Entry updated 8 April 2020. Tagged: TV.
US tv series (1966-1968). Greenway Productions/ 20th Century-Fox/ABC. Produced by Howie Horwitz; executive producer William Dozier; directed by Robert Butler and many others. Writers: Lorenzo Semple Jr, Henry Slesar and many others. Based on the Comic-book characters created by Bob Kane. Cast includes John Astin (The Riddler), Tallulah Bankhead (The Black Widow), Anne Baxter (Zelda), Milton Berle (Louie the Lilac), Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet Cooper), Victor Buono (King Tut), Art Carney (The Archer), Joan Collins (The Siren), Yvonne Craig (Barbara Gordon/Batgirl 1967-1968), Howard Duff (Cabala), Maurice Evans (The Puzzler), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Minerva), Frank Gorshin (The Riddler), Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon), Van Johnson (The Minstrel), Carolyn Jones (Marsha: Queen of Diamonds), Eartha Kitt (Catwoman), Bruce Lee (Kato), Liberace (Chandell), Ida Lupino (Dr Cassandra), Roddy McDowall (The Bookworm), Burgess Meredith (The Penguin), Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth), Julie Newmar (Catwoman), Otto Preminger (Mr Freeze), Vincent Price (Egghead), Michael Rennie (The Sandman), Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara), Cliff Robertson (Shame), Cesar Romero (The Joker), Barbara Rush (Nora Clavicle), George Sanders (Mr Freeze), Walter Slezak (The Clock King), Malachi Throne (False-Face), Rudy Vallee (Lord Phogg), Eli Wallach (Mr Freeze), Burt Ward (Dick Grayson/Robin), David Wayne (The Mad Hatter), Adam West (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Van Williams (The Green Hornet) and Shelley Winters (Ma Parker). 120 30-minute episodes. Colour.
One of the biggest television hits of the 1960s, this series portrayed Batman strictly for laughs. While the basic setting remained the same, with Batman and Robin striking out against criminals from their Batcave, this version made a deliberate effort to be different – and succeeded admirably. Though the actors played their roles with apparent seriousness, the series went for a deliberately campy style, as evidenced in the plots, sets and dialogue.
Unusually, two episodes were aired each week: the first always ended with the heroes seemingly in deadly peril, and the second got them out of it. Only one person (a villain in the pilot episode, played by Jill St John) was ever killed or maimed; instead, the many fist fights were punctuated by unusual camera angles and giant "Splat!", "Pow!" and other comics-style visual gimmicks. Another trademark was the "Bat" labelling of everything in the Batcave, from the Batcomputer to the Batpoles that led down from stately Wayne Manor. The biggest eye-catcher was the atomic-powered Batmobile.
The series was an instant hit, and the USA was swept by Batmania. Batman costumes were the biggest sellers at Hallowe'en, and the studio was hounded by actors wanting to be guest Villains; the producers cast many of them in cameo roles. As well as using villains straight out of the comic books, the series introduced several new ones. By far the most memorable were The Penguin (played only by Burgess Meredith), The Joker (played only by Cesar Romero), The Riddler (played by Frank Gorshwin in the first and third seasons, and John Astin in one second-season episode), and Catwoman (played by Julie Newmar in the first two seasons and Eartha Kitt in the third season); Batman (1986) (see Batman Films), which sprang from the series, featured all four.
Oddly, though, after just two seasons the ratings began to fall. In a move to save the show, the producers introduced a new character, Batgirl, and cut back to one episode per week. Played by Yvonne Craig in a skintight costume, Batgirl rode into battle on her customized Batcycle, a powerful motorcycle. Nevertheless, the Caped Crusader was vanquished by television's deadliest foe – the Nielsen ratings. Stars West and Ward were later reunited to provide the voices of Batman and Robin in the Batman animated segments of the series Tarzan and the Super 7 (1979-1980) and its successor Batman and the Super 7 (1980-1981). They were also reunited as Batman and Robin in a campy spoof television movie, Legends of the Superheroes (1979; vt Challenge of the Superheroes), which additionally featured other superheroes from the DC pantheon in the context of DC's Justice League of America team. Further Batman animated series are The New Adventures of Batman and Robin (1977-1978), The Adventures of Batman and Robin (1992-1995) and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-2011). A spinoff starring Batman's daughter by Catwoman, plus other characters from the comics continuity, is Birds of Prey (2002-2003). [BC]
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