Campy days of Bat­man re­vived in an­i­mated tales

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - BY JOE SZADKOWSKI

Holy an­i­mated nos­tal­gia trip, Bat­man! The Guardians of Gotham City cel­e­brate their 1960s live-ac­tion tele­vi­sion roots in “Bat­man: Re­turn of the Caped Cru­saders” (Warner Bros. Home En­ter­tain­ment, Rated PG, as­pect ra­tio, 1.78:1, 78 min­utes, $24.98).

With a con­spic­u­ous tip of the cowl to the Dy­namic Duo’s glory days on ABC back in 1966, this car­toon homage finds the Joker, Pen­guin, Rid­dler and Cat­woman look­ing to steal a repli­ca­tor ray gun, con­quer space and end the med­dling of Bat­man and Robin.

The key trio of orig­i­nal ac­tors pro­vides the tongue-in-cheek voice-over work — Adam West as Bat­man, Burt Ward as Robin and Julie New­mar as Cat­woman — mak­ing it a dream sce­nario for fans.

Tap­ping into the orig­i­nal se­ries through­out, the toon resur­faces such fun de­tails as the Shake­speare bust in the Wayne Manor study (cracked open to ex­pose a but­ton to get to the Bat Poles), the pair of he­roes ca­su­ally chat­ting as they climb up walls (no guests pop out of the win­dows) and the ap­pear­ance of Ge­orge Bar­ris’ awe­some Bat­mo­bile.

Bet­ter yet, an abun­dance of al­lit­er­a­tion (“This is patently pre­pos­ter­ous, you pre­ten­tious poser”), com­bined with those pop-art ono­matopo­etic vi­su­als for ev­ery punch and kick (Whomp! Boff! Umph!), and the Nel­son Riddle-in­spired jazz themes ce­ment the homage to the orig­i­nal.

If to cre­ate a new episode of the old show was the goal, then this toon is a suc­cess. But writ­ers Michael Je­lenic and James Tucker con­coct a dev­il­ish sec­ond act that finds an army of Bizarro-style Bat­men tak­ing over Gotham while Cat­woman and Robin team up to try to stop them. The epic fi­nale fea­tures not only the prin­ci­pals in battle but also ap­pear­ances by vil­lains such as Shane, Mr. Freeze, King Tut, Eg­ghead, Book­worm and the Mad Hat­ter.

I was even de­lighted with the an­i­ma­tion style, which looked like an early “Scooby Doo” car­toon.

How­ever, I have a few mi­nor beefs. First, the voice-over work of the three older leg­ends is strong and play­ful, but the vo­cal im­per­son­ations of the late orig­i­nal ac­tors Ce­sar Romero (Joker), Frank Gor­shin (Rid­dler) and Burgess Mered­ith (Pen­guin) are not con­sis­tent.

Wally Wingert of­fers the best homage to Gor­shin’s fre­netic in­flec­tions, in­clud­ing that in­sane laugh. Jeff Bergman as Romero’s Joker has the laugh but not the vo­cal style, while Wil­liam Sa­ly­ers is least ef­fec­tive with Mered­ith’s au­ral cre­ation of Pen­guin.

Also, part of the ab­sur­dity of Romero play­ing Joker was he re­fused to shave his mus­tache, so bris­tles were vis­i­ble un­der his pasty white fa­cial makeup. The bris­tles are miss­ing from the Joker’s an­i­mated coun­ter­part.

De­spite those mi­nor gripes, “Bat­man: Re­turn of the Caped Cru­saders” de­liv­ers a retro cel­e­bra­tion of a 1960s clas­sic.

Best of all, it in­spired me to dig out Blu-ray discs of the live tele­vi­sion show and even the 1966 “Bat­man” movie to re­live the camp­i­est mo­ments of a by­gone pop art era.

Best ex­tras: A pair of fea­turettes (about 20 min­utes com­bined) of­fers in­ter­views with the cast and crew as they gush about adapt­ing the old se­ries to a car­toon and the great voice-over work. I ap­pre­ci­ated words from Mr. West, Mr. Ward and Miss New­mar, but I could have used much more con­tent for this trip back in time.

Specif­i­cally, DC Comics has plenty of is­sues of the re­cently con­cluded dig­i­tal comic book se­ries “Bat­man 66.” A few could have been of­fered via down­load codes for hard-core fans.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.