Thursday, October 29, 2015

On DVD: The Adventures of Batman w/Robin, the Boy Wonder (1968)

With the notable exception of Superboy (due to legal issues that have been resolved), all of Filmation's DC Comics cartoons of the 60's are now on DVD.

Batman was the last series from that period, and, as has been well documented, due to the live-action series, the Caped Crusader couldn't be used by Filmation as long as the Fox-produced ABC series was on the air. Once it ended in the spring of 1968, all bets were off, if you will.

The series continues the campy spirit of the previous series, with Ted Knight doing his best to approximate the voice of live-action producer William Dozier as narrator. Knight also voiced most, but not all, of the villains, a daunting challenge for any actor. The notable exception, of course, being the Joker. Astute scholars have chalked that up to Larry Storch (ex-F-Troop), who began a lengthy association with the studio. Sadly, Filmation chose not to bring Storch back for the New Adventures series (1977-81), opting instead to have Len Weinrib do the yeoman's work that Knight did here.

There are healthy doses of Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman, plus a generous helping of Mr. Freeze. The Scarecrow, long since rebooted as more of a malevolent menace than presented here, made only one appearance, as did the Mad Hatter. Knight's rendering of the Hatter suggested a cross between WC Fields and Jim Backus' Mr. Magoo. As a plus, the episodes are uncut, unlike the heavily edited versions that have aired on cable in recent years. Take for example, "The Jigsaw Jeopardy". You're not going to find the uncut version on YouTube. A key scene where Barbara Gordon (Jane Webb) prepares to change to Batgirl shows her pulling a second costume out of her secret closet, as she would go undercover as a Robin doppleganger in an attempt to fool the Riddler. Subsequent repeats on cable in the 90's edited that part out for time purposes.

Olan Soule (Dragnet) was cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne, beginning a very long association with the Caped Crusader that continued when he and Casey Kasem (Robin/Dick Grayson/various characters) reunited at Hanna-Barbera a few years later. For some reason, the producers decided to give Catwoman (Webb) a green bodysuit with white boots & mask, as opposed to the all-black ensemble worn by Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather, and Eartha Kitt. Just as curiously, Commissioner James Gordon (Knight) was drawn as clean shaven with brown hair, not the look he had in the comics back then. Neil Hamilton, who played Gordon in the live-action series, had the right hair color, but was also clean shaven.

The theme music composed by John Marion really swings. Scope out the open/close video:

One must assume plenty of throat drops were at the ready for all the work Knight & Kasem did on the show.

Rating: A.


Samuel Wilson said...

Catwoman briefly sported a green costume in the comics but I don't know when exactly or whether the change was inspired by this cartoon or vice versa.

hobbyfan said...

It was a different kind of green outfit. She had that when we started buying books again in 1980, during one of those periods when Selina was Bruce Wayne's girl, and Catwoman was a Bat-ally.

SaturdayMorningFan said...

"With the notable exception of Superboy (due to legal issues that have been resolved)"
I'm glad to hear this. Hopefully the DVD is in the pipeline over at WB.

hobbyfan said...

I imagine it is, but no formal announcement yet.