Batman "The Worst Is Yet To Come": Rewatching Batman '66

Discussion in 'Comics Central' started by Mel O'Drama, Feb 24, 2019.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The Green Hornet crossover was kind of fun. I've never seen the series and so am the viewer for whom this is a taster rather than the titillation of seeing favourite things coming together. I quite like what I've seen, but at the same time I don't feel I'm missing out from not watching The Green Hornet. Van Williams's handsome looks seemed quite contemporary to my eyes.

    It did a nice job of bringing the two together, I think. This is the only time I can think of where there hasn't been a billed "Guest villain" so my expectations of these episodes' villainy was low, but I found Roger C. Carmel's Colonel Gumm very entertaining.



    My favourite line of recent episodes came from Catwoman to her henchman as they robbed priceless gems at gunpoint:

    It's terrible. Groan-inducing in its corniness. Which is exactly why I laughed so much.
     
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  2. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I'm not sure but I don't think The Green Hornet has ever aired here - apart from one episode years later in a "Golden Years of Television" presentation. I did finally see the whole series much more recently on DVD. It's solid crime-fighter entertainment but is played much straighter than Batman. Comparable perhaps to the George Reeves Superman series in tone.

    The Hornet's appearances on Batman are somewhat inconsistent. In one early episode Bruce and Dick are watching the show on TV, so he is only a TV character. Then he pops out in a wall gag, and Batman welcomes him to Gotham City as a fellow crimefighter. The we have the full-blown crossover, and Batman now believes, along with everyone else, the cover story that The Green Hornet and Kato are criminals.
     
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  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's quite possible it never aired here either. I certainly don't remember being aware of any repeats when I was young.


    Interesting. Especially with it having the same producer. I've watched a little of the first episode and yes, the tone is very different. Which is even more incredible considering the similarities: not only the dynamics of the two crimefighters, but also the episode title style, the occasional on-screen logo and Dozier's narration.


    That rings bells, but it didn't really register with me as I watched so I couldn't have been paying enough attention.


    Yes, I'd noticed the difference in outlook there. The criminal cover looks fun. Is it deliberately set up that way by the pair or is it more like The Fugitive or The Incredible Hulk?
     
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  4. Seaviewer

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    I must say that I didn't mind the version of Catwoman in Batman: The Animated Series, as a sort of eco-warrior/animal rights activist whose crimes are justified by a higher purpose - at least in her own mind. Bruce can even sympathise with her goals even though his own code requires him to take her in.

    It's a deliberate set-up. It allows him to get close to the real criminals as one of them. He is really Britt Reid, a wealthy newspaper publisher, which I guess is like a combination of Bruce Wayne's and Clark Kent's everyday identities. The only people that know the secret are his secretary at the paper and the DA. Why nobody ever the connects the fact that both The Hornet and Reid have Asian assistants named Kato, I don't know.
     
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  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I was expecting a noticeable drop in quality with Season Three but, seven episodes in, there's nothing that's spoilt my viewing.

    The change in format has taken a little adjustment. I miss the daft cliffhangers. They still crop up, but mid-episode and without Dozier's wonderfully bombastic narration. Curiously, even a two-parter featuring the Penguin didn't have a proper cliffhanger. The teasers at the end of each episode with a cameo by the next episode's villain are a very nice touch. That, I have been enjoying.

    If anything, the single episode stories have held my interest more. The pace is necessarily faster but they haven't felt rushed to me even though the stories (such as they are) move along nicely.

    Season Three's villains have been fun. Frank Gorshin's triumphant final outing as the Riddler was a nice treat. I almost wish they'd held his episode off until later in the season so there was more balance, but after an absence of almost eighteen months who can blame them for wanting to use him almost right away. Perhaps they were hoping he would return for a second episode later in the year. Joan Collins as his ambitious secret weapon scores for being promoted to Special Guest Villainess by the next episode. And great fun she was too. It's easy to find parallels with her rapid ascendence to power on Dynasty. With the Riddler as Cecil Colby (which I suppose makes Batman Blake). Lola Lasagne was enjoyable. If anyone could almost steal the limelight from Burgess Meredith it's Ethel Merman. King Tut is perhaps the villain to have benefitted most from the single episode format. I've enjoyed him but in earlier appearances I invariably started mentally tuning out quite quickly for some reason. That wasn't an issue here.

    Batgirl's arrival on the scene has breathed new life into the series. I can understand why West and Ward weren't keen on Yvonne Craig changing the on-screen dynamic, but having her as a kind of lone wolf who shows up randomly and disappears has mitigated this. Whether she's improved things is a matter for debate, but the changes certainly work. I particularly enjoy the new level of secret identity fun with Alfred knowing who she is but not sharing that information with his employers.

    Coming up soon I have two classics: The surfboard Joker episode and The Londinium three-parter. I remember finding the Joker episode particularly dire when I was younger so I'm curious what I'll make of it now.
     
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  6. Seaviewer

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    I found it quite odd that they still did multi-parters. I'm guessing that maybe they were re-written from scripts intended for the old format.

    Interesting observation.

    Alfred accidentally leaning Barbara's secret was really a little too much, I thought. Even for a show that thrived on the absurd.
     
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  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    We're freewheeling towards the end now. The last story I watched was the Shame two-parter featuring the gloriously-named Frontier Fanny. It only dawned on me in the latter episode that Cliff Robertson would go on to be Peter Parker's Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films. So that leaves just four episodes to watch.

    Season Three has continued to be an enjoyable journey. The relative brevity of the season had helped. Perhaps my lower expectations were a factor too.

    Even the dafter situations have been fun. There've been a few telling signs of the times. The Shame episode featured a stereotypical-looking Native American and Mexican played, apparently, by caucasian actors wearing bronze makeup. Even on this series it's not the first time it's happened. I recall a chief in an earlier episode along the lines of Charles Hawtrey in Carry On Cowboy. The native American in the latter episode is more Bernard Bresslaw. One scene from this episode appears on YouTube titled "Racist Batman Scene" and, while I'm neither doubting nor advocating the dubiously dated nature of this custom, the scene in question is, as far as I can see, fairly standard. If anything, it highlights the surreal nature of it, since the Mexican character can clearly be heard speaking in a Jacob Rees-Mogg voice.

    In the same vein, there's been something approaching social commentary, with the episode Nora Clavicle And The Ladies' Crime Club taking aim at the then-nascent Women's Lib movement. The plot involves the titular character getting Commissioner Gordon sacked so she may take his place. She also gets Chief O'Hara replaced with a female friend of hers and they go on to replace the entire Gotham Police Force with women in nicely fitted uniforms (more Carry On influence here, perhaps. It's rather reminiscent of Cabby).

    And the reason? They know that women will be far less competent than men which will allow them to get away with their schemes. Indeed, we go on to see a bank robbery taking place under the nose of female officers. The one inside the bank is too busy using a compact and applying makeup to respond, while the two officers outside the bank (each holding a brightly coloured rolling pin) are involved in exchanging recipes. The police switchboard is flashing like crazy, but the woman operating it is oblivious as she's calling all cars to tell them about a great sale that's just started.

    The grand plot involves Nora's plan to destroy Gotham City and get a huge insurance payout. She aims to achieve this using thousands of clockwork mice, each containing a small charge. And so we cut to scenes of terrified female officers standing on desks and chairs and swooning into dead faints at the sight of the mice. It's kind of terrible but also riotously funny, perhaps even more so in this MeToo saturated world than it was then. Even Batgirl - the series' symbol of girl power and liberation - earnestly observes that with women running the force Nora's plan is likely to succeed.

    Even the mid-episode cliffhanger is one of the most implicitly sexist. The heroic trio are bound into a human knot which will only get tighter if they move a muscle. Batgirl is practically sitting on Batman's lap, while at the same time facing Robin's groin with her leg up over his shoulder.

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    Batman starts to free them by wiggling his ears and ordering Robin to wiggle one of his fingers (quite shocking if one stops to consider where Robin's hands are). Given West and Ward's reputation as ladies' men, one can only imagine the kind of antics that were taking place on set that day.

    The denouement is appropriately daft, with Batman, Robin and Batgirl using flutes, Pied Piper style, to charm the mice into the water.




    I enjoyed most of Season Three's multi-parters, but found it odd that most of them were missing the "Same Bat-Time..." cliffhangers. It's as though the new edict of the storyline being wrapped up but having a little teaser for the next episode still applied. Being in amongst the single storyline episodes, the two and three parters should have felt like big events but they were mostly indistinguishable. I also miss the rhyming two-part episode titles.

    I know what you mean. My school of thought around it is that anything that gives Alfred a bit more involvement is a good thing.
     
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  8. Seaviewer

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    It's really not that much shorter in terms of weeks. Don't forget that the series originally aired twice a week - hence my likening of the episodes to hour shows cut in half. The third season only aired once a week, making the retention of multi-parters even more incongruous.
     
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  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    My little Bat-jaunt came to an end last night with the final few episodes and most of the blu-ray bonus features.

    Fun as it was to see Zsa Zsa Gabor "daaaaaalink"ing her way through the final episode, there was a definite sense of the unfinished. I've watched before, of course and knew the form. But there was a little part of me that hoped it would feel more of an appropriate ending than I remembered.

    Ida Lupino and Howard Duff releasing the series' primary arch villains (or their body doubles) from prison in the penultimate episode really makes me wish they'd gone all out and blown the budget on a final, hour long episode featuring all the top names. It would probably have ended the same way as that half hour episode - with the villains out cold and on their way back to the pokey - but it would certainly have taken the series out with a bang. But it's probable they weren't even sure that the season finale would be the end of the series.



    I'm sure the third season's changes were pretty drastic for viewers during the show's first US airing, but that aspect has only ever been theoretical for me. The series had long ended by the time I was born and so I've only ever seen repeats which probably didn't pay much heed to the patterns of the original airing.
     
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  10. Seaviewer

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    I can never quite remember whether it's Zsa Zsa or Eva.
    According to the previously cited Official Bat-book, they were trying to get picked up by another network. Unfortunately, an offer came just too late - after the sets had been torn down - and it was not considered worth the expense of rebuilding them.
     
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