Friday, November 18, 2011

The Batscholar on Episode 95

By Joel Eisner

The return of Batman on a now once weekly basis gives us a rather odd almost ridiculous premise that if Penguin were to marry the Police Commissioner's daughter, he would be exempt from criminal prosecution. Unknown to all, she is actually Batgirl, the producers additive to salvage the now declining ratings. As much as she was an asset to the show, it was still too late, the had cut the budget in half. With only one half hour episode, the large two part (or one hour) budget was reduced. As I pointed out in the third season overview, there was little room for more than the villain and couple of name henchmen. In this case a totally unknown lead henchman, as well as unknown bit players throughout the episode. Gone are the next week villain clips and instead is a sort of link between the two with the next villain making a cameo at the end of the previous episode.

Another major change is the music, the producers reduced the amount of new music and included much of the background music from the now defunct Green Hornet series, and so pretty horrible bat fight music. The one good change beside Batgirl is Alfred, Alan Napier became the focus of series as both the confident of Batman and Robin but now Batgirl as well. If the show had lasted another season or two, he might have become Batgirl's sidekick, he also was given the chance to dress up and play a number of disguised characters in several episodes. Although, I don't understand why Penguin doesn't recognize him from all their past adventures together.

Actress Yvonne Craig “One of the reasons I think they hired me was because I had been a dancer. Howie Horwitz, who was the producer , and executive producer Bill Dozier both knew that. When I went into the office to talk to them, they also asked me if I had ever ridden a motorcycle, which indeed I had and owned one at the time. I did all of my stunts, and I also did all of the motorcycle riding. However, we never did any film mixing with rear screen projections. You never really saw me going fast down the street on that thing, as I recall, from a head-on point of view. I always was going somewhere, and they just filmed wherever it was I was going. “The motorcycle ride out of the secret exit was an interesting episode. It was the first day of shooting, and I knew the special effects man from somewhere else at Warner Brothers. We had worked together a long time. I had been practicing riding out because I was supposed to ride through a brick wall. It was set up like a long tunnel, and he said, ‘Look, if you hit this mark and you at that point absolutely stand on it and give it all you got, it will look like you are riding the wall down. It will be real exciting.’ I said, ‘Terrific!’ So, I did exactly as he said, but a little voice in my head said, keep your hand close to the brakes because, if something goes wrong, you would like to be able to hit the brakes. “Sure enough, the first shot of the day, I went tearing out, and the wall didn’t come down. It was made of plywood and I wouldn’t have liked to have gone through it. I hit the brakes, and I went skidding sideways, missing the wall by about an inch. Nobody on the other side knew what was going on. They figured somewhere along the line I had chickened out and decided not to do it at all. Anyway, it worked the second time around.”

Actor Burgess Meredith, ”Al Cavens, a very close friend of mine was a well known stunt man. Even when he was no longer young, he would do fearless stunt work. He was also a brilliant swordsman — a champion fencer. He choreographed a majority of the great duels seen in films. I was thankful for that; that’s how we met. He did all my dirty work as the dastardly Penguin in the Batman series. I would make the vocal threats against Batman and Robin and then Al would do battle for me, leaping off buildings with an umbrella as a parachute, dueling the entire police force of Gotham City on my behalf. He lost splendidly for me, and he did it with a foot-long cigarette holder in his mouth. He accomplished my heroics and I got the credit for his daring. That wasn’t unusual for Al Cavens — to do dangerous stunts for someone else. He did that work happily all his life — as had his father before him. I am always pleased when people see me do those very wicked, dangerous stunts in the Batman reruns. And even now when kids congratulate me for my wickedness and daring, I smile and accept the compliment. But in my secret heart, I thank Al. He was the one who took the risks and performed the impossible.”

Next Frank Gorshin returns as the Riddler.

1 comment:

  1. Given Alfred's increased importance, did you find any explanation in Dozier's files as to why Alan Napier's salary was suddenly lower than that of Hamilton and Repp this season? Was it just poor representation?