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BATMAN: THE MOVIE

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Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, Frank Goshen, Caesar Romero, Lee Meriwether
Director:  Leslie H. Martinson
Audio:  Dolby Stereo, Dolby Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  105 Minutes
Release Date:  August 21, 2001

“Put them together…what do they mean?”
“Banana…Russian…I’ve got it!  Somebody Russian is going to slip on a banana peel and break their neck!”
”Precisely, Robin.  It’s the only possible meaning.”

Film *** (on the cheese scale)

What a phenomenon was television’s Batman during the 60s.  It was a courageous mix of campy humor, flash and color, and action that delighted kids and adults alike, but for different reasons.  While little ones responded with worship for their new favorite heroes, their parents were chuckling at the absurdity of it all!

But it was a series that helped bring ABC back to life.  It was the first show to air two nights a week in prime time (a cliffhanger and a resolution), and one of the first (but certainly not the last) TV shows to become a movie later.

That film, shot between seasons one and two, was Batman: The Movie.  Designed primarily as a vehicle to introduce the show to foreign audiences, TV fans leapt at the chance to see their heroes on the big screen, for two primary reasons:  one, it united four of the series’ most popular villains, the Penguin (Meredith), the Joker (Romero), the Riddler (Goshen) and Catwoman (played by Meriwether in place of the moonlighting Julie Newmar).  Second, it introduced a barrage of new “toys” into the Bat-arsenal:  the Batcopter, the Batcycle, the Batboat, and more.

The tone of the movie was the same as that of the show…as Adam West put it, “theatre of the absurd”.  What else could you call it when a “noble porpoise” sacrifices his life for our heroes by throwing himself in front of a torpedo?  Or a shark filled with TNT?  Or, my personal favorite, when Batman (West) runs around trying to dispose of a live explosive…as he remarks, “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”  And the classic exchange where Robin (Ward) intones, “You risked your life to save that riffraff, Batman!”  “They may be drinkers, Robin, but they’re human beings…”

The plot?  The diabolical foursome have come together to steal the invention of an eccentric commodore that dehydrates living things, turning them into a small pile of dust.  They plan to use this power against the world leaders, bringing in their own reign of chaos and terror!

Thankfully, the Caped Crusaders are on the case and armed with their array of equipment.  Our heroes will win in the end, of course…but not before much mayhem, action and comedy along the way.

The film succeeded, and so did the show…far beyond the expectations of everyone involved.  To this day, reruns of the old show still draw an audience, as the kids who grew up yelling “Pow!” and “Bam!” as they pretended to fight are now understanding the jokes that first went over their heads.  This may not have been what Bob Kane had in mind when he created his comic…in fact, I’m sure of it…but it was a risky, fun blend that paid off, both on the small and big screens.

Holy cultural phenomenon, Batman!

Video ****

Holy anamorphic!  I was pleased enough to just see an enhanced widescreen transfer for this classic piece of camp, but…POW!  BAM!  ZOWIE!  This is an incredible video rendition of a 35 year old film…more perfect than you would imagine capable!  The colors are simply astounding, shot after shot.  The palate is wide, and there are plenty of subtle variations in tone constructed throughout the picture.  The inside of the Batcave, for example, is truly astounding with its detail and color levels.  Images are sharp and clear throughout, whether dark or light, and get this…no grain, no compression, and virtually no marks on the print!  Batman: The Movie is perfect DVD eye candy…you may never go back to watching the reruns again after this!

Audio ***

Purr-fectly delightful!  Again, I didn’t expect much, but the Dolby stereo soundtrack is more than satisfying.  Clean, clear, with plenty of fun music and effects and a lot more panning action than you might think, this disc offers up some dynamic range as well.  A good listen!

Features ****

Atomic battery to power!  This is an awesome extras package, starting with well-designed animated menus with audio that even features a new sound byte from the caped crusaders!   The main highlight is an enjoyable commentary track by Adam West and Burt Ward…warm, funny, nostalgic, and filled with information, not just about the movie, but the series and the phenomenon of Batman as well.   These gentlemen also participate in a new 15 minute featurette (good, but I wish it was longer).  The old boys have put on some weight…hey, haven’t we all?  There is also a look at the original Batmobile along with its designer, a still gallery from Adam West’s collection, plus two trailers and a teaser that are all hoots.

Summary:

Watching the Batman: The Movie disc simply rates as one of the all-time best times I’ve ever had with my DVD player.  The movie is classic camp, but the disc is pure dynamite, with a remarkable new transfer and a plethora of fun features that add to the experience.  Smilingly recommended.