Cleaned-up and remastered in surprisingly detailed 1080p and via MPEG-4, this 1.85:1 transfer is the epitome of a sixties movie in that it is wilfully colourful to the point of being blinding and boasts a vibrant sheen that can be spectacularly garish at times - even when clearly filmed under a terribly downcast sky.
Just look at those primaries! Reds literally pop from the screen. The edging on the Batmobile is gloriously bright and sharp. Robin's costume is incredibly vibrant. The pale blue nylon of Batman's tights and the chocolate-wrapper shimmer of his cape and the freakish green of Joker's bouffant are reproduced with terrific saturation. Considering the overall brightness of the colours I am actually surprised and impressed that their boundaries are never smudged and the chroma never once shifts. This is a film and a transfer that revels in brandishing the full spectrum off at its scintillating best. The pink of Joker's suit juxtaposed with the intense green of the Riddler's - either his suit or that embarrassing body-stocking. The sequin-adorned costume of Catwoman looks like a star-field in the night-sky and check out the purple of Penguin's top hat.
Detail is also much better than I had expected, with lots more clarity afforded the array of villain-related paraphernalia on the walls of their communal hideout and more visual information inherent in shots of the Bat-Cave or in Commissioner Gordon's office or the parlour of Wayne Manor. It is nothing staggering, but there is a greater level of depth also afforded such scenes, with group shots of the good guys pacing up and down and Bruce entering the room at the back of the frame to meet Alfred and Dick in the foreground offering a greater sense of dimensionality than any prior version of the film could have hoped to achieve. However, some of the more finicky elements of the picture - such as the wire helping the exploding shark do its thing and Romero's moustache - are also much more apparent in high definition. Though this possibly only adds to the kitsch entertainment value of the movie. Black levels, too, are strong and I doubt that we are missing anything from within them in the way of crushed detail. The Batmobile, especially, looks even sleeker and shinier and, wow, that red edging really projects from the screen.
There is film grain apparent but this hardly distracting and it is also consistent throughout, unless you count the moments when stock footage of Polaris missiles have been utilised, which do look awful. But the print, on the whole, looks astonishingly good and betrays no damage to speak of. Compression defects are also very nicely absent in the main and there is only minimal edge enhancement.
To summarize, then, Batman looks resplendantly colourful and clearly more detailed than it has before. It isn't as sharp as some other releases of films from this period, but it remains nicely textured and is definitely an upgrade from SD versions.
Directionality is addressed with the somewhat curious, but pleasurable sound of tiddlywinks being flicked across the front, and then the hum and thrum of machinery and gadgets in the Bat-Cave which do supply some bleed-out to the rears. One particular explosion is sent quite thunderously to the back, but this is fun stuff, not accurate stuff. Dialogue is always clear and never drowned-out by any of the OTT activity ripping across the other channels. And, fantastically, those themes from composer Neal Hefti are wonderfully presented by the DTS-MA track. Top brass really shines with shrill excess and the pounding percussion bass-riff sounds punishingly catchy.
We also get to hear Neal Hefti's wonderful and iconic score on an isolated track in scintillatingly clear DTS-MA 5.1. Hefti was a hugely acclaimed jazz musician and composer and is also responsible for the ultra-catchy and incredibly rare score for the action-packed James Garner western, Duel At Diablo. I wish they'd get round to releasing that score properly sometime.
Fox have put together a much, much better track than I thought we would get. It isn't realistic in any way, shape or form, but it is hugely vibrant and enjoyable.
The second commentary, from a growly-voiced Lorenzo Semple Jnr, is sadly rather dull and dry. A surprisingly technical affair - for a writer - this is often at odds with what we are seeing on-screen, almost as though Semple has forgotten that he is talking about a comedy. As such, the facts and anecdotes that he supplies quickly become tedious and all a bit, well, flat. Personally, I didn't stick with it, I'm afraid.
There is also the afore-mentioned isolated score from Neal Hefti which is a great inclusion.
Batman: A Dynamic Legacy (28.29) features a typical round-up of Batman disc contributors - writers, artists, historians and film/TV show producers - who all wax lyrical about the show and how became such a cult phenomenon. Nicely produced with montages of stills in comic-strip format, or in cine-reel style, we see on-et snaps and lots of fan/celebrity meetings. We hear about the stars of the show and the film and the impact that the new take had not just in America, but around the world. What is great to see is contributions from Brit-crits Richard Hollis and the redoubtable Kim Newman, as both bring a uniquely English spin on the appeal and how it was essentially the promise of seeing Batman in colour for the first time - the UK didn't get colour TV until 1969 - that drove kids wild about the event. Of the stars, we only get to meet Lee Meriwether, who discusses how she got the part and what it was like to work with each of the other cast members. The documentary is thoroughly entertaining and certainly informs and amuses as it bubbles colourfully along. At the end, it manages to put the Adam West incarnation into the greater context of what followed, with Burton's and Nolan's versions turning full circle and going back to the Bat's darker roots.
The same crowd also populate the next two featurettes - Caped Crusaders: A Hero's Tribute (12.29) and Gotham City's Most Wanted (15.51). Both of these take a look at the over-the-top characters that chew the scenery in the series and the movie. The first focuses on the good guys, paying particular attention to Batman and Robin, obviously, but also spending time with the appealing trio of Commissioner Gordon, Chief O' Hara and Alfred the butler. Comparisons between the live-action incarnations and those that appeared on the pages of the comics are made, but all agree that the daft versions depicted in the movie were, to a one, essential components in its everlasting success and popularity. The second featurette is look at the rich stock of villainy that plagues Batman and Robin. We here of people's adoration for the performances of Gorshin, Meredith and Romero and also how either bizarrely effective it was or downright irritating that Romero refused to shave of his trademark moustache for the part. Meriwether, once again, tells us of how great it was to work with such a cast and how protective they were of her, especially Romero. These are smart little companion-pieces that, along with the first documentary were obviously all filmed as part of one longer work, but, for once, the slicing-down and compartmentalising of the topics actually runs smoothly and doesn't seem so stupidly arbitrary.
The 2001 Featurette is a 16.47 minute interview with both Adam West and Burt Ward. Recorded separately, this is nevertheless a pretty engaging affair that allows the pair to reveal how they each got the part and how much they enjoyed working on the show and the movie. Ward, especially, is on form with heaps of anecdotes about his naiveté at the time and how much he suffered as poor, battered Robin. West is fine, too, though perhaps not as spontaneous as Ward. But both agree that Robin bore the brunt of the knocks and scrapes. Great story about the unpredictable sidecar to the Bat-Cycle!
The Batmobile Revealed with George Barris (5.47) is just as the title implies - a history of the Lincoln Futura concept car that Barris transformed into the cult icon that is the Batmobile. Interestingly, he tells of getting arrested during a press-shoot by an over-zealous cop because the vehicle wasn't exactly street-legal, and we also get to see one simply gorgeous miniature version.
Flowing on directly from this, we get the Batmobile Interactive Tour which is a highly detailed and very smooth-running 360-degree walk-around and top-down analysis of the vehicle, its stats and its gadgets. You choose how to view it and what to look at and the disc pops up the relevant information in side-bars and zooms-in to the appropriate section. This worked extremely well on my PS3, although I have heard of problems on some other machines.
Then we get a nice gimmicky feature that runs alongside the movie once activated. Batman On Location: Mapping The Movie offers up a see-through map of LA on the left of the screen, whilst on the right, details, directions and factoids are displayed about each and seemingly every location that we take in en route through the movie. There is far too much here to go into, but this such fascinatingly pointless stuff that you can't help but be pleased they made the effort to produce it.
More typical of the form are the Holy Trivia Track, Batman! pop-up facts that you can access and reveal lots more background detail and titbits about the film.
Finally, rounding out a very thorough package, we get the film's original theatrical teaser and trailer, as well as the Spanish Trailer and then some groovy Stills Galleries. All in all, this is a great, and very satisfying selection of bonus material that fits right in with the fun of the movie.
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