Please indulge me on this one… Although I could have been only three or four years old at the time, I have distinct memories of watching Batman during its original TV run from 1966-1968. I mean, I can remember our house, where the television was located and where I sat to watch it. The first Halloween costume I remember was Batman. To this day, I am a fan of Batman in all his incarnations.
I welcomed the news that “Batman ’66”, as it’s now being called, was finally ( ! ) being released on home video. In the 49 years since it first aired, it has never been available in the format. Indeed, Burt Ward (Robin) said twice during Thursday afternoon’s press conference at Comic-Con that the most frequently-asked question of him over the years has been “when is it coming out?”
Ward, Adam West (Batman) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman) were on hand to discuss what is perhaps the most anticipated home entertainment release in fanboy history: “Batman: The Complete Television Series”, available on Blu-ray and DVD this November. All three were happy to share stories about the iconic and endearing television series.
However, none of the stars were eager to talk about subsequent versions of the Caped Crusader. West even stated, “I don’t think about them.” He was gracious about acknowledging the darker, perhaps more violent interpretations of the character, but equally proud in defending his version as the one, true Batman. It was a product of the 60s and hit the sweet spot for both kids and adults to become a phenomenon.
Newmar spoke about the camp factor and described it as an art unique to the 60s that does not exist anymore. West explained more than once that the actors played it dead serious, without ever “winking at the camera”. It took a particular skill set, with which West and Ward were perfect partners. Ward spoke most sentimentally about his relationship with West.
If I could categorize the responses of the stars to various questions from the press, I would say that Ward (60) has the most detailed memory of behind the scenes antics. West (86) has the best sense of humor and sense of what the phenomenon meant, both then and now. And Newmar (82) is the most ornery, often turning responses into innuendo… well, just like Catwoman might.
(By the way, Newmar is an absolutely stunning woman, beautiful for any age. She mentioned her early career as a ballet dancer and to this day maintains an elegant poise and grace. Of the stars in attendance, I was most in awe of her appearance.)
None of the three would admit to having a favorite villain (or actor) on the show. West was diplomatic by talking about how much he enjoyed working with Newmar. As for actors who never appeared on the show, Newmar said that Frank Sinatra wanted to play the Joker. It’s interesting to imagine how that would have turned out. (And it’s more interesting to imagine someone told him “no”.)
Newmar further talked about how they got big stars to appear on Batman. At the time, she said movie stars did not do television. However, the children of big movie stars would beg their parents to go on Batman so they could take them to the set to meet their hero. To accommodate all the guest stars, many were squeezed into “wall walker” or “popup” scenes with Batman and Robin climbing a building wall and celebrities opening windows to react.
I asked if any of them had a story they could tell me about horror legend Vincent Price. Ward answered, but not specifically. He told a lengthy story about egg fights that occurred onset when Price would appear to play the villain, Egghead. I wondered if Price had a good sense of humor about it, but it sounds like he must have.
Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has done us all a great service by finally releasing Batman: The Complete Television Series. And West, Ward and Newmar did a great service by appearing to talk about it. (They subsequently appeared in Hall H for a Thursday evening Comic-Con panel.) It was this fanboy’s dream come true to speak with them and snap a bat-picture or two.