Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 71, 72 & 73

By Joel Eisner

The series first three part episode teams the Joker and Penguin for the first time since the movie. Although this time Joker is running the show and Penguin is the second fiddle. The story written by Stephen Kandel and teleplay by Stanford Sherman, was one of the better stories of the season. The plot was large enough for three episodes and with a little fine tuning would have worked well without Penguin, but the interplay between Cesar and Burgess is like watching two hams chew the scenery. It also served as the inspiration between the team-ups of Joker and Penguin on the Scooby-Doo Meets Batman episodes of the Scooby-Doo Movies.

The episodes have some wonderfully funny moments with Joker stealing two rare fish on the back of a giant movie crane (easily found on the studio backlot). Penguin also makes use of a giant crane (under the title of the Joker's Boom Bug), making his escape with his umbrella and a well placed hanging banner. It is also during one of these crane epsacapes, that Joker's men pelt the dynamic duo with rubber fish (they were supposed to be real).

While on the suject of rubber fish, there is the giant clam, a refugee from an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, (the clam trap was reused by Stanley Ralph Ross on an episode of the Monster Squad) and of course the giant meteorite (a paper mache boulder held by a rope) that almosts crushes the duo.

Finally, the Joker jelly that invades Gotham's Water Supply. I rather like the interplay between Joker and Mercury who suggests that jelly would go good with a sinkful of biscuits.

The costume people had to supply a large number of Henchmen costumes for this episode. Plus the additional costumes for Venus and the henchmen statue costumes as well.

Some of the clues in this episode were rather subtle, such as after stealing the art map, the Joker gives a false clue to Batman to the effect that “Taurus the Bull is next on my show,” and You’ll be singing a song of woe.” Joker was telling Batman a lot of bull, because his real objective was Gemini, the Twins, a new singing duo who sings a song of woe.

Also with the exception of the last three, all of the crimes were committed in the correct order of the signs of the zodiac. The last three crimes were done in reverse zodiac order.

As the gang itself, Terry Moore best known for her role in the original Ray Harryhausen stop motion gorilla film, Mighty Joe Young. At age 37, she was the oldest moll, in the series but remember she had to both romance Adam West and Burgess Meredith (Adam was about the same age, but Burgess had at least 20 years on her). It would have been a hard for a teenager to play the role.

I don't know if it was the writing or Moore's performance, or both but Venus kept switching sides from one scene to the next and at times seemed naive and almost stupid to believe what was going on around her. Yet at other times seemed to have a total grasp on the situation. She actually believed that Bruce Wayne's was so rich that he had Joker Jelly flowing from his faucets instead of water. I realize it was a ploy to get her to drink all the champagne the Penguin gave her to loosen her up (delivered by the Meathead himself, Rob Reiner) and agree to get Batman to take her (and the gang) to the Batcave.

At this point in the series, the Batmobile (and the utility belts) became the Bat-version of Dr Who's Tardis. The most that batman had in the truck during the first season was a mini bat computer, but in this season, the trunk had enough room for both Penguin, Joker, and the entire gang to ride in comfort. If you notice the way they jump out of the trunk, they could have been literally standing in the trunk during the whole ride. It was nice to see a real batfight in the batcave, the one in the movie was a non event.

This episode and the next two stories were unique in that they had a cliffhanger that carried over to the following week. When the series reached the third season, and aired only once a week, a wrap around epilogue was used to link the current episode to next week's villain. According to Stanley Ralph Ross, the producers thought the cliffhangers would not bring people back the following week and eliminated them. Meanwhile, they had people returning for these episodes and Irwin Allen had success with the weekly cliffhangers with Lost in Space and Time Tunnel.

As many of you might recall, TV Guide had a yellow colored section in the color pages that surrounded the bw weekly listing, that gave series gossip/info. It was here that it was first announced, that the series was going to do not only three part stories but four part stories as well. While the four parters never came to pass, only two three parters were done for the second season. (There were two three parters in the next season but the Egghead Olga team-up were split into a two parter and a single parter, leaving the Londiunium story as the sole three parter).

According to Dozier the villain team-ups and the longer episodes were done to boost the ratings. It started with the Catwoman cameo in the Ma Parker episode followed by the her insertion in the Sandman episode then the three parter. The extra part helped pay for the extra villain salaries. To balance the costs, the henchmen were reduced to a couple of bit players and the rest non speaking stuntmen. Penguin does not have any henchmen of his own. Marsha suffered the loss of her guardians and the Grand Mogul (but managed to keep her daffy Aunt Hilda) in the later episodes.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, they even considered Brave and the Bold team-ups with other DC superheroes. But all we got was a visit from Dozier's Green Hornet. Nothing could save the show by now and it was only cutting the show back to once a week saved it for another season.

Next, The Catwoman gains her own assistant Pussycat, Of course it was played by producer Howie Horwitz's niece Leslie Gore, who gets to sing in both episodes.


  1. The Batscholar's mention of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" reminds of another, literal echo. In Part II of the preceding week's Mad Hatter escapade, the audio effect used which allows Bats to trace his stolen cowl was the famous sonar sound that you always heard aboard the Seaview.

  2. In case you're still checking the comments, what was the reason Meredith got "Extra Special" Guest Villain billing while Romero was just "Special" Guest Villain? Outside of Batman, Romero was always a bigger star than Meredith...was it to get him to share the screen with Romero? (There were some comments on an earlier episode that suggested Meredith was protective of his screen time.) I remember that billing inconsistency bothered me years ago when I saw it...I liked both Joker and Penguin, but it made me feel bad for Romero!

  3. Every week you have the "special guest villain". In this one, Penguin was the "Extra". It didn't mean he was "Extra Special", it just meant he was an addition.

    Since the fight in the Batcave in the movie didn't really happen, it was a charge to finally see one happen in this sequel. I understand this WAS edited together & distributed overseas, just as all of the UNCLE 2-parters were.