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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Holy Father Time! 50th Anniversary of "Batman"

Above, the Batman soundtrack album released in 1966. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Fifty years ago today, ABC-TV premiered a new television show. The show was Batman, starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin.

The show was such an enormous, and overnight, sensation that it sparked "Batmania" for the rest of the year. It was high camp.

Batman premiered on Wednesday, January 12, 1966. It played locally in Los Angeles on KABC-TV Channel 7. It was an unusual show in many ways. It played on Wednesday and Thursday nights, with the Wednesday night show ending with a cliff-hanger. The Thursday show would pick up where Wednesday's show left off. It had odd (tilted) camera angles.

The show was filmed at 20th Century Fox studios and produced by William Dozier, who also provided the voice-over narrations. Neal Hefti composed the iconic "Batman Theme". A LP record of Batman soundtracks was released that year and I bought a copy, which I still have.

Many stars appeared on Batman, either as the week's guest villain (such as Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, Cesar Romero as The Joker, Julie Newmar as Catwoman, Frank Gorshin as The Riddler) or in a cameo. The cameos were set as Batman and Robin scaled a building (with their Bat-ropes) and the cameo star would open a window to banter with the Dynamic Duo.

The success of the television show spawned a feature-length motion picture that was released that summer. I saw it at the Centinela Drive-In Theater in Westchester. The second feature was Our Man Flint, a campy take-off of the James Bond movies.

Above, Adam West at Comikaze Expo in 2012. Photo by Armand Vaquer. 

The last happy memory of my maternal grandfather is due to Batman. He came over for dinner the following week after Batman premiered on a "Batman night". I believe it was the first Penguin episodes. He had not yet seen the show.

When the cartoon opening of the show came on, my grandfather laughed his head off. The show was vastly different than the Adventures of Superman of the 1950s, which he was a fan of. He passed away a few weeks later on February 12, 1966.

I saw Adam West in person at Comikaze Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center in 2012.

A Happy Bat-anniversary to all!

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