Friday, September 3, 2010

Camp in Darkness: Screen Test for Sixties Batman

I find it fascinating to watch this original screen test for the sixties Batman show, with Adam West and Burton Gervis, soon to be renamed Burt Ward. While I am a big fan of how the show turned out, it's interesting how this no frills production almost seems aimed at modern audiences of the grim and gritty era. Maybe it's the lack of music and fast cuts, and the dim lighting, but this just is like an entirely different view of the show. The slow pull back shot from a dim Batcave, with no music, I find sort of eerie. Also interesting is Bruce Wayne referring to his parent's murder. I'm not sure how often that happened on the show, according to my sources it was mentioned in the first episode. I have unfortunately never been able to watch the entire series, partly due to its lack of release on DVD.

All that being said, I prefer how the show turned out. I'm not much of a fan of grim and gritty, finding it harder to invest any interest in superheroes and costumed crimefighters when they are taken incredibly seriously. That's when they start to seem truly silly to me. But the screen test is interesting as a study of how presentation affects tone, since as far as the script goes, other than Bruce's reference to his parents, it's not much different from any other episode. If you slow things down and cut the music and much of the lighting, tada! Grim and gritty.

Equally fascinating is this other version of these scenes with two different players, including Lyle Waggoner as Batman. Waggoner would later go on to play opposite Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman, as the incredibly fortunate Colonel Steve Trevor.


LissBirds said...

Was it common back then for actors to come prepared with own choreographed fight scenes? I was really surprised to see that on the Lyle Waggoner test. I mean, how would you know you had to come that prepared?

I kind of liked the kid on the other test better than Burt Ward. The higher voice seems to work better for Robin, I think. I hope he got an acting job somewhere.

Aaron said...

Yeah, I dunno how common that practice would have been.

I don't know if that could have pulled off the campy stuff as well as Burt...but he seemed like a decent Robin. I think Burt Ward suited Adam West a bit better because they both had distinctive, unusual voices. It might have gone in a different direction with Lyle Waggoner.