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Batman fans fall into two categories, those who still remember and love the original TV series, and those who enjoy the Hollywood Blockbusters. I fall into the first category, and can still remember watching the programme on a Saturday morning when I was younger. These days Saturday morning TV seems to be filled with one animated cartoon after another, with no room for fun-filled adventure programmes. The youth of today don’t know what they have missed! In case you are not familiar with the duo, Batman and Robin are the creation of comic book writer Bob Kane. They are two of the most well known comic book heroes.  Here is a review of the feature length movie, which is a good place to start for anyone who is not familiar with the 60s series and the characters. It features all the main characters (good guys and villains) and also has an interesting plot which should keep you enthralled.

Batman - The Movie
Movie
The movie begins with a famous chase involving a very rubber looking shark! Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) take to their Batcopter in search of a missing yacht, and Commodore Schmidlapp. Just as the duo recover the vessel, Batman is attacked by a ‘killer’ shark which grabs onto his leg. In true superhero style, the pair manage to outwit the deadly mammal, but soon learn that the encounter was not as spontaneous as they had thought. Aboard the boat is a shooting device which dehydrates whatever it is pointed at. When they learn of this the duo start thinking of conspiracy theories, but cannot figure out who would have organised such a crime. The clues point to several criminals, but the duo cannot comprehend this, as the crime has elements which point to them all.

Unfortunately for the caped crusader and his side-kick, they are right. The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and The Catwoman (Lee Meriwether) have all joined forces to try and finish off Batman once and for all! Also as part of their plan they intend to infiltrate the United World Security Council who are holding a meeting in New York. All world leaders are to attend the meeting, so it seems too good an opportunity for the criminals to pass up. Fans of the show will know that Batman and Robin are always one step ahead and as might be expected realise what is planned, so intend to stop the criminals. The rest of the movie turns into a cat and mouse chase with the group of criminals hatching other plans including the capture of Bruce Wayne, which they hope will ultimately lead to the downfall of Batman. If only they knew the truth!

Batman - The Movie
Kids of today probably won’t understand all the hype surrounding the 60s series. They are used to the Hollywood movie versions, which in my opinion are poor compared to the harmless and camp fun created in the TV series. I’ll just go back to the opening scene with the rubber shark. If that was tried these days it would be criticised immensely, but in this film it is what we have come to expect and only adds to the fun. Combine the dodgy props with lines such as “Holy Sardines”, and in my mind the Batman series is still as entertaining today as it has ever been. For this feature film the budget was increased considerably, and that can be seen in some of the action sequences. Considering the age of the movie, the special effects used are striking. One of my favourite sequences shows an attack on Batman and Robin involving torpedoes. The duo are stuck on a buoy in the middle of an ocean and torpedoes are being fired at them. The sequence looks pretty cool, and was much more realistic than I remembered. The film also provides a wacky sense of humour, with a scene involving Batman attempting to defuse a bomb while running through a crowded street being one of the funniest highlights of the film. Also, the use of sound effects and colourful words make the fight scenes legendary.  

I’m not completely convinced if the Batman series was shown today as a brand new TV programme whether or not it would be as successful. Opinions have changed and kids now expect big explosions and colourful creatures, so chances are two guys running around in tights would not appeal to them. However, for people like me who grew up with this type of programme it is still a joy to watch. Batman the Movie is an innocent piece of 60s cinema which stands the test of time well.  

Video
Considering that this movie is nearly forty years old, I didn’t expect it to look this good.  The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is also 16x9 enhanced. The main thing that stood out instantly was how realistic and vibrant the colours still look. The world of Batman is very colourful, and a duller transfer would have been a huge let down. Black levels seemed ok, but to be honest there were very few dark scenes for me to be able to judge. Flesh tones were also accurate unless you are looking at the penguin, who is deliberately orangey-faced! The image isn’t spotless with a few minor specs appearing every so often, but it has perfect clarity and sharpness which more than make up for any minor damage to the print. There was no sign of edge enhancements, but the occasional background shimmering was apparent. Nevertheless this is a very impressive effort from 20th Century Fox, which exceeded even my most optimistic expectations. The highlight of the disc without a doubt.

Audio
The audio side of this disc is not as impressive as the visual, but it is functional. We are provided with an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which in all honesty does what you would expect. The theme music comes through well, and other sound effects are usually audible. Dialogue is a key component of this movie, and thankfully it is clear, precise and in-synch throughout. There are also subtitles in thirteen different languages provided.

The Disc!
Extras
First up is a commentary with Burt Ward and Adam West. This is very funny, and it becomes clear that the two commentators are good friends. Both talk as if they are still playing their roles. The commentary contains a lot of detail, and the pair seem to be able to recall events as if they only happened yesterday. It’s nice to listen to a commentary where the speakers seem to be having a good time, and the chat benefits from this.

The disc also includes a Batman featurette, where Burt Ward and Adam West talk about the tight schedule they faced during filming.  Photos from the set are shown occasionally and both actors compliment each other. We are told that the movie was originally supposed to have been released before the series, so that the audience was prepared for the TV show. The duo also talk about the fact that having four villains made the film unique. Both actors are very knowledgeable about the film even now, and seem to talk with real enthusiasm. Adam West also points out that his favourite villain was the catwoman and says that men should know why! This featurette is about 16 minutes long.

Next up is a featurette called Batmobile revealed, featuring George Barris, the designer of the batmobile. Apparently it took three weeks to come up with the design of the car. We are treated to a close-up view of the car, and Barris talks about his experiences from the film as well as the choices they had to make. He is very animated throughout, and the featurette lasts for just over five and a half minutes.

Also included is a photo gallery called From The Vaults of Adam West. This is a selection of images most of which Adam West. There is also a behind the scenes still gallery. Then there is the Theatrical Trailer, in which Batman and Robin provide a good introduction to the movie. This lasts just under three minutes. Finally we have a teaser, which uses the same introduction as the trailer but expands on it. Added into the teaser are clips of the main villains, and it lasts just over a minute and a half.

Batman - The Movie
Overall
Whether you are a Batman fan or just someone who wants to see what all the fuss is about, you will not be disappointed by this release. The movie is a rip-roaring adventure, which typifies the fun 60s era. Cheesy one-liners, dodgy effects, convenient gadgets, and punches that never actually hit the opponent are all elements which make Batman such a loveable franchise. This DVD release gave me the opportunity to revisit one of my childhood favourites, and nearly forty years on none of the magic has been lost. 20th Century Fox have done a first class job in providing a remarkable disc, the highlight being a breathtaking transfer. So, what are you waiting for, get down to you local retailer and buy a piece of 60s nostalgia. As Robin would say, it’s a Holy Bargain!  


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