Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 45 & 46

By Joel Eisner

Based on a comic book villain called the Clock, Clock King at the time was not the most exciting villain on the series, but over the years it does improve with age. Slezak a former leading man in Europe and in early movies later became a portly character man playing scoundrals and villains, plays the part well. In real life an avid art collector and art expert, he obviously enjoyed making fun of the pop art scene.

Again, a villain with a purpose to obtain the cesium clock for his collection. Of course he surrounds himself with rather inferior henchmen, who almost mess up his plans by mixing up the bomb with the clock sold to Aunt Harriet for Bruce's birthday gift.

Slezak was from the school of scene stealing hams, although not as over the top as Buono. He added little bits of business not unlike Malachi Throne's Falseface. When Clock King visits Wayne Manor to steal back the clock, he takes the time to steal Bruce Wayne's collection of rare pocket watches. Watch Slezak rather than just grab every watch from the case, he takes time to examine each watch and when he comes to one he dislikes, he tosses it back like so much rubbish. Also watch his reaction when the duo surprises him at the rubie factory. Having covered the floor with super slick watch oil, he turns from fake surprise to glee as he watches the duo flop around on the floor. Then later as he informs the duo how some people kill time, but how this time, time will kill them. (inside the giant hourglass). He was even smart enough to remove their belts. I love those key shaped gas guns.

His gang consists of two regular henchmen, actor stuntman Charles Picerni and Australian actor Michael Pate. Pate a character star in his own right, appeared on numerous shows as everthing from American Indians to a vampire gunslinger in the film Curse of the Undead.

Prior to his death a few years ago, Pate was still working as an actor and film producer and director in Australia. He did have the following to say about his work on Batman. “Before I got to work on ‘Batman,’ I had seen a number of episodes that aired and thoroughly enjoyed it. When I found out that I had been cast to do something along with Walter Slezak that to me was most intriguing. “But it was quite a delight to work with Slezak. I knew a little about him and his family—his father (the opera star Leo Slezak) particularly—but Slezak himself was a contained European personality, a very erudite, even autocratic-seeming type of person. Yet he had a very wide-ranging and sly wit that was very engaging, and he was a consummate actor The whole experience proved very interesting to me, although as we rushed back and forth, and did this, that, and the next thing, and we were either chasing or being chased by Batman and Robin, I sometimes wondered what I was doing—all this while taking directions from the director.”

Eileen O'Neill as Millie Second had a short career in Hollywood, her longest roles was as a police officer on Gene Barry's Burke's Law tv series. Since hasn't been seen since 1970.

One of the interesting things about this episode was fight in the clock tower complete with lifesized moving figures (played by extra's in makeup). Clock King left the fighting to his his regular hencman and the additional hench extras, and as you can see from the photo Batman and Robin let their doubles do most of the fighting here as well.

Slezak's natural aristocratic upbringing and manners played the character well. The story cowritten by William (Bill) Finger and Charles Sinclair. Finger who worked with Bob Kane at DC Comics was responsible for the creation and look of Batman. Kane wanted to create a character called Birdman (not the Hanna Barbara version) and it was Finger who convinced him to change it to a bat and give him a grey costume with white eyes. He was also responsible for the Joker's laughing gas and Penguin's umbrellas.

Finger who died in 1974 also cowrote the campy Japanese US sci fi film The Green Slime.

In this episode Sammy Davis Jr pops out of the window. Art Director Serge Krizman was responsible for the window sequences as he recalls ”I designed the set for the famous Bat-Climbs. It was a very simple effect. I took a skyscraper backdrop and propped it up sideways against one sound stage wall. The fake wall with the guest star’s window was attached by a hinge to a tall base in which the star would stand. When the star was on his mark, the wall would be lowered, and West and Ward would begin their “climb,” holding on to a rope nailed into a brace made out of two by fours.”

Next, The King of Camp Horror, Vincent Price as Egghead (not The Egghead).


  1. One of Slezak's earliest and (for me) most memorable performances in America film was as Willy, the young Nazi refugee in Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" (1942). it's a great performance that stirs fear, sympathy, anger, and finally horror—most of it conveyed by his face and body language, since his character spoke only German, no English.

    Joel: What's your take on the mysterious collaboration between Finger and Kane on BM? At the very least, why was Kane able to hog all the credit for the characters creation and execution? Siegel and Schuster shared eventual applause for "Superman," even though I read somewhere that they were dunned big-time by business sharks who took atrocious advantage of them.

  2. I believe Slezak did speak Engliah later in the film after he took control of the boat. If you ever see the film Inspector General with Danny Kaye, he was quite funny.
    Lifeboat also starred Black Widow Tallaulah Bankhead.
    I had heard Kane took credit for everything. he kept his rights to Batman and always made money from DC.
    Finger and Jerry Robinson should have had their share of the credit. In fact it was I believe Robinson who caused the creation of the Riddler,
    when their was a rights problem over the Joker back in the 1950's. The Riddler came about when they were not able to use the Joker in the comics until the rights were settled.

  3. G'day Clifton.

    Here's a link to a three part series about the origins of Batman on "Dial B For Blog", a great website about comic books.

    Glenn :)

  4. Michael Pate was one of those people who just never retire. Right up to his death at age 88, and over a decade after his last screen appearance, his distinctive voice could be heard providing voice-overs for numerous commercials on Australian radio and TV.

    Glenn :)

  5. Glenn: Thanks for the link, which told me more than I think I wanted to know.