The Caped Crusaders Batman (voiced by Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) are attending a new experiment conducted by Gotham City's most brilliant scientist, Hugo Strange (Jim Ward), who has devised a machine that will extract the evil from criminals and leave them rehabilitated and ready to return to society as good citizens. Also in attendance is District Attorney Harvey Dent (William Shatner), who takes great interest in the reformation of criminals; Batman for one would like to think Catwoman (Julie Newmar) could be on the road to recovery, especially if it means they can explore their relationship. But holy breakdown, when Strange turns on the machine, there is a dire malfunction!
Return of the Caped Crusaders in 2016 was a welcome surprise for Bat-fans of the nineteen-sixties television show, for it brought back West, Ward and Newmar to their most beloved roles in the form of animation. It was such a good idea, to recreate those old episodes in tone but as a cartoon rather than having the now elderly stars running about that you may have wished they had tried it before (though technically West and Ward had reprised their roles in the Filmation TV series of the seventies), and that was especially felt when West passed away the year this was released, proving his final role aside from playing that skewed version of himself that he would essay on toon sitcom Family Guy.
This made Batman vs Two-Face all the more precious to the aficionados, for millions had grown up seeing West as the hero, whether on their original run on more likely on the countless reruns on televisions across the world. It was true that West sounded his age, but once more he was recognisable as himself and he was obviously enjoying getting back into character, but it was difficult not to be a little sad they had not commenced these reprises earlier so we would have been able to watch a couple more of them. Shatner was another star of sixties television, Star Trek of course, who had never escaped his most famous role either, so already casting him as Dent, who became Two-Face when the experiment went wrong, was a wink to audiences.
As it was, Shatner sounded as if he was enjoying himself too, not perhaps as over the top as you might expect, but applying himself with some dedication to the dual personality of Two-Face, who we see conducting a crime spree under the opening titles. Then we begin proper, with a captured Harvey given plastic surgery to reconstruct his half-ruined face and return him to his previous, handsome incarnation, offering him the psychological treatment he needs to recover - he even (sort of) get his old job back. This might make you think, wait a second, the title is Batman vs Two-Face and he's cured already? We're not even ten minutes in! And when King Tut (Wally Wingert) becomes the focus, you could feel short changed.
King Tut as played by Victor Buono originally was one of the funniest villains of the original, and in a nice nod to his first incarnation he gets to recite a little Buono-style poetry, but Batman and Robin vanquish his scheme and put him behind bars thanks to Dent's tough prosecution - the question of how responsible someone is for their crimes committed under duress was an unexpected theme here, for Tut was actually an Egyptology professor who changes into his alter-ego after a bump on the head. Bookworm, originally Roddy McDowall, also makes an appearance but seems to have alerted the Dynamic Duo his law-breaking intentions, making him easier to catch... but what if he had not sent that Riddler-esque clue at all, and The Riddler doesn't appear to be behind the reveal either?
It is of course Two-Face who is the mastermind, and the issue of how Dent could be orchestrating the baddie's plans becomes the big mystery as Batman in his Bruce Wayne guise cannot work out what has gone wrong, as Dent appears to be his old, law-abiding self. Maybe the explanation was not much of a surprise, Jekyll and Hyde being the big influence on the creation of the Two-Face character, but it was pleasing to watch the West and Ward version meet with an antagonist who had been deemed too scary for the sixties show, particularly as he had been a mainstay of the comics for a long time (if phased out in the sixties when horror characters were effectively banned for a while). Also nice was Lee Meriwether, the original movie Catwoman, being given a role and getting to put on the outfit too, though Newmar remained the embodiment by which all others would be judged, and overall the sense of tribute was respectfully felt, even with the more self-aware digs at the source. West went out on a high. The pallete was too dark, mind you.