Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr., who created the 1960s campy Batman television series before moving onto such political thrillers as Three Days Of The Condor and The Parallax View in the 1970s, died yesterday, just one day after his 91st birthday.
The 1970s were the pinnacle of Semple’s feature film scripting career. In addition to providing the early drafts for Parallax View (1974) and Three Days Of The Condor (1975), he also wrote Paul Newman’s Harper sequel The Drowning Pool (1975) and producer Dino De Laurentiis’ 1976 remake of King Kong. Moving in the 1980s, Semple wrote the cult classic updating of Flash Gordon (1980) (a film we particularly love here) and the big screen adaptation of the comic strip Sheena (1984).
Semple was instrumental in helping bring Sean Connery back to the big screen in his iconic role of James Bond in the ersatz spinoff Never Say Never Again. The film was able to be produced outside of the regular franchise by Warner Brothers due to a loophole in the rights to the Bond novel Thunderball.
Semple started his writing career as a playwright following his service in World War Two. But when his comedy Golden Fleecing was bought by MGM for $100,000 he headed to Hollywood, where he was soon scripting episodes of The Rogues, Burke’s Law and Rat Patrol. Golden Fleecing would go on to be adapted into the Steve McQueen film The Honeymoon Machine (1961) though Semple was not involved with the project.
When ABC passed on a pilot that Semple co-created with producer William Dozier, the two would collaborate to create the campy Batman, which would star Adam West as the titular superhero. Semple outlined many of the show’s iconic tropes including the animated “Bam!” and “Pow!” graphics. He wrote the show’s first four episodes and then served as script consultant for the rest of the series’ run.
When the show proved to be a breakout hit, Semple wrote the big screen spinoff which premiered in the summer of 1966 between the show’s first and second season. It was Semple’s first feature film assignment.
Other films on Semple’s resume include Fathom (1967) which starred Raquel Welch and the comedy Pretty Poison (1968) with Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins, which earned him a New York Film Critics Circle award.