Small-screen legend Adam West passed away on June 9 at the age of 88 after a battle with leukemia. His campy portrayal of Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego on the hit 1960s television show Batman was more important to some audiences than anything Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, or Ben Affleck could have done.
(Sorry, but even George Clooney would admit his performance in Batman and Robin is not worthy.)
West’s tongue-in-cheek take on the Caped Crusader is perfect territory for Dan Stone, the mind behind The Unfathomable Film Freakout. Stone has been hard at work curating a tribute to the beloved actor. It will take place on Friday, July 7, at FilmBar.
Stone recalls seeing Tim Burton's Batman when he was a kid. He thought it was a great movie, but left the theater thinking West was a better Batman.
“[The character] has just become progressively more serious over the years," Stone says. "Everyone is trying to out-serious each other, especially after the Joel Schumacher films. West was the only one who dove in head first with the kitsch.”
For those unfamiliar with Stone’s work, The Unfathomable Film Freakout takes a cinematic subject and combines cheesy and bizarre footage culled from bad movies, television shows, and variety specials for screening events. Stone finds clips from out-of-print VHS tapes, bootleg oddities, and obscure YouTube videos. The audience is encouraged to participate by shouting at the screen. Which makes FilmBar the perfect venue for Moore’s cinematic concoctions.
“It’s a big, loud monstrosity of a movie night,” Stone says.
It usually takes Stone two to three months to put together an Unfathomable Film Freakout screening, but he had already accumulated a lot of footage of West while preparing an all DC-movie themed presentation. Viewers shouldn't expect a full-length feature like Stone’s tribute to the corny '70s and '80s Marvel movies and television shows he put together, titled Fails To Astonish. For this event, Stone gathered clips that honor an actor who was never ashamed of being recognized for his ironic role.
“He was never bitter about being Batman,” Stone says. “I have lots of footage of him in the '70s showing up on variety shows reprising the role. It makes it more fun that he is in on the joke. Everything I’m doing comes from a good place.”
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Of course, there is more to West’s filmography than just Batman. He voiced characters on shows including Kim Possible and Family Guy. Stone’s favorite non-Batman West role is a 1991 pilot he recently discovered. Titled Lookwell, it was scripted by talk-show host Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel. It centered on a former star of a police procedural show who solves crimes in real life. The role fit West like a utility belt stocked with shark repellant.
“[The character] is kind of a joke, but he is Adam
Stone using West’s name as a verb proves how truly iconic he was.
The Adam West Tribute starts at 10 p.m. on Friday, July 7, at FilmBar, 815 North Second Street. Admission is $9 with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Arizona. Visit the FilmBar website for more information.