Monday, November 14, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 91 & 92

By Joel Eisner

The last Joker episode of the season is also the most ridiculous and probably the best one as well. This episode marked the transition of the Joker from an arch criminal with a superior intelligence into a spoiled brat with a childish mind.

When Joker appears at the Park Gallery with his two henchmen to spray paint on Fritz Feld's (Mr Zumdish from Lost in Space's Celestrial Department Store) paintings and on Batman's costume, it sets the stage for the final scene at Wayne Manor. Using airhead Baby Jane Towser (actress Diane Ivarson) as his muse he plans to start an art school for millionaires and then hold them for randsom. When that he fails he cons Baby Jane into switching her paint covered dining room table (chopped to p[eces by Joker's men) for the rare art collection at the museum. But when he finds the paintings have been switched to kindergarden drawings done by Alfred. He grabs Baby Jane and arrives at Wayne Manor with a gun at the girl's head. Demanding money, Joker is driven off by Alfred in a fencing match to Bruce's study where he finds the entrance to the batpoles and thinking it is a secret passage descends down the pole. Alfred stops him with Emergency Bat Pole Elevator.

From the moment he appears at the gallery, through the art contest and down the BatPoles, Cesar Romero dominates the episode. Realizing this is the final episode for him (at least for the season) he completely lets go and just goes way over the top with it. Any other villain it wouldn't have worked but here it did. I grant you it didn't do anything to help save the downward spiral of the series, but it was so ridiculous it worked.

Diane Ivarson was one of the oddest sidekick females ever to appear on the show. The character constantly switched from naive trusting rich girl to a complete airhead, who is in love with the Joker. At times Ivarson talks like everyone around her is deaf, she is the loudest person on the show (that is until Ethel Merman turns up next season), and yet no one around her even winces. Don't get me wrong, I like Ivarson. I wish she had done more with her career. She has only five known credits to her five year career. It appears ahe was one of those Fox Acting school members. (Fox hired young actors and paid them little money in return for acting classes and small roles in Fox shows and movies. It was Fox's way of getting cheap labor, because if they hired outside actors for these small roles, it would have cost them more money.) Her first role was on Felony Squad, she then joined Vincent Price in South Africa for the low budget western, The Jackals. She returned for this episode then finished up with a bit part in David Janssen western Macho Callahan three years later and then finally a hippie motorcycle drug film called the Jesus Trip. She met Native American actor Robert Tessier on the film and moved in together. They had a son who became a 2nd unit director. Tessier formed Stunts Unlimited with Hal Needum and continued to work until his death in 1990. Ivarson never returned to acting and his since disappeared.

Joker's two main henchmen (who were nameless) were played by Jack Perkins (the fat one) who returns to show after working with Chandell as one of his brother's piano movers. He spent most of his career playing drunks. The other henchman was played by Jerry Catron, a stuntman and part time actor. He was Mark Goddard's stunt double/stand-in on Lost in Space. He was also the crewman in the Star Trek episode Doomsday Machine, that gets beat up by William Windom's Commodore Decker right before he steals the shuttlecraft. According to Goddard, Catron was killed in a hang glider accident in the 1970's when he fly into high tension wires and was electricuted.

Reginald Gardiner was just coming off his one year stint on the Phyllis Diller tv series Pruits of Southhampton. His career started in England with with a small role in the Alfred Hitchcock silent verison of the Lodger. He was popular musical theater actor, who also appeared in numerous comedies like The Flying Deuces with Laurel and Hardy and also appeared as William Shakespeare opposite Agnes Moorehead as Queen Elizabeth in the Irwin Allen fiasco Story of Mankind.

A passing note to actress Jody Gilbert as Mrs Putney the fat woman in Joker's Art Class. A former concert singer who spent most of her career playing oversized matrons in movies and on tv sitcoms. She was most visable in the horror film Willard, as a pushy relative.

One final mention to Fritz Feld who spent his entire career playing head waiters, maitre'ds, conductors, musicians, always accented by his famous hand to mouth popping sounds. He later returned as Professor Green in the Joker's Flying Saucer episode.

As for the flaws in the episode, the mobile of palate knives which were supposed to slice Robin to pieces, never got any closer than when it started despite comments to the contrary in the episode.

Actor Cesar Romero: ‘The makeup took about at hour to put on, but the wig was a thing that bothered me more than anything else. The wig was green, of course, but it sometimes photographed red, yellow—everything but green. They would glue the wig to the front of my forehead, and after a while it would give me a headache.”

Although, the removal of the Bruce and Dick signs were removed so the Bat-Poles could be repainted. It doesn’t explain why the writing on the wall behind the poles was missing as well.

But the biggest goofs is seen in the photo above, when Robin lands face foward into the what is supposed to be clay (looks more like cookie dough) and his mask getting stuck in the dough, pulls off his face revealing his identity. He was facing the camera and not the villains but it should have been reshot.

Next, Eli Wallach as Mr Freeze gives us another version of the cool cad.


  1. Can you elaborate a bit on the arch criminal to spoiled brat transition you mentioned here and in your book? I honestly don't perceive such a clear distinction occurring here. In his very first appearance, he gets peeved because he isn't included in the Comedians Hall of Fame and jealously creates his own utility belt. He always seemed a little petulant to me.

  2. There was a (slightly) darker tone to the earliest Joker episodes; now we're heading from the very end of comedy-embracing Season Two right into candy-coated Season Three, where everything becomes a bubblegum-style romp. As for Diane Ivarson's "loud" performance, she was clearly directed to do her "wide-eyed naive" schtick to the max, so she's brimming with boundless, innocent energy that rivals Robin's. And speaking of the Boy Wonder's slapstick-style plunge into the putty, I rather liked the touch of that sticky stuff pulling down the hero's mask for a brief moment so that only we TV viewers, and not the villains, get the benefit of "exposed" Dick Grayson. It also provides an additional comedy beat, with the Joker's wacky laughter sealing the deal.

  3. As Gary pointed out the character of the Joker (as well as the other villains) started into the bubblegum style romp. The joker in the previous episodes created androids and time control devices. Here he is far less intelligent and gives way to his petulant child like behavior above his common sense. His reactions to Batman flattening his flunkies and his actions at Wayne Manor (his fencing with Alfred, his smidgens comment, Anglo Fink and secret passage antics seem more like Herman Munster than the Joker used to be. Next season, he tries to become king of the surfers, he lets Catwoman run the entire caper and mistakes Alfred for a Mad Scientist, despite having his run in with Alfred in this episode. Joker left the show and joined the audience with this episode and was laughing at the whole thing. They way he talks Baby Jane into everything and his antics at her house when he destroys her dining room table after eating a bucket of fried chicken (while still wearing his gloves) proves it.