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In 1939 comic book writer Bob Kane created the character of Batman. Batman lives in Gotham City and in actuality a wealthy business mogul by the name of Bruce Wayne. Throughout the years, tales of the Bat have been told both in the comic books and on the big and small screens. In the late 1960's ABC Television was desperate for a hit series and turned to DC Comic's Batman to help them out. A movie was planned and a television series was born. Originally the movie was going to be used to launch the TV Series but like everything in Hollywood it didn't quite work out that way. The TV series was rushed into production and the movie never got made until a year or two later. Now 20th Century Fox celebrates the 35th Anniversary of the original Batman movie with this new special edition DVD.

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Movie
At the time Batman: The TV Series had been running for a couple of seasons during the week on ABC. Fans were already familiar with the adventures of Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) and their fights against a crack team of super villains including The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman. Each and every weekday afternoon they would fight against evil and save the citizens of Gotham City from certain death. The studio producing Batman thought it was time to capitalize on the success of the show while trying to market it overseas. Thus Batman the movie was born.

Batman the movie is like any episode of the show but on a much larger scale. The budget was bigger, there were cool new Bat-toys and best of all Batman and Robin would have to fend off not just one or two super villains but the entire group. The story line involves a naval commander who is coming to Gotham City to demonstrate his new invention at a summit meeting. His invention, the superdehydrator is a device that can drain all the moisture from humans, leaving them simply as dust. When super villain the Penguin (Burgess Meredith) learns of this he enlists the help of his friends The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), The Joker (Cesar Romero) and Catwoman (Lee Meriweather) to help him. Their plan is to capture Batman and the leaders and take over the world. Meanwhile Batman and Robin use their prime detective skills to search out the bad guys to try and make sure that justice prevails.

If it sounds like Batman doesn't have much of a plot it's because it doesn't. The movie is like another episode of the TV show stretched to the max. Everything is bigger and better and as such the 105 minutes running time seems about right though some spots seemed to drag.  The humor in the movie is of the high camp variety. At some moments I couldn't help but groan at the jokes. Robin's constant alliterations and funny expressions are a source of entertainment but after awhile it can get on one's nerves.

There's not really much to talk about with the performances in the film as the core actors remain in their roles from the series. New to the cast is Lee Meriweather who fills in for series regular Julie Newmar as Catwoman who was contractually obligated to another film. Adam and Burt have amazing chemistry and the lines just bounce on one another with easy. The manic characteristics of the Joker are in full force with Cesar Romero who is by far my favorite villain as he's just so over the top.

About 5 or so years ago when flipping through the channels I happened upon some old reruns of the Batman show and I immediately fell in love. Like everything else I do,  I did that to the extreme and the show became one of my favorite things to watch. However as shows in syndication and reruns tend to do, it eventually disappeared from the air and then slowly my mind. I had forgotten about the show until this disc arrived on my door step.  While watching the disc it brought back fond memories of my youth though the same spark just wasn't there. Batman is still an all out campfest that's fun for the whole family even if it doesn't strike the same chord in me that it did 5 years ago.

A meeting amongst the villians
Video
For the 35th Anniversary of Batman, 20th Century Fox is releasing Batman for the first time ever in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This restored anamorphically enhanced transfer is a marvel to look at and far exceeded my expectations for a 35 year old film. Colors are vibrant, strong and leap off the screen - drawing the viewer into the comic book type atmosphere. The image is steady and remains sharp for the greater part of the picture.  The age of the film does show though with the appearance of some minor print flaws, specks of dust and pinholes in the image. Sure there are problems but the total number of problems is far less then I'd expect with a film this old. Although not a reference quality transfer this is one disc that truly blew me away in terms of video quality. I've seen newer catalog titles of movies released in the last 5 years that don't look like this. A tip off the hat to Fox for this magnificent transfer.

Audio
20th Century Fox has done all it can to try and make Batman: The Movie sound great on DVD. However sometimes despite the efforts of many talented people, the results just come up short. This is one of those times. 20th Century Fox presents 2 audio options for the Batman disc, a brand new stereo mix and the original mono mix as heard in the theaters. Still there is nothing to get too excited about as the differences between the two are few and far between. The stereo mix does expand the sound field a small bit but it can't really cover the problems that plague the original material. Dialog is often harsh sounding as is a lot of the music. There is a noticeable audio hiss that the tracks suffer from due to age. It's not that it sounds bad in fact I'm sure this is the best Batman has ever sounded, it's just that it could sound far better. The mix on this disc just goes to show that there's only so much you can do sometimes. I don't fault the guys at 20th Century Fox for the audio quality of the disc as the technology during the time period wasn't at the level it is today. Still despite being dated sounding and far from perfect this is still a somewhat enjoyable audio experience.

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Extras
It's the 35th Anniversary of Batman and Fox has gone all out on this special edition DVD. Whether you eat, sleep and breathe Batman or are just a casual DVD fan, there's something on this DVD for everyone.

Kicking off the extras section in fine form is the audio commentary with actors Adam West (Batman/Bruce Wayne) and Burt Ward (Robin/Dick Grayson). It's a fun track filled to the brim with jokes and insight into the filming of both the motion picture and the television series that accompanied it. One highlight for me was when Adam was complaining about how uncomfortable the tights where to which Dick replied in true Robin fashion "Holy Understatement Batman". It seems it was real fun for these guys to get back together and reminisce about what had to be a fun show/movie to make. It's somewhat sad that these guys didn't go on to bigger and better roles in Hollywood and have had to settle for the occasional cameo type appearance playing themselves in which they make some Batman related wisecrack. While the track does have its dull moments, for the most part it's an enjoyable listen as two actors look back at a great time in their careers.

The Batman Featurette which runs just over 15 minutes is another retrospective look back at the movie with interviews with Adam West and Burt Ward. The nice thing about this featurette is that like the commentary it doesn't just focus exclusively on the movie but also the TV series. Discussions include how Ward was cast as well as the reasons behind the change in Catwomans from the TV series. Finally a featurette that isn't promotional in nature.

Batmobile Revealed is a short featurette with George Barris creator of the Batmobile. Over the course of this 5 minute featurette all aspects of the Batmobile are discussed. Originally a prototype vehicle,  the Batmobile was made and designed in just under three weeks. It was also interesting to learn that the Batmobile was actually 5 separate cars - each responsible for a different purpose during filming. While this feature only runs 5 minutes it's very informative and gives a lot of insight for it's brief length.

Also included are two sets of still photographs "From The Vault of Adam West" and "Behind the Scenes" as well as the theatrical and teaser trailers for Batman and a special Planet of Apes DVD Box set trailer.

Overall
20th Century Fox has done a bang up job on this disc. An enjoyable picture, beautiful video quality and excellent supplements offset the disappointing audio track. Fans of the series and the character will be more then happy with this disc. At under $15 in most stores Batman is a great bargain and well worth a purchase.


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