Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Batman [tv]

US tv series (1966-1968). Greenway Productions/ 20th Century-Fox/ABC. Pr Howie Horwitz. Exec pr William Dozier. Dir Robert Butler and many others Writers Lorenzo Semple Jr (1923-2014), Henry Slesar and many others. Based on the Comic-book characters created by Bob Kane. Starring John Astin (The Riddler), Tallulah Bankhead (The Black Widow), Anne Baxter (Zelda), Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet Cooper), Milton Berle (Louie the Lilac), Victor Buono (King Tut), Art Carney (The Archer), Joan Collins (The Siren), Yvonne Craig (Barbara Gordon/Batgirl 1967-1968), Howard Duff (Cabala), Maurice Evans (The Puzzler), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Minerva), Frank Gorshin (The Riddler), Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon), Van Johnson (The Minstrel), Carolyn Jones (Marsha, Queen of Diamonds), Eartha Kitt (Catwoman), Bruce Lee (Kato), Liberace (Chandell), Ida Lupino (Dr Cassandra), Roddy McDowall (The Bookworm), Burgess Meredith (The Penguin), Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth), Julie Newmar (Catwoman), Otto Preminger (Mr Freeze), Vincent Price (Egghead), Michael Rennie (The Sandman), Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara), Cliff Robertson (Shame), Cesar Romero (The Joker), Barbara Rush (Nora Clavicle), George Sanders (Mr Freeze), Walter Slezak (The Clock King), Malachi Throne (False-Face), Rudy Vallee (Lord Phogg), Eli Wallach (Mr Freeze), Burt Ward (Dick Grayson/Robin), David Wayne (The Mad Hatter), Adam West (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Van Williams (The Green Hornet), Shelley Winters (Ma Parker). 120 30min episodes. Colour.

One of the biggest tv hits of the 1960s, this series portrayed Batman strictly for laughs. While the basic setting remained the same, with Batman and Robin striking out against criminals from their Batcave, this version made a deliberate effort to be different – and succeeded admirably. Though the actors played their roles with apparent seriousness, the series went for a deliberately campy style, as evidenced in the plots, sets and dialogue.

Unusually, two episodes were aired each week: the first always ended with the heroes seemingly in deadly peril, and the second got them out of it. Only one person (a villain in the pilot episode, played by Jill St John) was ever killed or maimed; instead, the many fist fights were punctuated by unusual camera angles and giant "Splat!", "Pow!" and other comics-style visual gimmicks. Another trademark was the "Bat" labelling of everything in the Batcave, from the Batcomputer to the Batpoles that led down from stately Wayne Manor. The biggest eyecatcher was the atomic-powered Batmobile.

The series was an instant hit, and the USA was swept by Batmania. Batman costumes were the biggest sellers at Hallowe'en, and the studio was hounded by actors wanting to be guest Villains; the producers cast many of them in cameo roles. As well as using villains straight out of the comic books, the series introduced several new ones. By far the most memorable Villains were The Penguin (played only by Burgess Meredith), The Joker (played only by Cesar Romero), The Riddler (played by Frank Gorshwin in the first and third seasons, and John Astin in one second-season episode), and Catwoman (played by Julie Newmar in the first two seasons and Eartha Kitt in the third season); Batman (1986) (> Batman Movies), which sprang from the series, featured all four.

Oddly, though, after just two seasons the ratings began to fall. In a move to save the show, the producers introduced a new character, Batgirl, and cut back to one episode per week. Played by Yvonne Craig in a skintight costume, Batgirl rode into battle on her customized Batcycle, a powerful motorcycle. Nevertheless, the Caped Crusader was vanquished by tv's deadliest foe – the Nielsen ratings. Stars West and Ward were later reunited to provide the voices of Batman and Robin in an animated series, Batman and the Super Seven (1980-1981). They were also reunited as Batman and Robin in a campy spoof, The Challenge of the Super Heroes (1979 tvm), which additionally used other superheroes from the DC pantheon. Another Batman animated series was The New Adventures of Batman and Robin (1977-1978). [BC]

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.