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W Entries
Sigourney Weaver
H.G. Wells
Adam West
Gary Westfahl
James Whale
Robert Wise
Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Frank Wu
Philip Wylie
 
WEST, ADAM
(William West Anderson 1928– ).

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Voodoo Island (uncredited) (Reginald LE BORG 1957); Robinson Crusoe on Mars (Byron HASKIN 1964); "The Invisible Enemy" (1964), episode of The Outer Limits; "Love Is Blind" (1964), episode of Bewitched; Batman (tv series 1966-68); Batman (Leslie MARTINSON 1966); "With Apologies to Mr. Hyde" (1971), episode of Night Gallery; The Eyes of Charles Sand (tv movie) (Reza Badiyi 1972); Curse of the Moon Child (1972); Poor Devil (tv movie) (Robert Sheerer 1972); Legend of the Super Heroes (tv movie) (Bill Carruthers and Chris Darley 1977); Time Warp (Allan Sandler and Robert Emenegger 1981); "The Devil and Mandy Breem/The Millionaire" (1982), "Lost and Found" (1984), episodes of Fantasy Island; Warp Speed (Allan Sandler 1981); One Dark Night (Thomas McLoughlin 1983); Zombie Nightmare (Jack Bravman 1986); unaired episode of Once a Hero (1987); Doin' Time on Planet Earth (Charles Matthau 1988); Holy Batmania (video documentary) (1989); Omega Cop (Paul Kyriazi 1990); Maxim Xul (Arthur Egeli 1991); "As Ye Sow" (1993), episode of Tales from the Crypt; Danger Theatre (tv series) (1993); The Adventures of Pete and Pete (tv series) (1993-96); The Best Movie Ever Made (Steve Bencich and Chris LaMont 1994); Stooges: The Men Behind the Mayhem (tv documentary) (Paul E. Gierucki 1994); "Batmantis" (1994), episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast; "Strangers in Paradise" (1994), episode of Weird Science; Ride for Your Life (short) (Bob Bejan 1995); "Whine, Whine, Whine" (1995), episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; An American Vampire Story (Luis Esteban 1997); "Out of Thin Air," "Life's a Gas" (1998), episodes of Black Scorpion; Everything's George (Scott Edmund Lane 2000).

Provided voice for animated films: The New Adventures of Batman (tv series) (1977-78); Tarzan and the Super 7 (tv series) (1978); Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (tv series) (1984); Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (tv series) (1985); "Beware the Gray Ghost" (1992), episode of Batman: The Animated Series; "Mr. Plow" (1992), episode of The Simpsons; "Eyes on the Prize" (1994), episode of The Critic; Redux Riding Hood (short) (Steve Moore 1997); "Super Writers!" (1998), episode of Histeria!; The Secret Files of the Spy Dogs (tv series) (1998); The Family Guy (tv series) (1999).

 
He is a performer who merits a place in this volume more than you might think—for there is something genuinely science-fictional, genuinely strange, about Adam West. At first glance, he might seem like just another likable but minimally-talented actor who had the good fortune to star in a briefly popular television series, making him prominent enough to maintain a presence in the fringes of the industry despite any true aptitude for his craft. However, in his constant imperturbability, his calm determination to always respond in his usual manner—no matter how outlandish or absurd the circumstances are—West suggests that he is actually a space alien, so well schooled (by years of watching our films and television programs) in how to act like a human being that he meticulously carries on with the performance, despite its growing inappropriateness to the situation, and thus reveals his true extraterrestrial origins.

First handicapped by a resonant voice that kept him working in radio for years, then handicapped by a handsome face that exiled him to forgettable guest appearances in television westerns, Adam West was long unappreciated by a Hollywood unprepared for his uniquely disquieting ordinariness. And certainly, there was nothing particularly impressive about his few genre appearances prior to 1966—small parts in Voodoo Island and Robinson Crusoe on Mars and a routine leading role in the very worst episode of the original The Outer Limits. But everything changed when producer William DOZIER decided, with preternatural perceptiveness, that this unknown actor would be the ideal star of his new series, Batman.

Despite its great success and endless afterlife in reruns, DOZIER's Batman remains fundamentally misunderstood as a irreverent spoof of comic-book superheroes, with jokes strategically subdued to avoid alienating younger viewers. But something subtler was going on in that series. Anticipating the later comedy series Hi Honey, I'm Home!—which surrealistically examined what would happen if a standard sitcom family from the innocent 1950s were transplanted into the real world of the 1980s—Batman surrealistically examined what would happen if a standard comic-book superhero, with accompanying paraphernalia and colorful supervillains, were transplanted into the real world of New York City in the 1960s. And the series' surprising answer, despite scores of comic incongruities, was that things would work out just fine: armed with his commonsensical morality and strength of character, Batman was able to successfully navigate through such complexities as urban politics, television news reporters, devious lawyers, hippies, and the counterculture; and despite their vastly different value systems, the diverse citizens of Gotham City were compelled to respect and embrace Batman. Far from satirizing comic-book superheroes, Batman spectacularly validated them; and what made it all work, of course, was West's unnerving and brilliantly monochromatic stoicism in the face of innumerable affronts to his dignity.

Yet there were at that time few roles that demanded this sort of nuanced performance, and West's first two decades after Batman were generally dismal: a lame return to his Bat-costume for a laughable television movie, voice work for numerous television cartoons (often, again, as Batman), a silly vignette for Night Gallery, scattered roles in minor films (including two of the Happy Hooker films), and two appearances at that noted rest home for has-been actors, Fantasy Island. But his career came alive again in the remarkable Doin' Time on Planet Earth, where he was perfectly cast as the leader of peculiar cultists who, believing themselves to be exiled aliens, are looking for a messiah to take them back home to outer space. Even though surrounded by eccentric people and bizarre behavior, and even though obliged to explain his cult's idiotic doctrines at great length, West remained impeccably cool and collected, as if everything going on around him was perfectly normal, substantially contributing to that overlooked film's singularly weird atmosphere.

Since that time, along with some continuing work of a routine nature, West has regularly been sought out to add his own special strangeness to some of the strangest film projects of recent years, including farces like Danger Theatre and The Best Movie Ever Made and off-the-wall science fiction series like Weird Science and Black Scorpion. To make the most bizarre television series ever aired, The Adventures of Pete and Pete, just a little bit more bizarre, it made perfect sense to cast West as the title characters' malevolent principal; and I don't know why anyone in the year 2000 would want to make a film starring a computer-animated George Burns, but I understand perfectly why the film included West, placidly interacting with a dead actor just as he has placidly interacted with so many other oddities. Just as Peter LORRE made every film he was in a horror film, the mature West now makes every film he is in a science fiction film—charming us all with his sincere efforts, and ultimate failure, to play the part that he has practiced so well.

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