Friday, December 9, 2011

Episodes 115 & 116: The Great Escape/The Great Train Robbery

Season 3 Episodes 115 & 116
Original Airdates: 2/1/68 & 2/8/68
Special Guest Villain: Cliff Robertson as Shame
Extra Special Guest Villainess: Dina Merrill as Calamity Jan
Guest Stars: Hermione Baddeley, Barry Dennen
Written by: Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by: Oscar Rudolph

Synopsis: Shame's back, with a new set of henchmen, and his plot this time is to commit a "great train robbery." Just what train is anybody's guess though. After quite a bit of detective work, it's ascertained that Shame is after the train carrying retired currency from the Treasury Department.

PE: As Shame and Calamity Jan locked lips, I thought "was this the first kiss ever seen on Batman?" I know we got close with Bats and Cats a few times but Robin always showed up just before the Caped Crusader could become a man.

JS: I think you're wrong, but I'm not going to re-watch 100 episodes to prove it. Hopefully one of our readers will be able to pull up that stat.

PE: The rehabilitation program of Warden Creighton takes another two steps back. I've got a feeling after Shame's breakout there'll be no more horseshoe pits in the yard.

JS: I felt an OUCH! card was in order when one of the guards took a flying horseshoe in the jaw!

PE: LOL-dialogue: as they're escaping in the tank that Calamity Jan and Frontier Fanny (Baddeley)  have driven into the prison yard wall, Shame tells Jan: "I got to hand it to you, Calamity, you're a woman and a half. If you could just get rid of the other half." And later, when Fanny breaks up a deep smooch, Shame disgustedly asks Jan "Why couldn't you been born an orphan?"

JS: Warden Creighton is so worried about things inside the prison, he has the guards ignore the perimeter. Which allowed our villains to sneak up and breach the outer wall in a bright red tank!

PE: He's not only Chairman of the Parole Board, a sometime crime fighter, and a single millionaire, we find out that Bruce Wayne is fond of cheese fondue. But, hold on to your hats, uncouth as well. The man is a double dipper!

JS: That's okay. Barbara Gordon is a spinster, so they make a perfect couple.

PE: Bruce got tired of having to make lame excuses when  Commissioner Gordon has to phone Batman and he's in the same room with him. In between episodes, the boys have been working on an "Emergency Bat-Communicator." Gordon's so predictable when he calls Bats that the Caped Crusader was able to record a simple few lines:
"Yes, Commisioner?"
"Exactly what's wrong, Commisioner?"
"We'll be right there, Commissioner!"
It's lucky O'Hara wasn't in the same room as Gordon or he might have wanted to do that silly guessing game with Bats: "Shore n'Begora, you'll never guess who's back in Gotham City, Batman!" and our hero would have come off as somewhat rude. Gordon tells Barbara he has to run off to headquarters and, rather than be left alone with this smoking hot babe, Bruce excuses himself as well. At least he was smart enough to cite etiquette rather than tell her the fondue had made him ill.

JS: I want to know why it took them almost the entire series to recognize they could respond to 99% of the Commissioner's calls with a pre-recorded message.

PE: I had to change my Bat-logo t-shirt (I have got to get a Bat-bib!) as I had spit up my Whiskey and Coke after hearing this exchange:
Gordon: They found the tank on West 20th Street.
Batman: Is it still there?
Gordon: No, they had towed it away. The parking meter had run out.
Batman: They probably removed the fingerprints as well. I think Mayor Linseed should make some... changes in his towing policy.
That smirk and nod of the head from West as he pauses to finish the sentence are what reminds me that the guy could do comedy better than drama. Very subtle but perfect. As is most of the comedic dialog in this one. When Bats reads Shame's redneck-accented letter, he gets to the part where the dopey cowboy calls him the "Dynamic Dum-Dum" and Robin grimaces. The timing, the slapstick, the funny lines make it almost inconceivable that writer Stanley Ralph Ross was responsible for the deadly dull Catwoman two-parter this season as well. This arc is so full of great stuff I'd love to reprint the script here. We even get a cameo from a grown-up Beaver, Jerry Mathers as Pops, the Doorman.

"Well hello, Mrs. Cleaver. How's the Beaver?"
JS: The reading of the letter was classic. I only wish Bats had poked fun at Shame during their big showdown by talking to him in that dumb hick voice.

PE: Not only do we get some of the best sight gags (in his entrance, Chief Standing Pat gets his headdress stuck in the door for a beat) and best one-liners ("Get away from our Fanny!"), we're treated to the two best henchmen the series has ever granted us:  Fernando Ricardo Enrique Dominguez (or "FRED cuz that's his initials") (played by Fred Dennen), a brown-skinned Mexican who speaks fluent British ("the pleasure is entirely mine, you may be sure") and wears a huge hat and Chief Standing Pat (Victor Lundin), an Indian who speaks through smoke signals created by his cigar. When Shame unveils his "Great Train Robbery" plan to FRED, the Mexi-Brit sniffs: "That's hardly original, you know," to which Shame retorts "A big mouth is better when it's shut, FRED, so keep your tongue harnessed and you'll have a thin lip." The henchman, taken aback, answers "I stand chastised."

JS: When our triumphant trio gets Fear-gassed, did anyone else think 'Human Centipede'?

PE: More! Batman and Robin have been able to decipher what the "Rock and Roll" clue means but are stumped about what the "Gotham City Stage" is. Just then, Barbara Gordon calls on the Batphone as Batgirl and tells Bats she's been able to figure out what the "Stage" is but not the "RnR." In a husky voice, the Caped Crusader pants "We obviously need each other, Batgirl."
Robin: They've got Batgirl and we've got Fanny.
Batman: It hardly seems like a fair trade, does it Robin?
JS: Throughout this season, we've been continually reminded just how much we've needed Batgirl. And come to think of it, she gets tied up quite a bit.

PE: I loved the scene when Batman calls back just after Barbara leaves, getting her old man on the phone. When Bats asks to speak to Batgirl again, you're just waiting for the lightbulb to go on over the Commish's head and then you remember...

JS: Batgirl kidnapped! Barbara Gordon missing! 2 + 2 = ... anyone? Anyone?

PE: Knocked out by pinatas! How humiliating!

JS: We're treated to a real touching moment as Robin says goodbye to Batman for what he believes will be the last time. I wonder if the kid knew he was only off by a few episodes.

PE: The rain of insults from Shame and Batman's comebacks as they approach each other for their mano a mano fight are classic:
Shame: Your mother wore army shoes!
Batman: Yes, she did. As I recall, she found them quite comfortable.
Shame: You big sissy. You couldn't drive nails in a snowbank!
Batman: Why would I want to?
Batman: You're not worthy of the name Shame. You're a sham, Shame. Don't ever cry on my tights or pull my leg again.
JS: Had they only introduced it sooner, "Don't Cry On My Tights," could have been Batman's catchphrase. Like Eastwood's, "Get Off My Lawn," in Gran Torino.

PE: Cliff Robertson was just a year away from winning his Oscar for Charly. Later on in his career, he played Uncle Ben to another super-hero, Spider-Man, in the Sam Raimi trilogy. This arc featured Shame trying to get into the britches of Calamity Jan under the watchful eye of her mammy, Frontier Fanny. Ironically, Robertson was married to actress Dina Merrill at the time this was aired. Hermione Baddely is probably best known for her role later on Maude as Mrs. Naugatuck. Arnold Stang, who played the gun shop owner, provided the voice for Top Cat in the cartoon series of the same name.

PE Rating:

JS Rating:

Next up... King Tut! Same Bat time, same Bat URL!


  1. Marsha liplocked Batman. It's also her tank!

  2. As an adult, I now SO love the interaction with (and comments directed at) the mom-in-law by Shame! So great! And the way Cliff Robertson does those slow burns when confronted with problems, or folks like FRED. As if he's thinking, "Can't I just shoot this hombre?"

    A very underrated Bat-foe!

    Al Bigley

  3. Barbara's fondue, Fred's deadpan delivery, Shame's note and eventual war-of-words with Our Hero, Batgirl hogtied and gagged = a reasonably diverting half-hour of home stretch silliness. You're right, Pete... getting KO'd by falling pinatas is pretty high on the humiliation meter... although being transformed into cringing cowards by 'fear gas' isn't far behind. Sassy-turned-helpless Batgirl pleading with Shame to "forgive us, kind sir!" certainly stirred the arch-villain in most male viewers. And cameos not only from Beaver Cleaver, but Top Cat's Voice as well? I smiled back in '68, and I still do now...

  4. With these episodes we've left Chuck Jones and are back to Carol Burnett, but they are funny in an arch, self-knowing way. The Stan Ross humor, which I read as a fall from grace in S2, lifts S3 out of its slough of unwatchable silliness. Barry Dennen is priceless. AW's shaming of Shame ("Don't cry on my tights") is perfect. Chekov was right: If you show a close-up of a horseshoe hanging over a doorway, you'd better show it falling on your Fanny.

  5. "Don't ever cry on my tights or pull my cap again."

    Even though it's a different superhero, I wonder whether Jim Croce drew on that line when he wrote "You don't tug on Superman's cape...."

  6. Fred was played by BARRY Dennen, who was Pilate in "Jesus Christ Superstar" also in "Kentucky Fried Movie" and "Fiddler on the Roof."

  7. In episode 88 Bruce makes out with Lisa Carson. As he walks into her apartment with her he says "Man can't live on crime-fighting alone."

  8. The cast of the show, as I've already said, is practically perfect, and that doesn't changed in the final three hours worth of show. Got Episodes