Monday, October 31, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 69 & 70

By Joel Eisner

David Wayne returns as the Jervis Tetch, the Mad Hatter in a role he wanted nothing to do with. As I pointed out in his first appearance, Wayne didn't want to come back to the show. He said, "It was too tough to get me to do a second one. They held a gun to my head to do it. They had already written a script for the Mad Hatter, and I said I wouldn’t do it. So they used all the strength of the studio in order to force me to do it. Finally, I just gave in. I just thought it was cheap and, beneath me, really, as a performer. But strangely enough, most of the fan mail I get is from people who knew and loved BATMAN and new kids who still see it.”

Both Mad Hatter scripts were written by story editor Charles Hoffman, but like the first one it was a based on a comic book story, this one appeared in April 1956 Batman comic book. Wayne, despite his resistance to the show, returned and gave a similar performance complete with his fey accent and mannerisms. His three tailed Pasha gave him the opportunity to once again change clothes (like his Octave Marbot) in the previous episode. Wayne must have been a terrific actor to have hidden his distaste from his performance, because he once again seemed to be enjoying himself.

As for the episode itself, there are some flaws that don't make any real sense, such as the Bat-Skeletons. Batman dresses up a pair of skeletons found lying around the nuclear plant in spare Bat costumes but doesn't anybody notice, that they are only half dressed. They are only wearing the boots, shorts capes and masks, where are the tights and tunics?

Also if the now pink Bat Cowl is so highly radioactive that they have to use a pair of tongs to pick it up, why is Batman still wearing it for such a long time before taking it off. And why did the radioactive spray turn the cowl pink but the surrounding part of the cape remained the same color.

Not having read or seen the original comic book, how much was just lifted for use on the show. This is including the fight on the water tower. It looked like an experiment in how to conduct a stunt fight in a tight place.

One funny scene might have been added if Alan Napier had his way “I had an idea, which they wouldn’t do, but I think it would have been very funny: that I am cleaning Robin’s Bat-Pole and slip, and I come down wearing Robin’s costume, which was too small for me.”

We learn in this episode that Alfred makes all the Batcostumes and that his cousin Egbert's (from the previous Joker episode) wife Maudie is the cleaning woman who works at the nuclear power plant and was the one who discovered the skeletons. Of course, if you remember Egbert let Alfred take his place at the nightwatchman at the water works to see his favorite stripper perform, and that Alfred and Egbert know the strippers personally. So, unless Egbert got married in the time between this episode and the Joker episode, he was stepping out on his wife. (Alfred of course, as he pointed out in a previous episode has never married).

Of the gang members, actress Jean Hale had even less to do than Diane McBain in the previous episode. Hale, a frequent guest on tv shows throughout the 60's, 70's and 80's. is also the ex wife of actor Dabney Coleman.

Lennie Bremen as Benny was another in the series of large sized acting/stuntmen. Like Robert Miller Discoll and Jack Perkins, Bremen
usually portrayed bartenders, truck drivers or workmen. He actually worked with David Wayne years before in the American remake of the German thriller M which made a star of Peter Lorre, in this case Wayne played the part of the child murderer and Bremen a local thug.

Leonid Kinskey playing the nutty Professor Overbeck, was the bartender in the classic film Casablanca.

Heather Young soon to be a regular cast member on Land of the Giants using her real name of Heather Peterson portrayed the American phone operator.

Next The Joker and Penguin team up for some Zodiac Crimes.

Episodes 69 & 70: The Contaminated Cowl/The Mad Hatter Runs Afoul

Season 2 Episodes 69 & 70
Original Air Dates: 1/4/67 & 1/5/67
Special Guest Villain: David Wayne as The Mad Hatter
Guest stars: Jean Hale, Lennie Bremen
Written by: Charles Hoffman
Directed by: Oscar Rudolph

The Mad Hatter steals 700 hat boxes from BonBon's Box Boutique but that's only an appetizer to his evil main course: stealing the ruby from the Golden Buddha of Bergama and replacing it with the cheap phony he stole from the hat of Hattie Hatfield. In the process, The Mad Hatter also manages to embarrass Batman by spraying him with radioactive particles and turning his cowl pink (a nice look on him). 

PE: Did I hear that right? The Mad Hatter broke out of jail last week and Warden Creighton thought to mention it to Commissioner Gordon only after the heinous crime was committed? As Gordon puts it: "Sometimes I wonder if the Warden's rehabilitation program isn't... getting out of hand." Fairly soon, I have a feeling we'll be seeing a new criminal in Gotham, The Warden!

JS: There are times, during his long speeches, that the Mad Hatter reminds me of an overacting Mike Myers. That said, Myers would have been ideal casting had Joel Schumaker picked the Hatter for resurrection in the 80s-90s film series.

PE: Do you ever wonder why Batman and Robin bother coming to Gotham City Hall? I do. They rush over, breaking who knows how many speed limits to listen to some baloney the Commissioner could relay over the phone and, after hearing the startling news that, yep, it's The Catwoman (or fill it in with this week's guest villain) alrighty, Batman says "well, Robin, to the Batcave, quick!" Robin should look up at his big brother and sigh, "But we just got here!"

JS: Gas was a lot cheaper then. Biggest revelation for this episode—Batman reads the daily gossip column.

PE: When Bats gets it with the radioactive spray, I was hoping he'd sprout wings or at least fangs. Instead, we get a ridiculously pink cowl (doubtless, The Mad Hatter will really want it now). I'm sure those who were living near nuclear plants sighed in relief to know that their children wouldn't grow that third eye all the No-Nukes fools threatened.

JS: But let's be frank. If the cowl were just radioactive, Bats would have focused on the business at hand, his own safety aside. But you knew he wasn't going to run around for the entire episode in a cowl that had been turned pink (not that there's anything wrong with that! -PE). Although to be honest, I was a little disappointed that his cape wasn't turned as well.

PE: And Bruce Wayne cut a check to Professor Overbeck for his continued studies in atomic energy. The first thing he says to Batman is that "so little is known about radioactive agents." Is the check to get the professor started in the field? Shouldn't Wayne already know all about radioactivity since he's got a frickin' nuclear reactor in his basement?

JS: Anyone who followed Thriller knows I'm a sucker for skeleton cameos, so it should come as no surprise what a treat it was to see our dynamic duo stripped to the bone (or shorts, as the case may be). It would have been a worthy exit, had it proven to be true.

PE: Gordon, sitting in exactly the same pose as he was in the opening, moans that his world "has been ripped to shreds... seam by seam," when he learns that the scantily-clad skeletons of the Dynamic Duo have been found. Man, were we fooled! I thought for sure, after seeing those realistic bat-skeletons, that this time it was curtains for Batman and Robin. I was contemplating what I would do with all my free viewing time: What's Happening-a-Day? 60 Minutes-a-Day? One Day at a Time-a-Day?

JS: How about Stafford Repp's Emmy-worthy scene as he's overcome with emotion upon hearing Batman's fate. Once again, the thought of actually having to do his job surely got to Chief O'Hara.

PE: Luckily, Bats packed his Bat X-Ray Deflector in his utility belt (shouldn't he be wearing a Bat-pack by now with all the stuff he lugs around?) and the extra costumes in the Batmobile, so I won't have to worry about unemployment just yet.  Who decided the Boy Wonder should be shirtless? In the best line in the show, the Caped Crusader remind the professor that the ruse would never have worked were it not for the "two skeletons in your closet!"

JS: I loved how he bragged about it like he were on an infomercial. 

PE: The more screen time Aunt Harriet gets, the more I appreciate nails on a chalkboard.

JS: As she often brings with her more Alfred time, it's a small price to pay. I love that we get a little more Pennyworth history, and love the ghost-white faces of Bruce and Dick when he decides to tell Aunt Harriet the truth.

PE: When Gordon tells Batman how glad he is that the Duo are back to solving all the crime in Gotham, you can see the two empty bottles of JD on his desk and O'Hara passed out on the floor.

JS: How appropriate was it that when O'Hara and the GCPD arrive on the scene, it's played out like a Keystone Cops routine.

PE: That hound dog Gordon did me proud again. He leaves his squad to clean up the mess while he takes Polly in by himself to "book her." Since she's obviously the most dangerous of the gang, she'll need special attention.

JS: I think he wanted to interview her for the French maid position at Casa Gordon.

JS: You've also gotta love the stock shots of the crowd of 50,000 Gotham City locals that follow the Dynamic Duo around everywhere they go.

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

Next up... The Joker & The Penguin! Same Bat Time, Same Bat URL!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 67 & 68

By Joel Eisner

Despite the introduction of Catwoman, changing the story and direction of the entire episode, I like this one. I have always liked Michael Rennie. Having come off playing the Keeper on Lost in Space and The captain of the Titanic in the pilot episode of The Time Tunnel. He had an appeal in just about everything, probably because, he always looked like he was going to break out laughing no matter how serious the part was. Besides his famous role of Klaatu in the Day the Earth Stood Still, he was also famous as Harry Lime in the Third Man TV series (opposite Jonathan Harris of Lost in Space).

Both Rennie and Harris were smokers, Harris told me that they both agreed to stop smoking at the same time, but it was too late for Rennie. He spent his later years living in Geneva Switzerland and died of emphysema while staying at his mother's house in England, he had come to attend his brother's funeral. His last role in the European Horror Film, Assignment Terror (with Paul Nashy) although filmed in English had to be redubbed by another actor since his breathing problems made him too ill to do the job himself. The six foot four inch Rennie died at age 61 in 1971. His real name was Eric Alexander Rennie.

His son David Rennie, is a UK High Court judge on the Lewes, Sussex circuit.

He had a second son, John Marshall Rennie, with longtime companion Renee Gilbert Taylor. Professionally, his son went by John M. Taylor.

This episode has the distinction of having two different titles for the second part. The Sandman Cometh and A Stitch in Time and The Sandman Cometh and the Catwoman Goeth. For some reason they filmed both versions of the 2nd title. It aired in both versions during the reruns.

The story of this episode is a long one, best left to writer Ellis St Joseph, “My experience with ‘Batman’ was a very strange one. I loved doing it, but when I came into it, it was in its second year, and its ratings were falling off. I knew why—it was very clear to me—but it wasn’t to them, because I believe they were so into it. There is a delicate balance between comic or camp and suspense, and if you listen to the critics too much about the camp, you become totally comic and lose suspense. I think that kids as well as grown-ups want a little suspense along with the comedy, but they had lost it. So, I set about creating something that would restore the feeling of suspense and even increase, if possible, the comedic elements. When I wrote it, I tried to think of what parody to use. I have always been fascinated by the German expressionist films and, in particular, 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’. So, I thought of doing a Batman version of ‘Caligari’, and that is what it is. When I handed it in very quickly, I got a letter from Bill Dozier. It said: ‘Dear Ellis, I want to congratulate you on writing the best “Batman” script of the series.’ He said some very, very flattering things about it. Then the next paragraph was, ‘As far as I’m concerned, from now on you can work at this studio for the rest of your life. Thanks and Best Wishes, Bill.’ “This was one of the nicest letters a writer ever got from a producer. So, I stayed around only long enough to say that there is only one actor, I think, who would be perfect for the villain, and that was Robert Morley, who is terrible at comedy but wonderful at wit. However, if he played it seriously, it could become witty. And to do Dr. Caligari played by Robert Morley would have been absolutely right, and it would have suspense, too. They sent the script to Morley, who agreed to play it. I knew we were going to have something explosively successful and wonderful.

“The next news was horrendous. I didn’t hear from Bill, but I learned from other people that they had a commitment with the Catwoman and they didn’t know how to use her. Obviously, they had to use her (I wish they had used her on another script), so they gave my script to the story editor, Charles Hoffman, and he combined the Catwoman with my version of Dr. Caligari. Now, if they had come to me, I think I could have done almost the impossible, I think I could have combined it, but I would have treated the Catwoman the way the musical treats cats; I would have made her a sinister black shadow of a cat on Halloween night. I would have used her the way I used the other characters, but they didn’t do that. It was mishmash, and of course, Morley refused to play it [Sandman] as it was no longer a star role.

“I then heard from a charming actress Spring Byington, whom I have always admired, and I got a letter that just sent me reeling. She said: ‘Dear Mr. St. Joseph, I cannot tell you how I appreciate being given a role like that of J. Pauline Spaghetti.’ What she was referring to was a role I wrote for actor John Abbott, called J. Paul Spaghetti, based on J. Paul Getty. So, this lovely woman, whom I had admired since I was a boy on the screen and stage, was telling me how grateful she was because ‘so rarely a part like that comes an actress’s way, and I hope to be able to tell you this personally.’ I could not answer the letter. How could I tell her the things I have just told you? Then, of course, there was the casting of the Morley role with Michael Rennie. As far as I’m concerned, for ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still,’ he deserves a place in history, but other than that he was a rather stiff actor, and it was not the role for him. So, what had begun as the best script of the series ended up a mess.”

Julie Newmar told me that she never liked this episode. I told her the story, that Ellis just related and she agreed, they should have waited for another episode or just one of her own.

I found someone who found a copy of the original script and here are some of the changes that he found.

Sleeping Beauty was Sandman's moll and not, of course, Catwoman.

Sandman's henchmen were not Laurel and Hardy in nightshirts, but zombies who never smiled, called Sandman, "Master," and had absolutely no fear of heights.

"Sleeping Beauty" "reappeared" in the storefront window, only to be discovered by Batman to be a breathing dummy!

Sandman used a cigar instead of a stethoscope.

The character of J. Pauline Spaghetti was Paul J. Spaghetti and was to marry Sleeping Beauty

The Bookworm was mentioned twice in the script.

Batman and Robin have to Batclimb up a dark elevator shaft. Two pencils of light are emitted from the tips of the ears on Batman's cowl!

P.J.'s butler is bound and gagged in a short scene that may have been the inspiration for the third season "Thugee Knot" bit Batman (deadpan): "We must always take time to help the unfortunate."

We see Batman on the subway, giving up his seat to a "Negro Lady!" (that's what it says in the script! Remember, it was the '60s!)

While Batman's predicament in the cliffhanger is the same, instead of being turned over to Catwoman, Robin is bound in the Batmobile as it is about to be crushed in an auto salvage yard. This trap may have inspired the second cliffhanger in the Penguin/Marsha trilogy.

Chief O'Hara and Commissioner Gordon fall under the Sandman's spell.

Batman opens a safe using an Audio-Magnetic Computer. Again, this turned up as the Three-Second-Flat Batvault Combination Unscrambler in the last story of the series, Hoffman's Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires.

Spring Byington a long time character actress and star of the 1950's sitcom December Bride. Her last roles besides this one was on The Flying Nun and as Larry Hagman's mother on I Dream of Jeannie. She also died in 1971, but at the age of 84.

The henchmen who resembled Laurel and Hardy in nightshirts, Richard Peel (Snooze/Hardy) died in 1988 at age 68. He had a recurring role as a butler friend of Sebastian Cabot's on Family Affair.

Tony Ballen (Nap/Laurel) was bit player who appeared on drama shows through the 1980's. he died in 2001 at age 71,

Catwoman's three female assistants were all unknowns, who appeared in small parts in the 1960's and all disappeared shortly after. Gypsy Rose Lee was the famous ex-stripper, whose life they based the Broadway show Gypsy on.

The Morpheus Mattress Factory is located on Derwin Alley, which is named for series assistant director Bill Derwin.

Has the script remained intact, had Catwoman not been included in the story and had Robert Morley remained in the role of the Sandman, would it have changed the course of the series. As much as I would like to believe it, I don't think it would have changed a thing. Sandman was meant to be a one shot villain. The character was based on a film, and once the story was done, what would they have done with him. Even if Ellis came back and wrote another script for him, it couldn't save the show from the likes of Charles Hoffman. They would have been like diamonds in the rough. The entire series would have to had changed not just a couple of scripts. Ellis tried to bring the show back to the first season, but as he said they became aware of themselves and now pushed the comedy ahead of the plot. Hoffman who producer and wrote for several tv series in the 1950's and even the cartoon series Jonny Quest, ended his career writing for the Brady Bunch, before he died in 1972 at age 60 of skin cancer.

I think it is possible that Hoffman deliberately sabotaged this story. He could have picked any story to use including some of his own, but this one I feel was a threat to Hoffman and his writers. Dozier thought it was one of the best, but he might have had to give in to Hoffman to keep peace among the regular writing staff. Who knows? Despite the changes, there is still a decent episode here. But if you want to blame anyone for the problems of the episode and possibly the series, you should blame Charles Hoffman.

Next David Wayne, is dragged kicking and screaming back to revive the Mad Hatter.

Episodes 67 & 68: The Sandman Cometh/The Catwoman Goeth

Season 2 Episodes 67 & 68
Original Air Dates: 12/28/66 & 12/29/66
Special Guest Villain: Michael Rennie as The Sandman
Extra Special Guest Villainess: Julie Newmar as Catwoman 
Guest stars: Spring Byington, Jeanie Moore
Written by: Ellis St. Joseph & Charles Hoffman
Directed by: george waGGner

The Catwoman is back and she's joined forces with infamous international villain, The Sandman, who's disguised himself as sleep expert, Dr. Somnambula and gotten in good with Noodle-billionairess J. Pauline Spaghetti. The plot is to win the trust of the old lady and then rob her of her billions. The Sandman, however, has a little something extra up his sleeve and The Catwoman won't like it! Batman and Robin must find a way to stop both criminals before Spaghetti ends up Mrs. Somnambula.

PE: "My record's been clean for months," says the most beautiful criminal ever to walk the earth, "I'm not even on parole." Seems to me, only a couple weeks in TV time has elapsed since Catwoman almost got her lips on Batman and was carted off to jail. If this show's time were to elapse as it does in "real life." Batman would be Alfred's age by now. 

JS: After more than a season, they finally acknowledge that the damn Batphone can be heard ringing throughout Wayne Manor. 

PE: LOL-scene of the episode. Policewoman Mooney goes missing and Catwoman is suspected. The Commissioner runs for the Batphone, only to find out that Bats is away on business and cannot be reached. He sighs and tells the Chief that sometimes even the Caped Crusader should enjoy some private time. "Yes," agrees O'Hara, Without missing a beat, the Chief's eyes light up: "How about the Bat-signal?" Gordon just about knocks O'Hara over heading for the roof, "A splendid idea!." So much for that privacy.

JS: I don't even want to know about Bruce Wayne's overnight camp for wayward boys... but what caused the ringing in Robin's head that necessitated the self abuse?

PE: Is it me or do Gordon and O'Hara watch a lot of afternoon TV? They always seem to be watching the tube just before something big happens. 

JS: More importantly, Gordon knows when the important news has played out, as he gets up out of his chair and wanders over to it so he can turn it off right as whatever he's watching ends.

PE: I know there's not much else to do around the office but, seriously, why have Bonnie around. Gordon could just as easily answer the phone. Now that I think of it, we haven't heard from Bonnie in a while. Budgetary cuts at Gotham City Hall?

JS: Though we haven't seen her, Bonnie was mentioned very recently. So she's not out of work yet. Speaking of calls, how about when Gordon finally reaches Batman, and wastes his time by saying, "I'm not going to waste your time..."

PE: So now the Bat-Computer's answering in riddles? Batman feeds it a question and out pops purple spaghetti. "I've got it! The computer's trying to tell us that J. Pauline Spaghetti's in trouble!" What happened to the little white cards he used to get? Does Alfred now have to stock the machine with all manner of paraphernalia? What a shopping list! "Let's see, Penguin's being paroled this week. I'll have to shove in some anchovies. Oh, this could get messy!"

JS: What's funny is that you could come up with something perfectly appropriate for each of the villains...

PE: I think an opportunity was missed when that fur coat that Rennie is wearing wasn't given to Maurice Evans last episode instead. That coat, that make-up. Oh, simply divine. Rennie looks like he was swallowed whole. That's when he looks awake. In his scene with J. Pauline in bed (if you haven't seen the episode, just trust me on this), he seems to be looking above her head while talking to her. Is that where the cue cards were?  Rennie's a fine actor, everyone knows that. All you have to do is point to his best-known role as Klaatu in The Day The Earth Stood Still. That was a good flick and a job well done for the actor but this little kid remembers him more for his role as the creepy Noah-like alien in the two-parter "The Keeper" on Lost in Space, which aired earlier in 1966. 

JS: You'd think he was originally scheduled to co-star with Mr. Freeze. Once he lost the pimp-coat, his doctor's outfit looked distinguished for a super-villain. 

PE: "There's something about this place that's a little strange," says Batman about that display room. I'll say. It's like no display room I've ever seen. Is it open to the public? Ostensibly, a display room has displays, no? This one had a single bed, a stack of really bad mattresses (they came apart in the big pillow fight the Dynamic Duo had with The Sandman's henchmen), and something that resembled a Warhol painting of two pillows. 

JS: How much do you think they charge for a bed Julie Newmar slept in?

PE: Batman really catches a lucky break with that "deadly" stitching machine. Every time we return from a cut away, the needle's back to the beginning stitch. He could be trapped there all day and be in no danger whatsoever.

JS: This issue looks like it fell victim to the stitching machine. Episode template standbys like the visit to The Commissioner's office? Not shown. Robin's rescue from the maze? Nope, nowhere to be seen. Instead, we get characters describing those scenes. The result is a bit choppy.

PE: Holy Recycling! Eagle-eyed Bat-cave watchers will notice that The Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City is now The Batmobile Tracking Map. That Alfred thinks of everything! 

JS: Remember the day when you could just have an illuminated map of Gotham that served all the purposes of a map?

PE: James Brolin's gotten a promotion from dopey armored car driver to dumb Gotham street cop. Ten bucks says in Season 3 he's the new Chief of Police.

JS: Call me crazy, but Brolin's rookie officer taking Bats to task for his minor infractions was the highlight of the episode to me. And since his issues were legitimate, Batman pretty much had to shut up and take it.

PE: Proof that the Boy Wonder is just a kid at heart. He knows the fence in the maze is electrified and yet he just can't help himself. 

JS: But he appears to losing his smarts. When Batman is looking for suspects, he keeps naming people that have been dead for hundreds of years.

PE: Gordon tells Batman he's sent all of  Gotham's finest to guard J. Pauline and yet, in the next scene, we see Chief O'Hara and two of his clods asleep. Will Gordon never learn?

JS: My favorite exchange in the episode is when we find out the villains are hiding out in Rundown Factory Area, an area surrounded by rundown factories, as Batman is nice enough to clarify for us.

PE: J. Pauline Spaghetti married four guys, all with the last name of Spaghetti? Odd.

JS: Let's talk about J.P. Spaghetti for a second. Billionaire noodle queen. Were all her husbands the Spaghetti brothers? Was she actually a Spaghetti sister working her way through the family tree? I'm sure there's some logical explanation for them all having identical initials.

PE: I can picture Burt Ward at acting school, asking his teacher what he should do in a scene when the other actor has the line. "Just make a fist and grab it with your other hand and look like you have to make water really really bad." Further on in the course, Ward asks: "What about when I want to punctuate a point I'm making?" The teacher sighs, his patience at an end: "Why, point your finger and grit your teeth like something's been stuck up your rear, my boy." 

JS: Choppy editing and Spaghetti silliness aside, I didn't think this was that bad. Michael Rennie delivered what I've come to expect from him, as did the lovely and reliable Miss Newmar. She can throw my switch anytime.

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

Next up... The Mad Hatter! Same Bat Time, Same Bat URL!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 65 & 66

By Joel Eisner

This episode was originally entitled “A Penny for your Riddles/They’re Worth a Lot More.” The script was written as a Riddler story, but when Frank Gorshin wasn’t available to play the part, the writer changed it to a new character call Mr. Conundrum and then to the Puzzler.

With the last minute change to the Puzzler and the Shakespearean tone added to accommodate Maurice Evans, the story and therefore the episode suffered greatly. While not the best episode, it did have its moments such as the fight in the hanger where the fat henchman tried to stuff Robin into the plane's engine.

Burt Ward’s Stuntman Victor Paul recalled "the owner of the Lear Jet was standing there watching as they were trying to shove me (dressed as Robin) into the engine. The fat henchmen got on the wing and the plane tilted down. It actually leaned way over, and touched the ground. The owner ran out and said,’ what are you doing? This is a two and-a-half-million-dollar plane and you guys are going to ruin it!’"

The balloon footage would later be reused for the 3rd season Egghead episode. It was the same footage used in an episode of F Troop, if not the same balloon.

Alan Napier pointed out that “Americans call Maurice Evans ‘Maurice’ but in England we call him ‘Morris.’ His costume was marvelous; it made him look like an old Aunty. I played with Maurice about sixty years ago at the Old Vic in Richard II, in which he really made his name.”

Evans who was already appearing as Samantha's dad on Bewitched and soon moved on to Dr Zaius in the Planet of the Apes, was according the producers having the time of his life, I suppose for a hammy Shakespearean actor to play a hammy Shakespearean villain was the time of his life. There is a rather interesting Batman related fact about Maurice Evans, besides being an actor he was also a theatrical producer, among his many productions was the ‘Teahouse of the August Moon”, which starred the David Wayne, aka the Mad Hatter in the original Broadway production. When the play toured throughout the United States, it starred Burgess Meredith, aka the Penguin. When the show debuted in London it starred Eli Wallach, aka Mr. Freeze. When Wallach took over the role from David Wayne on Broadway, his costar and future replacement in the starring role went to H.M. Wynant, aka Frosty, the assistant to Wallach’s Mr. Freeze.

Writer Fred De Gorter is almost an unknown, he wrote both this and A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away from last season. A Mr Magoo cartoon, an episode of Daniel Boone and a military based payroll robbery film with Leslie Nielsen and Rory Calhoun called Dayton's Devils and the science fiction film The Phantom Planet. That's It. He was hired to write two Riddler scripts and when Gorshin didn't appear (I will cover this when we reach Astin's Riddler), the script was rewritten. Aside from the main character everthing else was exactly the same in the script with the puzzle balloons, the retsoor, Artemus Knab and the balloon cliffhanger. This was an aviation themed episode from the start.

As the episode was originally written, after the balloon carrying the Caped Crusaders finally makes a landing, in the middle of nowhere, a farmer (played by actor William Fawcett) was to have arrived on the scene and transport the pair back to the city on a horse drawn wagon. Whether the scene was filmed is unknown, but the casting records show the part of the farmer on the shooting schedule. Instead of the farmer, the balloon lands just within a few feet of an emergency pay telephone. The duo (who are still tied up) some how manages to free themselves and call for help. Whether they call Alfred or Commissioner Gordon is unknown, but they return to the Puzzler’s factory in double quick time.

Director Jeffrey Hayden worked on mostly sitcom and dramatic shows of the 60's and 70's including the Saturday Morning sci fi show Space Academy with Jonathan Harris (Dr Smith of Lost in Space).

Paul Smith who was a regular fixture on 1950's and 1960's sitcoms, a regular on the superhero sitcom Mr Terrific and the Doris Day Show, was also a regular guest on Bewitched. His last known appearance was a cop on the Monster Squad tv series produced by Batman staffers.

Barbara Stuart, who was 36 at the time of this episode (she passed away at age 81 in May 2011) was a fixture on 1960's sitcoms and was Sgt Carter's girfriend Bunny on the Gomer Pyle show. She was also married to actor Dick Gautier. Since she was older than most moll's, it sort of balanced Evans (who was 65 and gay, which is why she had the romantic scenes with Smith).

Actress Barbara Stuart: “Adam and Burt were very nice. I adored Maurice. A very sweet man and really dedicated to his work; whatever it was. I always enjoy working so of course, I had fun. The only thing I remember well is a black dress, I wore which I wanted to buy, but they wouldn’t let me. Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed. I also recall I wore a very short skirt and boots with an orange turtleneck.”

As for the gang members Alan Emerson was a bit player who worked during the 60's (he was also a guest actor on Bewitched), Jay Della was another bit actor who was famous for owning the bar Chez Jay in Santa Monica for over 50 years. Finally, Robert Miller Driscoll, the fat one, died at the age of 54, in 1983. was a another bit player in 1970's dramatic shows.

Since this these episodes aired a few days before Christmas, what better than have the real Santa Claus pop out of the window. Actually, it was actor Andy Devine, the raspy voiced comic western sidekick actor. What he was doing here is anyone's guess. He wasn't working on any tv shows or films at the time, and were it not for his voice, no one would know it was him.

Networks air their best episodes of series during the November sweeps periods, then use the December and January months to show reruns and holiday specials. Back in the 60's there were very little shows to rerun and very few holiday specials. Batman used its weaker episodes during this period, this being one of them. Afte the Sandman and the Mad Hatter, the series would return to stronger episodes with the Joker/Penguin teamup in the 3 part Zodiac Crimes.

Next, Michael Rennie as The Sandman teams up with Julie Newmar's Catwoman in an episode that should have turned the series around but never did.

65 & 66: The Puzzles Are Coming/The Duo is Slumming

Season 2 Episodes 65 & 66
Original Air Dates: 12/21/66, 12/22/66
Special Guest Villain: Maurice Evans as The Puzzler
Guest stars: Barbara Stuart, Paul Smith
Written by: Fred de Gorter
Directed by: Jeffrey Hayden

Synopsis: Batman thinks the Puzzler has come to town to take advantage of one of Gotham City's other millionaires, only to find out that he is courting a potential business associate. Or is he? The Riddler—oops—The Puzzler, is really after the plans to a secret new plane. Turns out he's quite the aviation enthusiast, and perhaps should have chosen a different name.

JS: Call him The Puzzler if you must, but for this viewer he's a clean-shaven Dr. Zaius.

PE: Wearing more make-up here than he will as an orangutan! Yep, you gotta love Maurice Evans, but love him for Planet of the Apes, not this. He looks bored and, weird to say with all these classically trained actors hanging around Gotham, out of place. I had a hard time understanding what he was saying half the time. 

JS: Early on we find out Dick is a master bird caller. Most surprising—that comes into play later in the story. Something tells me no one told de Gorter how this was supposed to work.

PE: You know how to whistle, don't you...

JS: Batman wants to cross swords with Artemus Knab. No comment.

PE: You mean the Artemus Knab who's never seen Batman and Robin? Come to think of it, that scene confused the heck out of me. Puzzler says "Batman and Robin?" and Bats looks at him and says "Yes, Puzzler, we are Batman and Robin." Does this infer that, even though the Chief and Commissioner automatically knew that it was The Puzzler up to his old tricks again, the Dynamic Duo had never faced this criminal before?

JS: Gotta love how Batman kicks Robin for mouthing off to fellow millionaire Knab. I guess those millionaires have to learn to keep their wards in their place.

PE: Actually, John, Knab is a "reasonably successful billionaire" according to Robin.

JS: It seems that Batman has balloon issues. From the double-take when he sees the balloon animals in The Puzzler's lair (perhaps a hint at some childhood trauma that ties to his origin?), to the attack of the balloons, to his all too serious, "Well... What have we here...." when he finds Alfred and Aunt Harriett blowing up balloons in Wayne Manor, there's something going on. I'm sure of it.

PE: Maybe Fredric Wertham was right?

JS: Say it with me now: "The elusive, high-flying giant red-eyed hermit newthatch bird."

PE: You mean the one that will pluck small holes in the balloon and allow it to glide slowly to earth? That one? Looks like a crow to me.

JS: This episode's would-be Bat-Babe is from the vintage collection. But Knab certainly appreciated her "well-rounded talent." 

JS: For the first time since the series started, I felt like a pandered-to kid by the ludicrous inclusion of Santa Claus during the wall crawl. 

PE: Everything up to this point I could buy. Bat shark-repellant. Penguin paroled after two months. Jill St. John as Robin. Adam West pulling down more dough than Frank Gorshin. A billionaire naming his new plane "rooster backwards."  There's no such thing as Santa. What kind of fools did they take us kids for? 

JS: Batman's Hamlet delivery convinced me that he'd best keep his day job.

PE: To quote Artemus Knab: "We can do without any more lines from Shakespeare."

JS: What do you imagine the "odor of secret writing" smells like? Medicine with a hint of lemon, perhaps?

PE: Probably the same odor the script for this gave off.

JS: I actually thought the fight choreographers did some nice work in this episode, with some well crafted altercations and a few nice synchronized moves from the dynamic duo.

PE: Please don't make me explain (or ever watch again) the scene where Batman solves the puzzle of "sevens." You're going to make me explain it, aren't you? Well, as Batman so eloquently puts it: "It must be something connected to his trying to tell us something!" So, there are seven digits in the modern phone number except there are no "z"s on a phone dial and "z" stands for zounds which means surprise which is what The Puzzler clearly wants to do to the Dynamic Duo, right? Wrong! They're not surprised because Shakespeare wrote The Merry Mothers of Windsor and that had a lot of odd numbers in its lines and that means The Puzzler's phone number is made of odd numbers! Voila! Huh? 

JS: Some things should not have to be explained. Others have no explanation. For example... 

PE: To paraphrase John Mellencamp: "This may not be the bottom, but you can see it from here."

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

Next up... The Sandman! And The CatwomanSame Bat Time, Same Bat URL!