Friday, November 4, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 79 & 80

By Joel Eisner

After the retooling of the Riddler into the Puzzler, the producers decided they needed the Riddler for at least one appearance this season. Line Producer William D'Angelo (later to produce the Monster Squad and the Webster tv series), wrote the plot for this episode, although the basis was an October 1948 Batman comic book.

Riddler plots to steal enough money to buy a de-molecularizer from Professor Charm (played by favorite movie villain Martin Kosleck, known for his portrayal of numerous Nazis, including Goebbels.) with which he plans to blackmail Gotham City into rescinding the criminal statutes. Why he doesn't just steal the device is beyond me. Astin, who had just come off the Addams Family, can't seem to play this any other way. His reactions to things like the disappearing derby to his ranting and raving about the cheap flashlight device, is so Gomez, that the Riddler costume is unnecessary. When he confronts the duo in the obvious Castro impersonator's penthouse, and hands the a bag of loot to Robin, he is in perfect character with Gomez. I like Astin, I have seen him do many other things but Gomez is Astin and Astin is Gomez. This was just another attempt by ABC to end their contract with the Addams Family stars.

Also in this episode is Addams regular Eddie Quillan (he worked with Parley Baer's Mr Henson, the Addams insurance agent).

The Riddler's gang consisted of bit player Ken Scott as Down and former LA Dodgers player Jim Lefebvre as across. Future Land of the Giants Star Deanna Lund was Miss Anna Gram.

Art Director Serge Krizman: “The giant cake was fun. It had four tiers, and was 35-feet high. We built most of it with plywood except the top which we put foam rubber in so the Dynamic Duo would sink. We had a small elevator installed so they would have something to stand on as they were lowered into the foam. The candles on the bottom were fully lit with electric lights. It was one of the most elaborate death traps the show had.” There escape was similar to that of the Archer episode, but unlike the springs this time they used heel and toe batrockets.

Even the underwater slow motion fight sequence complete with water logged Bat Fight words, couldn't save this episode. The episode needed Gorshin, but it was not to be.

Gorshin explained why he didn't appear, " The reason John Astin played the Riddler, was because I had a night club commitment which I couldn’t cancel. They wouldn’t let me out and the studio wanted to do that episode at that time. So, instead of waiting for me to be available, they figured I wasn’t indispensable; they put my clothes on somebody else. I was really offended that they did. Of course, I understood the logistics and everything. There was nothing they could do. They had a schedule and so forth.”

However the claim Frank Gorshin was booked into a nightclub at the time and couldn’t cancel is probably his way of covering up the real truth. From a letter to William Dozier sent by Gorshin’s new agents, at the William Morris agency, Gorshin demanded $5000.00 for any future Riddler appearance. Already way beyond budget; Dozier informed him that they would have to recruit another Riddler if he insisted on the increase, rather than be satisfied with all the opportunities and recognition the part has given him.

With change over to single part half hour episodes, the villains who normally got $2500.00 per hour show were given an increase to $2000.00 for the half hour, Gorshin agreed to return for one episode, but considering the plot, he would have been better off staying away.

Next The Joker returns with a gang of robots (actually androids) which includes Spock's rival for T'Pring on Star Trek's Amok Time episode.


  1. I feel that John Astin gave a good and different version of The Riddler. He was much more a fiend that Gorshin's Riddler.

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  3. Agreed in part with Anonymous. In his own way, Astin works. He focuses more on the grinning, impudent side to the Riddler which, in my view, he does slightly better than Gorshin. The maniacal side... well, there's only one contestant let alone winner! The Riddler will be forever Frank.

  4. TERRIBLE two-parter. That said...

    The October 1948 comic-book story was the DEBUT of The Riddler. Back in the 40s, when The Joker was serious, and scary, and dangerously insane, and murderous, one of his schticks was complex word-game riddles-- EXACTLY of the variety Frank Gorshin used in season 1. And while Cesar Romero did a dead-on accurate rendition of the late-1950s "Comics Code": watered-down / cleaned up "Joker", in fact, Frank Gorshin's "Riddler" was MUCH closer to the ORIGINAL early 40s Joker!

    But what John Astin did here was actually a fairly-accurate rendition of the 1948 Riddler-- when his whole schtick was "puzzles", not word-games. And Edward Nigma was NOT crazy-- never was. That was The Joker. "E. Nigma" was just really arrogant and conceited, and excessively proud of how smart he was, and obsessed with having to prove it.

    I wish I could remember which fan online years ago suggested this... that John Astin was not really playing The Riddler, but The Riddler's BROTHER, "Earl Nigma" (a character who did not exist in the comics, but very well COULD have, on this TV show!!). While Edward was in prison, Earl could have come out to fill the gap, and while NOT insane, he could have been frustrated over the idea that "Mother always did love HIM better!"

    The fight in the underground flooded bank vault came STRAIGHT out of the comic. Around 1990, writer Chuck Dixon wrote a "YEAR ONE" Annual retelling for modern times the origin of The Riddler. He started out by redoing the 1948 story, complete with underwater bank vault fight, but "fleshed it out" tremendously. In the comic, Riddler is a 2nd-rate (3rd-rate?) wannabe, who's not respected by the criminal underworld. So he not only wants to prove himself to the cops, he wants to prove himself to the other bad guys. By the end of the story, the once merely egotistical Riddler had gone GENUINELY insane-- and so, what we saw was, the origin of the Frank Gorshin Riddler!! It was the only Riddler comic-book story I ever read where I could actually hear Gorshin's voice in my head as I read the dialogue.

  5. Ken Scott was a regular on seasons 3-7 of McCLOUD.

  6. How many actors have played Batman across the years? But, because John Astin played The Riddler instead of Frank Gorshin, someone would contend in that case that it was not the "real" Riddler being depicted but his brother? Who also calls himself "The Riddler"? But who otherwise we have never seen or heard of? That seems just purposefully insulting to Mr. Astin. And regarding the character of The Riddler, it makes absolutely no sense at all to split him in two. John Astin gave a good albeit different version of The Riddler.