- Film/Program Grade:B+
- Video Grade:B
- Audio Grade:B
- Extras Grade:N/A
James E. Tooley
2013 (December 17, 2014)
Several months ago, while surfing the program guide on my DirecTV, I came across a film playing on Starz Encore with a name in the title I recognized instantly: Starring Adam West. This was, of course, several months after Warner’s announcement that the 60s Batman TV series was finally coming to Blu-ray, so my interest in anything related to the series was already piqued. But I’d never heard of this particular film before. I’d come to find out later that it was a Kickstarter-funded project, launched back in 2011. But all I knew while channel-surfing on that lazy Sunday afternoon is that I was intrigued. Was this some tongue-in-cheek art film, like Being John Malkovich? Based on the program guide, it was already half over and there wasn’t another showing on the schedule, so I quickly switched channels to check it out. It turned out to be a fairly straightforward documentary about actor Adam West... and it instantly sucked me in.
The basic conceit of Starring Adam West is that it documents the multi-year effort by Batman super-fan Ralph Garman (of KROQ and Family Guy fame), Adam’s daughter Nina, and his manager and friend Fred Westbrook, to get Adam a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But the true purpose of the film is to document Adam’s life and career – both the highs and the lows – in his own words and in those of the people who know him best, starting from his days growing up on a farm in Walla Walla, Washington, all the way to the present day. His early acting career is covered in detail, along with his time working on Batman, the struggles he faced after the show ended, and the more recent career resurgence that’s happened with Adam now well into his 80s. We hear stories from West himself about his life and experiences – interview footage that’s both honest and charming. We hear from his wife, his children and friends, we hear from Batman co-stars Burt Ward and Lee Meriwether. We even hear from his fans. We also get to see scores of rare and vintage film and video clips, personal photographs, and press clippings. In between these biographical segments, we follow West in the present to various conventions (including San Diego Comic-Con), media interviews, and other appearances, and we see him interacting with his many fans. All of this is cut together in such a way that the two narratives blend perfectly. The film is by turns fascinating, funny, and occasionally even poignant. It takes its time to cover its subject matter, but never seems to drag. I found the film to be completely entertaining.
After watching just half of Starring Adam West, I was convinced that the documentary needed to be included on Warner’s Batman: The Complete Television Series – Limited Edition Blu-ray box set (see my review here at The Bits). Of course, that means it wasn’t. Nevertheless, I was so impressed by the film that I made an effort to contact its director, James Tooley, directly to ask if any kind of home video release was planned. To my surprise, James got back to me very quickly to say that he was still working to make the film available on disc to fans, but that in the meantime he’d be happy to send me a Blu-ray copy. How could I possibly resist? At long last, I was able to see the complete film and I enjoyed it just as much the second time. I told James that I’d be happy to post a review, but I thought we should wait until he’d worked out the details on making the disc available for purchase. So I’m thrilled to be able to share this review with you all now, and to announce that – starting today – you can finally purchase a copy of the documentary for yourself, on either Blu-ray or DVD, from the film’s official website: Starring Adam West.com.
To be fair, the Blu-ray version of the release is fairly bare-bones. The film itself runs 84 minutes. It’s presented in 1080p (aspect ratio 1.78:1) and the video is of excellent quality. The audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, also of good quality. The disc’s menus are basic as can be and the only extra is the film’s trailer in HD. Still, there’s not much more I could want here. This film itself is a bonus as far as I’m concerned. My only real complaint about the disc is that I wish there were captions or English subtitles for those who might need or appreciate them.
Still, I’m thrilled to have Starring Adam West on Blu-ray. Trust me when I say that you’ll learn way more about West’s work on Batman, about his life and career overall – about who he really is as a human being – in this documentary than you will in anything Warner included among their Blu-ray bonus features. If you’re a serious enough fan of Batman to have purchased Warner’s Limited Edition BD box, you really owe it to yourself to get a copy this documentary on BD too and add it to the set. Give Starring Adam West five minutes of your time and I’m betting you’ll be hard-pressed not to watch the whole thing… and that you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt