Batman: The Complete Television Series
Good citizens of Gotham, put your fears to rest. After decades of licensing hurdles between Fox and WB over the home video rights to this camp classic, Adam West's Batman has finally arrived on Blu-ray. Issued by WB, all 120 broadcast episodes from its three-season run have been included in this set.
The most important factor in transferring vintage film stock of this nature is a new film scan taken directly from the original camera negative. Batman's resolution and clarity at 1080P, not to mention the excellent color saturation and chromatic range from the colorful production design, could only be possible from a state-of-the-art film transfer. It is remarkable to see the Joker and the dastardly Penguin in such striking detail, not to mention that saucy minx, Catwoman.
Some minor digital touch-up has been manually applied to remove dirt and debris, the print is nearly pristine. A mistake was made that wiped out one element, a pebble, that should have been left intact. This is not a case where processing has altered the native grain structure of the original cinematography, fine detail is relatively abundant in scope. Warner has shown more restraint this time using the digital tools at their disposal, their technicians have wonderfully preserved Batman's adventures for posterity.
The interior shots exhibit better contrast and superior sharpness, shot on carefully controlled television sets under extremely bright lighting. Black levels are nearly perfect, rendered in inky darkness with fantastic shadow delineation. The color palette is far richer than I've ever seen it for this show, the new color-timing is slightly revisionist in nature but done with a skillful hand. While a purist might quibble with the slight changes in tonality and pop, I found it an invigorating experience. The flesh-tones are possibly too accurate, revealing the overly tanned flesh of Batman's sun-drenched, Californian cast.
Framed in its original broadcast ratio at 1.33:1, there have been complaints on some level regarding the anemic AVC video encode. I cannot lie, Warner Bros. foolishly pinched pennies by shaving off as many discs as they possibly could from the box set. All 120 episodes and bonus features are included on 13 BDs. That leaves very tight margins for the compression, aiming for target video encoding rates frequently below 15 Mbps. Adding two or three BD-50s for more space could have done wonders for the decidedly average encoding.
It is does leave the video encode open to rather minor compression artifacts. Batman's villains would often use smoke bombs or gases to trap the Dynamic Duo. On larger displays, you'll notice the encode struggling to accurately replicate their appearance without light noise. It is also inevitable that target rates that low will soften high-frequency detail. While my critique is pointed, the compression issues are rather minor and one can mostly ignore their impact.
Warner definitely spent the money and took its time on the most important element, a high-quality film scan handled by skilled technicians. The negative looks to have been in superb shape, lightly handled over the decades. The color correction helps bring new life to the show, showcasing the wide variety of colorful villains faced by Batman each episode. I wavered between Tiers 1.5 and 1.75 for placement, but extended viewing helped me settle on the higher score.
Tune in next week — same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!
recommendation: Tier 1.5*