead)
Ellie Cornell (Free Enterprise)
George P. Wilbur (A Nightmare on Elm Street 5)
Beau Starr (Goodfellas)
Sasha Jenson (Teen Angel)
Michael Flynn (The Outpost)
Michael Pataki (Aiport ’77)
Kathleen Kinmont (CIA)


Michael Myers has been in a coma for ten years since the explosion at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital and is being transferred to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium by ambulance. Upon hearing that he has a niece, Michael awakens, kills the paramedics, and makes his way to Haddonfield to look for her. Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), Michael’s former psychiatrist, who also survived the explosion, learns of Michael’s escape and gives chase. He follows Michael to a small gas station and eatery, where Loomis finds Michael has killed a mechanic for his clothes, along with a clerk. Michael then escapes in a tow truck and causes an explosion, destroying Loomis’s car in the process. Loomis is forced to catch a ride to Haddonfield to renew his search for Michael.

Meanwhile, eight-year-old Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), the daughter of Laurie Strode and Michael’s niece, is living in Haddonfield with her foster family, Richard and Darlene Carruthers, and their teenage daughter, Rachel. It is Halloween and Jamie’s foster parents, Richard and Darlene, are heading out for the night and Rachel (Ellie Cornell) is left to babysit her, causing her to miss her date with her boyfriend Brady (Sasha Jenson). Jamie knows about her uncle Michael, but she is unaware he is the strange man she has been having nightmares about. After school, Rachel takes Jamie to buy ice cream and a Halloween costume. Michael has already arrived in Haddonfield, and almost attacks Jamie in the store. That night, Rachel takes Jamie trick-or-treating, and Michael goes to the electrical substation and murders a worker by throwing him into live high voltage parts, plunging the town into darkness. Dr. Loomis arrives in Haddonfield and warns Sheriff Ben Meeker (Beau Starr) that Michael has escaped from custody and returned to Haddonfield. Michael single-handedly takes down a police station and slaughters the police force. A lynch mob is formed by the town’s men with the agenda to take down Michael as they remembered the massacre ten years before.

Rachel discovers her boyfriend Brady cheating on her with the Sheriff’s daughter Kelly (Kathleen Kinmont), and loses Jamie. After being chased by Myers, Rachel reunites with Jamie. Sheriff Meeker and Dr. Loomis arrive and take the girls to Sheriff Meeker’s house with Kelly and Brady, and a deputy. They lock and board up the house, and Loomis departs to look for Michael. With Meeker in the basement awaiting the arrival of the state police, Michael enters the house quietly and undetected. He kills a deputy off-screen, and then murders Kelly by impaling her with a shotgun.

Rachel discovers the bodies and races upstairs to get Jamie, but she is gone. Brady and Rachel realize they are trapped in the house, and Rachel finds Jamie. Michael appears and struggles with Brady before crushing his skull, killing him. Michael then chases Rachel and Jamie up to the attic. They climb through a window onto the roof and Jamie is lowered down safely, but Michael attacks Rachel and knocks her off the roof. Being pursued by Michael, Jamie runs down the street, screaming for help and runs into Dr. Loomis. They take shelter in the school, but Michael appears and throws Loomis through a glass door before chasing Jamie through the school. Jamie trips and falls down a flight of stairs. Before Michael can kill his niece, Rachel appears, alive, and sprays him in the face with a fire extinguisher.

The lynch mob and the state police arrive at the school after hearing the alarm. Four men from the mob agree to take Jamie and Rachel over to the next town in a pick-up truck. Michael has hidden on the underside of the truck; he climbs into the bed of the truck and kills the men, including the driver. Rachel is forced to drive, continuously attempting to throw Michael off. She succeeds in doing so and saying “Die, you son of a bitch!”, rams him with the truck, sending him flying into a ditch near an abandoned mine. The police arrive and as Jamie approaches Michael and touches his hand, he rises. The police shoot Michael until he falls down the abandoned mine and is presumed dead.

Jamie and Rachel have been taken home, and Darlene and Richard-who have arrived home-console the girls. Darlene goes upstairs to run Jamie a bath. Jamie, overwhelmed by Michael’s essence, dons a clown mask and stabs her stepmother with a pair of scissors, though not fatally. It ends with Jamie standing at the top of the stairs, emotionless with the scissors in her hand and stained with blood, with Dr. Loomis screaming as Richard, Rachel and Sheriff Meeker stare in horror.

This movie does have good acting from Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris. A decent plot. I specifically enjoyed the trailer boys Earl and his crew that go around shooting in the bushes and killing someone they think is Michael Myers. That scene always gets me laughing. Pure comedy!

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: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – SEASON 1-7

Image result for star trek the next generation logo

MAIN CAST

Patrick Stewart (X-Men)
Jonathan Frakes (Roswell)
LeVar Burton (Roots: The Gift)
Denise Corsby (Dolly Dearest)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Gates McFadden (Franklin & Bash)
Marina Sirtis (The Grudge 3)
Brent Spiner (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
Wil Wheaton (Powers)
Diana Muldaur (Born Free)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

DeForest Kelley (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral)
John De Lancie (The Secret Circle)
Michael Bell (Tangled)
Colm Meaney (Intermission)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Elektra)
Brooke Bundy (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 & 4)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Tracey Walter (Batman)
Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Majel Barrett (Babylon 5)
Robert Knepper (Izombie)
Carel Struycken (The Addams Family)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Amy O’Neill (Honey, I Blew Up the Kid)
Carolyn McCormick (Enemy Mine)
Katy Boyer (The Island)
Michael Pataki (Rocky IV)
Brenda Strong (Supergirl)
Vaughn Armstrong (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns)
Judson Scott (Blade)
Merritt Butrick (Fright Night: Part 2)
Leon Rippy (Stargate)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday The 13th – Part 8)
Seymour Cassel (Rushmore)
Ray Walston (The Sting)
Whoppi Godlberg (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Chris Latta (G.I.Joe)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Billy Campbell (The Rocketeer)
Teri Hatcher (Lois & Clark)
William Morgan Sheppard (Transformers)
Brian Thompson (The Terminator)
Clyde Kusatsu (Doctor Strange 70s)
Paddi Edwards (Halloween III)
Sam Anderson (Lost)
Robert Duncan McNeill (Masters of The Universe)
Mitchell Ryan (Lethal Weapon)
Nikki Cox (Las Vegas)
Lycia Naff (Total Recall)
Robert Costanzo (Batman: TAS)
Robert O’Reilly (The Mask)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl)
Scott Grimes (American Dad)
Ray Wise (Agent Carter)
Andreas Katsulas (Babylon 5)
Simon Templeton (James Bond Jr.)
James Cromwell (Species II)
Corbin Bernsen (The Tomorrow Man)
Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Tricia O’ Neil (Titanic)
Elrich Anderson (Unfaithful)
Hallie Todd (Sabrina: TTW)
Tony Todd (The Flash)
Harry Groener (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13)
Mark Lenard (Planet of The Apes TV)
Ethan Phillips (Bad Santa)
Elizabeth Dennehy (Gattaca)
George Murodck (Battlestar Galactica)
Jeremy Kemp (Conan)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Beth Toussaint (Fortress 2)
April Grace (Lost)
Patti Yasutake (The Closer)
Alan Scarfe (Andromeda)
Bebe Neuwirth (Jumanji)
Rosalind Chao (Freaky Friday)
Jennifer Hetrick (L.A. Law)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Theodore Bikel (Babylon 5)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Gwyneth Walsh (Taken)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Ashley Judd (Divergent)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil TV)
Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: The Movie)
Malachi Throne (Batman 60s)
Henry Darrow (The Hitcher)
Daniel Roebuck (Lost)
Kathryn Leigh Scott (Three Christs)
Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Ron Canada (Wedding Crashers)
Elizabeth Hoffman (Stargate SG.1)
Stephen Lee (Wargames)
Kevin Peter Hall (Predator)
Richard Cox (Alpha House)
Liz Vassey (Two and a Half Men)
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Ed Lauter (The Number 23)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Famke Janssen (X-Men)
Shay Astar (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Thomas Kopache (Stigmata)
Susanna Thompson (Arrow)
Richard Riehle (Texas Chainsaw 3D)
Alexander Enberg (Junior)
Lance LeGault (Stripes)
Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad)
Richard Cansino (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Anne Ramsay (Mad About You)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Suzie Plakson (How I Met Your Mother)
Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes)
Max Grodénchik (The Rocketeer)
Lanei Chapman (Rat Race)
Barbara Tarbuck (S. Darko)
Mike Hagerty (Overboard)
Michele Scarabelli (Alien Nation)
George Coe (Kramer vs Kramer)
James Doohan (Some Things Never Die)
Olivia D’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Ronny Cox (Robocop)
Clive Revill (Batman: TAS)
Jean Simmons (Spartacus)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Stephanie Beacham (The Colbys)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Richard Herd (V)
Tim Russ (Samantha Who?)
Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5)
Salome Jens (Superboy)
Andrew Prine (V)
J.C. Brandy (Halloween 6)
Alan Oppenheimer (Transformers)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)
John Neville (The Fifth Element)
Ned Romero (The Lost Child)
Stephen Hawking (Futurama)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Joel Swetow (The Orville)
Bruce Gray (Starship Troopers)
Richard Lynch (Puppet Master 3)
Robin Curtis (General Hospital)
Julie Caitlin Brown (Babylon 5)
Kirsten Dunst (Bring it On)
Lee Arenberg (Pirates of The Caribbean)
Fionnula Flanagan (Lost)
Mark Bramhall (Alias)
Stephen Root (Dodgeball)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
Penny Johnson Jerald (Bones)
Jonathan Del Arco (The Closer)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)
Alexander Enberg (junior)
Ellen Albertini Dow (The Wedding Singer)
Brenda Bakke (Hot Shots 2)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas)
Erich Anderson (Friday The 13th 4)
Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs)
Robert Ito (Quincy M.E.)
Vyto Ruginis (Moneyball)
Richard McGonagle (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Time Winters (Thinner)

When the TNG series premiered in 1987, it wasn’t greeted well by many of the old-time Trek fans, including myself. It didn’t help matters that one of the earliest episodes, “The Naked Now” was a superficial retread of the classic “The Naked Time” from ’66. The new episode should have served as a way of spotlighting several of the new crew, but all it did was show them all in heat. I wasn’t too impressed. What did work was keeping the central theme of exploration (something lost in the offshoots, DS9 & Voyager). The new Enterprise was twice as large as the original, with about a thousand personnel aboard. Capt. Picard (Stewart) was a more cerebral, diplomatic version of the ultimate explorer we had known as Capt. Kirk. Again, Picard wasn’t too impressive in the first two awkward seasons, as some may mistake his caution for weakness. The Kirk-like first officer Riker (Frakes) was controlled by Picard, so the entire crew of Enterprise-D came across as a bit too civilized, too complacent for their own good. It’s interesting that this complacency was fractured by the most memorable episode of the first two years, “Q Who?” which introduced The Borg. All of a sudden, exploration was not a routine venture.

Other memorable episodes of the first 2 years: the double-length pilot, introducing Q; “Conspiracy”-an early invasion thriller; “Where No One Has Gone Before”-an ultimate attempt to define the exploring theme; “The Big Goodbye”-the first lengthy exploration of the new holodeck concept; “Datalore”-intro of Data’s evil twin; “Skin of Evil”-death of Tasha Yar; “11001001”-perhaps the best holodeck story; and “The Measure of a Man”-placing an android on trial. Except for “Q Who” the 2nd year was even more of a letdown from the first. Space started to percolate in the 3rd season. I liked “The Survivors”-introducing an entity resembling Q in a depressed mood, and “Deja Q” with both Q & Guinan squaring off, as well as other alien beings. A remaining drawback was the ‘techno-babble’ hindering many scripts, an aspect which made them less exciting than the stories of the original series. As Roddenberry himself believed, when characters spoke this way, it did not come across as naturalistic, except maybe when it was Data (Spiner), the android. The engineer La Forge (Burton), for example, was usually saddled with long, dull explanatory dialog for the audience.

In the 3rd year, truly innovative concepts such as the far-out parallel-universe adventure “Yesterday’s Enterprise” began to take hold, topped by the season-ender “The Best of Both Worlds,part 1” in which The Borg returned in their first try at assimilating Earth. After this and the 2nd part, the TNG show was off and running, at full warp speed. There are too many great episodes from the next 4 seasons to list here, but I tended to appreciate the wild, cosmic concept stories best: “Parallels”(s7); “Cause and Effect”(s5); “Timescape”(s6); “Tapestry”(s6); and the scary “Frame of Mind”, “Schisms” and “Genesis.” There’s also the mind-blowing “Inner Light”(s5), “Conundrum” and “Ship in a Bottle”(s6), “Second Chances.” The intense 2-parter “Chain of Command” was almost like a film, and the great return of Scotty in “Relics” was very entertaining, though it showed you can’t go home again. The show also continued to tackle uneasy social issues, as in “The Host”, “The Outcast”, “First Contact” and “The Drumhead” as well as political:”Darmok”, “Rightful Heir”, “Face of the Enemy” and “The Pegasus.” The series ended on a strong note, “All Good Things…” a double-length spectacular with nearly the budget of a feature film. But it wasn’t really the end. A few months later, an actual feature film was released “Star Trek Generations”(94). It’s rather ironic that the TNG films couldn’t match the innovation and creativity of the last 4 seasons of the series. “Star Trek Insurrection”(98) for example, is a lesser effort than any of the episodes mentioned above.

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