Today, La-La Land announced a new reissue of Nelson Riddle’s score to 1966’s Batman: The Movie, just in time to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary. The label premiered its expanded edition of Batman in 2010 (itself an expansion of a prior Film Score Monthly CD) and it proved to be a sold-out success. Though the same master will be utilized for the upcoming reissue, the 2016 edition features colorful new artwork by Jim Titus, as well as all-new liner notes by John Takis. The Second Disc reviewed the original release in 2010, and below, you’ll find that original review (with slight updates!) for those of you sitting on the Bat-fence about whether to pick up this new incarnation of Riddle’s classic, jazz-inflected score. This reissue is a limited edition of 2,500 units, and orders begin shipping on November 11!
It’s somewhat ironic that a man so closely associated with the lush, timeless music of Frank Sinatra would find such great fame (or notoriety?) as a composer scoring one of the most over-the-top television series ever. Yet such was the case of Nelson Riddle, who as arranger and conductor was a chief sonic architect of Sinatra’s unprecedented run of Capitol concept albums and beyond. His television credits included such groundbreaking programs as The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,Naked City and Route 66. In 1966, the esteemed Mr. Riddle picked up the baton from Neal Hefti (another Sinatra veteran, having provided the exuberant charts for 1962’s Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass, and also the composer of such TV themes as The Odd Couple) to score Batman after Hefti composed the now-classic theme song. Much to the chagrin of comic book readers, the series broughtPow! Bam! Zonk! and Holy (insert-your-favorite-exclamation-here), Batman! into the lexicon, and they’re still recognizable turns of phrase today.
With the great success of the campy series, it was no surprise when Twentieth Century Fox announced Batman: The Movie would premiere in the summer of 1966, with Bat-Mania at its height. (Producer William Dozier had actually hoped to launch the TV series with the film, but Fox wouldn’t commit until the success of the show was proven.) The movie featured Adam West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin facing their rogues’ gallery in a series of predictably outlandish situations. Chewing the scenery were Cesar Romero as The Joker and Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, joined by Frank Gorshin’s Riddler and Lee Meriwether’s Catwoman. Nelson Riddle’s soundtrack to this camp classic has just been reissued in a remastered edition courtesy of our friends at La-La Land Records (LLL CD 1130). The new disc expands on all previous CD reissues of Riddle’s score, including the fine, out-of-print version released by Film Score Monthly (FSM Silver Age Classics Vol. 3 No. 7). When Neal Hefti withdrew from the series after penning the insistent theme, Riddle picked up the slack, scoring all episodes in Seasons 1 and 2. (Hefti would return to the Bat-fold in Season 3 with Warren Barker and another Sinatra arranger, Billy May, also contributing scores.) Riddle was thus tapped by Dozier to score the film.
His score liberally employs the Hefti theme for multiple cues, beginning with Track 2, “Batmobile to Airport,” following a martial Main Title. But Riddle introduces his own catchy melodic motifs right off the bat (pun intended) with the third cut, “A Good Job.” His score consistently conveys tongue-in-cheek adventure, and is evocative of the characters and situations onscreen. “Kitka” is a slinky theme that instantly conjures up Catwoman without as much as a word of dialogue or lyric. The brassy Riddle sound, familiar from those classic Sinatra records imbues such tracks as “Filthy Criminals” with a strong jazz feel. (It should be noted that Gil Grau is credited as orchestrator, while Riddle conducts.)
La-La Land’s edition is produced by soundtrack reissue guru Nick Redman along with Matt Verboys, working from the restored mono master prepared by CD executive producer Mike Mattesino for Fox’s recent Blu-ray release of the film. Matessino details in the liner notes his process of implementing EQ and a bit of “stereo-ization” to the mono master. Three bonus tracks have been added, including a newly-assembled version of the movie’s climactic submarine battle sequence. Riddle never composed a unique cue for the sequence, which was assembled in the original film from edits of cues previously heard in the film. Matessino painstakingly reassembled the music for the Blu-ray and this release, and the fruits of his labor sound terrific. This reissue has a lot going for it, expanding the FSM issue from 66 minutes to over 72, in optimal sound.
With the Batman television series finally having seen the light of day on DVD and Blu-ray in 2014, and Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar having reunited just this year for the animated film Return of the Caped Crusaders, Batmania is once again in full swing. The dynamic duo are back on bookshelves, as well. Batman: Facts and Stats from the Classic TV Show arrived last month from Titan Books, and the same publisher has Batman: A Celebration of the Classic TV Series coming on November 29. La-La Land’s 50th anniversary reissue of the soundtrack to Batman: The Movie will doubtless bring a dollop of Pow! Bam! Zonk! to any fans who missed it the first time around.
Batman – The Movie: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available now from La-La Land Records!