Mission: to write this review without making a single "Holy (insert verbiage here)" joke or SOCK! WHAM! POW! reference.
The plot, at its most basic: Batman and Robin (Adam West and Burt Ward) investigate the disappearance of British distillery magnate Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny); what they uncover is a unholy teaming of their worst enemies: Catwoman, The Penguin, The Joker and The Riddler (Lee Meriwether, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin, respectively), who have kidnaped Schmidlapp and stolen his new invention: a dehydration ray which can instantly reduce a person to powder. Employing this device, they actually steal the United Nations (or, in the not-really-our-planet venue of this Batman, "The United World Organization").
This version of the Somewhat-Less-Than-Dark-Knight, of course, comes from a TV series that was a direct outgrowth of the campy pop art movement of the mid-60s, when overblown reproductions of soup cans and comic panels became high art. As such, it was phenomenally successful, leading to a merchandising frenzy not seen again until Star Wars. Tongue firmly in cheek, it was lighthearted, goofy fun, managing the neat trick of providing satire without a mean bone in its body.
This movie is more of the same, though it has a slightly harder edge (by my unscientific count at least five henchmen die in the course of this movie) and larger budget. The scenes of the Batboat, Batcopter, Batcycle et al built for the movie would be thriftily recycled through the TV show for several years.
I was about 8 when the series premiered, and like every other child in America, I was smitten by it, dashing about with a shirt knotted around my throat for a cape. In high school and college, I despised the show, and now in adulthood, I find myself warm towards it once more. But even when I hated the series, I had to agree the movie was a lot of fun; and if nothing else, it speaks reams about the Batman character - that it not only survived this sort of treatment, but has continued to flourish.
The menus are a delight, boasting animated graphics, clips from the movie, and to start things off on the right foot, new voice clips from Burt Ward and Adam West: "Holy interactive menu, Batman!" "Precisely, Robin - it appears to be some sort of navigation device! How clever!" Clicking on any of the submenus rewards you with additional animations and another sound clip - in all, quite reminiscent of the menus from MGM's superb James Bond Official 007 series, only goofier.
The picture quality itself is nothing short of phenomenal, razor sharp and full of four-color goodness. The print itself is flawless; the audio is just as clear as the image. Good work on all fronts. There is an adequate if uninspiring stereo re-mix, and the original mono track is retained for purists.
"The Batman Featurette" is a 17 minute confection weaving interview segments with Ward and West into clips from the movie. The interviews provide a nice background, covering as it does Ward's audition and his subsequent flirtations with danger from various props and set pieces ("My stunt man was always off having coffee with Adam"), and the warm comraderie on the set. The biggest surprise - though it should have been expected - is that Burt Ward has turned into a middle-aged man just like the rest of us.
"The Batmobile Revealed" is a 7 minute piece with designer George Barris talking about designing and building the Batmobile in three weeks. Not to mention getting arrested while driving it to a photo op because it had no windshield wipers.
There are two photo galleries, "From the Vault of Adam West" and "Behind The Scenes", and three trailers, one in Spanish. These are my favorites, simply because while Batman and Robin speak directly to the camera, telling us what a great movie is coming our way... Adam West is so obviously fighting the urge to burst out laughing...(apparently a big problem on the set. That we ever got takes where everyone manages to keep a straight face is astounding)
The audio commentary track, featuring Ward and West, could have been more informative, but as it is they sound like what they are - old friends talking over good times. West leaves the action on the screen at one point to muse about being a part of something so iconic. And if they touch on anecdotes already mentioned in the featurette, they are also able to talk more about their co-workers. Their comments are universally kind, and though that may seem like the Hollywood burn-no-bridges standard operating procedure, they also seem genuinely sincere; and after all, from this particular Batman and Robin, one would expect no less.
Dr. Freex, 10/14/2001