“Gives a feller a good feeling knowing they’re up there doing their job.”
Before Christian Bale, before George Clooney or Val Kilmer, before Michael Keaton, there was Adam West. A minor actor, still somewhat struggling in Hollywood, he was taking small roles in television episodes and doing commercials when producer William Dozier noticed him in a Nestle Quik ad as a secret agent, and decided West might be a good fit for the lead role in his upcoming Batman television series. Coincidentally, West had heard of the series being produced, and had been pushing for his agent to try and get him the role. The two came together, and Dozier’s dream of a comedic take on the Caped Crusader started to become a reality. Adam West was cast with very little competition, but Dozier had West do screen tests with the various actors trying out for the role of Dick Grayson, Batman’s sidekick Robin.
Dozier hoped to find a candidate with whom West had the right chemistry, and they found it in Burt Ward; reportedly any time the two were together, it was a constant struggle for the crew to not bust out laughing. The two actors became fast friends and remain so decades later. Dozier told Ward to simply be himself in the role; his personality and mannerisms were already what Dozier had pictured for the Boy Wonder. Of course, a minor snafu in communication led to Ward not knowing for several weeks that he had gotten the part; his agent thought the studio had informed him, and the studio thought his agent had. As Ward tells it, he’d receive occasional calls over the next four weeks asking him details like his shoe size and the circumference of his head, and wonder if meant that he was being seriously considered for the role. He was on the verge of taking a job as a gas station attendant when he was finally informed that he had gotten the role almost two months prior.
Though a television show was Dozier’s primary goal, it was not his initial plan to start with the show. Dozier planned a Batman movie to show the television networks how successful the idea could be, and sell the series based on the reception of the film. However, ABC, facing low ratings decided to purchase the show as a mid-season replacement, before Dozier was able to put the plans for the movie in motion. The cast and crew set to work on the first season of Batman, airing in 1966. But the film idea was not shelved. Instead, it was shot after the first season concluded (and after the second season was shot, but before it aired), with the intention of using it to sell the series to an international market. In 1966, Batman, sometimes called Batman: The Movie to distinguish it from the series, hit the big screen. It was the first time a superhero was in a color feature-length picture (and only misses out on being the first feature-length superhero movie if one counts the hour-long Superman and the Mole Men as being feature-length). Continue reading →
I was introduced to Best Buy’s CinemaNow online movie store back in December, when they ran a promotional giveaway of digital movies to their Facebook fans. While initially there were some hiccups with the promotion — too few giveaways for the number of fans they had, and too many people hitting the server all at once — they ironed out the wrinkles and things went smoother afterward. All told, between that giveaway and a later one-day promotion for the New Year, I received a total of nine digital movies to my collection. I’ve long since reviewed all the movies, but here are my thoughts on the service and the program. Continue reading →
Much like the Overlook Hotel itself, it seems that The Shining is a little hard to escape. In a move that is sure to have fans of the original film crying for red rum, Warner Brothers is exploring the possibility of a new Shining movie, set before the events of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic. The film, which does not yet have a writer attached, reportedly would tell the story of Jack Torrance before that fateful visit. The story of Jack Torrance, spousal abuser, doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but perhaps what is meant is the story of the Hotel’s previous caretaker, and whatever started the whole “elevators full of blood” haunting. Continue reading →
Even if you have never seen The Seventh Seal, you are familiar with the key scene. It’s been homaged, referenced, and parodied dozens, even hundreds of times since the film came out in 1957. The knight playing chess with Death has become one of those pop-culture touchstones that everybody is familiar with (although the movie itself indicates the idea of playing chess with Death is even older, as the knight brings it up as something he has heard of.) Since Hulu briefly made this Ingmar Bergman classic available for viewing, I thought I would take the opportunity to see the source of all these references for myself.
The knight in question is Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), who has just returned home after ten years in the Crusades. And it is clear from early on that Antonius is a troubled man. If he were alive today, he would no doubt be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder; certainly von Sydow has perfected the thousand-yard stare for this role. When Death (Bengt Ekerot) meets him on the beach, Block is unafraid of dying, but is afraid of what comes after — or more precisely, what might not come after. His faith has been shaken, and he desperately wants it restored, but Death is revealing nothing. So Block challenges Death to a game of chess, planning to use the reprieve — the game is to take place intermittently, as both are busy men — to find something to believe in, and to hopefully perform one last, unambiguous good deed before he dies. Continue reading →
It’s Friday morning, so it’s time for the weekly roundup of blog posts and news blurbs. The post-Comic-Con slump has hit the media outlets, so things are a bit lighter this week, but there are still some quality posts to read and some interesting pieces of news to learn about. There’s a little TV talk, a new movie review, and word on the next young adult adventure novel to get adapted to the big screen.
So if you want to read about any of that, and especially if you want to figure out the title of this post, I suggest you read on for the Weekly Weblinks! Continue reading →
The Iron Giant is one of those films that seems to have had a better reception in the long run than in the short run. Released in 1999, the film had very little press and was quickly ushered out of theatres. But a stronger marketing campaign for home video, coupled with heavy airplay on Cartoon Network, led to it becoming more popular as time went on. So even though I’m coming to the film “late”, as it were, at least I’m not alone in that.
The film was directed by Brad Bird, who would later become known for directing two of Pixar’s more popular films, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. This film, however, was for Warner Brothers. It is, on the surface, a story about a boy and his robot. Young Hogarth Hughes (voiced by Eli Marienthal) lives in a small town in Maine, being raised by his single mother Annie (Jennifer Aniston). He has a habit of bringing home “pets” which are stray animals or woodland creatures. The story starts when he encounters a “pet” that is just a bit more out of the ordinary. Continue reading →
Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” has come to an end. He’s done with the Batman franchise, and so is Christian Bale, who played the role of the Caped Crusader in the films. But we all know that, sooner or later — and it’ll almost certainly be “sooner” — Warner Brothers is going to want someone to pick up the cowl and bring Batman back to the big screen once more. And, as it has often been said that a superhero movie is only as good as its villains, I thought I might take a look at what villains they could use — if they chose to do so.
Now, I already said I think Mister Freeze would be a great choice, particularly in order to bridge the more realistic Nolan films with the upcoming Justice League film. And I’m not changing in that position. But I got to thinking about all the unsung villains in Batman’s rogues gallery. After all, even if Mr. Freeze’s on-screen portrayal was far from great, he has been on the screen before. The major villains have a tendency to get revisited. The Joker and Catwoman have each been around the block three times, and the Penguin, Riddler, and Two-Face two times each. When Batman and Robin was so poorly received, one theory that was often floated around amongst fans was that the villains were simply too low-profile to build a successful movie around. Few people who weren’t regular comic book readers would know who Mister Freeze or Poison Ivy were. Perhaps a Batman movie could only be successful with major, iconic villains.
But when Nolan revived the franchise with Batman Begins — notably the very next Batman movie from Batman and Robin — he disproved that by using two villains who were every bit as obscure. Ra’s al Ghul wasn’t even a frequent face in the comics, merely an occasional one. And a non-comics reader would only recognize him if they managed to remember him from his three or four animated series appearances a decade before. Scarecrow might have been a little more recognizable, but only from the same sparse Batman: the Animated Series appearances, and of course, as “that one guy from Challenge of the Superfriends.” Yet the movie was a critical and commercial success. Christopher Nolan proved that you could take a lesser-known villain and build a great movie with them.
So, with that in mind, I thought I would take a look at Batman villains who have never been part of a live-action film. Those unsung villains who haven’t yet had the chance to put Gotham at their mercy. Because even when the movies to come re-use some of the major villains, if they space them out with some of the more unfamiliar ones, it could lead to Batman truly becoming more like the James Bond franchise, where it doesn’t really have a “dead period”. And new villains can sometimes lead to new story directions. So here, then, are my picks for the Top 10 Unfilmed Batman Villains. Some might work better alongside other villains, but each would potentially provide an interesting film. Continue reading →
The warning signs were there. There are certain little signs that can be used to tell if a superhero movie, or at least a film on a similar theme, is going to be bad. Mixed reviews from the audience. Status as an underground or cult hit. A director who had previously only directed horror films. A hero name that sounds like the uninspired and grim superhero names of the Dark Age of Comics. Being released in the 1990s. There were indications.
But the director in question was Sam Raimi. Sure, he had only done a few schlocky horror movies by that point, but he would follow it up with the still schlocky but hilarious Army of Darkness, and more importantly he would go on to direct the Spider-Man trilogy, which consists of two very good superhero films. And the film stars Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand, both of whom are talented actors. It seemed like Darkman would be worth the risk. Continue reading →
It’s been remarked on by more than a few people that there was a passing resemblance between Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler, particularly brought on by the mustaches. Among the people who remarked on it was Alexander Korda, a filmmaker and a friend of Chaplin’s. Chaplin decided to use the resemblance to create a film to satirize Hitler and Nazi Germany, and The Great Dictator was the result.
Chaplin wrote and directed the film, as was his usual process, and starred in the film. In this case, this meant playing two roles; one role as Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomania, and the other as an unnamed Jewish barber who, after an injury during the first World War, spends years in the hospital before recovering and returning to his Tomanian home town. The barber bears some resemblance to Chaplin’s famous Tramp character, particularly in light of the fact that he’s a more innocent character than most of the people around him. But where the Tramp was simply a goodhearted naif, the barber’s innocence is more due to his long illness; he simply hasn’t been around to see what has happened to his home in his absence. Continue reading →
We’ve all got our little flaws, our secret shames — or not so secret, if we’re going to be talking about them. Nostra at My Film Views is organizing a Movie Confessions Blog-a-thon, with a set of thirteen questions about our movie viewing habits so we movie bloggers can get a few things off our chests. Or let other people point and laugh at us, whichever, it’s all good. Since I thought this sounded like a fun idea, here are my answers to Nostra’s questions. Continue reading →