Friday, September 16, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 13 & 14

By Joel Eisner

This episode is based on a February 1964 comic book story in which the Mad Hatter commits crimes based on the occupations of the jurors who sent him to prison. This is far more interesting than the version seen here. It made no real sense to kidnap the jurors who sent him to prison, just to get their hats. If he was planning to kill them, to get revenge that would make more sense, but it was never explained what he planned to do with them. Other than this plothole, Mad Hatter comes off as a rather bizzare campy villain not as manic as the Joker but something more ambiguous. David Wayne another Fox contract player claimed he had a hand in the depiction of the character, in particular the makeup, the voice and mannerisms. Jervis Tetch, (one of the few villains to actually use his real name in the show) is a cross between a hollywood dandy, an effeminate stereotype homosexual and a prissy old movie villain. The lispy voice, gloves, dapper costume, he brought something to the character which he could not get from the comics, a personality. Jervis Tetch was the second Mad Hatter in the Batman comics, the first created in the 1940's, and was based on the Alice in Wonderland character. He didn't last long before he was replaced. The most recent incarnation has him as Jervis but closer to the Wonderland character.

David Wayne did Batman as a lark. It was the show to do, but he claims it was beneath him as an actor and hated the whole experience. He claims he was blackmailed by the studio to return for the second season, they had the script written and refused to recast the part. Despite his hatred of the role, he seemed to be enjoying himself quite a bit, especially when he is giving the tour of his hat factory torture room.

Diane McBain as Hatter's girl Lisa, has little to do but she works for Madame Magda, a hat designer/boutique owner who was one of Tetch's 12 jurors. Once she helps get Magda and her hat, her job is over. Until she aids in the capture of Turkey Bullwinkle, the final juror who owns a bowling alley. Otherwise, Diane had to wait until second season to fare somewhat better as Pinky Pinkston in the Green Hornet episode. Diane had no memory of working on this episode, in fact she had thought she worked with the Penguin.

The Hatter's henchmen consisted of Dicer, played by frequent Batman stuntman Gil Perkins and Cappy played by Roland La Starza a former heavyweight boxer who once fought champion Rocky Marciano for the Heavyweight Boxing Title. Someone on this series must have been a boxing fan as several former boxers turned up on the series over the next two years. (There were of course the extra henchmen that turned up during the final battle but they were never given names).

Story editor Charles Hoffman wrote this episode and many more over the lifetime of the series, but he was not a very good writer. He penned several episodes that are fun but make little sense and have too many plotholes. Norman Foster returned to direct his second and final episode, which is far better than Zelda, in that it had a final Bat-Fight. As much as the rotating knives and felt shredders looked fake, they still added to the battle. In the end, Jervis winds up in his own vat of shrinking solution. It would have been funnier if when the hauled him out of the vat, his clothes had shrunk. On the topic of clothes, how could I leave out the Hatter's Super instant mezmorizer in his hat. That put Penguin's purple hat to shame. Operated by a wire which fed from the back of the hat and down into Wayne's suit jacket with the control wire going down his sleeze. When he pressed the squeeze bulb, it popped the hat open. The light effects were added later in post production. I wonder whatever happened to that hat.

Next: Joker Goes to School.


  1. A brief note about all those prizefighters of the era—they also turn up on The Wild Wild West: Roland La Starza, "The Night of the Bogus Bandits"; Floyd Patterson, "The Night of the Juggernaut."

    He may have despised his role in the show, but David Wayne did not phone in his performance (as I feel George Sanders did, playing off his bored Continental image from the movies). Wayne obviously developed a character, which is bizarre to say the least. His prancing gait and line delivery—"mahy hayt fac-tor'y"—is from some planet in another solar system. Sadly I agree with you, Joel, that Hoffman's story-lines give the players little to work with. His are episodes with simple premises that develop into nothing fast and pretty much sit there, like plaster drying. Were it not for the actors hamming it up, there'd be little reason to watch them.

  2. BTW, Joel, I'm thoroughly enjoying all the great production/promotion stills you've been including with your overviews, most of them new to me. Screen caps (or frame grabs) are excellent to pinpoint a specific moment, but rare stills and trannies shot on set by studio photographers have their own special magic. The gloveless Robin one is clearly a behind-the-scenes image, although both Wayne and McBain seem amusingly in-character.

  3. It seems the story arc here will be the standard for the final 2 seasons. That said, I caught this on TV the other day and was quite entertained -- amazing what a crafty true thespian can do with a little prattle and costume. Wayne embodies a terrific enemy, perhaps not as formidable as Romero, Gorshin or Meredith, but he puts his all into it. And I think Foster's direction here did well to create a tighter, novelty-festooned atmosphere -- as you mention the whirling blades and daggers weren't that imposing when shown from the sky-cam, but Foster's use of tight shots added to the danger element. This one was a dandy!

  4. Looks to me like the had was operated much like the drive conrtol of my lawnmower. When Batman shows it off at the end, it looks like a hand-held clamp that shortens the wire when compress in your hand, causing the lid to pop open. Fun to re-watch the scenes and see how the Hatter conceals it. And Wanyne's voice reminds me of a cartoon character, Klondike Kat, who always said, "I'll make mincemeat out of that mouse!" in the same "Hee-yat Fee-yactory" voice that Wayne uses.

    Two birds with one stone!

  5. "Story editor Charles Hoffman wrote this episode and many more over the lifetime of the series, but he was not a very good writer. He penned several episodes that are fun but make little sense and have too many plotholes."

    NO KIDDING. I noticed this. Lorenzo Semple Jr. was story editor for season 1, and my guess is, when he left, William Dozier may have said to himself, "This damn thing's STILL TOO GOOD! Well, I'll FIX that!" --and promoted his WORST writer to be in charge of everybody else's scripts.

    Remember when it was said Ellis St. Joseph's "Sandman" script was touted as "the best script this show has ever had?" --but NOT by the time it got on the air?

    I do like a lot about this story, but the 2nd Hatter story (also written by Hoffman) made no sense AT ALL.

  6. "Wayne obviously developed a character, which is bizarre to say the least. His prancing gait and line delivery—"mahy hayt fac-tor'y"—is from some planet in another solar system."

    OH yeah!

    "Geez, I think th' boss is startin' t' LOSE it."
    "I heard that!!!"

  7. There's no plothole regarding why he kidnapped the jury! In part one, he tells his henchmen that, after he's collected all the jurors, he's going to demand in ransom the collection of all the hats of the US presidents!