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Back to the Batcave Paperback – September 1, 1994
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The appeal of a Batman book by a guy who still regularly appears in public in full Bat-regalia is overwhelming, particularly when in places it reads like the old TV show's dialogue: "[Julie Newmar] caused curious stirrings in my utility belt." But West, Batman's TV avatar, can also be introspective: "The time [the mid-1960s] was wrong for a sinister, film noir Batman." And sometimes, were it not for the possibility that West may soon appear at a mall opening nearby, his narrative would be sad: "I was angry and profoundly disappointed when I was not asked to reprise the role" (in Tim Burton's feature film). In short, this is an informative book about a classic bit of television history by a participant who cared and still cares about the character he portrayed. Oh, some parts seem strained or naive, but this merely makes the book more evocative of its subject. A light but interesting memoir that as pop culture history is valuable for, besides West's insights, its annotated episode guide featuring his commentary. Mike Tribby
From Kirkus Reviews
An amiably ungrandiose, entertaining memoir of TV's Batman by the Caped Crusader himself. Aided by thriller writer Rovin (co-author of The Red Arrow, 1990), West devotes the first quarter of the book to his youth in Walla Walla, Wash., his eclectic early acting career in the thespian un-center of Honolulu, and his move into Hollywood westerns, at which time he jettisoned his birth name of Billy West Anderson. Selected in 1965 to play Batman, the actor prepared by reading novels whose heroes had dual identities, such as The Scarlet Pimpernel, and by scouring 1940s ``Batman'' comic books, trying to make his character ``as plausible as a superhero can be.'' West recalls how producers saved money by using sound-effects cards--``POW''--in place of transition shots, how he improvised the ``Batusi'' into a dance craze, and how difficult it was to shed his tight-fitting outfit on the way to the ``Batroom.'' He repeats his defense of the show as hard-working farce to critics who disparaged it as camp and his response to watchdog groups who suggested the crime-fighting team was gay (``Aunt Harriet wouldn't allow it''). He also offers thumbnail sketches of the actors who played show's villains, including the tormentingly sexy Julie Newmar as Catwoman, the distinguished Cesar Romero as the Joker, and the good-natured Liberace, miscast as an evil twin. After the show went off the air in 1968, West retreated into smaller roles and ``Batman'' nostalgia. While the actor hints that his Bat-fame gained him a good deal of recreational sex, he modestly leaves out the salacious details. Of the 1989 film version starring Michael Keaton, he observes that it showed ``an emotionally scarred Batman'' and regrets he wasn't offered the role. It won't make anyone cry ``Holy Publishing Event,'' but there's good fun for Batfans. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Top customer reviews
For in the book, we get to see the behind the scenes friendships and hardships that were forged during those two short years of the shows run. How quickly success can get away. They at least left out on top and were forever burned in the memory of millions of kids around the globe.
If you are true 1966 Batman and Robin fan, then get this book!
I remember seeing West show up here and there on television while growing up, half the time as Batman or with other cast members. I was always puzzled as to why he didn't have another show. Mr. Spock was hosting "In Search Of", and Capt. Kirk showed up on T.J. Hooker eventually. I remember seeing him in a few old movies or TV shows on Saturday afternoons.
This book tells the whole story, and as an adult, a few things strike me about it: 1) Adam West has had to deal with a lot of career disappointment in a life that probably seemed to have no limits at all at the height of the Batman craze, and that's rather painful to think about. 2) When I shook this man's hand, he was driven to wear his costume again by sheer economics and desperation for paying work. 3) Where many would have given up or drowned in self pity or humiliation, Adam West emerged as an appreciative and gracious man.
I suspect the book will be of little interest to those who are not fans of the Batman TV series, particularly because the author maintains some decorum and respect and dishes virtually no dirt. I found that refreshing. I gave the book four stars instead of five only because it seemed a little bit cursory.
As some have noted elsewhere, the book's epilogue about the Tim Burton film is somewhat regrettable. I can fully understand why West sees himself as the definitive Batman character, much in the same way Clayton Moore views himself as the true Lone Ranger. But he's wrong. Batman was a lot of things before Adam West, and he's been a lot of things since Adam West, and the TV show was just a sliver of the character's history (and a peculiar one at that). So while I agreed with West's assertion that a new Batman movie starring the old TV cast would have been interesting and possibly successful (particularly on television), there was nothing wrong in 1989 with a new approach that steered entirely clear of any connection to the comedic sixties incarnation. That said, Michael Keaton was a horrible Bruce Wayne.
It's been great in recent years to see Adam West embrace and capitalize on his pop icon status, and to see his humor and good natured self-deprecation on display. I find this almost heroic coming from a guy who reluctantly spent a couple of decades scratching out a living on the county fair and car show circuit. I personally think he's a brilliant comedian, a one-of-a-kind personality who could have accomplished nearly anything. It's nice to see him in demand and enjoying new popularity.
Well, the fears turned out to be unfounded. In a rapid fire succession of short punchy chapters, about 75% of the material here addresses the iconic 1966-68 show and the related '66 movie. Pre-production psychoanalyzing of the title character. Cast. Villains. Costumes. Sets and props. Production mechanics. Finances. Quickie guide to all 120 episodes across its three seasons. All the inside dope you could possibly want--which certainly must be one of the main reasons that brings most of us here. Hosts West and Rovin together have a knack for picking out nothing but interesting detail throughout. West for his part is insightful, witty, and self-effacing. You're happy to see him rise from his rural roots in Washington state, sorry to see him take the inevitable fall when the fickle public starts to look elsewhere by the third season, then relieved when he recovers from his post-cancellation typecasting blues. He'd never approach such prodigious heights of popularity again; but he's reconciled and happy with the once.
At the end of BTTB you can't help but think, what a great guy and a fun show. And the book is right up there with both.