There's no doubt, though, that West, who had until recently held the record for most times playing Batman (both onscreen and via voiceover in a variety of animated series that followed), made an indelible mark in the role. That distance record has since been broken, I believe, by voice actor Kevin Conroy of Batman: The Animated Series, but West's canny take on the character, with his absolutely earnest delivery of outrageous dialogue, was inarguably the crucial ingredient in pulling off the delicate balancing act by producer William Dozier (also the narrator) between high camp for the adults and high adventure for the kiddies.
And then, of course, there was Robin. Ah, Robin. I loved Robin. And so did my dad. Each time Burt Ward would let fly another "Holy ______, Batman!" my dad would bust out laughing. I never understood what precisely he thought was so funny. This was serious business! There was one episode, and I don't remember which one, where the mid-week cliffhanger involved Batman and Robin being threatened by a giant Venus Flytrap, which devours Robin as he pleads for Batman's help. I was horrified*. What was going to happen to Robin?? Meanwhile, I don't think I'd ever heard my dad laugh so hard in all my life.
Sadly, due to a legal impasse between show owners Twentieth Century Fox, producer William Dozier's estate, and rights-holders Warner Bros., Batman has frustratingly eluded an official, authorized release for far, far too long -- a state of affairs which has persisted until today (click here to read how the legal issues were finally resolved). After all the years of hope, false starts, and frustration, it feels like some kind of wonderful mirage, but it's actually here. All 120 eps, beautifully restored for hi-def, and available in a multitude of iterations, including a complete series box set on blu-ray that's packed to the gills with special features taking us behind-the-scenes, as well as other assorted goodies (Batmobile toy!).
Now that I'm able to watch Batman reruns with my own kids, I finally get the series the way my dad got it. I sometimes have to stifle my giggles lest I shatter the kiddies' carefully-constructed reality, but if their reactions are anything to go by, the show works just as well today as it did back then, proving the unbreakable elasticity of this seventy-five year old (and counting!) myth, with room for a vast array of differing interpretations that can comfortably stand shoulder-to-shoulder with one another. While the current Bat-zeitgeist may have (temporarily?) moved away from it, I'm glad there's still room for a version of Batman where two grown men in leotards and capes can drive around in broad daylight and be treated as deputized law enforcement.
*A trip through the special features revealed to me that I wasn't the only one who was terrified by this exact cliffhanger, so I take some comfort from that.
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