Friday, October 7, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 37 & 38

By Joel Eisner

Having survived her fall into the pit at the end of last season's episode, Julie Newmar returns as the Catwoman, to open a school for cat burglars.

Stanley Ralph Ross takes over the total control of the writing for all of the Catwoman episodes to come (he co-wrote the original with Lee Orgel). and proves given the fiasco of the Archer that when he is given the chance, he can capture the playfulness of the character without going to far.

The series was already in a decline since last season. The movie did well, it more than doubled its money back in the few weeks since it was released. However, the series became aware of itself. When the first season was made, they were shooting two episodes back to back at two different studios to make the broadcast deadlines, now that the Batcave was moved back to Fox and they were only filming one episode at a time, the cast and producers had the time to examine the Batman phenominum, and started to listen to the critics and started to up the comedy in lieu of the suspense. Gone were the darker, episodes in favor of high camp. The show started to make fun of itself, hence the Catusi. Since the Batusi was such a fad, they created one for Catwoman. The only thing was, she didn't do it. but Aunt Harriet did!

This episode featured the giant getaway rocket Catwoman planned to use to escape from the top floor of the Gotham State building, It looked like a four seater bicycle atop a giant bomb. Ross knew how to milk the camp but in doing so, he doomed the series to an early death, because how far can you go before you are no longer believable. There are a few episodes this season that kept the camp to a minimum but most went too far.

The supporting cast are actually quite good. Jack Kelly, formally Bart Maverick on the Maverick tv series, was quite a match for Julie's Catwoman. He also had a part in the classic sci fi film Forbidden Planet.

Like Alan A Dale, in the Archer, Kelly's newspaper man O'Shea was a recurring feature in most Batman episodes, what I call the hidden henchman. Someone who is part of the plot but whom Batman is not aware is part of the gang. Future hidden henchmen included Milton Frome as Laughing Leo ( Shame), Marianna Hill as Cleo Patrick (King Tut), Joe Flynn as Benton Bellgoddy (Catwoman).

The three goon henchman are very interesting. Buck Kartalian would appear as Lucius the Gorilla in Planet of the Apes and later in a very unique series, (I will cover this Batman lite series in a special feature later this month) The Monster Squad. Produced by William D'Angelo (Batman line producer and writer of the Astin Riddler script) and Stanley Ralph Ross. It featured Kartalian as the Wolfman, (along with Michael Lane, Black Widow's henchmen) as Frankenstein and Henry Polic II (later of the Webster tv series) as Dracula. They played three movie monster wax statues that come to life via a crime computer created and activated by Fred Grandy (later Gopher on Love Boat) together they solve crimes conducted by Batman like villains, which included many Batman people such as Julie Newmar, Billy Curtis, Joey Tata, Dick Bakalyan and Sid Haig. There are also many Batman jokes and plot elements lifted directly from the show by Stan Ross.

George Barrows was famous not just as a stuntman but a Gorilla Man. He had a famous gorilla suit which he used in numerous films ans tv shows, such as Addams Family, Beverly Hillbillies, Gorilla at Large, and Robot Monster.

Charles Horvath was one of the top stuntmen in Hollywood, who also appeared in numerous sci fi and western shows including the several movie serials. These were not your typical stuntmen/extras that would later populate the series. These men could act and fight, and even get a laugh or two.

One of the best parts of the episode, and don't get me wrong, there are some priceless moments in this show, such as when Julie dressed as the old woman flirts with James Brolin as the armored car driver. I will let Julie Newmar herself tell you all about it:

“It was so wonderful being on that show, because you could be nasty and mean, and in the 1960’s women could never (unless you were some ‘B’ picture actress) be mean, bad, and nasty. It was so satisfying; I can’t tell you how satisfying it was.”

“I had, of all people to play opposite me, James Brolin, making his first appearance; I think it was, on the screen. Here he was, playing this delicious truck driver. I introduced him to his (then) wife, too. She was working as a secretary for one of the production people, and they fell madly in love and have two sons.”

“Playing the part of Minerva Mathews was one of the favorite parts of my whole career, because it wasn’t something I could just walk on and do: put the lipstick on, sashay on, throw the hip out, and play the favorite calendar girl part that I had already played. Being old was quite a study, and I had time to do it, so I would go down and sit in MacArthur Park, and I would watch aged people try to get up from the benches and then sit down. I observed this strongly enough to get the feeling that when you are old what you are thinking about is being young. You don’t try to play old when you are old; you try to be young. I also went to a dentist to see what he could do to distort my face; you need more than makeup on a young face to look old. So he gave me this cotton roll, which I put in my lower lip, which lowered the jaw so that it looked like the upper teeth were missing. Then I added the hair and the slight hump in the back, and when I came out of my dressing room, there were three fellas who came over to give me a chair to sit on. I didn’t know if they knew who I was, but I sure felt comfortable sitting there, and I grabbed those young men. It was the first opportunity that I had to be aggressively sexy. By myself I can’t be aggressive, but when I was old playing that part, I could be that aggressive old lady. I could just get those boys and put my hand right up their knee, and I could get away with it. Now nobody else could do that, so I had a great time doing that.”

Makeup Artist Bruce Hutchinson remembered that “Julie Newmar had almost complete control of her own makeup.. On the first day after she was outfitted with her fall and her costume, she showed me what she wanted to do and I thought her look was marvelous. However Julie did one part as Catwoman where she disguised herself as an old lady, then in an instant she turned around and photographically became Catwoman again. That was a very tough makeup, because we had no time for appliances and no time for prosthetics. It all had to be done on her. Time was a major factor. We created the old lady look with just highlights, shadows, and makeup on her face. She had a wig and a hat. She was supposed to pull the wig off and an instant later was Catwoman again, fully made up.”

1 comment:

  1. There's actually more "continuity" on BATMAN than most peolpe are aware of, although it is subtle. This story is a good example of it.

    In Julie Newmar's 1st story, she appears to fall to her death. There is NO mention of this in the feature film, and never mind any "excuses" that it was written before her debut and intended to be film first.

    In Julie Newmar's 2nd story, there is a line of dialogue... "So she IS alive!" Clearly, this was a sequel to Julie's earlier story.

    And yet... the movie CLEARLY takes place in between those 2 stories.

    The explanation is simplicity itself... "Miss Kitka" is SOMEBODY ELSE. Catwoman was believed to be dead, so this Russian bad girl decided to start using the name.

    Thetre are actually multiple instances in the comics where they had more than one person using the same name (Two-Face, Mad Hatter, Clayface, Batgirl!!!). Why NOT on the TV series??