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.


  1. "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." Personally I believe Fred De Gorter is a fictional character himself. No one with a professional résume like this could be real.

    It is BALL-OOON!

  2. "... were it not for (Andy Devine's) voice, no one would know it was him."

    Just a guess on my part but ... maybe that was WHY he got the part?

    Dozier and his crew were all Old Hollywood, and movie buffs to their cores; just looking at the cast lists proves that. Simply because Andy Devine hadn't done much recently wouldn't disqualfy him from their notice - if anything, that would have made him all the more desirable to use on BATMAN, a shout-out to the buffs who made up the show's adult audience (like me, for instance - and I was still in high school when BATMAN was in first run).

  3. Regarding Andy Devine, he was working on the "Flipper" series, although I am not sure if he was a regular or a semiregular.

    The Puzzler episode itself is not bad at all. One of the hammiest moments I remember is from part one, where Puzzler hurls these knockout darts at Batman and Robin. When Batman gets hit, he yells "OUCH!" and keels over. Robin apparently decides to top him. When he gets hit, he utters this drawn-out, "OWWWWWWWW!" and then he squeaks like a seal before finally falling to the ground.

    Evans definitely was over-the-top and Barbara Stuart was great from the moment she mispronounces Artemis Knab's name ("Artie Kenabie") early in part one.