Tuesday, February 10, 2015
'Batman' '66 S2 P1 DVD: Most Influential Series of mid-60s
The 30-episode 4-disc Warner Bros. Home Entertainment DVD set of "Batman" '66, which is available on actual and virtual store shelves beginning February 10 2015, is a highly anticipated release that greatly exceeds expectations. As an aside, it makes an awesome Valentine's Day gift for male couples regardless of whether they claim to simply be good friends or are true partners.
The awesomeness of this set, which fanboys on a a budget have been waiting for since the July 2104 announcement of releases of DVD and Blu-ray '66 sets, begins with the quality remastering of the episodes. The bright images are very clear, and the sound is very crisp. It seems further that the versions are the original broadcast, rather than edited for syndication, versions.
The bonus related to those of us who either watched the original broadcasts in the '60s or the after-school reruns in the '70s as children is that we recognize and appreciate the terrific humor and '60sness of the series as adults. Having Dick Clark Phyllis Diller, and Sammy Davis, Jr. make cameos in the first few episodes of the set are prime examples of this.
Another early season cameo has Batman and Robin exchanging hilariously catty remarks with fellow television crime fighters the Green Hornet and Kato.
For the uninitiated, a typical "Batman" story arc starts with the outrageously campy villain of the week beginning his or her crime spree in a pre-opening credits segment. Said nefarious activity prompts our caped crusader (but hardly Dark Knight) and his boy wonder (but hardly Night Wing) sidekick into action.
We then are treated to the uber-awesome pop art opening credits. The next scene has our boys racing into action. This ultimately leads to said villain placing our heroes in the terrifically sadistic peril that provides the cliffhanger for the second part of the episode. Even casual fans know that that episode will air the next day at the same bat time on the same bat channel.
The pre-opening credits of part two has wonderfully clever and well delivered narration that recaps the first episode and that ends with the aforementioned peril. One spoiler is that the post-opening credits scene shows a great escape (often with the aid of a bat device) and an ensuing pursuit (and hilarity) of the nefarious malfeasor.
Art Carney of "The Honeymooners" starts the season off well with his depiction of "The Archer," who is an awesome hybrid of Robin Hood and the incarnation of Green Arrow in the current CW prime-time series "Arrow." Carney uses his traditional and weaponized arrows to initially rob from the rich and give to the poor.
This time it is personal in that The Archer is planning to steal a small fortune that Batman alter-ego millionaire Bruce Wayne is donating to charity in conjunction with his own form of income redistribution. Another cool aspect of this offering is the variation on the pop art animation for which '66 is famous during a fight between the dynamic duo and the henchmen of The Archer.
Fan fave Julie Newmar shows up in the second story arc as fan fave Catwoman in an offering that has her running a cat burglary school as part of a scheme to pull off a larger heist. Watching her flirt with a responsive Batman adds to the fun in the this one.
As an aside, Newmar makes a fun cameo in a later episode that is not set in psychiatric facility Arkham but effectively has the inmates running the asylum.
A later episode has screen legend Van Johnson play The Minstrel; the currently relevant scheme this time relates to manipulating the stock market.
A story arc that has a delusional Yale Egyptology professor who thinks that he is King Tut trying to revive ancient Egyptian scarabs trapped in amber has wonderful shades of "Jurassic Park." The exceptional level of wholesome hokeyness and comically fake crocodiles in this one further contribute to the fun.
The set ends with another wonderful Catwoman episode in which she targets real-life British rockers Chad and Jeremy. This is just as much fun as evil cousin Serena messing with singers Boyce and Hart on "Bewitched" during the same era.
On a larger level, watching just about every sitcom and other light television fare from the mid-60s clearly shows the influence of the mod look and campy style of "Batman." This is particularly apparent regarding the awesome action-adventure Stefanie Powers series "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E."
The epilogue regarding this discussion of arguably one of the most entertaining shows of all times is that no show depicts its era any better and that no Batman captures the true spirit of that character as wall as series star Adam West.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Batman" is strongly encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.