Batman TV series vs. Batman movies: Co-creator Lorenzo Semple Jr. has his say
Lorenzo Semple Jr., co-creator of the 1966 TV series Batman, discusses his bat-writing days in Variety. “When I first heard, some time ago, that Sir Michael Caine had been engaged to portray Alfred the Butler in the latest Batman movie, I was frankly disturbed,” Semple Jr admits. “Full disclosure: I was the piloter of the 1966 Batman TV series, aired with spectacular if short-lived success on ABC and arguably responsible for rousing millionaire Bruce Wayne and his ward Dick Grayson (and his Batmobile and Batcave and myriad other Batgadgets) from the quiet pages of DC Comics into the savage glare of filmed entertainment.
“As such, I am often asked what I think of the string of Batman features which has followed. My answer disappoints. Truth is, I think only rarely about Warner’s bigscreen charades, for they are related to our antique effort in little beyond the eponymous title.”
Alan Napier and Lorenzo Semple Jr. movies
In the ’60s television series, veteran Alan Napier played Batman’s butler Alfred. Besides Batman, the British-born Napier was featured in bit parts and supporting roles in nearly 90 features – among them Random Harvest, Joan of Arc, and The Great Caruso – and dozens of TV series and movies, from the early ’30s to the early ’80s. Alan Napier died of a stroke at the age of 85 in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1988.
Among Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s film screenplays are those for the routine comedy The Honeymoon Machine (1961), with Steve McQueen and Jim Hutton; the cult classic Pretty Poison (1968), starring Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld, and which earned Semple Jr. the New York Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay award; the 1976 King Kong reboot, with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges; and the paranoia thrillers The Parallax View (1974), directed by Alan J. Pakula, and starring Warren Beatty, and Three Days of the Condor, directed by Sydney Pollack, and starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, and Cliff Robertson.
Tim Burton directed the 1989 Batman reboot, starring Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, and featuring veteran Michael Gough as Alfred, in addition to Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale. Christopher Nolan’s 2005 reboot, Batman Begins, starred Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and featured Michael Caine as Alfred, in addition to Katie Holmes and Liam Neeson.
Batman TV series’ Adam West and Burt Ward image: 20th Century Fox Television.
I’m still not sure which incarnation of Batman is better - the whimsical version, or the dark one. It’s all a part of the problem in adapting comics to the screen.