Monday, November 7, 2016

Return of the Caped Crusaders review...

Holy return to the mid '60s!!! Sort of...

I purchased my copy of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders back on November 1st at a local retail store. In my August blog entry promoting the upcoming release of the DVD I mentioned I'd return and provide my comments about the animated movie and there are going to be spoilers a-plenty so I'm giving fair notice ahead of time.

So many people have remarked on the movie that a lot of information is out there by now but from my perspective I'd like to add that it's an entertaining movie and I particularly liked the clever opening sequence of having freeze frame snap shots of classic comic book covers. There have been some grumblings, though, as it pertains to the vocals. I didn't find anything particularly terrible. To a general audience, in which cartoon watching isn't perhaps part of a routine television habit, you are probably not aware that Adam West has lent his voice to a number of animated projects over the decades. His voice, obviously, has a deeper resonance to it than it did back in the mid '60s due to age...but he can still deliver the kind of lines you've come to expect from the mid '60s Batman and that vocal is still identifiable as 'Adam West'. The reading of the lines are a bit slower but you can't help that. The story makes up for it because of it's overall plot centering on a duplicator ray...and the effects of a drug administered by Catwoman...and the unexpected turns that the story takes.

Given the vocal performers include three from the mid '60s live-action series (Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar) and the designs are on-model from the TV series, the writers used the visuals and phrases from the TV series as a launching point for a story that you'd never see in the actual mid '60s TV series.  There's one scene in which they find aluminum foil...leading the duo to deduce that the criminals are hiding out in a warehouse which houses frozen TV dinners...and they find themselves strapped to a giant sized TV dinner in a death trap mirroring the kinds of cliffhanger scenes of the live action mid '60 TV series.

I made mention of a duplicator comes into play during a scene in which a group of scientists are experimenting with it's capabilities. One of the scientists uses a variation of the phrase "but in the wrong hands it could prove dangerous" and on cue The Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman enter the facility to steal the device.

The villains take the device but you don't see them use it that much and the reason for that is because of the major plot twist in the story. Catwoman drugs Batman...but, at first, he feels as if he's summoned up enough will power to not fall prey to her clutches and he proudly states that her plans to control his mind have come to an end. However, in the ensuing 10 to 20 minutes that follow, it's clear that neither Batman nor his alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, are behaving normal. Standing on the sidelines, as they happened to be in the mid '60s TV series, are the likes of Alfred, Aunt Harriet, Commissioner Gordon, and Chief O'Hara.

In one of the elements that parodies the mid '60s TV series, Aunt Harriet enters Bruce's study in one scene...which happened to be an absolute no-no in the live action '60s series.

The closest Aunt Harriet came to actually entering the study on the TV series happened to be in a couple of episodes. In one episode the beeping of the Batphone leads her to almost open the door of the which point Alfred prevents her from doing by alerting her that 'Master Bruce' has some delicate hi-fi equipment causing the beeping sounds and it wouldn't be a good idea to go in. In another episode Aunt Harriet leads a group of women from a social club on a tour of the Manor and is nearly about to open the study's door when Joker, from a hideout, freezes time using a "magic box" he invented. He froze time and caused it to go in reverse...unknowingly preventing Aunt Harriet and her entourage from entering Bruce's study and discovering the secret. In this animated movie Aunt Harriet enters the study and sees the Batphone and the bust of Shakespeare but before she can find out it's hidden device for the bat-poles a hand enters the scene and pulls her from the Shakespeare bust. It's Bruce...acting highly suspicious. This sets up the scene in which Bruce fires Alfred for letting Aunt Harriet come so close to learning about his and Dick's double lives as the Caped Crusaders.

Things really get bizarre as Batman leaves Robin stranded. Later, Dick confronts Bruce and asks about the short temper and the unbelievable firing of Alfred. Shoing no emotion Bruce leads Dick over to the manor's front door and tells him if he sympathizes so much ith Alfred he can go live with him "on skid row" and ith that, Bruce shuts the front door leaving the youthful ward on the front porch.

In another scene Batman appears, after several days of being in seclusion, and demands that Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara remove their uniforms because they've long been a disgrace to the police force. Robin deduces that Catwoman's drug was actually designed to work on Batman very slowly and he's become evil. Not only that but she's been double-crossing Joker, Penguin, and the Riddler who believe she's too soft on Batman and they punish her by sending her into orbit. It's in this part of the story that it's revealed that Batman himself has the duplicator ray and he goes about making evil duplicates of himself which take over Gotham City. As an evil Batman he has no resistance to Catwoman and the pair become flirtatious. One of the highlight scenes takes place during a prison break! All sorts of villains, mostly all of them created for the mid '60s series, have non-speaking cameo appearances. Villains seen but not heard: Egghead, King Tut, Siren, Bookworm, Louie the Lilac, and others.

Eventually it's Alfred to the rescue who reveals the reason why he appeared out of the blue to attempt to rescue Batman from a life of crime. Once the spell is broken the duplicate Batmen dissolve into various piles of powder. This is a reference to the 1966 live-action movie based on the TV series. In the live action movie the four villains turn members of the United Nations (referred to in the movie as United World) into dehydrated powder.

I suggest all fans of the classic Batman live-action series purchase this DVD! I've not given a scene by scene breakdown of the film...I merely highlighted some of the scenes and not in chronological order, either...but the animated movie is entertaining. The mannerisms of the villains are all spot-on. The Joker prancing around in a state of glee...but only once does he say "this is delicious!!"...the voice actor captured the essence of Cesar Romero in much of the delivery. The Penguin offers his usual cantankerous attitude, desires of being the intellectual leader, utilizing his umbrella gas, and the trademark squawking but it's not necessarily an attempt to mimic Burgess Meredith's natural speaking voice which is, interestingly, what makes the live-action portrayal so memorable. The vocalization of The Penguin sounds something like that of Ted Knight's version in the Filmation cartoons of the late '60s. The Riddler, on the other hand, is amazing thanks to the spot-on vocal delivery. The voice actor captured the style of Frank Gorshin so much that it enhances the dialogue. The voice actors for Joker, Penguin, and Riddler managed to replicate the giggles and laughs accurately. Julie Newmar, to my ears, sounds just as she did in the mid '60s TV series. I don't agree with others that say her voice has aged. Catwoman sounded to me like the same flirtatious character from the TV series. If I happened to be writing this on Amazon's site I'd conclude by saying that this is definitely 5-star entertainment!! You can click the link below and read other comments from consumers...


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