Legions of Bat-fans can now rejoice because, after years of wrangling between studios, individuals, and estates of individuals, the seemingly impossible has happened: the 1966 Batman television show will finally be available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital download. If you don’t believe me, check out this promo and see for yourself.
There’s going to be a big announcement at San Diego Comic-Con today with more details as to what to expect from these sets and what extras will be included. But until then, here are a few videos to help get you in the mood.
1, How It Began: Here’s the screen test for Adam West and Burton Gervis (later to be known as Burt Ward). This dialogue was taken from the first episode. West was already showing signs of the cool, stoic Batman in contrast to Ward’s enthusiastic Robin. Notice that Robin’s outfit stayed pretty well the same, while Batman’s looked quite different, particularly in regards to the Bat symbol on his chest.
2. How It Could Have Been: The other potential Dynamic Duo in contention was Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell , They’re not bad, they just pale in comparison to the pairing of West and Ward. Waggoner found fame a few years later as a cast member of The Carol Burnett Show and as Steve Trevor on Wonder Woman, but Deyell’s acting career stalled after this failed audition. He’s still in the business, however, as a writer, director, and producer. Deyell was also a founder of The Artists Rights Foundation, an organization that helps preserve historic films.
3. Batman and Berle: West as Batman made a personal appearance on The Hollywood Palace, a variety show with a different host each week. This episode’s host was comedian Milton Berle and he and Batman trade quips back and forth. Martha Raye later joins in on the fun, and the segment ends with Adam West singing a song, and a promise from Berle of a skit containing loads of different comic strip characters. As a special bonus, the video ends with a commercial for Sunbeam electric razors narrated by Olan Soule, the guy who voiced Batman on Super Friends.
BONUS VIDEO: Here’s the skit referred to earlier by Berle. It’s pretty silly, but I figured I’d include it since it was mentioned earlier (and Batman does make an appearance at the end).
4. Batman and Berle and Green Hornet and Kato (Oh My!): Milton Berle worked with the Caped Crusader a lot (which might explain how he later got the part as Batman villain Louie the Lilac). In this skit, Berle plays an actor that is mistakenly cast in both the Batman and Green Hornet programs at the same time. It’s good to see Van Williams and Bruce Lee appear as the Green Hornet and Kato, but why wasn’t Burt Ward ever in these skits? Was it past his bedtime or something?
5. Zappa Meets the Boy Wonder: In 1966 Burt Ward recorded a single called “Boy Wonder, I Love You”, in which Ward purportedly reads a gushing fan letter while a chorus of girls sing the title over and over. The strangest thing about this record is that it was produced by Frank Zappa. (All right, admittedly this isn’t really a video, but there’s not a lot of solo Burt Ward here, so I thought I’d put in something special for all the Wardhogs out there.)
6. Batman Sings? This is from another episode of The Hollywood Palace that West himself hosted. He appears here as Batman singing an odd little tune called “Orange Colored Sky”. The song was originally made popular by Nat King Cole, and was a good fit for the Caped Crusader since it even had its own sound effects!
7. BONUS VIDEO: Robin Sings? Here’s an even stranger version of the song sung (sort of) by Ward. This was the flip side of “Boy Wonder, I Love You” and was also produced by Zappa, which would account for the unusual arrangement. I honestly don’t know which of them sang the song first, but West certainly did a better job of it.
8. Enter Batgirl: According to Wikipedia (“If It’s in Wikipedia, You Know It’s True!”), DC was approached by the television show’s producers who requested a female character be added to the mix. DC editor Julius Schwartz created the character of Barbara Gordon, who would take on the identity of Batgirl. Yvonne Craig would play the role during the show’s final season. This is a short pilot to introduce the character. It was never seen on TV. By the way, Killer Moth was an actual Batman villain in the comics, but he never made an appearance on the show.
9. Batman Shills for ABC: Batman and Robin star in Seven Nights to Remember, a special highlight ABC’s 1966 Fall season. How many of these shows do you remember? By the way, you’ll never guess who makes a cameo appearance at the end of the show. (On second thought, if you’ve watched these videos, you’ll probably guess pretty quickly!)
10. Batman Shills for Bonds: Here’s a short PSA where Batman promotes U.S. Savings Stamps and Bonds. He reads a letter from President Johnson from a card that kids receive for their contribution. Hey, if Batman says it’s cool, it’s gotta be, right?
11. Batgirl Shills for Equal Pay: This PSA appeared in 1973, five years after the show was cancelled. It features Batman and Robin about to be blown up, until Batgirl comes to their rescue. Or does she? While Ward and Craig reprise their original parts, Batman was played here by Dick Gautier, best known for playing the robot Hymie on Get Smart.)
12. Batman Has to PPP: The PPP refers to The Past Prime Playhouse, an all-night movie show hosted by Bob Shreve and shown on Cincinnati station WKRC from 1975-1985. Shreve would show movies and interrupt with zany skits. This one featured West as a more casually dressed Batman. Unfortunately it cuts off just as West is explaining what he was doing in Cincinnati. What’s there is pretty crazy though!
13. Jim Henson’s Batman Babies: This short from 2008, The Amazing Adventures of Little Batman, features a boy who dreams of being a superhero. He becomes Batman, while other kids perform the rest of the roles. The costuming and the sets are great in this, and the kids are adorable. While so much of this is awesome, my favorite part is the Penguin’s laugh. “WAH WAH WAH!!”
14. The Dark Knight After Dark: On the other side of the coin, we have the (SFW) trailer for 2010’s Batman XXX: A Porn Parody. One thing this does have in common with the previous entry is the attention to detail in the sets and costuming. (It’s said that the actor playing the Joker even grew a mustache for the part!) They also get extra nerd points for including the character of Lisa Carson and for using one of the Riddler’s riddles from the first episode of the show.
15. Batman v. Superking: Dawn of Awesomeness: This one is definitely my favorite. This took place on a wrestling show in Memphis, and it has an even more casually dressed Batman, sporting his cowl, gloves, and a track suit. He’s there to find Jerry the King Lawler, who comes out in a Superman suit that’s actually better than West’s costume! This is another incomplete video, but it is just so wonderful. I wonder if any of the rest of the footage still exists?
I hope these videos got you pumped up for the DVD set this November. I have no doubt that some of these videos will be included there. (OK, probably not number 14). Hopefully the extras will be mentioned at the big Comic-Con announcement tonight. If you’re aware of any fun Bat-Videos I missed, please let me know!