No I didn’t forget, just didn’t feel like typing “…AND Beta” every time.

§ September 27th, 2017 § Filed under batman, reader participation § 1 Comment

PREVIOUSLY, ON BAT-TALK: 1 2 3 4 5

Hoo boy, I opened up a real can of worms on this one. I’m going to be commenting on comments to my comments for this particular set of theme posts for the rest of time…though realistically I’ll have to cut off the discussion somewhere, or I can just go ahead and change the site name to “Batgressive Ruin.”

Anyway, let me at least wrap up the comments from the very first post:

Chris G presents:

“I was 14. I wore a Batman t-shirt on the end-of-year class trip to Hershey Park and kids in my class who I barely knew were asking me where I’d gotten it. I saw it twice on opening day and bought a poster of Jack Nicholson’s Joker sitting on a beach that hung in my room for years. The Prince ‘Batdance’ song was everywhere. And it was a HUGE thing when the movie arrived on VHS less than six months later, priced to sell to consumers rather than to video stores – that had never happened before and was the beginning of a sea change in home video.”

Since I was a big Oingo Boingo fan at the time…well, okay, still am…I remember being slightly put out that Prince’s Batman “soundtrack” (with songs “inspired by the film” if I remember correctly) was being released first, while the actual score of the the movie, composed by Boingo frontman Danny Elfman, was coming out much later. A silly thing to be concerned about, I realize, especially since I totally understand now that “NEW PRINCE ALBUM” was definitely going to sell better. Also, Prince is amazing. But Elfman’s soundtrack is good, too, and practically immortal given how many times they’ve reused that theme. There’s room for both, Mike of 1989! Don’t be so uptight!

The VHS thing…I remember getting myself put on a waiting list for the VHS release of Batman at…$20, I think, which was pretty reasonable for the time. I could have sworn there were some videotape releases prior to this that were a tad more consumer-friendly pricewise, and this Straight Dope discussion (and this article linked from there) do mention a number of attempts at consumer pricing on some films in the early to mid-1980s. There were still plenty of $100+ VHS tapes being sold to stores for rental purposes, of course, and what exactly constituted “affordable” pricing encompassed a wide variety of options. (I remember asking a friend at a video store to look into any videotape releases of the original Land of the Lost, and he found a couple of tape, each with two episodes, at I believe $39.95 each…this may have been late ’80s/early ’90s.)

It’s possible the relative cheapness of the Batman home video release, and subsequent popularity, may have been the impetus to push more and more VHS out into the market at reasonable pricing. Plus (and I’ve heard this argument a few times in the past) pricing the tapes down may have lowered piracy, as the hassle of having to patch together two VCRs to record a rental from the local video store may have been worth it when prerecorded videotapes were $100 a throw, but at $20 or so it was less of a pain in the ass just to straight up buy a copy.

• • •

Adam recalls

“I was almost 7 when the movie came out. It was a revelation. I knew the Adam West show from reruns but this is something else. Everything was so serious, expressive and dramatic, even the silences. There were things that weren’t explained that made it intriguing. I must have seen it five times begging anyone who was willing to take me.

“I didn’t start reading the comics at this point. My grandmother volunteered at a library and gave me a copy of ‘Batman & Other DC Classics’ which reprinted excerpts of comics to convince people to try buying collections. And I loved that comic but it didn’t convince me to start picking them up regularly. Instead I was buying toys and stickers and buttons. And then, the VHS tape which I nearly wore through. I still occasionally think ‘you can’t watch a Warner Bros. movie without a Warner Bros. ballcap.’

“And as huge as Batman was, it’s worth noting there were a lot of big movies in 1989. Consider that Batman came out the same day as Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (5th highest box office of 1989) and a month after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (2nd highest). Every year has its share of classic movies but 1989 was stacked. Check out the full list since there’s too many to mention here. All these movies combined to give 1989 had the highest box office ever (without inflation) and wouldn’t be topped until 1993. And Batman was the biggest of them all.”

I can imagine the sort of impact this film would have had on a small child. A lot of it was super weird and creepy and I can imagine it frightening little kids…and fascinating them, as you say, Adam. That’s the right age to sort of absorb all this stuff at face value, without worrying about or even noticing the undercurrents of humor and self-parody involved.

I remember that Batman & Other DC Classics preview comic…probably still have one in my collection somewhere. And it seemed like for years at the previous place of employment I kept turning up copies. Gave away a whole lot of those…it was a nice little sampler.

And it’s funny that you point out 1989 at The Big Movie Year…for us just slightly older folks, 1984 is the year that always gets singled out as the Year o’The Hits…but I have to tell you, just browsing each year for the 1980s sure pulls up lots of formative films for a young Mike (though I don’t recall seeing this one on any Top Lists there).

• • •

And Jason has this to say

“I can only chime in as a film fan, because I don’t remember what I was reading in 1989. (I honestly think it was Captain America and not Batman!)

“When I say Batman was one of the darkest films I ever saw, I mean that quite literally. I saw it at a Drive-in as a kid, and and some scenes were simply too dark to decipher what was happening on screen. That bit where Vikki wakes up and Bruce is hanging upside down like his namesake? I didn’t see/comprehend that until I saw it again on video.

“I can’t think of any other movie that plays so fast and loose with the color black. Are super hero movies lit differently than ‘regular’ movies? Does anyone know offhand? Or are there simply more night scenes in super hero movies?”

Well, drive-in projection as I recall wasn’t the best for lighting and color nuance…I remember seeing that first Nightmare on Elm Street at a drive-in and it was a little hard to make things out in certain scenes. It could also be a problem with the actual physical projection…I know a theater local to me was having real problems with brightness levels on movies. That recent Harry Potter spin-off the name of which I can’t remember and don’t feel like Googling, for example, was nearly pitch black in some parts, and Rogue One, even in the scenes that were clearly supposed to be in bright, sunny daylight were desperately underlit by the projectionist. The theater improved since then, but I’m still reluctant to attend a flick there.

I don’t know enough about lighting or cinematography to intelligently answer your question about how they’re specifically doing superhero films…but not every film is mired in darkness. Spider-Man: Homecoming is nice and brightly lit…even in the night scenes, everything is clear as day. Occasionally I feel like dark shots are in our superhero moving pictures to conceal some dodgy special effects or CGI (something that occurred to me during at least one Harry Potter film). But man, of course Batman was filmed with lots of the color black…he is the Dark Knight, after all!

But seriously, I need to see that film again. Y’all are making me want to pop it back into the player.

The VHS player.

One Response to “No I didn’t forget, just didn’t feel like typing “…AND Beta” every time.”

  • pell says:

    It took me a moment to realize the title of this post is referring to the Betamax videotape format rather than software than needs bug testing before final release.

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