Thursday, October 6, 2011

35 & 36: Shoot a Crooked Arrow/Walk the Straight and Narrow

Season 1 Episodes 35 & 36 
Original Air Dates: 9/7/66 & 9/8/66
Special Guest Villain: Art Carney as The Archer
Guest stars: Barbara Nichols, Doodles Weaver
Written by: Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by: Sherman Marks

The Archer has his eyes on the 10 million bucks coming into Gotham via The Wayne Foundation. He uses his cunning bow and arrow skills to undermine the popularity of Batman and Robin. Can the Dynamic Duo thwart The Archer's plan to distribute counterfeit cash to the city's poor?

PE: The single most realistic fainting job I've ever seen. Quick, was I speaking of Adam, Burt, Alan Napier, Aunt Harriet or the guest star? Also, the most realistic depiction of blindness I've seen. Obviously the cast spent the hiatus honing their craft with Lee Strasberg.

JS: I particularly liked Adam West's twitchy-hands.

PE: Couldn't The Archer have simply taken the picture off the wall rather than wasting an arrow? And how did he know of the safe's whereabouts? Art Carney must have spent at least three or four hours learning how to use his bow.

JS: How is it there's been a safe in the wall of the front room of Wayne Manor, where we've hung out with Bruce and Dick for an entire season, and no other criminals noticed?

PE: Our first walk-down a building. And our second celebrity sighting: Dick Clark. If they're going to have celebs cameo, at least give them something funny to say.

JS: Even as a kid, it always used to trouble me that people looking out their window as the dynamic duo walked by always leaned out of the top of the window...

PE: The seedy side of Gotham looks like 1800s England. 

JS: Blame that on the The Archer's Renaissance Faire that was passing through town.

PE: I've noticed that whenever Archer shoots his arrow he's already in the room! Can't be that great of a shot if he has to wait until the ducks are all in the barrel. And don't these heroes have peripheral vision? How could The Archer (and his merry men) already be in the room and no one notices?

JS: I don't recall this particular scene from when I was a kid, but I think I would have been freaked out by the guy who appears to be pin-cushioned by The Archer and his Merry band of Idiots.

PE: Made in his lean years between ending his regular stint as Ed Norton on The Jackie Gleason Show (1957) and making his Oscar-worthy comeback in Harry and Tonto (1974), Art Carney looks nowhere near as comfortable in his skin as Meredith, Romero and Gorshin.

JS: How can you neglect to mention his career-defining performance as Saun Dann in The Star Wars Holiday Special.

PE: I'm dying to see The Director's Cut of the scene when Batman and Robin are trapped in the Archer's net. What happens between  the time Batman says "No worries Robin, I'll use my knife to cut us down" and when Archer comes in? The Duo have either fainted or fallen asleep due to boredom.

JS: As I almost did. The saving grace for the episode was the always dependable Alan Napier as Alfred Pennyworth. He got to show off his archery prowess AND don the Batsuit for the first time.

PE: The bit of dialog that cements for me that Christopher Nolan watched this episode when he was knee-high to a grasshopper: "It's always darkest before the dawn, Robin."

JS: One of the tell-tale signs that we ain't in the first season anymore was the absence of superimposed fight titles. Now we get those cut in against colored backgrounds-eth.

PE: Funnily enough, Art Carney, a comedic genius, comes up flat in this one for me. He's much too straight sometimes, much too much the oaf at other times.  It's as if he's not sure if he's Errol Flynn or Ed Norton. It could be the script, which doesn't exactly give him much to work with. His two henchmen similarly deliver their lines as if they were made of wood. But they're great compared to the armored car guys.

JS: I felt that Robert Cornthwaite as Alan A. Dale gave the most grating performance this episode. And he was going up against Nichols as Maid Marilyn.

Bachelorette number two is the closest thing we get to a babe this episode.

PE: I finally get an answer to my question about whether the batpoles dress our heroes when Bruce hits the "Negate Bruce's Change" lever.

JS: Who would have thought they would go to such an expense? A cut-scene from the feature, perhaps?

PE: And is that sign before or after the "Bruce's Change" sign? Is there a "Bruce Changes his MInd and Wants His Suit" sign further down?

PE: Alan Napier's in better shape than Adam West in that Bat-suit! Commissioner Gordon even notes that he's slimmed down! Could that have been an in-joke by the writer?

JS: I did think his legs seemed a heck of a lot longer...

PE: Batman has a cold that might be "infectuous."

JS: Speaking of infectuous... I hope this low point of the series will not spread throughout the entire second season.

PE: The Batboat footage in this episode is lifted from the big-screen movie.

JS: You get the sense that they couldn't wait to apply some of those production values to the show. In this case it didn't help.

PE: Art Carney has obviously never tried to strangle anyone as he attempts to throttle Robin by the shoulders.

JS: I guess we should be thankful we didn't actually have to watch Batman teach a course of driving safety.

PE: More than any episode of Batman yet, this one was a chore.

JS: I don't know about you, but I could sure use a double-dose of Julie Newmar...

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

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

To The Batpoles, A Thriller A Day, We Are Controlling Transmission, and the bare•bones e-zine have all been composed and created on Macintosh computers. Thanks Steve. We couldn't have done it without you.


  1. Yep, everyone kinda noticed the magic was fading fast at this point; but we kids watched anyway, every single episode. Carney would be the first of many misfired new villains developed for Season Two. Too bad Gleason didn't do a cameo...

  2. Classy tribute to the late Mr. Jobs, fellows. We all owe him a lot.

    I wish that "Shoot a Crooked Arrow" were as classy a tribute to "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938). There is a cute riff on a famous scene from that movie: repeatedly splitting arrows in the center of a bulls-eye.

    These opening episodes for S2 seem to me a sad waste of promise and talent. There are some positive qualities here that will soon peter out. Stanley Ralph Ross's (henceforth, SRS) script breaks from some of the tired predictability that by now had already set in—not least in its fine, funny use of Alan Napier. I appreciate the fact that somebody put up money to film exteriors that were genuine exteriors. Then, with the left hand, they diluted production values with the cheap optical inserts that, indeed, went "Thunketh."

    Other problems of S2 are already on display here. SRS's scripts become more lopsidedly comedic and knowingly self-satisfied. Sherman Marks's direction is as flat as Tom Gries's was creative. Fine supporting players like Doodles Weaver (brother of Sylvester "Pat" and uncle to Sigourney) are pretty much wasted.

    Barbara Nichols: For all I know she was a wonderful lady, kind to her mother, and a wonderful parent herself. But, I swear, I never saw her in any role in any movie that did not grate on my nerves. Was ever there an entertainer less entertaining? I'm sure you can nominate others.

    The biggest waste here is of Art Carney's talent. The Bat-Scholar may throw some light, but I can't figure out what went so wrong with him in this episode. Too long considered only Gleason's second banana, Carney was a legitimate performer, a versatile comedian, and an amazing mimic and dialectitian. The decision to have Carney play Ed Norton play the Archer—and to import the rest of his gang from the same faux Flatbush—was awful. On top of that, Carney's performance has no zest whatever. Unlike most of the guest stars preceding him, he plays his heavy as though someone had kidnapped a family member and made him do it.

    PE: "More than any episode of Batman yet, this one was a chore." I hate to say this, fellows, but it gets worse. A lot worse. Before long you're going to wish you were back to the glory days of commenting on Shayne and Merkel's detective episodes of "Thriller."

  3. To explain the change in Pows and Zaps, I will let post production coordinater and writer of the Black Widow episode Roboert Mintz explain “The expenses for the opticals from this series were enormous. The “POW,” “BAM,” etc., were all to be done optically, by taking the original negative and making an inter-positive of it. You then take the interpositive and do the artwork and the lettering, and you put the “POW” over the scene, and it takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. [In other words, originally viewers would have seen the words at the same time as the fights—in the same frame.] The optical bills were coming in, and they were astronomical. So, they said to me, ‘What can we do to reduce the cost of these opticals? Or are we going to have to eliminate most of them and do maybe one “POW” per show.’ I said to myself, ‘What if we made up a whole roll of these things? We make up the title against different color backgrounds and edit a few frames of them into the show. It is not an optical effect at all. The scene is all original. Then, when you do the fight, on the impact of the punch you cut in a few frames of the “POW,” and then you come back to the fight. It worked; they loved it. We had three cutting rooms, and each cutting room had a roll of different colored fight words, and they would peel them off and edit them into the film.”

    I hope this helps everyone understand the change in the fight words. As for Carney, he was going through a divorce at the time.

  4. Thanks for the explanation, Joel. Robert Mintz: "It worked; they loved it." Obviously they were referring to their pocketbooks.

    The Bat-Scholar: "As for Carney, he was going through a divorce at the time." My explanation was close: He may have felt that his soul had been kidnapped.

  5. Zap-eth! My new favorite on-screen fight word. I think the new fight words work well. These are the ones I remember most from my younger days.

    I agree that Art Carney and henchmen were a little wooden in their acting, but I didn't find this episode as disappointing as the rest of you did. It's not a perfect episode, but it didn't make me cry like "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" in Outer Limits Season 2, and I found there were things to enjoy.

    I thought the Archer had a cool set of arrows (including the requisite sleeping gas arrows, the blinding arrows, and the curvy shoot-around-a -corner arrows). I'm not sure why Maid Marilyn continuously gnaws on a drumstick (while driving, no less!), though I suspect it is somehow in keeping with the medieval theme. She wasn't the babe you were all hoping for, but her brashness seemed well suited to this particular troupe of criminals. I love the drawling Mr. Dale that heads the BWF and is in cahoots with the Archer, as he brazenly admires Batman's...mmm...cape (not that there's anything wrong with that).

    I have to wonder if the laugh track machine the Archer "purloined from the castle of a television producer" was intended to mock the network executives for suggesting Dozier include a laugh track on Batman.

  6. I don't see how Barbara Nichols isn't in the running for "Bat Babe." Sure, to some people she can be a bit much (that's because the comical "dumb blonde" bit was what she specialized in), but as long as "Bat Babe" is a subject here, she defintely deserves to be considered.