Holy heart failure, Batman fans: A look at the Season 2, Part 1 DVD
Na na na na na na … Batman! Warner Bros. Home Entertainment released the DVD for the Second Season, Part 1 of the beloved, campy 1960s TV series featuring Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as the Boy Wonder, just in time for this week’s colorful Throwback Thursday installment.
The original 1966 Batman TV series took decades to see a release on DVD and Blu-ray, but the wait was definitely worth it! The first 30 episodes from the series’ second season are now available on DVD and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment graciously provided a copy for my review for this Throwback Thursday installment.
I grew up watching the original Batman series in reruns on cable television. It was always one of my favorites because it was so wondrously colorful and wacky. Everywhere you look in any given screenshot, your senses are bombarded by psychedelic, eye-popping costumes that only a 1960s series could pull off so well. It’s like a live-action cartoon with campy music, zany guest stars and playful puns and punches flying left and right. Don’t get me started on the delightful variety of villains the series also offered! From familiar comic book favorites like The Joker, Penguin, Catwoman and Mr. Freeze to crazy, new villainous concoctions such as Egghead, King Tut, The Clock King, The Archer and The Minstrel, the second season is full of fiendish foes and perilous plots. I’m having trouble deciding which villain is my all-time favorite because they’re all so interesting and diabolical in their own unique way!
The Second Season, Part One has many big-name guest stars, including Cesar Romero, Julie Newmar, Burgess Meredith, Vincent Price, Van Johnson, Art Carney, Shelley Winters, Liberace, Walter Slezak, Carolyn Jones, Victor Buono and Cliff Robertson. One interesting thing about the series was that they used various actors to play the same villain from season to season. Season two features Julie Newmar as a purrrrfect Catwoman and Otto Preminger as a space cadet-looking Mr. Freeze with a ray gun. In addition to the main guest stars, there are also numerous cameos from other notable stars, including Dick Clark, Sammy Davis, Jr., Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes), Ted Cassidy (Lurch from The Addams Family) and musical group Paul Revere and the Raiders among these episodes. Just don’t blink, or you’ll miss ‘em!
Egghead (Vincent Price) is the only villain I remember being smart enough on the series to almost figure out that Bruce Wayne was Batman, so that makes him credible in my book (despite all of his “eggs-cruciating” puns every five seconds). The Archer (Art Carney) is awesome because he steals from the rich and gives to the poor a la Robin Hood and his Merry Men, while The Minstrel (Van Johnson) oozes charm and romantic lyrics that make you fall in love with Van Johnson and his velvety voice all over again. Not only is The Minstrel a musical genius, but he’s also equally versed in electronics and probably the only villain worthy of facing Batman in a technological showdown of wits.
I was delighted to discover that one of the most memorable episodes from my childhood was included in this set — “The Spell of Tut” — the one in which King Tut (Victor Buono) tries to resurrect ancient Egyptian scarabs to wreak havoc upon Gotham City’s water supply. Also look for horror icon Sid Haig as the Royal Apothecary in the King Tut episodes. Another old favorite of mine, “The Greatest Mother of Them All,” featuring Shelley Winters as criminal matriarch Ma Parker and her gang, is also included. The Parker clan has always reminded me of the Beagle Boys on Duck Tales, another beloved show from my childhood and perhaps the subject of a future Throwback.
An unexpected surprise was seeing footage from the Indianapolis 500 used as a racing event held in Gotham City in “Come Back, Shame,” an episode with Cliff Robertson as Shame, “The Conniving Cowboy of Crime,” a cowpoke/car thief who looks like he was lifted out of a spaghetti western complete with his sidekick Okie Annie (Joan Staley from The Ghost & Mr. Chicken fame). Of course, Shame and crew don’t look quite as tough as your traditional cowboys with their polka dot handkerchiefs and etc., but that’s beside the point when you can “get angrier than a hyena with laryngitis.” Another hidden gem was “Hizzonner The Penguin,” an episode in which Penguin runs for Mayor of Gotham City against Batman. It was the weirdest political debates I’ve ever seen, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t want all of Penguin’s cute, clever campaign paraphernalia. He had lovable, furry penguins all over his campaign buttons, posters, stickers, etc. I wonder if anyone ever made any of that stuff collectible because I would buy a lot of it for my personal collection of pop cultural oddities!
All of Batman’s gadgets in the Bat Cave, Batmobile and utility belts have never looked better — every detail has been completely remastered in this DVD box set. While reviewing the set, I realized that there are two types of people in this world — those who can appreciate the campiness of this series and those who simply cannot. Neither my mother or boyfriend could make it past more than a handful of episodes before they were begging me to turn it off, but I could have gone on for hours (the set has a total running time of 755 minutes), and my 21-year-old brother and his friends seemed amicably interested as well.
Every “Splatt!,” “Pow!,” “Biff!” and “Zok!” (yes, you read that right: Zok!) practically pops out of the screen at you in amazing comic book color as do the fabulous glittering outfits worn by Chandell (Liberace), and I had a lot of fun reviewing this set. The Season Two, Part One DVD box set features beautiful artwork from the eye-catching covers to the four discs depicting the iconic ’66 Batman logo on each. The only disappointment I had with the set was its lack of bonus features, but that’s what the expensive, all-inclusive Blu-ray collector set is for I suppose. I’ve read the Blu-rays come with an episode guide, Adam West scrapbook, vintage trading cards, digital copies of the episodes and an exclusive Hot Wheels replica of the Batmobile. The discerning collector would be better off saving their pennies for the Blu-ray set, but if you’re yearning to get your hands on some of the episodes in the meantime or if you’re introducing the series to a new generation of fans, this box set is a good starting point. If I’m ever lucky enough to review another Batman set, I’ll catch you at the same Bat time, same Bat channel.