‘Adam West Naked': The Classic Batman Commentary Track Filmed In Adam West’s Basement
About a month ago, right after I interviewed Adam West at Comic-Con, I got an email from Invincible Iron Man and Casanova writer Matt Fraction asking if I owned a copy of Adam West Naked. At the time, I hadn't even heard of it, so I asked what it was, and if it was worth getting. Fraction told me, "It's like his commentary on the Batman show, but so much more. It's a DVD. That he shot by himself. In his house."
I ordered a copy that day.
It arrived a few weeks later, and yes, that is my copy, and yes, I did in fact pay extra to have West autograph it "To Batman's friend." This, I'm sure, comes as a surprise to no one, but what was kind of a shock is that the cover is not the strangest thing about this movie.
It's spread out over two discs, with each of the three seasons of Batman '66 covered in hour-long segments, and when you pop it in and go to the first segment, you're immediately greeted with the sight of West setting up two cameras in his basement before sitting down on a metal folding chair to kick off his commentary, with his old tights hanging up behind him near a framed photo of Frank Gorshin and a painting, presumably by West himself, of what appears to be a shirtless, very hairy gentleman looking out at the night sky.
About a half hour into it, West says to the camera: "Man this basement... It's a little moldy, but if you can put up with it, I can. Because it reminds me of the Batcave." It's really the only reason he gives for setting up in a cellar, other than one line in the very beginning about how down there, they won't be disturbed. And since that's the sort of thing usually said by men in basements right before they start with the murdering, the whole thing feels a little off.
Needless to say, it's a pretty weird start. As you watch it, though, it eventually becomes clear that West is putting one over on the audience. The strange locations he's filming around his house become a running gag. He starts off reminiscing about the show until his very confused daughter comes downstairs to let him know dinner's ready and ask what he's doing sitting in the basement and who he's talking to, then he returns later, claiming to have been reading a book in bed when he was suddenly struck with inspiration and had to continue, even though he's very clearly just wearing a truly preposterous bathrobe over the same jeans and shirt he had on in the previous scene.
Also? The book he's reading is Back to the Batcave, a book he wrote.
The implication here is that Adam West just hangs out reading books by Adam West, which may in fact be the ballerest thing of all time.
Then he finishes up the first season, looks down at what he's wearing, says "What a silly robe!" and heads back to bed. The next time we see him, he's in the attic in front of a cardboard cutout of Batman and what I think are two copies of the Wheel of Fortune board game, where he's almost drowned out by an airplane prompting him to move again. Then it's off to his garage, until he hears his wife pulling up, at which time he heads outside to record next to a swimming pool, which in itself is bizarre because a) he's clearly filming this in the middle of winter and b) the segment ends with him being chased off by the neighbor who actually owns the pool.
Then he spends some time in his exercise room -- and if you don't think your life will be changed by seeing Adam West in a velour track suit, I can assure you that you're wrong -- and finally, West finishes out the series in the room where he does his paintings.
His paintings... of Batman.
This, incidentally, was the biggest shock on the entire DVD. I had no idea that Adam West did art. How have we never gotten an Adam West cover for a Batman comic? Seriously.
And all of this is punctuated by these incredible segments where West will get up to go do something else. The first and most amazing by far involves West simply heading outside while wearing what is unquestionably the greatest sweater of all time.
Just when you start to get your head around the fact that he put a Batman in a Batman so you can Batman while you Batman, West turns to the snowy landscape, cups his hands around his mouth, and a long sound clip of yodeling is played.
Later, there's a shot of his Christmas tree, with West walking around the corner to the camera:
"Oh man, that's me! Look at the colors! These kaleidoscopes are great!"
By the time that happened, I'd pretty much come to the conclusion that West figured that even the people who wanted to hear three hours of his commentary on Batman '66 would get bored if it was just a long shot of a guy talking, and decided to spice things up with the surreal comedy he could get out of goofing off at his house for a few days in December.
It makes for an extremely weird but fun video, and helps to break up the fact that West really is covering every single episode of the show. He goes through all 120 of them, covering the guest stars, the important moments, and occasionally referring to his book, which gets an awful lot of screentime.
It's genuinely entertaining, which is no mean feat when you consider that it's just him. There was obviously some professional editing that went on for it -- though I'll admit that the mental image of West sitting down at his computer and teaching himself Final Cut Pro is pretty hilarious -- but on the screen, it's all West, controlling the camera's zoom with a remote control and going through long stretches without a cut.
In typical fashion, the anecdotes he tells about filming the show are pretty great. He talks about all the moments you'd expect, including a wholly unnecessary apology for creating the Batusi, and goes through the lines that he ad-libbed on the set, including commemorating the death of a Jill St. John's character in the pilot with "what a way to go-go." There's a great deal of time spent on discussing Julie Newmar's overwhelming sexiness, which was less of an opinion and more of a universal truth, but the best bits come when he talks about Cesar Romero.
I've known since I was a kid that Romero had the makeup artists just slather clown makeup over his mustache rather than shave it for the show (which West claims is because he thought it was the source of his attractiveness to the ladies), but I wasn't aware that the wristwatch you can occasionally see under his sleeve was there because it was a gift from the President of Mexico that he never removed. West also relates that after finishing a take, Romero would sit down and immediately fall asleep, and that they'd just wake him up when they were ready to shoot the next one, which he'd just snap right into readiness for.
Basically, he makes Cesar Romero sound like the coolest dude who ever lived.
The video, which is available through West's website, is full of moments like that, and at the end, I got the feeling that with all the rights issues keeping Batman '66 from being released on DVD, he figured his only chance to get this stuff out there in this sort of format was to set up a couple of cameras and do it himself.
The fact that he got to make it as weird as he wanted, including his love of kaleidoscopes and an off-hand remark about how the Mr. Freeze costume was haunted, is just an added bonus.