As a youngster growing up in Walla Walla, Wash., Adam West devoured “Batman” comic books and even did a little play-acting as the Caped Crusader.
“Then I forgot about it,” said the 86-year-old actor during a recent phone interview from his home in Ketchum, Idaho.
Decades later, as a young actor in Hollywood, West got a call about playing the DC Comics’ superhero in a new TV series. He was hesitant. At least initially. “I thought, ‘I’m trying to have a serious career,’” he recalled.
But he read Lorenzo Semple Jr.'s script for the first two episodes. “I fell down laughing,” said West. “I said, ‘I have got to do that.’ It was easy. Your sense memory comes back to when you were a kid playing Batman.”
Beginning Tuesday, Warner Home Video is releasing the entire series for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD. The set features all 120 episodes, which have been digitally remastered, and three hours of cast interviews, screen-test footage and other extras.
“It was a classy show,” said West. “I have become convinced that everything that is classy doesn’t go away.”
Though the “Batman” movie serials of the 1940s played it straight, the 1966-68 ABC series was a wild satire filled with puns, Pop Art design, eye-popping costumes and a who’s who of vintage Hollywood guest stars including Burgess Meredith (the Penguin), Frank Gorshin (the Riddler), Vincent Price (Egghead) and Cesar Romero (the Joker).
Although some viewers didn’t get the joke even as they were splatted and kerplopped over the head during fight sequences, the series became legendary for its humor. Indeed, it was West’s wacky, wooden and surreal turn as millionaire Bruce Wayne and Batman that helped turn the series into an instant hit.
“It was an absurdist comedy and a social satire,” said West. “We worked very hard to shape it in that direction — fun for the kids and exciting for adults who could get the laughs.”
West credits series executive producer William Dozier, who also supplied the tongue-in-cheek narration, for luring the plethora of guest stars.
“He was a genius at casting,” noted the actor. “He knew everybody in town.”
West made it his goal every day to make sure everyone had fun on the set. “I would kid around and make people laugh because they had to be in that kind of mode to make it work.”
It wasn’t until about 18 months after he got the part that he found out why. “They had seen a commercial I had done. I was doing a spoof on James Bond. I did a character called Captain Q for Nestle’s Quik. Those commercials were kind of funny.”
West still enjoys participating in conventions such as Comic-Con in San Diego.
“People love Batman, and I would be stupid, I would be a fool if I didn’t love Batman,” said West. " There is no better way to keep a career going and keep your fans.”
A new generation of viewers has discovered West’s sense of humor through his role as Mayor Adam West on Fox’s animated “Family Guy.”
“The mayor is nothing more than an exaggerated moment or two of my own quirkiness,” said West. “Isn’t it fun to be nuts? Isn’t it fun to be crazy?”
West said he was never asked to be in either the Tim Burton or Christopher Nolan “Batman” movies.
“I don’t even think about that stuff,” he said. “They have the Dark Knight. I was the Bright Knight.”