REVIEW: The Adventures of Batman
Filmation caught lightning in a bottle. In 1965 or so, with no real money or track record, they bamboozled DC Comics into licensing Superman for animated fare. Just as the Man of Steel flew to his Broadway debut and Batmania was sweeping the country, they gave us Superman cartoons, followed by Aqualand and friends. Finally, in 1968, six months after the live-action series left ABC, CBS Saturday Morning welcomed The Batman/Superman Hour, mixing the 1966 super-doings with brand new 12-minute Bat-capades.
All 34 capers are now packaged in remastered form as The Adventures of Batman, a two-disc set from Warner Home Entertainment. At 10, I was delighted by these, even if some of the equipment and villains didn’t look quite on model, and even at that tender age, I recognized how many shots were reused to stretch the animation budget.
They played it straight and in animated form, worked without the camp element that propelled the live-action series to stratospheric heights. In a mere dozen minutes, we have a villain, conflict, death trap, battle, and quips between the Dynamic Duo. It was pleasing fare that went nicely with a bowl of cereal.
Olen Soule’s Batman was solid and serious with Casey Kasem’s Robin not sounding right. He just couldn’t vary his voice enough for the parts he played, which included Chief O’Hara. Ted Knight, the redoubtable narrator, does better with his Commissioner Gordon, Penguin, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, and Mad Hatter.
Dennis Marks, Bill Keenan, and Oscar Bensol were all animation veterans, with Marks going back to the beginning a few years before. They were joined by DC writers Bob Haney and George Kashdan, who both cut their teeth on the earlier Aquaman stories. Interestingly, they use the villainous heavy-hitters and add in Scarecrow, who never made it to live-action. Conversely, none of the live-action original foes are seen here. Instead, we get Simon the Pieman as a repeat offender.
Looking at them now, though, you see they were not terribly well-thought-out, and certainly, the conflicts and fights were pedestrian without the outrageousness of the ABC incarnation. It didn’t closely resemble either the Adam West-led series or the Julie Schwartz-edited comic books, so doesn’t particularly work well. This set is for nostalgia only.
The 1080p high definition transfer is definitely superior to the 2014 DVD collection but it also makes the limited animation more glaring. Thank goodness things move quickly enough you don’t pay attention. The best looking Batman is the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez style guide art that graces the box. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix is perfectly fine for what we’re dealing with.
The two-disc set presents zero extras nor is there a digital HD code.
My Crime Is Your Crime / A Bird Out of Hand
The Cool, Cruel Mr. Freeze / The Joke’s on Robin
How Many Herring in a Wheelbarrow? / In Again, Out Again Penguin
The Nine Lives of Batman / Long John Joker
Bubi, Bubi, Who’s Got the Ruby? / The 1001 Faces of the Riddler
The Big Birthday Caper / Two Penguins Too Many
Partners in Peril / The Underworld Underground Caper
Hizzoner the Joker / Freeze’s Frozen Vikings
The Crime Computer / The Great Scarecrow Scare
A Game of Cat and Mouse / Beware of Living Dolls
Will the Real Robin Please Stand Up? / He Who Swipes the Ice, Goes to the Cooler
Simon the Pieman / A Mad, Mad Tea Party
From Catwoman with Love / Perilous Playthings
A Perfidious Pieman Is Simon / Cool, Cruel Christmas Caper
The Fiendishly Frigid Fraud / Enter the Judge
The Jigsaw Jeopardy / Wrath of the Riddler
It Takes Two to Make a Team / Opera Buffa