Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 21 & 22

By Joel Eisner

A far different story for the Penguin compared to his previous debut episode. He claiming to have turned straight, he sets up a phony security agency in order to gain access to actress Sophia Starr, so he can marry her and run off with the millions of dollars in wedding gifts.

Marriage in the Batman series was a frequent theme or subplot. Penguin would later attempt marriage to Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl in order to become the police commissioner's son-in-law which he believed would give him immunity from prosecution. What law book was he reading? Marsha Queen of Diamonds wants to marry Batman so she can gain access to the Batcave to steal the Batdiamond. King Tut kidnaps a millionaire's daughter Lisa Carson (Lee Meriwether) and plans to marry her but then decides to hold her for ransom., Her father planned to marry her off to Bruce Wayne, so they could merge their fortunes, but then offers her hand in marriage to Batman.

Sandman plans to marry J Pauline Spaghetti in order to claim her vast fortune. Chandell plans to bump off Bruce and Dick and marry who he believes is the inheriting heir, Aunt Harriet. Catwoman wants to marry Batman so they can work as a team, but when she offers to have Robin killed, Batman declines the offer. Commisioner Gordon had hopes to marry Barbara off to Bruce Wayne, but that did't work out. Egghead and Olga were to be married, but when she decided that as Queen she could have five husbands, and wanted Batman, Egghead objected. There are probably more, but you get the picture.

There are some odd moments in the episode like the bulletproof soles of their boots protecting them from the bullets in the shooting gallery. If they always had bulletproof soles, why didn't they bulletproof their heels as well. That way Shame would not have been able to shoot Robin in the heel.

This episode marked the introduction of the batcycle and director Leslie H. Martinson (in his only helming of a Batman tv episode before he took over the helm of the Batman feature (Robert Butler was set to direct the film, but he primarily was known as a director of tv pilot films (he also directed Star Trek's originally pilot, The Cage) and they needed a theatrical director). The cycle was used only in this episode and was discared in favor of the one used in the film for all future episodes.

Henchmen Hawkeye and Dove are more for comic relief than as actual backup. Al Cheeco and Don Knotts were comedy partners who used to entertain the troops. He spent of most of his career as comic foils on sitcoms and detective shows. Harvey Lembeck however, was a comic star unto himself. Coming off of Stalag 17 and Sgt Bilko, he landed the recurring role of Eric Von Zipper in the 1960's Beach Party Films with Frankie and Annette. He is the perfect comic stooge to play off of Penguin. Hawkeye and Dove sort of fall inbetween Laurel and Hardy, and Abbott and Costello. Lembeck died in 1982 at the age of 58, from a heart attack, he had a recurring role on Mork and Mindy as one of Jonathan Winters', alien classmates.

Kathleen Crowley was Miss New Jersey of 1949 , she was a Fox contract player and made the rounds of most the westerns and drama shows of the 60's She was the female lead in the low budget sci film Target Earth (opposite Richard Denning and Dick Reeves. She also costarred opposite Clock King henchman Michael Pate in the vampire western Curse of the Undead. She was neither a Bat Babe or typical moll.

One of my favorite goofy incidents involves the batmobile and the Penguin, Usng the controls on the Batcycle, Batman activates the ejector seat (something that gave King Tut a lift later in the season) and jetisons Hawkeye and Dove, then drives Penguin crazy by taking control of the car and driving the car off the road and opening the doors. Burgess' remarks during this sequence appears adlibbed and similar to Jack Mercer's mutterings as Popeye, in the Fleischer cartoons of the 1930's . Moments later, Batman and Robin drive back to the city with Penguin and his men tied to the hood of the Batmobile, how safe is that?

There was glitch in the scene when Penguin and his men attempt to load the stolen wedding presents into the trunk of the batmobile. The presents were resting on a long countertop which flipped backwards into the wall. The presents went down a chute to the open trunk of the waiting Batmobile (dubbed birdmobile complete with new door logos). When Penguin arrives in the garage the boxes are stuck on the chute, so he has to push the remaining boxes into the trunk, but when he tries to close it one of the boxes gets stuck between the hood of the trunk and the car, preventing the trunk from closing. Hawkeye, spoting the problem and not wanting to stop the shoot, quickly pushes the box into the trunk and closes the door, before getting into the car.

It was a fun episode, closer in humor to the stuff Lembeck was doing in the beach party films. Slapstick mixed with cartoon humor.

How Burgess Meredith felt about doing the show, he said “I did ‘Batman’ for two reasons, one of which was salary. The other was that, after its first few episodes, ‘Batman’ became the in-thing to do. Everybody would either play a villain or appear as himself in that cameo showcase where a celebrity would poke his head through the window of a building that Batman and Robin were climbing. I even remember Otto Preminger saying to me, ‘My God, my son won’t speak to me unless I get a job on “Batman.” Eventually, he got in’. Actually, we didn’t get as much money from the show as you might think, although we were paid decent money for the feature film version. The main impetus to continue appearing on ‘Batman’— beyond the desire to get some TV work— was that it was fashionable.” (Each main villain got $2500.00 for the entire hour with no residuals. Just the flat fee.)

Next: The Riddler (him again) in my favorite episode, one with an actual plot with a connected theme linked to a final end result. Ring of Wax.

1 comment:

  1. The only reason for me to watch this episode is Burgess Meredith, having a romp. His manner and mannerisms steer the episodes into Comedy Central.