Batman The Movie: Special Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (8th July 2008).
The Film

The original "Batman" series of the 1960's is many things to may people, it is not, however, good, but it was fun. The series was a total carbon-copy of the comic books at the time, filled with colorful sets and equally colorful villains who wanted nothing more than to hurt Batman and Robin and rule Gotham...they would never really get past the 'exposing their plan diatribe' because shortly after the caped crusaders would foil their plans. The series was produced with the same tone of the comics and even added flare with words such as "POW", "THWACK" and "SLPOOSH" among others, appear on screen when villains are punched or kicked by the duo. It was for all intents and purposes a live action comic book, the lines were cheesy, the costumes looked silly, the acting was amateur and the whole thing had 'camp' written all over it. It was also aimed entirely for children. Before the time of adult comics (especially Frank Miller's seminal masterpiece "The Dark Knight Returns" published 20 years after this film), this was kid's stuff. And every kid (around the world) got on board the Batmobile for a thrilling adventure. The show was an incredible success and made stars out of leads Adam West and Burt Ward. By the mid 1960's "Batman" was everywhere from action figures, to lunch boxes, to pajamas, to cake toppers. You name it and it probably had a "Batman" licensed product available on the market. At the height of the series (between the first and second seasons) Fox decided to capitalize on the success and release a movie. In 1966 the world would get to see "Batman: The Movie."

The movie's plot is rather simple, 4 of Gotham's most notorious criminals, The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether) have teamed up to plot a most sinister plot. They plan to kidnap the nine members of the United World Security Council in the effort to take over the world (of course!). But Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) are on the case, and will thwart their plan and save the nine members of the council. The plot is rather thin, but the film's enjoyment is very much held in its sense of fun and 'straight-man' delivery from the two heroic leads, it's the villains that play it up here and go over-the-top. The action is silly and almost laughable, the effects are equally so (especially the miniatures), and the villainous moments are the stuff of childsplay. But these things don't work in the negative, on the contrary it's what makes this film endearing and simply fun to watch.

West and Ward make a great on screen duo, their chemistry is apparent and they play off each other really well, despite their often ridiculous lines they have to utter. If there's anything said about his performance, Adam West seems to have taken a page from the William Shatner school of acting, emphasizing certain points and enunciating important words to drive it home to the viewers, that he is in fact a 'detective' and uses his brain and ability to 'deduct' in order to solve the villainous plots. Sometimes he does so quickly it's just crazy, the leaps of logic made to get to the final outcome is plain preposterous and laughably wonderful. Just watch the scene in the Commissioner's (Neil Hamilton) office after the shark incident as the four characters present deduct which villains were responsible for a brilliant example of this. Also, for someone that clearly lives and dies by the clues it would be easy for Bruce Wayne to see past any ruse, yet Catwoman's ruse as the Russian Miss Kitka (she even purrs! when saying perfect!) he was unable to catch...I guess Bruce was a little love-struck to notice.

You can sit all day and point out all the plot and character holes, but the film has such a great sense of fun to it that it's impossible not to like it. The sets are brilliantly colorful they almost make my eyes hurt, I love it how nothing is subtle here. Not even the performances of the villains who never appear too threatening or dangerous, just preposterously maniacal. They are pretty easy for Batman to beat, and their plans are just plain dumb. It's the perfect set up for Batman's brain and brawn. It's also in these moments set-up by our villains that the hero uses his many wonderful devices and vehicles, the film introduced the Batboat, but we also get to see the classic Batmobile in action as well as the Batcycle and the Batcopter. There's also all manner of crazy devices, which I love, like the Shark-repellant spray, the various knock-out gasses and the dehydration machine used by the villains!

Reality is pretty much thrown out the window here, this certainly isn't "Batman Begins" (2005) or it's much anticipated sequel "The Dark Knight" (2008), this is the "Batman" of your parents, the 1960's was a much happier and simpler time judging by this. "Batman: The Movie" may never really be heralded as a masterpiece but it's a classic nonetheless, if you haven't seen it yet, why not pick it up, gather around with a few friends and laugh your ass off at how silly it truly is. You'll have a great time, I guarantee it.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this transfer is in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been created using AVC MPEG-4 compression codec. The film is 42 years old and so the source material is not going to be perfect, it should also be noted that the film features some elements of stock footage and those will not be the best quality. Now in saying that, this film does hold up quite well, although there are many flaws. To begin withe the image is not entirely sharp, here are moments on softness and the effects shots suffer the most. The print however, is generally clean with some specks and dirt here and there. What shows up well in this high-definition version is detail, you can see a lot more detail than the previous DVD version allowed. Sometimes this is not to the product's benefit (but does add to the fun of the film) and you can see things that you probably shouldn't like Romero's mustache under his Joker make-up as well as the fake sky and cloud background used behind the submarine set. The colors are also bright and vibrant, which is helps show off the loud sets, blacks are deep and shadow detail is consistent. Grain is prominent but it's part of the film and I'm glad that Fox didn't use any noise reduction to remove grain as it wold have given this film a much more artificial feel. Despite some problems that are common with films of this age, this presentation is the best that this film has looked.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 as well as Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks in either English or French. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD track, purists might want to stick with the film's original mono soundtrack, but I was curious to hear how this film's soundtrack translated into DTS-HD. The dialogue is clear and distortion free and the film's loud and jazzy soundtrack fill the sound space, in fact it fills almost too much making it sound overbearing. There's limited ambient sounds and effects sounds are isolated to the front, in fact a lot of the track is front heavy with the exception of the music.
Optional subtitles are included in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Spanish.

Extras

Fo has done an impressive job with this film's supplements, packing this disc with 2 audio commentaries, a series of 6 featurettes, an isolated music score, 2 interactive features, a series of trailers, bonus trailers and still galleries. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Fist up is a feature-length audio commentary by actors Adam West Burt Ward. Even if you have a passing interest in this film, you'll undoubtedly be entertained by this track. These two not only had great chemistry on screen but it's like they've never been apart as they comment on the frenzy the show generated and the immediacy of their popularity, as well as share their memories from the film's production, on working with each other but also the supporting cast of villains. West seems to think very highly of himself and the series which can be a bit cocky at times but it's nonetheless fun to listen to.

Next up is another feature-length audio commentary by the film's screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. and it's tracks like this that make you wonder why they don't just pair the participant up with someone else? Because on their own they are monotone, dry, and takes time to make their point. Semple Jr. is just that guy, it was almost excruciating to have to sit through the movie with this guy narrating over it, it's like he sucked the fun out of the room. On a positive note he did talk about the dynamics of the script, as well as shared memories from the production, he didn't just stick to script or writing related areas either and managed to include some information that covered the overall process.

Also featured is an isolated musical score presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround, the jazzy 60's score is included here on it's own for those that would like to see the movie without any dialogue.

Next up is "Batman: A Dynamic Legacy" featurette that runs for 28 minutes 29 seconds. This feature is one of the best video extras on this disc and chronicles the popularity of "Batman", the impact of the show in the 60's and the sheer fandom it created as well as covers the film. Crafted with some cool footage and interviews this is a must for fans of the series and this film.

"Caped Crusaders: A Heroes Tribute" featurette runs for 12 minutes 29 seconds, basically a tip of the hat to the two leads of this film, as well as their costumes that are not only iconic but helped these two stars get into their characters. Another fun little clip, I only wish it was longer and went further into the making of the costumes.

"Gotham City's Most Wanted" is the next featurette which runs for 15 minutes 51 seconds and is a tribute to the villains from the film, we get to know each one a little better with this clip, there's some great production footage and more interviews from the cast about the characters and the actors who played them.

"2001 EPK" featurette runs for 16 minutes 47 seconds, this clip was originally on the older DVD release and was produced for the film's 35th anniversary. The cast look back on the film, and the series and comment on it, share memories in interviews from the film's two hero leads.

"The Batmobile Revealed with George Barris" featurette runs for 5 minutes 47 seconds. Barris is a car customizer that has worked on many films including the original "Batman", he designed the Batmobile and here we have him showing off his famous work. He takes through the design of the vehicle and shows off some of its features.

Following that is "The Batmobile" interactive tour feature, here you can use your remote to navigate through the Batmobile and learn more about it and its features.

"Batman on Location" Mapping the movie interactive feature, while watching the movie an interactive map will appear on screen, this feature will allow you access to various production facts, as well as production photos, character information, it's basically a trivia track but with an immersive interactive component to it.

"Holy Trivia Track, Batman!" trivia track plays over the movie and delivers pop-up trivia about various things, mainly remaining screen-specific. There's some cool information provided here and is worth a look.

Also featured is the film's teaser trailer which runs for 1 minute 37 seconds as well as the film's original theatrical trailer that runs for 3 minutes 6 seconds as well as the Spanish theatrical trailer which runs for 3 minutes 7 seconds.

There are a total of 5 still galleries, these can be cycled through using your remote and normally I'd list the total amount of images included but the response time was incresibly slow on these, sometimes taking up to a minute to load the next image so I didn't bother, for those interested and have a bit more patience than I there's some great stills to check out, including some of the retro poster designs and also the original press book which you can enlarge sections of to read. The galleries included are:

- "Production stills"
- "Promotional materials"
- "Behind the scenes"
- "Original press book"
- "The film's premiere"

Bonus trailers round out the extras:

- "Jumper" which runs for 2 minutes 25 seconds.
- "The Day After Tomorrow" which runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds.
- "Independence Day" which runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: A- Overall: B-

 


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