Batman 2.14 – The Yegg Foes in Gotham

So the story goes that for a few months and possibly longer, Burt Ward had shown some pretty diva-like behavior and made enemies of just about everybody on the Batman set. He still did his thankless job pretty well; in fact, he gets one of the best lines in the episode this time out. When Bruce Wayne explains, after setting off a radar-egg-bomb, that at the age of eleven he had been the junior marble champion of Gotham City, Dick simply replies “Even then.” Nobody ever said that Burt Ward had a tough job as Robin, but he did what he had to do pretty much perfectly.

That’s onscreen. Behind the scenes, he had allegedly become a holy terror. And Vincent Price, he was a professional, and didn’t like to see the crew mistreated. So when they came to film this fight, he didn’t appreciate Ward lobbing eggs at the cameramen. I’ve read that he did what he did on his own and I’ve read that one of the crew gently suggested that maybe Price could, instead of smacking Ward in the head with a single egg, maybe find a couple of handfuls.

Whichever, it’s absolutely beautiful. Watching these fights on DVD, you can always spot Ward’s stunt double, and occasionally the lead villain’s. That’s definitely the case here. It’s not like Vincent Price’s bald cap-and-dome is the best-looking work of makeup in the world anyway, but the poor fellow subbing for him in the long shots has an even worse fake head. So they filmed the fight with the doubles, and then brought the actors in for the closeups, and then Vincent Price takes an entire tray of eggs and smashes the living daylights out of Burt Ward.

To his considerable credit, Ward followed the instructions given by the director with the wonderfully-stylized name george waGGner, who told everybody that this was a one-take fight because of all the egg yolk on the studio floor. Plus, he probably had the sense to know that, for continuity, he was just going to have to play the rest of the scene with yellow all the heck over his costume and shells in his hair. He might have been a diva, but he knew to act like a professional when he needed to.

Daniel enjoyed this episode much more than the first part. He was much less hyper and wild today, which helped, but he paid attention and enjoyed things, egg-specially that final fight. He really liked this one and only got a little hyper in the wake of all the mayhem and egg-throwing.

One other note: I missed out on mentioning that Sammy Davis Jr. had a Batclimb cameo in the previous story. Bill Dana has one this time, in character as José Jiménez. Ben Alexander, who was Officer Smith in Dragnet, also gets a cameo in this story as a Gotham City detective, and gets to say “just the facts.”

Batman 2.13 – An Egg Grows in Gotham

What has got to be one of the strangest little bits of meta-fiction happens in this episode of Batman. The plot involves the every-fifth-year contractual obligation that the heirs of the Savage, Tyler, and Wayne families have to the Mohican Indians. Centuries before, their ancestors leased the land of Gotham City for a payment of nine raccoon pelts, and tonight is the night that each must bring three more to the last Mohican Indian, Chief Screaming Chicken, who’s played by Edward Everett Horton.

Now, casting Horton is a great big wink at the audience in the first place, as Horton is basically just repeating his F Troop role of Roaring Chicken. Of course, it’s done with all the grace and subtlety that you’d expect from a 1966 sitcom to give to native Americans: none whatsoever. But what you’re seeing is exactly like when George Clooney and Noah Wyle showed up as doctors on an episode of Friends. It’s a good reminder that even in 1966, TV networks acted like TV networks, and found reasons for their actors to cameo in the other shows in the lineup.

But here’s the really weird part: Bruce Wayne explains that the last time they did the raccoon exchange, they got the pelts from a popular singer from the 1920s who wore a raccoon coat, and who had fallen on hard times and had to sell it. This is a reference to Rudy Vallée, who was sometimes called America’s first pop star, and who sang jazz age hits such as “Doin’ the Raccoon” and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” Vallée hadn’t worked in Hollywood for several years when this was made, having spent quite a time on Broadway, but he’d make a comeback the following year playing a villain on this very show. How fun is that!

So I’ve talked around the real highlights of the episode: the villain and the script. The baddie is Egghead, played by Vincent Price, and the script is another laughs-first effort by Stanley Ralph Ross. Egghead speaks in egg-scrutiating puns about egg-splosions and uses the word egg-sactly as much as possible. This pleased my pun-loving wife, who said something about how she appreciated a good yolk as much as the next guy and I’ve only myself to blame for showing her this and encouraging this behavior. I was, on the other hand, inordinately pleased that she caught a reference to The Lone Ranger among all of Chief Screaming Chicken’s “how” babble. She normally misses all the pop culture stuff.

Daniel wasn’t too taken with this episode. He was really wild and hyper this evening and did not want to sit still tonight. He growled at the cliffhanger, and said “That wasn’t any fun.” It’s a shame that he didn’t like it, because Stanley Ralph Ross, showing again that he’s more interested in developing an internal continuity and growth of characters than just shoehorning celebrities in (no matter how well that has worked, and, Archer aside, I think season two has worked a lot better than I remember it), came up with a humdinger of a cliffhanger.

Egghead believes that he’s the smartest of all criminals, and has been thinking about Batman’s secret identity. He has a double purpose in abducting Bruce Wayne and the other heirs, Pete Savage and Tim Tyler beyond intercepting the contractual pelt delivery. He has deduced that Batman must be an athletic millionaire in his early thirties. Tyler is left-handed and Savage, who spends most of his days in Paris, has an accent, and so Batman is most probably Bruce Wayne… or possibly, he concedes, a wealthy rock star who lives in Gotham. He intends to use his wild-looking machine to egg-stract all the knowledge from Bruce Wayne’s mind and settle the question. I really enjoyed that; like the bit earlier this season with Catwoman complaining about all the other supervillains asking her out, it shows that Ross really did consider how the characters would think and act when they’re not onscreen.

The Ghost Busters 1.2 – Dr. Whatsisname

This episode is so named because Zero’s message is garbled and our heroes don’t realize until the final faceoff that their opponent is Dr. Frankenstein, played by Bernie Kopell, who was Sigfried in Get Smart and a hundred other roles in a hundred other shows.

The message is garbled because this week, it’s in a cream pie and it has too much frosting for the message to come through clearly before it self-destructs, leaving Tracy with a face full of pie. He’s the first; before the show’s over, the three leads and the two guest stars all get pies in the face.

Daniel absolutely adores the slapstick mayhem like this. He liked the Krofft shows just fine, with some reservations about the villains, but this is very clearly second to Thunderbirds as his favorite show so far. He just howled with the pies in the face and all the surreal gags about Tracy’s magic powers. Tracy – we’re told this week that he is “sensitive” about mentions of the Empire State Building, as his grandfather was King Kong – has a bag from which he pulls bombs with lit fuses, and bottles of seltzer water to extinguish the fuses. He can also draw a picture of a fridge, and then open it to give Spencer a bottle of pop and a bologna sandwich. All the while, Daniel just roared with laughter.

Filmation was on my mind, because my best mate Dave was in town for Anime Weekend Atlanta, and he performs/hosts/curates the perennial Friday night event Anime Hell at this and a few other cons around the country. Dave likes to occasionally remind his audience how awful American TV animation was, and among the things he cherry-picked this year was the opening of The Kid Super Power Hour. Filmation’s animation was most often world-endingly crappy, and some of their live-action shows that we’re going to watch down the line I remember as being slow and preachy, but this show is revealing itself to be absolutely the funniest thing in the world for a four year-old. You should watch some episodes in the company of one.

Thunderbirds (2004)

There are people out there who really, really don’t like the 2004 Thunderbirds movie. Few of those people are in the movie’s target audience of kids. To be sure, it’s a film that groans under the weight of compromise. Jonathan Frakes, who had the unenviable job of directing the movie, was serving far too many cooks with far too many ideas. I think that objectively, Frakes, who is a really talented director, might have made the best film that he possibly could under the weight of awful, awful studio interference.

To be clear, this is a long way removed from the original series, and the mammoth decision to de-age Alan and Tintin (they’re played by 16 year-old Brady Corbet and 15 year-old Vanessa Hudgens, who was two years away from stardom in Disney’s High School Musical series) and give Brains a young son called Fermat, and make them the stars is… an odd one. The problem is that there had been these hugely successful movies called Spy Kids, and that’s what Universal wanted out of this: an action movie for children with teenage leads.

Of slightly less import, there was the peculiar change to Lady Penelope’s car, FAB-1. As I understand it, everybody involved just took it for granted that Rolls-Royce would love to resume their association with Thunderbirds, and they were completely stumped how to proceed without them. Then somebody remembered that Ford made a car called a Thunderbird, and what happened next was a see-it-to-believe it level of product placement. You want to talk about shattering the suspension of disbelief? Ford sponsors the news in this movie!

Okay, so the studio has decided to make these kids the focus, and some dimwit has made the decision to paint Brady Corbet’s lips such a deep and ugly red that Alan would still be the focus if the lights were out. That means that the script needs to sideline the rest of the Tracys. It doesn’t entirely matter, as Scott, Virgil, Gordon, and John are given absolutely nothing to do that any or all of the others couldn’t do, and they’re portrayed by and portrayed as completely anonymous bros. John’s the only one of the four who gets even one line without one of the others, and we’re only certain that’s John because he’s in the satellite. The Hood launches a missile at Thunderbird 5, and Jeff, Scott, Virgil, and Gordon launch to rescue him in Thunderbird 3, not knowing that the Hood and his associates are right offshore and shut down control of the satellite from Earth. So only the kids can save the day.

Daniel mostly enjoyed the movie, but the steady drive of one bad thing after another complicated his desire to keep watching. There are some daring escapes, and some delightfully kid-friendly action. Some firefighting foam has much the same effect as Nickelodeon slime or gak, and he just loved seeing some of the baddies encased in that. He enjoyed the launch sequences, which are all done much, much quicker than in the show, although he did add “that looked different!” every time. And he really loved the fights.

The best little bit in the movie involves one of the Hood’s villains, played by Deobia Oparei. Perhaps bizarrely, this actor has not appeared in Doctor Who despite a perfect “man who can beat up anybody” look that surely that program’s casting directors would find useful. Anyway, Oparei warns Lady Penelope that he knows this martial art and knows this martial art and knows this fighting style. Penelope replies “I know Parker.” Parker replies “Milady.” Yes, there are cosmetic changes as well as deep, deep differences between the show and this movie, but that is just plain perfect Thunderbirds.

Penelope and Parker are, by leagues, the best things about this movie. They’re played by Sophia Myles – and, two years later, she would have a very memorable role in Who – and by Ron Cook – who was on Who three weeks after Myles – and they are freaking fantastic. Their FAB-1 may be a Ford and it may fly, but those two came straight from the TV series. Myles and Cook get the voices and the characterizations and the movements just right.

The second best thing is that the movie gave us what Gerry Anderson – who was quoted, wherever possible, as hating the movie – never did, and that’s a showdown with the Hood. He’s played by Ben Kingsley, and it was great to finally put a proper name to the face for Daniel. For months, he’s called the villain “that bad guy in Thunderbirds with the glowing eyes and bald head,” which is a bit long. I had a blast leaning over to tell him “So THAT’S his name! The Hood!” and Daniel replied with a growl.

The movie was a big flop, meaning that for all the goodwill people have for the Tracys and all the merchandise that they like to buy, there’s yet to be a successful movie in theaters. I think that British audiences stayed away after all the bad advance early press, the grumbling from Anderson, and wounded memories that the last time an American studio got behind a remake of a ’60s British cult classic, it was the 1998 Avengers with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman which only I and seventeen other people on the entire planet enjoyed, and it’s not entirely certain that I just elected to be contrary on that point. I think that Americans stayed away because we already had one Spy Kids franchise and did not need a second.

It took a few years for Jonathan Frakes’ career to recover after this disaster, and he has still not been given the keys to a sixty million dollar feature film again. He’s worked in TV pretty exclusively, and is a pretty reliable go-to guy whenever a drama hour needs a light hand behind the camera for a Star Trek spoof, as we saw in a season five episode of Castle. When Brady Corbet next appeared in a movie, it was without the visible-from-space lips.

One final note: while Daniel enjoyed the movie, he didn’t enjoy it half as much as his older brother did. Julian was seven when the film came out, and I took him and his sister to see it at the AMC Parkway Pointe in Smyrna GA. I enjoyed it all right, but what I enjoyed most was my hyperactive boy making this announcement in the corridor as we were leaving: “I can’t wait to be a father, because I’m going to take MY kids to see this movie!” Got a little something in my eye when he said that…

Batman 2.12 – The Clock King Gets Crowned

Daniel got briefly very aggravated with the villainous Clock King in this episode. There’s a really nice bit of subtle, sweetly in-character acting on the part of Walter Slezak as he and two thugs invade Wayne Manor. His original plan had been to use a clock that Aunt Harriet had earlier purchased to gas everybody unconscious and then heist Bruce Wayne’s collection of antique pocket watches. But one of his thugs has put the wrong device in the clock; they need that device for a different scheme altogether. So they come in, cosh Alfred, and take back the clock to get back the macguffin.

But while they’re in the mansion, Clock King might as well pilfer those antique pocket watches. He hasn’t a minute to lose – this criminal sticks to a tight timetable – but he doesn’t just dump them all in a black bag. He takes a moment to look over each of them briefly, appraising each special treasure with an enthusiast’s eye. It’s a perfect little moment already, and then he ever-so-subtly decides that one of them doesn’t pass muster and he replaces it. I’ve seen this guy at a hundred record stores. I want to shake his hand.

Aunt Harriet catches the crooks in the act and yells for help, and it looks for a moment like he’s going to take her hostage. Daniel didn’t like that at all. He’s savvy enough to know that it’s okay for the heroes to be put in danger, but not innocent civilians. He growled and hid his eyes, and when Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson chase off the villains with their macguffin clock – sadly for the connoisseur, he has to leave behind the pocket watches that he had so gingerly collected – he breathed a big sigh of relief. What a mean villain, menacing a helpless old lady like that!

Speaking of macguffins, there’s some great dialogue in the Batcave that really grounds this as such a thoroughly sixties adventure show. I mean, it really doesn’t matter what it is that the bad guy wants to steal in his unnecessarily complicated scheme, but it turns out to be a cesium-powered clock which is to be transferred from a research lab to some scientific agency or other. It’s really on-the-nose with its talk of contemporary science that the viewers had probably heard mentioned in the news, in much the same way that the first Cybernaut episode of The Avengers, which had aired on ABC a few months previously, had been unnecessarily full of talk about transistors.

Walter Slezak is similar to Van Johnson in that he’s probably best known to modern audiences as having played a villain on Batman, but, like Johnson, he was a much bigger name in 1966 and known to most of the viewers watching then. He’d made dozens of films in the 1940s and 1950s, and he’s actually the first of two lead actors from Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat to become a Batvillain. He’s one of only two Batvillains to win a Tony Award for Best Lead Actor or Actress in a Musical. (I’ll probably forget this in season three, so I’ll mention here that Ethel Merman is the other, although Maurice Evans and Eartha Kitt also received nominations.) By ’66, Slezak’s career had peaked, and he mostly retired after 1968. He seemed to have real fun in the role, and honestly, I’m not minding this run of one-off villains written for big guest stars at all.

Batman 2.11 – The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes

What an incredibly strange coincidence. Tonight, we watched the first part of the only Batman TV story to credit Bill Finger with the story. He co-wrote this one with Charles Sinclair. Just last week, DC Comics and Warner Brothers finally agreed to give Finger, who died in 1974, a co-creator credit for the character. Bob Kane has been given sole credit for devising Batman for decades; into the 1960s, in fact, it was common for the comics books to have Kane, and nobody else, credited for the work. From time to time, Kane would acknowledge that Bill Finger had a lot more to do with Batman’s mythology, supporting cast, villains, and success than the official record would allow. Or perhaps that should read “…than Kane would allow the official record to allow.”

On Friday, Warner announced that, starting with this season of Gotham, Finger will be formally credited as Batman’s co-creator. You’ll also see this in theaters next summer when the next movie is released. This represents a long-held dream of comic fans and historians, and Finger’s family. We’re very glad to see this happen.

Finger also created the character of Clock King in 1947. Portrayed here by Walter Slezak, he was introduced as “the Clock” and renamed Clock King in 1960. He’s had a quite a few different looks over the years, and the one shown here, in which he’s posing as a pop artist in order to bring a big machine into an art gallery to cut through a wall in broad daylight, is actually not the silliest. He had some blue and green spandex for a while with a full-face clock mask! Most recently, he has shown up in one episode each of Arrow and The Flash, which, I think, makes him the first supervillain to appear in both the Adam West universe and the Stephen Amell one.

The Ghost Busters 1.1 – The Maltese Monkey

In 1975, CBS tossed out about half of their Saturday morning cartoons in favor of a two-hour block of live-action programming. They bought one new show, Far Out Space Nuts, from Sid and Marty Krofft, but the others in the fall of ’75 came from Filmation, who’d proven themselves with the hit Shazam! the previous year. CBS bought The Secrets of Isis as a sister series to the Captain Marvel show, as well as this very silly, very goofy, largely unloved and mostly forgotten program. If there hadn’t been a mammoth hit film a decade later with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as four completely different “ghostbusters,” sparking a war between two lousy daytime cartoon tie-ins calling themselves “real” versus “original,” I bet even fewer people would remember this show.

So The Ghost Busters stars Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch, best known from a great sixties sitcom called F Troop, as Kong and Spencer, and Bob Burns, in one of his gorilla costumes, as the remarkably talented Tracy. Every week, many of the same things happen. Either some ghosts show up to commit some crimes, or some humans raise some ghosts to commit some crimes, and an unseen fellow named Zero sends our heroes a self-destructing message to stop the mild mayhem.

Filmation was working with a ridiculously tight budget, and they didn’t throw it out the window like the Kroffts did. This show looks like they didn’t even spend what little they were given on it. There’s no time for retakes, no money for new sets, and I just love the huge echo of the cavernous studio when the characters are meant to be outside.

But it all works because Storch and Tucker are just so darn good together. They’re phenomenally fun. They look like they’re the best friends in the world, having an absolute ball working together and treating this stupid show with respect and good humor. You’re not watching The Ghost Busters for novel plots and unique takes on classic comedy, although this may have been Daniel’s first exposure to the old Scooby Doo hallway with four doors on either side and everybody running back and forth through them, and he just howled with laughter. No, you’re watching this show to watch two pros having a blast, with oddball, nonsensical jokes and riddles, mumbled asides and funny arguments about Limburger cheese sandwiches. And also to watch how Tucker somehow always manages to use his pinky finger and his index finger for two totally separate movements at the same time. How does he do that?

One big thing that distinguishes the Filmation shows from the early Krofft ones is the use of guest stars. Each week, there are some familiar faces slumming it in the show for some laughs and a few bucks. Surprisingly, Jonathan Harris doesn’t show up in this series, as he did on quite a few other Filmation programs, but he was probably busy on the studio’s Uncle Croc’s Block, which aired on ABC, while this show was taping. This time out, the guests are Johnny Brown, who was best known as the building super on Good Times, as the criminal Fat Man, and Krofft regular Billy Barty as his associate the Rabbit. Brown is doing a pretty cute impression of Sidney Greenstreet, particularly in the way he’s always mopping sweat with a handkerchief. Barty’s not really doing Peter Lorre, though. He’s just being Billy Barty.

But interestingly, Sid and Marty Krofft found themselves responding to Filmation’s process, starting with Space Nuts, which was their first show to regularly employ guest stars. Compared to the recognizable faces that Filmation employed, most of Space Nuts‘ guests were unknowns, but they did land freaking John Carradine for one of those. Apologies for this lone diversion into that series when I’m meant to be talking about Ghost Busters, but absolutely nobody can figure out how in the world Sid and Marty pulled off a casting coup like that.

Thunderbird 6 (1968)

The second and final Thunderbirds movie from the Andersons was made alongside production of the TV series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and was released eighteen months after Thunderbirds are Go. Sadly, it was a box office flop, and it didn’t even have the excuse that the first one did for low ticket sales – everybody was watching the show on TV. So it’s picked up a reputation as being lightweight, and a failure.

I’d been saving it for a rainy day for many, many years now, and finally sat down to watch it with Daniel. It’s flawed, certainly, but not badly. It’s a really entertaining movie despite its sagging middle, and we had a very good time watching it together.

There’s a lot going on in this movie, but the main action is set at a very, very leisurely pace. Alan, Tintin, Penelope, and Parker are the guests of the maiden, round-the-world flight of Skyship One, which Brains has designed for New World Aircraft. The interior designs for New World, and Skyship One, are awesomely 1960s fabulous. The games room (above) is pretty amazing, but best of all – still pictures don’t do it justice – is the gravity room which keeps the ship aloft, and which is built around dozens of constantly revolving concentric circles.

So the maiden flight is a languid travelogue, stopping at various points of interest, and revealing that Alan has that very 20th Century fascination with big game hunting, unfortunately. Our heroes don’t know that Lady Penelope is being recorded. The crew are all villains in the employ of “Black Phantom,” and they’re trying to get Penelope to say all the words in a “call for help” script which they’ll edit together, and send Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to a remote, deserted airfield where they will be ambushed.

Now, a note on Black Phantom: there is not one thing in the script that identifies him as the Hood. He looks and talks like the Hood, but he doesn’t dress or act like him, he has a full head of black hair, and he’s perfectly willing to sit back in a decrepit, abandoned old airport with some other thugs for weeks, which doesn’t sound at all like the show’s impatient baddie. Nevertheless, some commentators insist this is the Hood. According to the audio commentary by Sylvia Anderson and director David Lane, Black Phantom might be the Hood’s son, but it’s pretty clearly a different guy.

So the movie goes on, and it’s all design and character fun with no real action for more than half the movie, until “White Ghost,” the head agent on Skyship One, sends the fake transmission from Penelope. Scott and Virgil take off for the airfield. Penelope and Alan put all the clues together and she sends a warning to Jeff in the nick of time, and then things get amazingly, incredibly fun.

By this point, Daniel’s interest had ebbed, and I coaxed him back into the action with “Oh, no! Scott and Virgil have landed in a trap! What’s going to happen?!” I had no idea. What happens is this: they don’t leave their ships, they don’t demand the hidden bad guys come out and surrender. They just lower their cannons without speaking and silently blow the almighty bejezus out of that airport. It’s so amazing.

In fact, there’s an oddly grisly edge to this movie. Earlier on, the villains casually dump the bodies of the crewmen that they’ve killed over the Atlantic Ocean, and the fellow who arranged that gets his own appropriate comeuppance later on. That’s after Brains comes to the rescue in a little Tiger, a 1930s biplane. By this point, the action has moved into one of the all-time great Thunderbirds disasters. Our heroes have killed about half the baddies but have surrendered after Tintin is captured. The gravity drive has been damaged and the skyship, slowly losing altitude, has crashed into a tower above a missile defense station. It’s balanced atop the crumbling tower, with Thunderbirds 1 and 2 on either side holding it up with cables while the military base is evacuated, and Brains, having no idea what’s going on, lands the Tiger ON the skyship, intending to fly everybody off one at a time.

This doesn’t go as planned. White Ghost pulls a gun as soon as Brains lands, and forces everybody on to it, far more weight than it should take. There’s a beautiful bit of character work here: Brains is armed, but of course he does not want to start shooting, so he discreetly passes his pistol to Alan.

The live-action filming for this bit of lunacy is astonishingly great fun, thanks to some amazing, and partially unplanned, stuntwork. A legendary pilot named Joan Hughes, who had trained RAF flyers for combat and ferried every manner of flying machine around the country during the war, was hired to do the dangerous stunts on a nearly-finished stretch of highway. Unfortunately, some very strong cross-winds reacted badly with the oddly-balanced plane. It had dummies on the wings and underneath to represent our heroes, and so she couldn’t keep the wheels on the ground as she went under the bridges. She was actually arrested upon landing for violating some municipal ordinance or other, and actually brought to trial, though she was, happily, found not guilty.

Since they had to scrap some of the live-action filming after their pilot was arrested, they actually had to rebuild the highway around the back of the studio in one-sixth scale and send a radio-controlled plane up and down it. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the backlot shots in the image above, but you honestly have to look at the movie shot-by-shot to determine which is which. Seen as a whole, it’s seamless.

It all adds up to a long and really exciting action sequence, and David Lane timed the few comedy bits with Parker, holding onto the wheels, just perfectly, providing giggles at exactly the right moments. It’s perhaps not surprising that poor Parker ends up in a tree, which Daniel said was his favorite part of the movie.

So why’s it called Thunderbird 6? Well, throughout the movie, Brains has been trying to fulfill his nebulous assignment to design a new vehicle for the team, and had three rejections. But in the end, he realizes that what International Rescue needs is something light and maneuverable, which has already been field-tested. The Tiger, repaired and repainted, is exactly what’s needed.

Although honestly, as cute as Thunderbird 6 is, it hardly makes up for FAB-1 being destroyed when Skyship One finally crashes. Maybe that’s why, thirty-something years later, Rolls-Royce was still holding a grudge…

What About Sigmund?

Sid & Marty Krofft’s fourth family TV series premiered in the fall of 1973. It was called Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and, when I was a kid, I didn’t like it at all. It was the first Krofft show to get a second season, and the first Krofft show to invert their formula and bring a character from a fantasy universe into the real world, but I just cringed watching it as a kid.

When the cable network The Family Channel started running many of the Krofft series in 1996 (along with some very odd new interstitial shorts called Okie Dokie), I finally got this show. It’s really, really clever, full of puns and mumbled jokes and ridiculous insults. It’s downright fascinating from a production standpoint. The demands of the show called for entirely different puppet designs. Any mayhem that befell the costumed characters in all the Kroffts’ previous shows had to be carefully choreographed to avoid damaging the costumes. The Sea Monsters, however, are constantly in a tumbled tangle of tentacles. Whoever was unfortunate enough to be in the Burp and Slurp and Big Daddy suits were perpetually doing somersaults and pratfalls on top of each other. That’s probably the reason some of the characters changed color slightly in season two: the suits had to be rebuilt from scratch because they couldn’t take any more crashes into the sand-covered studio floor!

(Actually, there was a fire at Paramount during the second or third week of production on season two. It’s possible they had to remake some or all of the costumes after that, I suppose…)

So yes, I greatly enjoy Sigmund and would love to watch it again – the first season, at least, is in print and I might pick it up – but the target audience is my son, and I believe that he would really be troubled by this series. The problem is that Sigmund’s big brothers Burp and Slurp are just remarkably mean and cruel bullies, without any of the redeeming silliness of Witchiepoo, or without the identifiable “other” that marks bad guys as totally separate from good guys. Well, they’re endearingly stupid, but that’s not what I mean.

They’re family, and I know that Daniel would have a really hard time with that. Sweet Mama and Big Daddy also pose huge problems in my book; just the whole concept of a family being something so terrible that they throw you out and then keep screwing with you… he would hate that and the show simply would not be any fun for us to watch together at all.

Regrettably, therefore, we’re tabling Sigmund for the time being. We may or may not come back to it when he’s a little older (note: about two years later, we did), but first, we’ll check out something that the Kroffts’ competitors at Filmation were doing on CBS. I actually plan to watch a lot more Filmation than Krofft for this blog, since almost all of the live-action Filmation catalog was released on DVD at sensible prices. Almost all. Uncle Croc’s Block wasn’t, but I never watched that show anyway.

I hope that somebody will release or reissue Far Out Space Nuts and The Bugaloos and Horror Hotel and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl before my son gets too old… fingers crossed!

Batman 2.10 – Ma Parker

Wow, there’s the gem of something practically modern in this one. Ma Parker’s plan is awfully far-fetched*, but it’s cute. She’s assembled the Gotham State Pen Gang, and intends to launch robberies and heists from its walls. The running time and the format conspire against it, but we’ve actually seen not-dissimilar stories on modern superhero programs like Arrow and especially The Flash which give recurring baddies a little more screen time.

Unfortunately, the realities of the production, and the fact that the producers didn’t think and plan far enough ahead, mean that the only old villains that we actually see are Julie Newmar in a single scene cameo as Catwoman, and Milton Berle in an unbilled cameo as a former foe – it sounds like his name is “Left” or “Laugh” – who has 48 years until his parole. It’s said that the Joker and the Penguin are in solitary, but what a huge shame that they didn’t think ahead, and quickly film reaction shots of Art Carney and Van Johnson in prison blues while they had those actors on the set!

And speaking of former villains, in the Bookworm story in season one, it’s established that the Batmobile has a bomb detection device. It’s not working anymore.

*Her plan, however, is not even remotely as far-fetched as Batman’s idea to jump into a prison and make it to the offices without being jumped by a prison full of villains. Maybe the modern super-ninja Batman of the modern day could do such a thing, but not the 1960s iteration. This really kind of called for some backup!