Criterion’s April titles include Coppola’s Rumble Fish and Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club https://t.co/1PmfiylRaB
Adventures of Batman, The
DirectorHal Sutherland/Anatole Kirsanoff
Release Date(s)1968/1969 (June 3, 2014)
Studio(s)Warner Home Video
Back in the days before Tim Burton’s Batman, there were very few iterations of the caped crusader floating around that you could watch on both the small screen and the big screen. There were the early serials and the live action Batman TV show, of course, but Batman wasn’t really defined as a character until 1989 came along and he went from being campy and silly to dark and brooding. That didn’t matter much to kids at the time though, and it must have a been a real thrill for them in 1968 when The Batman/Superman Hour premiered on TV.
Filmation, the company that was later responsible for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, created the show and it ran for two seasons on CBS. Later on, the show was split up for syndication, giving both Superman and Batman separate shows. The Batman portion became The Adventures of Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder. It was this version of the show that most people remember and is also the version of the show contained within this DVD release.* Never before released in its entirety on any format, it’s finally great to have this fun and enjoyable show for home consumption.
As for me, this is one of those guilty pleasures that I love just as much now as an adult as I did when I was a child, and I don’t really have much more of a defense for it than that. It’s unintentionally hilarious, but also quite charming. It was the days of serial-type programming for superhero TV shows, so some stories were split in two for commercials, but more importantly, to keep people on the edge of their seats so they would stay tuned in. In The Adventures of Batman, you also have all of the main Batman villains aboard as well: the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, and Mr. Freeze, as well as other minor villains like the Scarecrow and Simon the Pieman. The show is chock full of moments that will make you laugh out loud at times as well. A great moment of unintentional hilarity for me occurs during the show’s opening when they bill the Penguin as “pudgy purveyor or perfidy,” one of many such moments throughout the show. None of the show’s stories are very deep and are full of holes most of the time, adhering very much to a comic-book like sensibility, but it didn’t, and still doesn’t, matter at all. It was a show made for and aimed at young children, and it seemed to have succeeded quite well.
The voice talent for The Adventures of Batman features some great voice actors, such as Olan Soule as Batman, the late, great Casey Kasem as Robin, Ted Knight as Commissioner Gordon (as well as the creepy but hilarious portrayal of the Riddler), and, surprisingly, Larry Storch as the Joker (and a few other voices as well). Most of the stories revolve around the main rogues gallery of villains involved in some bank or jewelry store heists of some kind or trying to find ways to outwit Batman and Robin in some very silly ways. The over-the-top performances from the voice actors, as well as the dialogue, still has me in stitches these many years after I saw it as a kid. If you need more proof of how much fun the show is, just sit through the seizure-inducing opening titles, letting you know right away that you’re in for a very silly, but good, time.
The video and audio quality of The Adventures of Batman is considerably good. It’s nothing to rave about, but the picture is mostly stable and the animation hasn’t been wiped clean after the fact. The sound quality (English, Spanish and Portuguese mono tracks) is always clean and clear while still showing its age. It’s the kind of presentation you would expect without a heavy restoration effort. The only troublesome thing really is the show’s opening, which has been sourced from analogue, ala VHS. But it’s not a major detriment, at least to me. I owned a 5-episode collection of the show when I was a kid on VHS and the quality of the intro is of the same caliber. It gave me a kind of nostalgic feeling, so I don’t really have a problem with it, but others might. There are also subtitles in English, French and Portuguese for those who need them.
The Adventures of Batman debuts in full on home video for the first time with the only extras being a couple of trailers for Beware the Batman and Teen Titans Go!, but even still, this is something than many fans have been wanting for years. It could probably do with a small restoration effort someday and maybe some extras, but for now, it’s just nice to have it.
- Tim Salmons