Friday, November 4, 2011

79 & 80: Batman's Anniversary/A Riddling Controversy

Season 2 Episodes 79 & 80
Original Air Dates: 2/8/67 & 2/9/67
Special Guest Villain: John Astin as The Riddler
Guest stars: Deanna Lund, Martin Kosleck
Written by: William P. D'Angelo
Directed by: James B. Clark

Synopsis: The Riddler really wants a De-Moleculizer, and in order to come up with the necessary $3 million to buy it, he robs the funds raised for charity in Batman's honor. Once he's got his hands on it, he threatens to destroy police headquarters, unless Commission Gordon rescinds Gotham's criminal statutes!

PE: I have to ask, first off, if The Riddler is such a master criminal, why doesn't he steal the De-Moleculizer instead of raise funds to buy it? At least de-moleculize Professor Charm and keep the money! Some kind of criminal this guy is.

JS: Once again, being the astute detective that he is, Batman is completely oblivious to what is clearly a surprise party setup.

PE: I actually, for once, wanted to find out more about this Anniversary. Was it the tenth anniversary? The first? Was Robin along for the ride that first adventure or, as in the comic books, did he arrive a bit later? Who was the first goon to fall? If the Gotham Milkmen could contribute two hundred grand to the Batman charity, where were Bruce Wayne's millionaire skinflint buddies?

JS: Overcome with emotion, or perhaps heartburn due to the menu... I was beginning to get concerned that Batman was going into cardiac arrest!

PE: I thought the green gas might have affected the Dynamic Duo's motor reflexes rather than their respiratory. They stand and watch the faux fireboys make off with the moneycow for quite a while before deciding it's time to act. It definitely altered their vision as Batman identifies the mustached fella in the green suit as The Riddler. Holy Counterfeit, Batman!

JS: The underwater throwdown with The Riddler and his entourage left me wanting, despite the interesting visual touches (like the fight title cards rising off the screen). Perhaps it was the slowing down of Nelson Riddle's music that just seemed out of place. Is this what Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was like?

PE: You'll have to wait for our Complete Irwin Allen-a-Day blog next year. Batman and Robin must have been wearing their special Bat-Underwater outfits since their capes didn't float up above their heads. But what really cinched the unreality for me were the underwater file cabinets. 

JS: I like John Astin. He's a perfect Gomez Addams. But he cannot find his way outside of the shadow of The Riddler left by Frank Gorshin. His manic laughter sounds so forced by comparison. He's paired with the lovely Deanna Lund, who unfortunately is given nothing to do (well, almost nothing).

PE: It would have been wiser in the end for the writers to create a new villain for John Astin: The Bamboozler perhaps? The Flummoxer? The Confounder? Gorshin made The Riddler his, much like Astin made Gomez Addams his. I thought the same thing about Raul Julia when I saw the big-screen adaptation of The Addams Family: "eh, he's alright but he ain't..." He's okay in the role, but couldn't they have at least convinced him to shave off the mustache and hide the buck teeth? That may have a lot more to do with my reluctance to believe that this guy is The Riddler more than just "he ain't Gorshin." He also lacks Gorshin's wiry physique, his caffienated manner and, yep, that crazed laugh. That's what's missing the most: I don't, for one second, believe that Astin is insane. It'll be interesting to see what happens when we get to Eartha Kitt's turns as Catwoman.

JS: Two episodes in a row where we get to see the dynamic duo shot into the air. Unfortunately, this time we didn't get to see the miraculous landing.

PE: And two episodes in a row for my post-apocalyptic freeway shot. I thought the exchange between Bats and The Boy Blunder as they're sinking in the cake was brilliant:
Robin: That's it, Batman!
Batman: What, Robin?
Robin: The answer to the riddle. When is a man drowned but still not wet? We'll be drowned but in quicksand so we won't get wet!
Batman: Excellent! You've done it again!
Robin (pauses) Mmm. Lot of good it will do us now though.
JS: Okay, who didn't snicker when the reporter referred to Chief O'Hara's 'elite' squad? Yeah, the same elite squad that (once again) doesn't bother to fully evacuate a location scheduled for a terrorist attack!

PE: What's with the Fidel Castro wanna-be, Anthony Aquila? Is Gotham a haven for Cuban dictators? 

JS: Lund finally gets a chance to make her mark with a swift 'shut-yo-mouth' kick to the boy wonder. A brief redeeming moment in this otherwise lackluster episode.

PE: Deanna Lund was an object of desire a few years later on Land of the Giants. In 1979, she had a bit part in Hanging by a Thread, a TV disaster flick co-starring Bert Convy, Donna Mills, and John Astin's then-wife Patty Duke (talk about a Cult Movie dream cast!). Genre fans will immediately recognize Professor Charm as Martin Kosleck, star of such horror classics as The Mummy's Curse (1944), The Frozen Ghost (1945), and The Flesh Eaters (1964), the latter a particularly vicious tidbit wherein Kosleck plays a crazed scientist who creates the titular lovelies, creatures who can strip the flesh off a human being in seconds (and do, in quite graphic ways). This is the third helping of Kosleck in our blog-world, after his turns in Thriller ("Waxworks") and The Outer Limits ("The Brain of Colonel Barham"). Astin went on to dabble in TV directing, including the classic Night Gallery episode, "A Fear of Spiders," starring Patrick O'Neal.

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

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


  1. This episode has Deanna Lund going for it. That's all, and not nearly enough of her.

    With all the numbered Puzzles in the hideout set, you wonder why they didn't just throw Maurice Evans under the bus along with Santa Claus and make John Astin the new Puzzler. The latter wasn't an established character so indelibly impressed by another actor. Maybe the producers wanted to send an up-yours to Gorshin: "You may want more money, bud, but we can still produce Riddler episodes without you." Well, they did and they couldn't. See S3.

    PE: "You'll have to wait for our Complete Irwin Allen-a-Day blog next year." Uh-uh. No way. Sorry. I'm holding onto this one by the slenderest thread.

  2. Clifton - not to worry. Pete's dream Combat-a-Day blog would happen long before I signed up for an Irwin Allen-athon.

  3. Blogging Combat-a-Day: Fine, though I might not live long enough to see that to the end.

  4. I don't know what to make of this. The villain appears as a Fireman, Frogman, Chef, and Department of Sanitation worker, so this could easily have been produced as a False Face story.

    On the other hand, we've got the standard “Adventures of Superman” plot … villain employs mad scientist and uses his invention to carry out his scheme. That big cake must've eaten into the budget, because we don't even get an interesting looking de-molecularizer prop, just a flashlight.

    The plot contains more puzzles than riddles, so, as others have pointed out, this could've been a Puzzler story. Starting afresh, John Astin might have remade the Puzzler in his own image. Instead, he's on an impossible mission, trying to outriddle Frank Gorshin. Astin seems to be aware of the problem. A couple of times he goes for the laugh, but pulls back. Instead, he adopts a series of strange arm and hand movements, at one point pretending to strangle himself, as if he's desperately trying to come up with … something.

  5. GlennME: "The villain appears as a Fireman, Frogman, Chef, and Department of Sanitation worker…." We have now reached that poignant moment in this series when ANY of those might have been better than what we now have. Consider:

    Special Guest Villain Red Buttons as The Fireman: a la "Fahrenheit 451," Gotham City is threatened by a crazed fireman who inflames instead of extinguishes.

    Special Guest Villain Lloyd Bridges as The Frogman: Gotham's water supply is threatened by crazed introduction of toxic substances. (Who cares if this has already been done twice?)

    Special Guest Villainess Agnes Moorehead as The Chef: Gotham City is threatened by that Criminal Kitchen Cavalier, whose crazed speciliaties de la maison erupt in every bank of the city.

    Extra Special Guest Villain William Dozier as The Sanitation Worker: ABC Television, its affiliates and sponsors, are threatened by a crazed producer who extorts millions of corporate dollars to spew garbage.

  6. >>Extra Special Guest Villain William Dozier as The Sanitation Worker: ABC Television, its affiliates and sponsors, are threatened by a crazed producer who extorts millions of corporate dollars to spew garbage.

    Genius, pure frickin' genius.

  7. I have a feeling this was more an anniversary of BATMAN's appearance on network TV (a year and a week after "Hi Diddle Riddle") than the character's anniversary within the mythology of the series. That's why it was absolutely necessary for the Riddler to be the special guest villain. Of course, not using Gorshin kinda defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it? More inept Season Two creative reasoning.

  8. Make that a year and a month after BATMAN's debut...

  9. Sorry-AStin as a SUpervillian would have been better such as THE TRICKSTER not The Riddler only Frank Gorshin could pull that off

  10. Maybe if Astin ditched that mustache so that he wouldn't look too much like Gomez Addams playing The Riddler... :^/