DirectorHal Sutherland/Anatole Kirsanoff
Release Date(s)1968/1969 (February 28, 2023)
Studio(s)Filmation (Warner Home Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: F+
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 was the early serials and the Batman TV show, of course, but Batman wasn’t really defined as a character until 1989, going from campy and silly to dark and brooding. That didn’t matter much to fans at the time when The Batman/Superman Hour premiered on TV in 1968. Filmation, the company later responsible for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, created the show, which ran for two seasons on CBS. It was later split up for syndication, giving both Superman and Batman separate shows, with the Batman portion becoming The Adventures of Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder. It was this version of the show that most people remember, as well as the version of the show contained within this Blu-ray release.
The Adventures of Batman (as it’s now referred to) is one of those shows that I love just as much as I did when I was a child, and I don’t really have much more of a defense for it than that. (A show that bills one of its main villains, the Penguin, as a “pudgy purveyor or perfidy” needs no defense—its tongue is clearly already firmly in its cheek.) It was the days of serial-type programming, meaning that stories were split in two for commercials, but more importantly, to keep folks interested enough to stay tuned in. As such, it’s often unintentionally hilarious, but also quite charming.
All of the main Batman villains are present and accounted for, including the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, and Mr. Freeze, as well as other minor villains like the Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, and Simon the Pieman. Most of the stories revolve around this rogues gallery involved in bank or jewelry store heists of some kind, or trying to find ways to outwit Batman and Robin in some very silly ways. The voice talent includes the likes of Olan Soule as Batman, Casey Kasem as Robin, Larry Storch as the Joker, and Ted Knight wearing multiple hats as the narrator, Commissioner Gordon, and a creepy but hilarious portrayal of the Riddler.
The over-the-top performances, as well as the dialogue, still have me in stitches these many years later. None of the show’s stories are all that deep, adhering very much to a comic-book like sensibility, but none of that really matters. The Adventures of Batman was a show made for and aimed at young children, and it seemed to have succeeded. (Successful enough that Batman and Robin even appeared on a couple of episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies.) If you need more proof of how much fun the show is, just sit through the seizure-inducing opening titles, which set the tone and let you know right away that you’re in for a very silly, but good, time.
The Adventures of Batman was created using traditional cel animation and finished on film. Warner Bros revisits the show, having released it on DVD in 2014, giving it a Blu-ray makeover. Having watched five episodes of the show endlessly as a kid on a well-worn VHS (via the Super Powers Collection, also released by Warner Bros), I have a notion of how this show looked in analogue form. The transition to high definition is a mostly pleasing one, though it comes with a caveat. Some grain management has definitely been applied, perhaps a little too much in certain areas, though the animation manages to mostly escape unscathed. Some of the animation’s built-in lesser qualities, such as cel dirt, aren’t entirely present, giving it a smoother, less problem-free appearance. The bitrate normally runs between 15 to 20Mbps, which is a tad low as some occasional background pixelation does occur. However, the show’s low-budget animated aesthetic hasn’t been marred. It’s a much more colorful presentation than its DVD predecessor with higher detail in the image. It’s not perfect, but a definite step in the right direction.
The main audio option is in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. The sound quality is clean and clear while still showing its age. A perfectly even TV presentation without any issues. Other audio options include French and Spanish 2.0 mono Dolby Digital, as well as other subtitles in French.
Episodes are included on each disc in their original TV airing order:
- My Crime Is Your Crime/A Bird Out of Hand (22:17)
- The Cool, Cruel Mr. Freeze/The Joke’s on Robin (22:16)
- How Many Herring in a Wheelbarrow?/In Again, Out Again Penguin (22:15)
- The Nine Lives of Batman/Long John Joker (22:15)
- Bubi, Bubi, Who’s Got the Ruby?/1001 Faces of the Riddler (22:16)
- The Big Birthday Caper/Two Penguins Too Many (22:14)
- Partners in Peril/The Underworld Underground Caper (22:15)
- Hizzoner the Joker/Freeze’s Frozen Vikings (22:16)
- The Crime Computer/The Great Scarecrow Scare (22:17)
- A Game of Cat and Mouse/Beware of Living Dolls (22:16)
- Will the Real Robin Please Stand Up/He Who Swipes the Ice, Goes to the Cooler (22:16)
- Simon the Pieman/A Mad, Mad Tea Party (22:16)
- From Catwoman with Love/Perilous Playthings (22:16)
- A Perfidious Pieman Is Simon/Cool, Cruel Christmas Caper (22:16)
- The Fiendishly Frigid Fraud/Enter the Judge (22:16)
- The Jigsaw Jeopardy/Wrath of the Riddler (22:16)
- It Takes Two to Make a Team/Opera Buffa (22:16)
Like the DVD release, no extras are included, but The Adventures of Batman coming to Blu-ray is something I never thought I’d see. It would have been nice to include the Super Powers Collection versions of their respective segments (for fun more than anything else), but alas, those may be locked away on VHS forever. Still, this is a nice upgrade for long-time fans.
- Tim Salmons