ANNOUNCER: Midnight in Gotham City…the very dead of night. Executives from Fox and Warner, outside the studio? Something must be very much amiss inside the studio for them to be discussing Batman and Robin. A Mexican stand off? A plot? A deal? Oh, what tangled webs we weave. Then in the rosy-fingered morn, the announcement is made. It’s official…the 1966 Batman Television series is coming to DVD in 2014! While those of you breathlessly watched and waited, many man-hours have passed, but for the Dynamic Duo…mere moments. Stay tuned; the best is yet to come! Keep reading for details on the huge announcement!
Yes, the Batsignal has been turned on and fans of the hit 1966 Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward couldn’t be happier. The years of scratching for bootleg copies (I’ve only heard they are out there…cough), or trying to watch bad VHS copies or You Tube clips is over. How come it’s taken so long? Well a little bat history is in order.
The Batman TV series ran for 120 episodes from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968. 20th Century Fox was the studio that created the TV show. Therefore, Fox owns rights to the “show”. On the other side is Warner Bros. (who also owns DC Comics). They own the rights to the “character” (and characters) of “Batman”. So, it was a stalemate of sorts. Fox couldn’t license the character likenesses because Warner owns the “characters”. Warner couldn’t do anything with the actor likenesses because Fox owns the “series”. As you can imagine, this created a grim and confusing rights dispute, which has lasted (for fans of the show) interminably. Hence, no DVD’s (or Blu Ray’s)…no apparel…no toys. Nothing…. until recently!
Holy Handshake, Batman!
Back in June of 2013 at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, it was announced that a deal with Fox and Warner was finally struck. Warner Bros. Consumer Products would be able to use the likeness of Adam West as “Batman”, Burt Ward as “Robin”, Cesar Romero as “The Joker” and Frank Gorshin as the “Riddler”. The rest of the rouges gallery of villains including The Penguin, played by Burgess Meredith, and Catwoman, played by Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt respectively are also part of the deal. It is presumed that the estates of the other late actors in lesser-known (but memorable) roles have also been part of the deal. (I’m so going to purchase a Victor Bono “King Tut” bobblehead!)
I don’t know who he is behind that mask of his, but I know when we need him. And we need him now!
Yes, I am a professed 1966 Batman fan. The magic here is that I didn’t even see it first run. I wasn’t even born yet. But through the alchemy of reruns and syndication, I still discovered it as a child and it has never left me. It seized my imagination like nothing else; the Batcave, the Batmobile and all the astonishing labeled gadgets that seemingly came from nowhere. As a kid I was riveted by the action and adventure. As an adult, I delight in the camp. But thankfully, my inner child is still very much alive.
While I’m not a “collector” in the strictest sense, I do have some pretty cool Bat-centric toys in my editing suite. I own an actual red blinking beeping Batphone. (Yes it works exactly like the one on the show much to the dismay of my wife). And what Wayne Manor would be complete without a tilting Shakespeare Head…Yup I’ve got one of those too…complete with a working secret switch, which activates something, well…secret. (It’s pretty cool though).
Getting these toys was no easy feat. They were custom made, limited and expensive.
Those of us in the “Bat Community” know each other and over the years we had to work together and share our resources. Bat-forums were created to share screenshots and plans for props and to help us find builders or sculptors who, for a price would make us a one-off of something. Now it seems the licensing deal may put these cool toys within grasp of everyone.
To the Batmobile!
Some guys have taken Batman to a whole new level. My good friend Nate Truman who created the “Star Cars” club here in Los Angeles, owns a full size working replica of the 1966 Batmobile. And everything works just the way it worked on the series. The rocket tubes, the rear flame, the parachutes, it all functions. Riding in it is as marvelous as you can imagine. And the looks you get when you are riding in the Batmobile are just as priceless. Several years ago, I was directing a film and got permission to film the car coming out of the actual cave in Bronson Canyon, which served as the location for the exterior of the Batcave during the series. Talk about a childhood dream come true. Imagine two grown adults, sitting in the Batmobile inside the Batcave and then rocketing out. For a brief Twilight Zone moment, we were instantly twelve-year-old kids again. It was wonderful.
Even though a DVD release date has not yet been declared, the news has us Batfans rushing to our Batcomputers to glean any info we can. In the meantime, the collectable toy line, and the new Batman ‘66 comic book will delight legions of current fans and no doubt create some new ones. My batphone is summoning me. Its time to head to the store.
To the Batpoles…let’s go!
Brian Joseph Ochab is a writer and an Emmy® nominated director.