Tuesday, September 20, 2011

17 & 18: True or False Face/Holy Rat Race

Season 1 Episodes 17 & 18
Original Air Dates: 3/9/66 & 3/10/66
Special Guest Villain: Malachi Throne as False Face
Guest stars: Myrna Fahey, Billy Curtis
Written by: Stephen Kandel
Directed by: William A. Graham

The Master of Disguise, False Face plots to flood Gotham with funny money. Aiding him is the beautiful but deadly, Blaze (Fahey). Can Batman and Robin stop FF from destroying Gotham's financial future?

JS: I had all but forgotten about False Face, but the minute I saw him in the teaser at the end of the last episode, it all came flooding back to me. There's something about that mask that always creeped me out, perhaps the way in which he talks without the lips moving, a la Dr. Phibes. And it has a bit of a Martin Landau look, circa Alone in the Dark... Well, whatever it is, count me a fan!

PE: Does Gotham elect its officials? Just wondering how a blundering oaf like Chief O'Hara keeps his job. First, he lets False Face get away with the crown, then he lets an inflatable mattress stop him from the chase. Once he actually gets out onto the street and on the tail of the criminal, he loses him when FF changes colors on his van... right in front of O'Hara!

JS: What's sad is that while impersonated by False Face, he was actually a better police chief. For what it's worth, Stafford Repp had to love the opportunity to portray something other than the bumbling idiot for a change.

PE: He obviously isn't familiar with Gotham's most overpaid security guard as he portrays him as a smart and courageous individual. The irony is that this episode actually forced Repp to warm up his acting chops and, for the most part, he shines. To be fair, he is usually given nothing to do on the series but act like a buffoon or nod his head and say lines like "Aye, Commissioner, we know not who the Caped Crusader is, but..."

JS: I thought there were several nice introductions in this episode, including Blaze's first meeting with the dynamic duo in Commissioner Gordon's office.  

PE: This is the second time Batman has been fooled by a cross-dressing bimbo.

PE: A lot of care went into the continuity of that high speed chase (speeds are clocked at just over 15 MPH). False-Face and his moll, Blaze (Fahey) make their getaway in a black van but are clearly shown in close-ups in a white van before the colors are changed! 

JS: Great lengths were gone to NOT to identify False Face. The opening credits for both chapters list "Special Guest Villain - ? - as False Face," and it isn't until the end credits of the finale that Throne gets his due.

PE: Why does Bruce Wayne bother with the expense of a batphone (and where do the bills go for that exclusive line?) when all the Dynamic Duo have to do is wait for Aunt Harriet to show up (in fact, if you look close, she's just waiting off-camera to run into the scene). Just once I'd like to see a lengthy conversation with the old bird. What does she do in that big mansion all day, just her and Alfred?

JS: I'm holding out for the movie for that. I think that even had they given her dialog during the series, it was probably the first thing to go in order to maintain their brisk pace. 

PE: Dick Grayson continues to have problems with his studies. In fact, I'd venture to say he must be a pretty crappy student since he's always complaining about how hard his homework is and how he just doesn't get it. His latest class, Trees of Gotham, is giving him fits:
Dick: Pine...Elm...Hickory. Gosh, botany is tough. I'll never learn to recognize all these trees. 
Bruce: Come, come, Dick, Pine...Elm...Hickory...Chestnut...Maple. Part of our heritage is the lore of living things. The storybook of nature. 
Dick: That's true, Bruce. I'll learn to read that book of nature yet!
JS: The dialog as they're leaving should cause Aunt Harriet some concern:
Bruce: Going to ramble in the woods... Nature in the raw!"
JS: When Batman asks Alfred to borrow a dollar, I was sure that someone had turned all of the Bat-devices into pay-as-you-go machines...

PE: I think Batman made his Bat Babe of the week pick when he tossed an unconscious Blaze over his shoulder and told the boy wonder he was planning to interrogate her.

JS: While it never gets addressed, clearly False Face has more powers than just changing his look. He instantaneously can mimic any costume as well. Which came in particularly handy when he decided to assume the train conductor garb while tying the dynamic duo to the train tracks with a combination of bubble wrap and saran wrap.

JS: Graham provides a few inspired shots throughout the episode to give it a little bit less of a cookie cutter feel, including my favorite—the reveal of False Face after Batman is gassed by the candy machine (clearly acquired from The Joker's One Armed Bandit Novelty Company.

PE: Whose idea was it to tie the dynamic duo to train tracks with a combination of bubble wrap and saran wrap?

JS: Don't you suppose it would have been easier for Alfred to mend Batman's glove if he wasn't wearing it at the time?

PE: Is it just me, or did the bank vault set look more like a jail cell set?

JS: Blaze is our first moll to turn on her super villain mid-episode. And as a result, one of the fastest to be reformed in the Wayne foundation for Wayward Women.

PE: In Joel Eisner's Official Batbook, producer William Dozier is quoted as saying this is his least favorite episode of the series. I don't know if it'll turn out to be the worst, but it's at the top of my list thus far. Thank God Catwoman's right around the corner. 

JS: Batman is sorry you feel that way, or, he's predicting the final scene of the Blair Witch Project, 30 years in advance.

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 


Next up... The Catwoman! Same Bat Time, Same Bat URL!


  1. Count me among the fans of this episode, which is something of a one-of-a-kind for BATMAN; a whodunnit with a bizarre-looking masked fiend. Because Malachi Throne is generally concealed, most of the episode rests on henchgirl Blaze's capable shoulders. Always liked sad, wanton-looking hottie Myrna Fahey, perhaps best known as the ill-fated Madeline Usher in Roger Corman's 1960 classic HOUSE OF USHER. She's spirited, has range, and never made a return appearance on the series, as either villain or damsel-in-distress, which is a shame. As for Mr. Throne and all the "mystery" surrounding this guest baddie... It wasn't much of a mystery to us readers of TV Guide, who saw the weird-looking name "Malachi Throne" listed as False Face in the weekly synopsis. Never having encountered a Malachi before, we Brooklyn kids immediately assumed it was an anagram of some kind. Frank Sinatra was in there somewhere, we thought. It would take a few years and IT TAKES A THIEF for the durable Mr. Throne to become a household name... sort of.

  2. I'm also a fan of this episode, for many reasons others have already stated. While some of the editing was sloppy, other cuts are very effective, like the villain's push-back from his van's driver's seat, straight onto an exiting scooter from the rear. Hard cut: Bam! Billy Graham faced a lot of the same restrictions that rested on the shoulders of his lead villain, and I think the director rose to the occasion. Would that they had hired him for more episodes: he had a flair for interesting camera set-ups that didn't break the budget.

    I know that Saran Wrap was around in 1966. Had bubble-wrap come into our lives at that time?

    I read somewhere that Steve Kandel accepted scripting responsibility for this show with an unbreakable agreement: that his kid(s) would be allowed to visit the stage while it was shot. "One script for one kid: the price of admission."

  3. False Face is awesome! He and Blaze were a fantastic team, up until she pulled a Zelda. Can we not have a decent female criminal who is immune to Batman's charms? Hopefully I'll get my wish next episode, and Bruce Wayne won't get to rehabilitate another promising villainess into Stepford Wife material.

    Malachi Throne performs on the same level as Gorshin, Romero, Meredith, and Wayne. The energy he brought to F.F. made this episode work for me. He had me believing he could trounce Batman with all his acrobatic leaps and bounds and escapes. I did think he might keep pulling an infinite number of masks off. I like that he is never unmasked. It would be like the Joker taking off his make up.

    Saran Wrap may not seem like it's that strong, but try wrapping a bunch of it around your wrists and see if you can break free. Alfred proves he is the true unsung hero behind the superheroes.

    I was expecting Desmond Doomsday to announce at the end of the episode, "Today's episode of Batman is brought to you by the letter D." There certainly was an inordinate amount of alliteration in this episode.

  4. These are my favorite two episodes of the entire series. It's Batman at its best, perfectly balancing the comedy and the drama. There was action, suspense, danger and tons of laughs in the right places. There's a great deal of serious, frightening moments in these episodes, especially seeing Face Face's reflection in the candy machine. The mask may have been cheap, but it would be, at times, quite menacing. The performances are all spot on, the pace is brisk and the plot hangs together nicely. I rank it up there with the first three of the series, which epitomize the best of Batman.