Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Batscholar on Episode 112

By Joel Eisner

What can I say about Louie the Lilac that I didn't cover in his previous appearance. Berle had the opportunity to make a Louie into a really funny fey character and blew it. This episode is even more boring than the first and that is saying a lot. At least the first one had a couple of name henchmen. Here we get a couple of real unknowns. Ronald Knight had bit parts in several shows through the 1980's and disappeared. John Dennis aka John Sheehan spent over thirty years (until his death in 2004) playing mostly, bartenders, drunks or cops on most network shows of the time period. but nothing that made him standout.

While they didn't spend the money on the henchmen they did add two name players to the story. Nobu McCarthy (aka Nobu Atsumi) the former Miss Tokyo was popular until her death in 2005 for playing Asians on both sitcoms and dramatic shows. I always remembered her from the 1958 Jerry Lewis film The Geisha Boy, one of Lewis' better solo features.

The guest player was Percy Helton, as Gus the Janitor of Barbara Gordon's apartment building. While Gus was a one shot character, Percy had more talent than most of the guest cast of the third season. Better known as the drunken Santa in the original Miracle on 34th street, and for his recurring roles as Homer Cratchett on the Beverly Hillbillies and as Mike Clancey the owner of the Sweet Shoppe in the final Bowery Boys films (He took over after Bernard Gorcey died and son Leo left the series). Helton had previously appeared on the Adventures of Superman, 1950's Dick Tracy tv show with Ralph Byrd, The Lone Ranger, the Twilight Zone and the Abbott and Costello show (he also appeared in Abbott and Costello meet the Killer, Boris Karloff).

What makes Helton's scenes interesting is that it tried to explain the revolving wall in Barbara Gordon's apartment. Gus sneaks into her apartment using the back door. (who knew she had one) and tried to break into the secret Batgirl room. Barbara finds him and tries to explain that there also a door that leads into the next room but she uses it for storage. (she has a button that changes the room into a storage closet, just in case nosey janitors come snooping around) She claims it was installed by the previous tenant, for what reason is not really explained. In fact, it is never explained how this modern apartment building came to have a secret elevator attached to this secret room which descends into a hidden tunnel from which Batgirl is able to ride down the fake wall and ride off through the alley to the street. Who owns this building the Green Hornet?

In the Batgirl pilot, Barbara Gordon not only has reversable clothing allowing her to become Batgirl in moments but also a secret changing room in the back of the Gotham City Library. I guess it was easier than building an apartment set, but still far fetched. Speaking of far fetched, how is it the Barbara has the apartment is a complete set with secret room and elevator, while Penguin's empty apartment just next door was a total limbo set with almost no walls and ceiling.

Yvonne Craig “Alan Napier was heaven. He had this darling little dog, and he and I both brought our dogs to the set. Neil Hamilton was in his late sixties when he did Commissioner Gordon and always knew his lines. He had been a silent screen matinee idol. [Hamilton died on September 24, 1984.] Stafford Repp, who played the police chief, got married in the midst of our doing the show.” [Stafford Repp died on November 5, 1974].

Although Aunt Harriet was no longer a regular character on the series, and unable to keep her traveling for the entire series, the producers arranged to have her character to be upstairs at Wayne Manor suffering from the shock of learning of Bruce and Dick’s kidnapping.

While there are a few better episodes remaining, this one hit rock bottom with the Instant Unfolding Bat-Costumes with Utility Belts gimmick. How they expected anyone to believe this premise is beyond comprehension, but Louie and his men thought that the two glasses of warm water were enough for Bruce to perform surgery on the captured animals. Years later, William D'Angelo, the line producer for the series, coproduced the Monster Squad tv series with Stan Ross and in one episode midget Billy Curtis (Falseface's man) played the evil ringmaster who planned to used stupid gas on the entire city, thus allowing him to take over with no resistance from the population. I think that either the Ringmaster tested out his gas on Gotham City or someone beat him to it years earlier.

Next, just when you thought it couldn't get any stupider, Barbara Rush tries to blow up Gotham City with mechanical wind up mice, to collect on an insurance policy.


  1. Percy Helton provided the only bit of entertainment is this dismal episode. Ironically, in his next acting job he played an eccentric villain.

    In Get Smart, he played A.J. Phister (the P is silent) an little man wearing red earmuffs, who wants to rid the world of noise. No-one will sign his petition, so he decides to blow up major cities with Nitro-whisperin, a silent explosive he's invented. CONTROL and KAOS have to join forces to stop him.

    In contrast, in it's third season, Get Smart was hitting its peak, while Batman was in its death rattle.


  2. What a low point for Batgirl in this episode. Barbara not only says it's going to be difficult without the help of Batman and Robin....she then gets captured with ease.
    What a waste!

  3. Barbara's line about the revolving door being installed for a previous tenant is supposed to be an inside joke reference to the fact that this entire set was recycled from "The Green Hornet".

  4. "Nobu McCarthy (aka Nobu Atsumi) the former Miss Tokyo was popular until her death in 2005 for playing Asians on both sitcoms and dramatic shows." Tragic that she was put to death for that.

  5. Does this episode set a record for least amount of actual Batman villain in an episode? Louie only gets about seven minutes of screentime -- almost all of it in the one set. Did they only have Milton Berle for one day?

  6. What, no comment on Barb warning the nosy janitor that she shoots trespassers?

  7. I'm writing this very late, but I noticed that too. There's always the complaint that Batgirl isn't allowed to be tough enough, but at the other extreme, she practically threatens a civilian character's life. And it's "cute little" Percy Helton of all people!

  8. Another late entry: Louie didn't really think this caper through - Bruce is an "expert" on animals, so he knows how to perform surgery that needed the finesse of Kirk Langstrom (aka Man-Bat)?
    Their tactics should have just been to explain to Louie why his plan was nothing but a lot of hot, lilac-perfumed air.

  9. I actually thought that the instant unfolding batcostumes with utility belts was brilliant!

    It is true that that the combination of additional characters and single part episodes inevitably caused character development to suffer.