David Betancourt (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Holy high-definition!
A Batman of yore is finally getting the high-res, 1080p-treatment, as the 1966 version of the Caped Crusader is really ready for his close-up.
Fans of the classic TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward can put the Dynamic Duo in their Blu-ray players starting today, with the release of “Batman: The Complete Television Series.” But what is it like for West himself to finally see his most well-known performance in high-definition?
“I’ve thought of myself that way for years,” West said with his signature wry wink.
With the Blu-ray release, West will surely win over another generation of Bat-fans — or as the actor calls them: “More victims.”
It has been a half-century since West — who for many Batman fans will always be their “first” Batman — debuted on television underneath a purplish-blue cape and cowl, opposite Ward’s Robin and a rogue’s gallery of memorable villains. But when he talks about his Bat-days, West peppers the conversation with something he so deliberately brought to the “Batman” set during the hit show’s 1966-68 run: humor.
He helped “Batman” work, after all, as campy comedy.
“I’m a happy man about it, because I can make others happy. I know that sounds a little corny, but I get a great pleasure delivering the laughs,” West said. “And when I go out and I do the Comic-Cons and these [other] shows and I see the reaction, the things that people say, and how they react, is just wonderful.
“But you have to do that on a business level as well, because, if you don’t stimulate or service your fans, your career maybe lasts 10 minutes,” continued West, who is better known to many younger viewers as mayor of Quahog on Seth McFarlane’s “Family Guy.”
West noted that “Batman’s” laughs were always there for adults who enjoyed the show, but if the show came off as serious to the show’s then-young fans, that was in part because of how West tackled the material he was given — and the challenges he issued to his co-stars.
“I think one or two of the regulars in the cast thought I was a little conceited, in that I would tell them: ‘I want you please to make this moment, this scene, the best of your life, because this show will be lasting,’ ” West said. “And they thought I was conceited to say that. I just wanted it to be great.”
Batman, in a way, has become the James Bond of superheroes. A stream of actors have portrayed the Caped Crusader, and a new casting choice is always somewhere along the horizon — to feed the high demand from fans of a franchise. So what does West think of the Batmen who have come after him?
“I can’t think about about it. I get too upset and jealous and envious. I can’t even sleep,” the deadpanning West said. “It’s just terrible that they’re getting all that money and I’m not.
“No, I’m kidding,” the actor continued with a laugh. “All of them really are very talented and fine actors in their own way, and they do their own thing.”
And what of the controversial Bat-fleck, specifically? “I think [Ben] Affleck will be very good. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people,” West said. “He has the talent, and I think he will prepare well in his head, as I tried to.”
West added advice for Affleck: “Let the costume work for you, kid.”
Robin the Boy Wonder has intentionally kept out of — or barely hinted at — in many recent Bat productions. West spoke highly, though, of his crime-fighting partner Burt Ward. “He’s a scene-stealer, I don’t like him,” West said, not able to resist another joke. “I love the theater of the absurd and Burt Ward — Robin — simply was a great additive to that. His enthusiasm, his athleticism and his innocence . . . in those days — I knew in five minutes after testing with him that this was the guy.”
Amid the jokes, West takes pride in the ’60s show, so it mattered to him how the series was converted to high-definition for Blu-ray. “They did a hell of a job with this thing,” he said.
Be forewarned, Bat-fans: This complete-series set carries a suggested price tag of $270 (though, of course, you can find it much cheaper through various online outlets). But at that price point, you do get many Bat-goodies, including a Hot Wheels replica 1966 Batmobile. (Press a button on the box, by the way, and you hear the Batman” theme song — “”na na na na. . . .”)
(Inside are all 120 episodes in HD; an episode guide; an Adam West scrapbook; a pack of 44 trading cards [have fun debating if you want to destroy their mint-ness by opening them]; and special features that provide a look at the making of the show, including West’s and Ward’s original screen tests — and surprisingly emotional testimony from West on the ups and downs of his decision to become Batman. One fun tidbit from the special features: West recounts how shortly before he landed the Batman role, he was filming a Spaghetti Western in Italy and Spain and, while riding a horse towards a cave, was startled by a swarm of bats that flew out. An omen?)
West’s trip down Gotham’s memory lane ends with one question: Does he have a favorite Catwoman among Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether)?
“I do,” West chuckled. “But I can’t say, because it wouldn’t be honorable. Bruce Wayne would kill me. I had three Catwomen. I was so lucky. They all gave me curious stirrings in my utility belt.”