Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Holy 1080p! BATMAN coming to home video next week!

BATMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES Blu-ray limited edition set.

BATMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES is kind of a miracle.
One of the only TV series of the 1960s to rival the kind of hysteria created by DARK SHADOWS, BATMAN was a massive pop culture phenomenon that quickly imploded. Television networks were still using Draconian methods to track viewership in those days, but it's hard to say if later ratings standards would have helped to series. BATMAN aired two (occasionally three) times a week as a means of better exploiting it's "movie serial" pretense, producing a whopping 120 episodes between 1966 and 1968. No matter how good a dessert might be, nobody wants to eat it as a steady diet.

What happened next was even stranger. 20th Century Fox, the studio that produced the series, and Warner Bros., the studio that owned "Batman" and related characters, spent the next few decades in a legal standoff that was too absurd for a John Woo movie. The only morsel of the original series that was ever released to home video was the 1966 BATMAN: THE MOVIE theatrical feature. Fox owned that film, certain elements of the series (such as the "Bat Symbol" on the side of the Batmobile), characters created for the show and, most importantly, the actual television episodes.

Fox's rights to the series only extended to the television market.  Because the studio doesn't own the Batman characters they couldn't release the television series without the consent of Warner Bros. And WB had shown little interest in a project that obliged them to share revenue generated from properties they owned outright.

In other words: WB owned the keys, Fox owned the car, and neither were interested in carpooling.

BATMAN hasn't been entirely out of circulation, of course. It's appeared on syndicated television from time to time, and has been a mainstay product for bootleg DVD vendors (which tended to use sketchy recordings from those same television broadcasts.) If you wanted to watch BATMAN during the last few decades, these have been your only two options.

Prior to January's announcement that BATMAN was coming to home video, rumors had been circulating that suggested the two companies had reached an understanding. My favorite involved a settlement stemming from copyright issues over WATCHMEN, the legal mess between Fox and WB that resulted from the long-in-development feature film.

Who knows what the truth might be, but Fox and WB must have reached some kind of arrangement because BATMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on Nov. 11.

The home video release is a cause of celebration, but also a cause for sadness.

On the happier side: WB is pulling out all the stops. BATMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES has been remastered in high definition for a dazzling Blu-ray release that includes actor audition reels, commentary tracks, the famous BATGIRL television pilot and tons of other stuff. It's also being released in a "complete series" DVD package, and in individual DVD season sets. WB has more planned for later, such as a "greatest hits" compilation that packages 64 episodes in a 12 DVD set.

There's also the Blu Ray Limited Edition Set for hardcore fans, which includes three hours of extras, as well as:
  • Hot Wheels® Replica Batmobile
  • The Adam West Scrapbook
  • 44 Vintage Trading Cards
  • Ultraviolet Digital Copy
  • 32-Page Complete Episode Guide
This is clearly a "feast or famine" situation. While the Blu-ray box set is a bit expensive, WB has graciously made a lot of options available to fans.

Sadly, the legal wrangling that has been going on between WB and Fox for the last few decades means much of the cast will not be able to participate in the project. While Adam West and Burt Ward are still with us, we've since lost Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Eartha Kitt, Eli Wallach ... I'm going to end this list here because it's getting depressing. You probably see my point.

WB has released a split-screen video demonstrating the enhancements made to the BATMAN series for the new home video release.

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