Friday, October 14, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 47 & 48

By Joel Eisner

Of all the villains on the series, Egghead is my number one favorite. If there was anyone who could carry the entire episode by himself and out shine everyone in the cast it was Vincent Price. (Of course I might be bias, as I have cowritten Vincent's show biz bio/memoir, which I hope to have published next year. It is currently with my agent looking for the right publisher. Vincent and I were working together when he took ill and I had to finish the project myself and it has taken me years to compile the interview material and photos for the book. I only wish he could have lived to see it, however I did have his blessing on the project and wanted me to see it to completion).

Egghead was not a comic book hold over but a new character created especially for the series, it was tailored specifically for Vincent. As Stanley Ralph Ross told me “I liked writing for Vinnie Price. I liked writing for Egghead; he was a good character. The Egghead story was written by Ed Self, who is the son of Fox Executive William Self, and they wanted to get him into the Writer’s Guild. They gave me about a three-page story, and they said, ‘We will pay you the full price, but we want to get this kid into the Writer’s Guild.’ So I wrote the script.” “I was the one who came up with all those egg words. Before I started the script, I looked at my thesaurus and looked up every one beginning with ecc or ex. I made a list of about seventy-five words I thought I could use. As I used them in the dialogue, I crossed them off. I think I finally used fifty or sixty of them.”

This was in some ways a throwback to the first season, but with the extra comedic highlights and given the right actor and the proper script, it proved the formula worked. Most of the time either the actor is miscast or can't handle the material, or the actor is good but the material is not there for the actor to work with. In this case both were there and both worked.

Vincent loved the character and for a consumate ham what better than to play an egg villain. Personality wise, Vincent and Egghead were one and the same. He had been playing costumed villains for years and was now in the middle of his AIP Poe pictures and AIP horror comedy phase. He then went on to play a non-vampire on F Troop and appeared on several other comedy series/variety shows.

This was also the payback episode to Burt Ward from the Batman crew.

As Vincent Price explained “There was a big egg fight at the end of the episode, and I was required to hit Burt Ward with an egg. The crew was fed up with Burt, so they had me throw two dozen eggs at him, and he had to stand there and take it.”

Director of Photography Howard Schwartz continues “Burt Ward was a nice kid, but really inexperienced, so everybody was on his case all the time, and they were kidding him, and he didn’t take it very well. On the Egghead episode we got even with him. The crew got the biggest charge out of that. I was the one who egged Vincent into that. That was really funny, because Burt had eggs dripping down his face, and he was really burned, because he knew it was supposed to be one egg.

Burt Ward however remembered it this way“The crew was standing off to the side during the big egg fight. For every egg I threw at Egghead and his gang, I also threw one at the crew. I have a very accurate throwing arm, so I did it in such a way that they never knew where the eggs were coming from. It was great fun to see the crew running for cover.”

I wish to add the following information which I got from Howard Schwartz, the crew were behind large plexiglass shields to protect the cameras. The scene was shot at the end of the day, so that it would have been impossible to retake it without having to go into overtime cleaning up the set. Everyone was told that no matter what happens to keep going, as there were no retakes. That is why Burt couldn't do anything but stand there and let Vincent grind cartons of eggs into his head. With the crew behind the screens, it is very doubtful Burt ever really connected with his eggs, despite his throwing arm.

As for other aspects of this episode Vincent recalled “One of the people I always wanted to work with all my life, was Edward Everett Horton. I loved him. He was such a great actor. He was very old at that point in time, and very quiet, but very sweet with that wonderful funny face... I just loved working with him.”

"Director George WaGGoner was very good. There was lots of action, and it’s always difficult to do action quickly. The camera can’t get it or someone wants to improve it.”

Serge Krizman was brilliant. His sets were marvelous and he too had a sense of humor. In Egghead’s apartment all the furniture was hard-boiled eggs cut in half. The painting on the wall was bacon and eggs. It looked like the most modern picture you ever saw in your life. It was so inventive.”

Vincent's henchmen were Foo Yung and Benedict. Foo Yung was played by Ben Weldon. It was his last acting role before retiring, completely to devote his time to what would make him a millionaire, he invented nut corn. He found a way to pop popcorn around a nut. But, Weldon was famous for something much more than snacks. He was one of the most frequent and popular guest villains on the Adventures of Superman. He had been in the movie business since the 1930's, he created a personna of the Laughing Killer, always had a smile on his face when he opened fire. He also made a number of very funny appearances on the Abbott and Costello tv show.

Benedict played by Gene Dynarski, runs a theatrical acting group and theater in Los Angeles. He was an alien on both Star Trek and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and appeared as Lloyd Bridges son, Mandelbaum, jr on Seinfeld. 

Gail Hire as Miss Bacon is a complete mystery outside of this episode and the Howard Hawks racing film Red Line 7000, she hasn't done anything else or has been seen since Batman.

Some of the other crew people had this to say about Egghead.

Art Director Serge Krizman: “I had a marvelous time with Egghead’s headquarters with its seven-foot-long half-egg couch. It was almost contemporary art.”

Costumer Designer Jan Kemp: “It came to my mind to use this yolk-colored costume with white trim in silk, and make it much like a tuxedo. We discussed this with Vincent and he was very pleased with our idea.”

Makeup Artist Bruce Hutchinson: The first time we finished for the day, we spent 20 minutes to a half hour gently removing this bald cap, which was glue down. The next day, Vincent came in and said ‘This is really boring. I hate this.’ He reached back and ripped the thing off his head. From that day forward, that was the only way he would take it off. He said it was like taking a band-aid off little bit at a time. ‘You just have to rip it off.’ “

This episode had several cameo guest stars that today might not be as familar as they were back then. Bill Dana as Jose Jimenez popped out of the window. Dana was a regular on the Steve Allen show. George Fenneman was Groucho Marx's sidekick/announcer on the You Bet Your Life (radio and tv series). Albert Carrier, a French Canadian besides being Pete Savage was also the French deligate in the Batman movie. Burt Mustin was everbody's favorite old man from the 1960's and on All in the Family. The two most interesting appearances were Ben Alexander and Mae Clarke, and the old lady and the policeman. Alexander was Jack Webb's original sidekick on Dragnet and Clarke was most famous for her roles as Colin Clive's fiancee in the original 1931 Frankenstein and for getting hit in the face with a grapefruit by James Cagney in White Heat. While on the subject of Frankenstein and old movies. director George WaGGoner directed the original Wolfman film with Lon Chaney Jr.

As we will learn, WaGGoner was the only one who could put Awful Otto Preminger in his place when he played Mr Freeze.

But first, Liberace in a triple role as Chandell, as his twin brother Harry and as the mysterious unseen villain name Fingers.


  1. Thanks, Joel, for the informative backstory. We look forward to your book on the beloved Vincent Price. Some follow-up comments and questions.

    1. Only in this initial outing for Egghead is egg-white make-up applied to his face. I assume they dispensed with it in S3 to expedite time and cost, or maybe Mr. Price wanted less time in Bruce Hutchinson's chair. True?

    2. Mr. Price's comments about Edward Everett Horton made me smile: one old pro's appreciation of an elder.

    3. Your roll-call of all the fine old entertainers making cameos in this show also made me smile. Ben Alexander's presence and delivery of the "Dragnet" line, "Just the facts," was a neat inside joke. Few people remember the delightful Bill Dana; fewer still may recall that he was star of a short-lived show that paved the way for Don Adams's being cast as Maxwell Smart. In "The Bill Dana Show" Adams played a hotel dick named Byron Glick, who was Agent 86 in everything save name and greater comedic opportunity.

    4. For all the hours he entertained us, I'm glad that Ben Weldon finally found his fortune, after a modicum of fame.

    5. Gene Dynarski: The only role I can recall his playing in "Star Trek" was that of the chief horny miner who lusted for Eve, the leader of "Mudd's Women."

    6. It tickles me to learn that costumer Kemp actually worked with the guest stars in designing their wardrobe. For a professional actor, that had to have been important. I appreciate the consideration. And Krizman's production design was a hoot. Unlike S3, the producers were still spending some money, and it showed onscreen.

    7. From the way it continues to be used, I gather that "george waGGer" was the way the director actually liked to be credited. I always guessed that it was another rib-poking concession to all the eGG jokes. Who knew?

  2. Gene Dynarski also played Hodin's assistant, Krodak, in The Mark of Gideon.

  3. I've long regarded Horton as one of the funniest men ever to step in front of a camera, bringing much hilarity to the likes of HOLIDAY and DESIGN FOR LIVING with his inimitable double-takes. Much as I love Fred and Ginger, I'm the first to admit that all of their films were not created equal, and EHH automatically kicked it up a notch when he joined in (e.g., TOP HAT, THE GAY DIVORCEE).

    Of course, knowing that Price (who--word from our "sponsor"--starred in more Richard Matheson movies than any other actor) was, among other things, a consummate chef made that still of him holding the eggs extra-amusing. And I was equally nonplussed when I first saw "waGGner" receive story credit on the CHEYENNE episode that Matheson scripted, "Home Is the Brave."

  4. Strange but true: like with so many other actors, BATMAN was my very 1st exposure to Vincent Price, who over the years became one of my favorites. But not for this. IN fact, I'd say this may be opne of my least-favorite things he ever did (apart from "MATHEW HOPKINS, WITCHFINDER GENERAL"). But here's a strange thought... every time I watch Roger Corman's "HOUSE OF USHER", I keep thinking Price would have been perfect as The Joker. not the 1950s version Cesar Romero played-- but the 1940 version from the comic, who was VERY serious and scary.

    Ben Weldon had a part in the very first Simon Templar film, "THE SAINT IN NEW YORK", as a thug who gets rubbed out by his boss who believed he'd turned traitor.

    Edward Everett Horton was also terrific in "LOST HORIZON" (1937), as a very persnickety guy who, to his own surprise, decides he'd prefer staying in Shangri-La after all.

  5. "Egghead was not a comic book hold over but a new character created especially for the series, it was tailored specifically for Vincent."

    There had been a comic-book villain named "Egghead", but not in BATMAN. He was a villain in THE ASTONISHING ANT-MAN series, created by Jack Kirby. Funny thing, the guy was a DEAD ringer for Otto Preminger (and had his ego, too).