Batman-Secrets of the Caped Crusader (1992)
Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Voices Of The Knight
|Year Of Production||1992|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||
Bruce W. Timm
Warner Home Video
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
With Batman Begins (does anyone else dislike that name as much as I do?) all the rage in the cinemas as I write, this review has a certain topicality. It is even more topical around my house. My son is in a Batman phase and has been playing with at least 3 toy Batman figures lately, along with Robin and Nightwing (the persona the original Robin has in the DC comic books when he grows up). My two daughters have been watching Batman DVDs to prepare for the latest film, from the original 1960s feature through to the later entries with Michael Keaton and George Clooney. For my part I have just finished reading the classic comic book series where The Joker kills the second Robin (after a reader vote in favour of getting rid of the spiky haired pest). To top it all off we have just finished reviewing two Justice League DVDs in which Batman had a major role.
So, next on the review stack is this disc containing 4 episodes of the animated Batman TV series from 1992 (the fourth episode is from 1993). The label of the review disc has Volume 4 on it, so this may be the fourth disc released in this series so far. Forget the title - while it may be called Batman - Secrets of the Caped Crusader there are no particular secrets on view here. Rather, it seems to be pretty much a random choice for a name (hmm, it seems that the movie producers aren't the only ones having problems coming up with decent names for Batman projects).
The first two episodes on the disc are Cat and Claw parts 1 and 2 and they depict Batman's first encounter with Catwoman. The sparks soon fly between the pair, and it is obvious that they feel some attraction for one another. To spice things up Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (their real life identities) are also scheduled for a lunch date. Infamous terrorist the Red Claw is soon in the mix and turns out to be female as well. Luckily, Batman comments "I'm an equal opportunity crime fighter". Can the Batman stop the terrorists as they plan to release a deadly plague on Gotham City, and will the bat arrest the cat?
The third episode on the disc, Heart of Ice, has Michael Ansara providing a memorable vocal performance as Mr. Freeze in a story that is reminiscent of the appearance of the same villain in the film Batman and Robin. After being frozen by an ice gun, Batman catches a cold. On his way to his next mission, Alfred hands him a dangerous looking container: "Knock out gas?" asks Batman, "Chicken Soup" replies the deadpan butler. The final episode is See No Evil which features an original villain who wreaks havoc in an invisibility suit. Watch out for the I didn't know he could fly!" moment - it is very funny.
The animation style in the show is quite interesting, with a stylised 1940s look to it. The Batman in this show is pretty much the 'Dark Knight' persona from the comics, with nary a Robin in sight (much to the disappointment of my son). The tougher edge that this version of Batman has is more in line with the later cinema films - he is not the camp Batman of the 1960s show. In fact, if you check the music credits you will see Danny Elfman's name, and the dramatic score he wrote for the first Michael Keaton feature drives a lot of the action on this disc.
The stories here are quite enjoyable, with the Batman - Catwoman relationship in the first two episodes generating some heat, though nothing of concern to those with younger children keen to watch. The voice acting is good; names such as Kate Mulgrew, Marc Singer and Rene Auberjonois will be familiar to many TV viewers (let alone the ubiquitous Mark Hamill). My main concern with recommending this is that the whole series is available as a decently priced boxed set in Region 1, and hopefully will be released that way here soon as well. In the meantime this could be a fair rental to keep young fans happy. I have also seen it at half the RPI at discount stores which makes it better value.
Now, for a shameless piece of self-promotion; if you have been following my recent rash of animated super hero DVD reviews watch out for my next effort: Superman: Last Son of Krypton, coming soon to a website near you.
The video transfer is acceptable, but slightly disappointing in such a recent production - some of the other animated comic book features from the same studio look much better on DVD.
The aspect ratio of the transfer is 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, which is the original production ratio.
The main complaint I have about this transfer is that it is too dark. While Batman may enjoy hiding in shadows it is no use to the viewer if many of those shadows make the action hard to see. There is also some fluctuation in the amount of light in scenes which is a little distracting. The picture is a little soft of focus, though not annoyingly so. There is no low level noise.
The colours are generally drab, being mainly blues and blacks, and what bright colours there are have a faded look. One positive side effect is that the flames towards the end of episode 2 on the disc look vivid.
There are numerous small positive and negative artefacts present in the transfer, along with occasional minor aliasing. There is a bad shudder in the picture for around 4 seconds at 9:42 in episode 4. Close examination suggests that the film moved left and right in the gate during the transfer to video as a person moving left in the scene jumps towards the right of the screen in alternate frames, producing the shudder effect when played back at normal speed.
I watched segments of the disc with the English subtitles and then with the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles. The former are quite good, the latter are fair ("whip whistling") but miss a number of music cues.
I did not notice the layer change, which is most likely between episodes. The disc did pause briefly at times during playback in some scenes, but I could not repeat this problem, so it may have been my player not liking the disc.
The audio transfer is fair given the origin of the source material.
There are four audio tracks on the disc; English, Italian, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks encoded at a bitrate of 192 Kb/s. I listened to the English track in its entirety and to segments of the French (which was acceptable but with rather undistinguished voice acting). The sound field on my amplifier was rather poor so I listened to the audio in ProLogic mode which improved it slightly.
The dialogue was clear with reasonable audio sync for animation, but there was an occasional drop-out of the sound.
The main theme music is very good as mentioned - the plethora of alternate composers do a reasonable job but suffer by comparison. The music is mixed at an appropriate level with respect to the dialogue and other audio elements.
The level of surround activity is limited, and the bass is subdued, even during explosions. The quality of the sound is probably on a par with most other TV shows of the era, though the overall volume level is on the low side.
|Surround Channel Use|
There is one short extra - need I say more?
The menu is static with audio and is not 16x9 enhanced. Your menu choices are: Play All, Episodes, Special Features, Languages. While you can choose which episode to play there are no chapter stops within an episode.
The one lone feature runs 8:07 at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is quite interesting and has Kevin Conroy (the voice actor for Batman) and others discussing the process of providing the dialogue for the show. Mark Hamill in particular is very interesting as he describes the variety of laughs he uses to add character to The Joker (he shows his versatility by providing the voice to a different villain in the Mr. Freeze episode).
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 version of the disc is similar to the Region 4 but has one more extra: a trivia track for Heart of Ice which has received mixed reviews on the net. It is hard to recommend one version over the other on that basis. Keen fans will probably purchase the boxed set from Region 1 in preference to just one disc.
This is an enjoyable disc, particularly for fans of Batman, though most of us are keeping our fingers crossed that the boxed set will make it out here at some point. The episodes feature a mix of familiar and unfamiliar villains, and the visual style is appealing.
The video transfer is average, let down by the dark transfer and frequent minor artefacts.
The audio transfer is fine compared to other TV shows of similar vintage.
The extras are lacking.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-K350, using Component output|
|Display||SONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Kenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|