Batman goes to camp
As I mentioned last week, this is a big month for fans of the Batman, what with the theatrical release of The Dark Knight. This week 20th Century Fox reissues on DVD (and now Blu-ray too) a nostalgic favorite for old-school fans of the Caped Crusader -- the original Batman: The Movie.
It's the feature-length comedy that hit the big screens in 1966, between the first and second seasons of ABC's Batman TV series' three-season run. Now considered a "camp classic," it's a silly-without-shame ancestor of the Zucker Brothers' Police Squad! TV series and Naked Gun and Airplane! movies. Sure, it's all so far over the top they installed a ski lift. It winks at the audience so often you develop a tic. Yet it's well-crafted and self-aware pop cheese that for more than three decades has maintained a devoted fan following.
Its plot is a TV episode blown up to triple-helping proportions. Philanthropic millionaire Bruce Wayne (Family Guy's Adam West in the role he consumed with droll relish and made his own) and his youthful ward, Dick Grayson (Burt Ward, all gosh-wow enthusiasm and earnest Boy Wonder intensity), slide down the Bat-pole and, as the Caped Crusaders, speed off in the Batmobile and Batcopter to the latest Bat-emergency. At stake is a kidnapped British tycoon and his super-invention, a Hoover vacuum cleaner that extracts all moisture from a human body, reducing the victim to a handful of Kool-Aid-colored powder. The culprits are no less than four of Batman's most favored fiendish foes -- the Joker (Cesar Romero with white face paint over his famous Latin lover mustache), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith, ad-libbing bon mots in top hat, tails, and signature cigarette holder), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin, his manic giggle branding him forever), and the Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, sexy and versatile and the living embodiment of "lift and separate"). These vile vultures of villainy -- you can't help but talk like that after watching this -- team up to take over the world by using the de-liquifier on the United World Security Council.
Can the Dynamic Duo stop the "fearsome foursome" in time? Will Bruce Wayne fall under the spell of lovely Miss Kitka, exotic correspondent for the Moscow Bugle, who happens to be Catwoman in disguise? Can the man-eating shark (rubber, leaking water from its sides) be stopped with Shark-Repellent Bat-Spray? Will Commissioner Gordon decipher the Riddler's criminal conundrums? ("What weighs four ounces and is very dangerous?" "A sparrow with a machine gun." "Of course!") Well, naturally.
Like most of its long-time fans, it's a bit saggy in the middle, but along the way we're treated to dozens of giddily ludicrous Bat-gadgets and a script supported with laugh-out-loud lines and crisp directing.
Among the other new DVDs hitting shelves this week, look for:
Heathers (20th High School Reunion Edition)
The first season of TV's Mad Men (DVD and Blu-ray)
Vantage Point -- In both single-disc and "Deluxe" editions.
Mad Men -- for the birds?
At SpoutBlog -- "Daily coverage of what is truly interesting in the film world" -- Karina Longworth says that the "most notable DVD release of the week has to be the first season of Mad Men." She adds a fan-made video that "specifically highlights Mad Men's Hitchcock allusions: the slate-gray, Madeline Elster-esque suit that Betty wears to therapy; Don's spying, here symbolized by his employment of a home movie camera like something out of a cross between Peeping Tom and Rear Window; and my favorite, Betty's fateful encounter with a flock of birds."
"See if you can guess what I am now."
Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule -- I defy you to find a film blog with a cooler title -- noted that June 28 marked the 30th anniversary of the release of National Lampoon's Animal House -- "a tender, minor-key rumination on the bitter psychological ramifications of higher education as a force of oppression to be dodged, laughed at or otherwise humiliated by a cadre of smart-ass cognoscenti, all to the beat of the Kingsmen, Sam Cooke... and Stephen Bishop." To salute that seminal cinematic sweetness, SLIFR has officially declared July "Animal House Double Secret Probation month."
"Welcome to Sherwood, my lady!"
Warner Home Video has announced that on August 26 The Adventures of Robin Hood will arrive on Blu-ray high-def.
This big, sunny, hugely enjoyable dazzler -- impeccably cast, directed, and produced -- is a pitch-perfect action romance from 1938 and exults in all good things we associate with Golden Age Hollywood. Here in lavish portions are athletic Errol Flynn's dashing bigger-than-lifeness, Olivia de Havilland playing Maid Marian as a "bold Norman beauty" without being drippy about it, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains as the villains Sir Guy of Gisbourne and King John, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's rousing orchestral score, a thousand resplendent costumes, loads of comic byplay, and swordfight scenes that set the standard for all subsequent swordfight scenes.
Making sure we miss none of it, the movie bursts from the screen with the kind of glossy, incandescent Technicolor that sears images directly into your visual cortex. It's staggeringly well-made "all ages" fun.
The Adventures of Robin Hood, restored with Warner's patented Ultra-Resolution process, will sell for $28.99 SRP. Special features -- some carried over from the current excellent Warner DVD Special Edition -- include Welcome to Sherwood: Story of the Adventures of Robin Hood, a commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer, Katnip Kollege (presented in full 1080p HiDef), Robin Hood Daffy (1958 WB cartoon presented in full 1080p HiDef)), Rabbit Hood (1949 WB cartoon presented in full 1080p HiDef), A Journey of Sherwood Forest, outtakes, and lots more.
Also returning to home video in new editions are Sony's Child's Play -- Chucky's 20th Birthday Edition (September 9), Warner Home Video's Risky Business -- 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (September 16, DVD/Blu-ray), and Warner Home Video's L.A. Confidential -- Two-Disc Special Edition (September 23).
Via Cinema Retro, we find out that the "superb web site www.potamediaarchive.com is a treasure trove of resources for Planet of the Apes fans, providing rare poster images and video clips pertaining to the series. These include The Simpsons spoof, an appearance by Roddy McDowall (in full Cornelius makeup) on The Carol Burnett Show and the original Fox production featurette from 1968."
Shaken or stirred?
"Sony is launching its own DVD line of 'hip and cool' library titles called, for some undisclosed reason, 'Martini Movies.' Not all of them sound exactly hip, but the list definitely whets the appetite. The Anderson Tapes, The Garment Jungle, The New Centurions and Nickelodeon are planned for September 23, while this list of 'future titles' was offered: Affair in Trinidad, The Comic / Enter Laughing, Five, Getting Straight, Gumshoe, The Heat's On, Husbands, I Never Sang for My Father, Nightwing, Our Man in Havana, Vibes. A good list by any measure."
Kim Morgan, in her latest Sunset Gun entry, dips into her DVD library to say "Though I've avoided reviews (but I have heard that it's awful), M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening has made me revisit my piece on some of my favorite cinematic twist endings."
"What makes for a true twist ending in a movie? Is it merely a shocking jolt of amazement? Is it that moment of recognition the movie was seeking? Is it... 'Rosebud?' It can be all these things and more, provided the picture's story is greatly altered by the final, shocking disclosure. It should also smack audiences with a 'never saw that coming' wallop. And it should never be abused. (M. Night listen up). As for now, I've listed 10 of my favorite twist endings. Some are classic, some are new and some are probably surprising."
And a fine, sometimes provocative list it is, too.
Fire bad. DVD pretty.
Finally (for now), Glenn Kenny -- at his Some Came Running -- amusingly illustrates "the thing about owning a good-quality flatscreen plasma television is, you'll watch pretty much any damn thing on it, particularly if it's in high definition. Sigh."