Our review of Batman: The Movie (Blu-Ray), published July 1st, 2008, is also available.
Holy big screen bonanza, Batman!
I feel that there are three groups of people when it comes to the whole "Batman" phenomena; there are those who think Tim Burton's Batman was the best thing to happen to the Caped Crusader since sliced bread, those who think the 1960s TV show summed it up best, and those who don't give a flying fart. For those waiting to get their hands on a true Bat-DVD, your time has come with Fox's release of the 1966 feature Batman: The Movie. Originally intended as a promotional spot for the TV series, Batman: The Movie was produced during the first season and shown in theaters to spark interest in foreign markets. With more "POWS," "BANGS" and "WHAPS" than you can shake a can of Bat-repellent at, this special edition DVD is just what bat-fans have been clamoring for. Featuring a rogue's gallery of villains, including The Penguin, The Joker, Catwoman and The Riddler, Batman: The Movie will have you swinging from your chandeliers!
Facts of the Case
Four of the most feared super-villains have decided to take over the world! The Joker, The Penguin, Catwoman and The Riddler have devised a plan to steal a new device that extracts moisture from people, rendering them to a pile of dust! With this machine they plan to kidnap nine world diplomats and hold them for ransom! CAN THEY BE STOPPED?!?!
Well, duh. Everyone's favorite crime-fighter Batman is hot on their trails, with the help of his faithful sidekick Robin! With all the campy gusto of a vaudeville act, the fearsome foursome decides to first kidnap millionaire Bruce Wayne to lure Batman and Robin to their hideout. There they'll make sure to dispose of the dynamic duo and then proceed on their quest to rule the world. Never mind about asking how people dressed as clowns and penguins could rule the world…they just can, okay?
After their plan to kidnap Bruce Wayne goes awry, the four villains make their way to the ocean and use Penguin's submarine for their dastardly business. Their tools of the trade include an exploding octopus, a Polaris missile, deadly umbrellas and some wicked practical jokes.
Can Batman and Robin save the day? Or is it curtains for our heroes? Stay tuned…same BAT time, same BAT channel…
Batman: The Movie holds up about as well as the series it was based on. In fact, it's exactly like the series, only with a bigger budget (well, not that much bigger) and a larger cast. The series always had at least one super-villain on the show each week; in Batman: The Movie, we are given the delightful treat of having not two…not three…but four super-villains running amuck! There's the waddling Penguin (Burgess Meredeth, Grumpy Old Men), the mischievous Joker (Cesar Romero, Lust in the Dust), the sultry Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, This Is My Father) and the obnoxious Riddler (Frank Gorshin, 12 Monkeys). These four are really the glue that holds this movie together. Much like the Tim Burton films, it's the show-stopping bad guys that catch the audience's attentions. Before there was Jack Nicholson's over-the-top performance, there was Cesar Romero's quintessential Joker. Romero steals the show here as the Clown Prince of Crime, a giddy mix of Kramer from "Seinfeld" and Jim Carrey. The rest of the villains play their same role from the series, save for Lee Meriwether as Catwoman. She came before the "puuuuurrfect" Eartha Kitt as the sexy feline bent on getting under Batman's mask. She's good, but she's no match for Kitt's "come hither" coo. The late Burgess Meredeth is sorely missed in movies, and nowhere is it more evident than in his characterization of funny, fuming Penguin. However, let's not overlook the talents of Adam West and Burt Ward. Though the villains may have more fun, these two actors give it their all to the roles of Batman and Robin, respectively. Adam West always sounds like he's passing a kidney stone whenever he speaks. Burt Ward is so excited that it's as if he just discovered the wonderful world of self-stimulation. Both give distinct, campy performances that will make you howl with laughter and cringe with delight.
And what of the script and production values? If you're looking for sheer depth, you'll be more apt to find it in a bowl of Cheerios. The plot for Batman: The Movie is exactly like any other episode on the series: the villain's devise a plan, use some device that bends the laws of time and space, Batman and Robin overthrow their efforts. It's what made the TV series a joy to watch. I always got the feeling that Batman and the criminals were almost like children playing games; no one ever got seriously hurt, and it was all in good fun. In fact, when Batman lands a punch you can actually see the large gap as he misses his target. The producers and actors knew that this was all in good fun. When Batman and Robin pass a crowd of drinking bystanders, the audience is given a stern lecture on the moral complications of drinking and blinding your inhibitions. Fun with a message. Batman: The Movie had it all!
Batman: The Movie is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. For a film of considerable age and budget, Batman: The Movie looks very good. Colors were very rich and textured, blacks equally solid. Fox has done a very good job of making this transfer look crisp and clean. Though there were a few spots of grain and dirt, overall it was non-existent. Edge enhancement was kept to a minimum. This print is over 35 years old, and Fox has done a great job making it look almost brand new!
Audio is presented in a newly remixed Dolby 2.0 Surround track. This track does not differ much from the original Dolby Mono track that is also included on the disc. Dialogue was clean and clear with a slight hiss. Effects and music were mixed well, though there was some distortion in the track. Overall these are passable if weak audio tracks. English and Spanish subtitles are also included, as well as a Dolby Mono track in French.
Batman: The Movie is presented not only in a special edition, but a "Holy" special edition (and I don't think they mean God-like). The first supplement is a commentary track by Adam West and Burt Ward. This is a very entertaining track and very funny. West has a very dry sense of humor (as if you couldn't tell in the movie) and Ward is very peppy with a witty sense of play. Both men dabble in different stories about behind-the-scene antics and the way different actors reacted to their characters. West tells how Burgess Meredeth hated people coming up to him and calling him Penguin until he realized what a compliment it was, then he loved it! A fun and fluffy track for you Batfans!
A 17-minute "Batman Featurette" is included that looks at not only the movie but also the TV series. The feature includes interviews with Burt Ward and Adam West. Both men speak with much enthusiasm for the show and the movie, and there is even the mention of Vincent Price as Egghead (one of my favorite villains on the series). Burt Ward even suggests that your DVD player might be worn out because your kids will love Batman: The Movie just that much! This is an informative and funny look at the series through the eyes of the stars. A smaller yet equally informative feature is "The Batmobile Revealed." Hosted by George Barris (who designed and built the original vehicle), this is a detailed look at the car and all its features. There is also a peek at some of the original design plans and close-ups of the car's detailed crime fighting tools. This is a really nice look at one of the most famous cars in the history of automobiles!
Next up are a few still galleries titled "From the Vaults of Adam West" and "Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery." Each gallery features photos from the production of the film, as well as stills and publicity shots from the series and the movie. Finally there is a full frame theatrical trailer featuring Batman and Robin letting YOU know that they'll be "batapulting out of your TV sets and onto your theater screens!"
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While watching Batman: The Movie, I made a small list of some things I had questions to, or just general observations:
• Does a small party mask really cover someone's true
My other complaint is that Vincent Price's "Egghead" doesn't show up. Oh the travesty…
For those of you that are fans of the series, Batman: The Movie is going to be a great purchase. Fox has done a fine job on the transfer, a decent job on the audio (as good as they can do, I assume) and a great job with the supplements. I'll bet you never thought you'd see the day when Batman: The Movie would get its own commentary track, did you? This is darn exciting stuff! Fun for the whole family, and if you don't take any of it seriously you'll laugh harder than The Joker and The Riddler combined!
Free to defend Gotham City from the rascally no-good baddies! Go get 'em, Batman!
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Adam West and Burt Ward
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