No surprise: Adam West has an excellent sense of humor.
The actor, after all, was immersed in a madcap brew of scenery-chewing villains and pun-filled dialogue in the 1960s TV series Batman and yet managed to portray the caped crusader as both in on the joke and properly superheroic.
In a phone call to discuss the first-ever home video release of Batman, which co-starred Burt Ward as Robin, Alan Napier as butler Alfred and Neil Hamilton as the police commissioner, West cuts drolly to the chase.
“I’m so tired of people asking me, ‘When, when, when?’” he said, feigning an air of annoyance about the pent-up demand, then added, “I’m totally delighted it’s out now.”
Does the series, with its gleefully cheesy on-screen graphics and improbable plots, hold up after nearly five decades?
“You are going to have three times the fun, at least. It’s so beautifully remastered that every molecule, every pore, everything, you can see wonderfully,” West replied. With the video’s clarity, he said, “if we ever made a mistake, viewers can point it out.”
Batman: The Complete Television Series, available in limited edition Blu-ray as well as DVD and digitally, includes the 120 original ABC broadcast episodes with guest stars that ranged from Liberace to Vincent Price to Bruce Lee. Three hours of new content includes interviews with West and Ward.
West said his favorite villain was Frank Gorshin as The Riddler — “Intense and manic and funny. He thought funny” — with Burgess Meredith as The Penguin a close second.
He eagerly grabbed the role and the show, West recalled.
“From the moment I read that first script by Lorenzo Semple Jr. I said, ‘Sign me up.’ I found it so amusing, so incredibly funny, but so exciting for kids that I just wanted the chance to cook with that character.”
As for subsequent movies that portrayed a bleakly troubled Batman, “They have the Dark Knight. I’m the Bright Knight,” West said.
Did he tire of being identified as the comic book character, particularly when he was trying to move to the next stage of his career? “If I can stop crying for a moment,” he replied, drolly.
“There were a number of times that happened,” West said. “You get terribly typecast playing a character like that. But in the overall, I’m delighted because my character became iconic and has opened a lot of doors in other ways, too.”
West, 86, remains busy, focusing these days on comedy and voice-over roles, most notably on Family Guy as Mayor Adam West. He has homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, but he and his wife, Marcelle, spend most of their time at their spread near Ketchum, Idaho.
(He has six children and stepchildren, he said, describing them as “his, hers and theirs.”)
“I love to go home and do the chores and read. We have a big place. It’s just killing my back, clearing woods. Just finished building a barn,” he said.
With help, of course?
“It’s tough raising a barn by yourself,” West said, impishly.