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"Batman" Limited Edition Complete Television Series Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Buy Batman: Limited Edition Complete Television Series Blu-ray + Digital HD from Amazon.com
Buy Batman: Limited Edition Complete Television Series Blu-ray + Digital HD from Amazon.com
Batman: The Complete Series (1966-68)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: William Dozier (series); Bill Finger, Bob Kane (character)

Frequent Writers: Stanley Ralph Ross, Charles Hoffman, Stanford Sherman, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., Max Hodge, Francis Cockrell, Marion Cockrell, Robert C. Dennis, Earl Barret

Frequent Directors: Oscar Rudolph, James B. Clark, George Waggner, Sam Strangis, Robert Butler, Murray Golden, Larry Peerce, Don Weis, Norman Foster, Tom Gries, Charles R. Rondeau

Regular Cast: Adam West (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Burt Ward (Dick Grayson/Robin), Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth), Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon), Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara), Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet Cooper), Yvonne Craig (Barbara Gordon/Batgirl), William Dozier (Narrator - uncredited)

Recurring Characters: Cesar Romero (Joker), Burgess Meredith (Penguin), Julie Newmar (Catwoman), Byron Keith (Mayor Linseed), Frank Gorshin (Riddler), Victor Buono (Prof. William McElroy/King Tut), David Lewis (Warden Crichton), Anne Baxter (Olga, Queen of the Cossacks; Zelda), Vincent Price (Egghead), Richard Bakalyan (Verdigris), Estelle Winwood (Aunt Hilda), Carolyn Jones (Marsha, Queen of Diamonds), Cliff Robertson (Shame), Eartha Kitt (Catwoman), Milton Berle (Louie the Lilac), Don "Red" Barry (Tarantula), David Wayne (Jervis Tetch/Mad Hatter), Rudy Vallee (Lord Marmaduke Ffogg), Glynis Johns (Lady Penelope Peasoup), Hermione Baddeley (Frontier Fanny), Ethel Merman (Lola Lasagne), Dina Merrill (Calamity Jane), Terry Moore (Venus), Van Williams (The Green Hornet), Bruce Lee (Kato)

Notable Guest Stars: Jack Kruschen (Eivol Ekdal), Nancy Kovack (Queenie), Dan Seymour (The Maharajah), Barbara Nichols (Maid Marilyn), Jack Kelly (Jack O'Shea), Edward Everett Horton (Chief Screaming Chicken), Robert Hogan (Paul Diamante), George Furth (Gallus), Jill St. John (Molly), Woody Strode (Grand Mogul), Francine York (Lydia Limpet), H.M. Wynant (Frosty), Sandy McPeak (Giggler), Francis X. Bushman (Mr. Van Jones), Robert Cornthwaite (Allan A. Dale), Reginald Denny (King Boris), Kem Dibbs (Chill), Sid Haig (Royal Apothecary), Allen Jaffe (Harry), Harvey Lembeck (Eagle-Eye), Woodrow Parfrey (Rooper), Michael Pate (Second Hand Three), Bill Williams (Multimillionaire), Elisha Cook Jr. (Professor Isaacson), Lloyd Haynes (Lord Chancellor), Alex Rocco (Block), Gene Dynarski (Benedict), Michael Rennie (Sandman), Spring Byington (J. Pauline Spaghetti), Norman Grabowski (Treble), Michael Greene (Matches), Michael Pataki (Amenophis Tewfik), Michael Vandever (Mad Dog), Doodles Weaver (Crier Tuck), Seymour Cassel (Cancelled), Lawrence Montaigne (Mr. Glee), Lesley Gore (Pussycat), Liberace (Chandell/Harry), Eli Wallach (Mr. Freeze), Tallulah Bankhead (Black Widow), Roddy McDowall (Bookworm), George Sanders (Mr. Freeze), John Astin (Riddler), Otto Preminger (Mr. Freeze), Shelley Winters (Ma Parker), Van Johnson (The Minstrel), Ida Lupino (Dr. Cassandra), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Minerva), Barbara Rush (Nora Clavicle), Bob Hastings (Major Beasley), Mike Mazurki (Allegro), Rob Reiner (Delivery Boy), Victor French (Hood No. I), Joe Flynn (Benton Belgoody), Paul Revere & The Raiders (Themselves), Ted Cassidy (Lurch), Dick Clark (Himself), Bill Dana (Jose Jimenez), Sammy Davis Jr. (Himself), Andy Devine (Santa Claus), Phyllis Diller (Scrubwoman), Joy Harmon (Julia Davis), Jerry Lewis (Citizen), Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink), Sam Jaffe (Zoltan Zorba), Don Ho (Don Ho), Alan Hale Jr. (Gilligan), Art Linkletter (Himself), Edward G. Robinson (Edward G. Robinson), Kathleen Freeman (Rosetta Stone), Jerry Mathers (Pop the Stage Doorman)

Running Time: 3019 Minutes (120 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital Mono 1.0 (English, French, German, Italian)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, German, Italian, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $269.97 / Blu-ray Release Date: November 11, 2014
Episodes Originally Aired January 12, 1966 - March 14, 1968
Thirteen single-sided discs (12 BD-50s & 1 BD-25) / Three Digipaks in Giant Musical Box with Car, Cards, and Scrapbook
Also available as 18-Disc DVD ($199.70 SRP)

Buy Batman: The Complete Television Series Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD

The 1960s "Batman", one of the few television shows of note that looked like it might never come to DVD, has not only finally been released to that format
but also simultaneously become one of the few television shows of yore released to Blu-ray in its entirety.

A far distance from Christopher Nolan's dark epic trilogy and even from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher's now-dated adventures, "Batman", which aired for three seasons in the late '60s on ABC, was kind of the definitive mid-century version of what a comic book superhero could be in the entertainment world: campy, kid-friendly primetime programming. It would be another ten years until Richard Donner's Superman demonstrated that with strong enough visual effects, superheroes could play on the big screen not just for laughs, but also genuine thrills. Every few years since then, Hollywood has redefined the superhero movie, usually with different characters to blockbuster earnings. Nowadays, superhero movies are present in such abundance that there seems to be a new dominant series every year. Though each franchise has its own personality, the fanbases largely overlap and there isn't an extraordinary difference between the praised, profitable Guardians of the Galaxy and the criticized, somewhat costly The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) are shot at a Dutch angle, meaning they must be in a villain's lair. Batman's two most frequent nemeses, The Joker (Cesar Romero) and The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), team up for double trouble!

"Batman" is not much like today's crop of superheroes. Made on a typically tight television budget, the series dresses its heroes and villains in colorful and often outlandish costumes, takes moral ambiguity out of the equation, and entertains with puns and action punctuated with onscreen graphics designating old comic book punch sounds like Pow!!!, Whomp!!!, and Zowie!!!

With an omniscient narrator (series creator William Dozier) repeatedly emphasizing the stakes, the vigilante alter ego of wealthy Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and his young sidekick Robin (Burt Ward) keep Gotham City safe from a seemingly endless stream of broad villains, including The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, and Catwoman. For the first two seasons, narratives unfold in two parts (the show aired twice a week) with a lot of tame fighting, wordplay, contraptions and supposedly high-tech sets. Batgirl (Yvonne Craig) joins the fray in Season 3 and episodes became weekly, without significant change. Throughout, it's childish and frothy, two things that Nolan's Batman movies and most post-'60s comic book and animation interpretations of the characters decidedly do not want to be. Nonetheless, there's clearly room for all interpretations and most have their charms. Batman works as powerful, serious, artful cinema. But it also works as corny, comedic, guest star-laden 1960s television. Each is fun with the right expectations and mindset.

A staggering 120 half-hour episodes of "Batman" were produced: 34 in Season 1, a whopping 60 in Season 2, and 26 in Season 3. With up to twelve episodes per platter, the series fills twelve Blu-ray discs, while a thirteenth adds the set's non-tangible bonus features discussed below.

Batman frequently tangles with Catwoman (who is usually, but not always, played by Julie Newmar). Outside of their costumes, Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) and Bruce Wayne (Adam West) are just a couple of groovy bachelors of the late 1960s.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Batman" looks terrific on Blu-ray. Many shows this old pose problems even for DVD, but this one was shot on film, not video. A benefit of the long wait for this release (which seems most readily attributable to sorting out various copyright, royalty, and clearance issues) is that Warner has had ample time to remaster the series. They have clearly done just that, as the element is practically perfect. The 1.33:1 video is sharp, vibrant, and somehow void of even minor imperfections. Those who have settled for old homemade VHS tapes and overcompressed illegal streams will definitely be blown away by the picture quality here.

Sound is presented in Dolby 1.0 mono, which is as it sounds pretty simple. Still, the recordings are crisp and clear, making it unnecessary to consult the English SDH subtitles unless you actually have hearing problems. Warner also includes four foreign subtitle streams and three foreign dubs, adding to the international appeal of this set.

Adam West reflects on life in and out of the cowl in "Hanging with Batman." Ralph Garman shows Adam West his extensive Batcollection in "Holy Memorabilia, Batman!"

BONUS FEATURES

All bonus features are relegated to the thirteenth and final disc of the Blu-ray set, where the more than four hours of content is all encoded in high definition.

First up, "Hanging with Batman" (29:56) allows Adam West to reflect on his life before, during and after "Batman." Personal photos, clips from early acting work, talk show, award show, and Comic-Con panel clips,
and West's own gifted storytelling (both new and some slightly older video) hold us captive in this superb autobiography.

"Holy Memorabilia, Batman!" (29:59) celebrates the wealth of toys and collectibles that were produced for the series. An assortment of merchandise is nicely showcased and recalled by collectors, as Ralph Garman shows Adam West his collection and others (including Kevin Silva and "Toy Hunters" host Jordan Hembrough) give us tours or talks (likening the thrills to primordial hunting) of everything from drivable full-size Batmobiles to miniature toy Batmobiles.

"Batmania Born! Building the World of Batman" (29:41) lets authors, West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, and other cast and crew members (including deceased ones, via archival footage), and producers of other Batman incarnations reflect further on the show. They address its subtle adult content, its reflection of the world at the time, its use of color and Dutch angles, the opening credits' animation, the costumes, and its role in the history of the character and of superhero entertainment at large. It's another good featurette.

Adam West talks with Kevin Smith (in a Fatman hockey jersey) and other accomplished admirers in "Bats of the Round Table." Adam West occasionally interrupts the first two episodes of Batman with his script notes and thoughts in the bonus feature "Inventing Batman: In the Words of Adam West."

"Bats of the Round Table" (45:08) assembles West, Garman, Kevin Smith (wearing a Fatman hockey jersey), actor Phil Morris and DC Comics publisher Jim Lee at the Smoke House for a warm, friendly fireside chat about the series. Over dessert and coffee, the four fans voice their appreciation, as an obviously grateful West answers their questions, reflecting on guest stars, Burt Ward, the sets, the different levels on which the show worked, "Family Guy", stunt doubles, and the series' legacy. It's a really nice inclusion with a funny ending.

"Inventing Batman: In the Words of Adam West" is the closest thing we get to an audio commentary. The actor reflects on his most iconic role in between and sometimes via picture-in-picture over the series' first two episodes -- "Hi Diddle Riddle" (29:30) and "Smack in the Middle" (29:39) -- using the notes he wrote in his personal script. There isn't much to his remarks, but it's still a treat to revisit the show with its still-sharp octogenarian star.

"Na Na Na Batman!" (12:15) collects remarks from an assortment of current Warner TV personalities, including Kevin Bacon and various actors and producers of "Arrow", "The Mentalist", and "Supernatural." Some of them are fans, but none of them are terribly well-informed, which makes their comments on the costumes, the villains, and the Batmobile more of a VH1-type curiosity than something you'll treasure, unless you love their shows.

Batgirl (Yvonne Craig) makes her debut in this 1967 "pilot." Peter Deyell (Robin) and Lyle Waggoner (Batman) audition for the lead roles in costumes differing from the final selections.

Last but not least, we encounter a section titled Bat Rarities! Straight from the Vault, which holds some nifty odds and ends.

A "Batgirl" pilot (7:54) explores the potential for a second sidekick, with Yvonne Craig playing the role across from West and Ward as she would in Season 3.
It appears to have been made as a proof of concept test, not a separate Batgirl series and thus is entirely comparable to "Batman" in look, tone, and style.

Burt Ward's screen test with Adam West (6:16) has the two playing scenes from the first episode. We also get actors Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell's screen test (4:23), auditioning for Batman and Robin with the same scenes. Seems like producers definitely made the right choice.

Finally, what is called a tribute is a short clip of late post-production supervisor James Blakeley (2:24) recalling how those exclamations -- BAM!!!, POW!!!, etc. -- were used.

A look at the contents of Warner's Batman: Limited Edition Complete Television Series Blu-ray collection.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The static top menus take Warner's standard approach, playing the theme song a couple of times over a
straightforward reproduction of the cover art.

The "Batman" Blu-ray is packaged in a huge box, measuring 8 inches tall, 3 inches deep, and 12 inches across. When displayed as intended, it's a little bit taller but shallower than a standard single Blu-ray case. You'd have to line up more than twenty of those to match the box's width from end to end. A button on the side of the box can be pressed to hear the final twelve seconds of Neal Hefti's opening theme song. The box has flaps that open up to reveal the items that make up this set.

On the left is a stack of three Digipaks (one for each season), which hold the thirteen color-coordinated discs. The cases are nicely and stylishly illustrated with pictures of villains and allies. Beneath those Digipaks is a very valuable piece of paper: the insert supplying your code for redeeming the Digital HD with UltraViolet digital copies included with your purchase. Also here is The Adam West Scrapbook, a 32-page hardcover picture book which features personal and professional photos over the star with a few thoughts written by him.

While inserts have become a rarity these days, Warner gives this set the booklet it requires in a 32-page softcover Episode Guide. This helpful, colorful companion identifies episodes by title, number, writer, director, airdate, and villain. Each is treated to a two-sentence synopsis, making it as easy as it can be to find the episode you're looking for and the disc that holds it. It also synopsizes the contents of the bonus disc and opens with a note from Adam West.

Back in the box, the right side contains two noteworthy additional tangible goodies. Below is a Hot Wheels replica Batmobile, a nicely detailed 4-inch toy/collector's item. Fit for display anywhere, it's probably the most suitable inclusion that didn't require securing the rights to using actors' likenesses.

Finally, there is a deck of 44 cards, clearly reproducing an old tie-in. The cards feature artists' delightful renderings of moments from the show. Each features a title within the famous bat silhouette.

The cardboard wraparound that shows off contents and identifies this as a Blu-ray + Digital HD release comes off to reveal a simpler WHAMM!! on the back of the box. A sticker on the bottom identifies which copy yours is out of the 95,000 produced.

In the Batcave, in front of the Batmobile, Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) consider and count five Batclues.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

One of the last big cultural institutions to finally come to home video, the 1960s "Batman" demands your attention. With a list price over $200 and a sales price close to it, this is too substantial a purchase to be something you only might like to have. If you actually itch to see or rewatch these episodes and intend to revisit them on a regular basis, then this big Blu-ray set is a no-brainer, albeit a costly one. I would not be surprised to see this Limited Edition set succeeded down the line by something smaller, simpler, and less expensive, probably the Digipaks themselves in small, non-musical box, without the replica Batmobile, Adam West scrapbook, and vintage card reproductions. Given the remarkably long wait for this edition, though, who wants to add to it on mere speculation? This may not be a show you envisioned spending so much on, but the price is clearly justified in a loving, comprehensive collection virtually unrivaled by any other television show release.

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Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD

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Reviewed November 13, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1966-68 20th Century Fox Television, Greenway Productions, and 2014 Warner Home Video, Fox, DC Comics.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.