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.

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