Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Ghost Busters 1.9 – They Went Thataway

Forrest Tucker has the most amazing line of dialogue in this episode. See, this week, Billy the Kid and Belle Starr come back from the grave, because they’re haungry for some vittles and want a steak. They’re looking for some good cowpokes to join their crew of cattle rustlers, and, to prove his mettle, Kong explains what a good rustler he is. This requires Tucker, pro that he was, to spit out this unbelievable paragraph of gobbledygook about tumbleweeds, sand, and rattlesnakes. It’s the most remarkable run-on sentence I’ve ever heard. When he finally finishes, Billy the Kid replies “That’s easy for you to say!”

Billy the Kid is played by Marty Ingels, who passed away earlier this month. Ingels was one of those peculiar actors who had been around for so long and mentioned so often that his list of credits seems far, far shorter than expected. He did lots of voice-over work for Hanna-Barbera, but is probably best-remembered for a 1962 sitcom called I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster. That was one of those sitcoms that you’re surprised to learn only ran for one season, because you always find people talking about it. (See also He & She and Bridget Loves Bernie.)

Anyway, while Ingels didn’t work constantly, he did have a career that spanned most of six decades. Belle Starr is played by Forrest Tucker’s daughter Brooke, and she left the business after about five years.

Daniel had a ball with this episode. There’s a really funny bit where Tracy and Spencer are blissfully unaware that their television program is spraying water at them and belching smoke everywhere, and he’ll probably be talking abut Old Boot Soup for the next week, even though he insists that he doesn’t want to try a bowl of it.

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Captain Scarlet 1.7 – Operation Time

The previous episode, “Manhunt,” was entertaining because the story stayed focused on the Spectrum characters. That doesn’t happen here. After opening with an agonizing three and a half minutes of surgery, this one’s aaaaallllll about the guest puppets.

Captain Magenta at least figures out that the Mysterons’ target is a general named Tiempo who’s scheduled for surgery in the morning. Spectrum relocates him and his doctor to Cloudbase after the show’s half-finished, and stick Magenta on guard duty as thanks. But it’s even a guest character who figures out that Dr. Magnus is a Mysteron. Couldn’t they have let one of the regulars do that?

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Batman 2.26 – It’s How You Play the Game

One of the weirdest cameos during a Batclimb happens this week. A few episodes back, we saw how the show found room to give a little gentle synergy to a pair of other 20th Century Fox productions on ABC: The Green Hornet and Felony Squad. This week, however, Werner Klemperer, in character as Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes, sticks his head out the window.

I find this very odd, because not only was Hogan’s Heroes produced somewhere else, the show was airing on CBS. That network’s Friday night lineup of The Wild Wild West and Hogan’s was kicking the tar out of ABC’s Green Hornet and The Time Tunnel, both of which would be canceled. I just find it very strange that ABC would allow them to promote a rival program that was trouncing their own programming!

The highlight of this episode comes in a scene where Shame gets some bad news and goes nuts. But this isn’t a frightening loss of temper and control like we saw with the Riddler or the Bookworm in season one, where the actors were letting us know their characters were dangerously unhinged. Cliff Robertson plays Shame like a petulant child having a tantrum. It really works for his character: he’s a dimwit who takes himself far, far too seriously.

It’s a very funny episode, and it’s also another one that really goes overboard on Batman’s hopelessly square good guy-ism. There’s this little kid who’s been wandering through the proceedings whining “Come back, Shame, come back,” because Shame has stolen his transistor radio. The kid finally whines and cajoles his way into Commissioner Gordon’s office to get his radio, and Batman gives him this hopelessly hammy speech about being a good citizen. Shame just cannot believe that he’s been bested by a square turkey like this and, unable to hear any more of Batman’s po-faced homilies, ends the episode with a weary “Good grief!”

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Batman 2.25 – Come Back, Shame

One reason I’m enjoying watching Batman so much is that while there’s a formula to the show that often gets dull, the villains themselves are often so very different. Many of them, of course, are portrayed as highly intelligent, such as Egghead, who was also created by the writer of this episode, Stanley Ralph Ross. Almost as entertaining are the downright dumb criminals: King Tut, and this dimwit, Shame.

Cliff Robertson, at the time arguably best known for starring as John F. Kennedy in the film PT 109, was cast as a villain, but without a part for him to play. He suggested a cowboy, and a stupid one at that. So he has the very unlikely scheme of building a truck with a super-engine, its pistons and carburetor and other parts heisted from various hot rods and race cars, which will outrun the Batmobile. This doesn’t seem like a likely plan, but in this universe, who knows? It might work.

Actually, as dumb as Shame is, his henchmen are even dumber. Shame boasts that his new engine will reach speeds of “Three hunnerd miles per,” and one of them asks “…day?”

Daniel was pretty bored with this talky episode, but he came to life during the fight. Naturally, Shame and his gang have found a hideout in an old western town, part of an abandoned movie studio. I don’t think anybody making this show was paying very close attention to continuity, but it would be funny if it turned out to be the same one that False Face hid out in during season one! So there’s a long fight in a saloon, with beer bottles to the head, and a great bit where Shame gets punched over the bar. Sure, something like that happens in lots of westerns, but I mean vertically over the bar. Round of applause for that stuntman, please. And, of course, he gets slid down the length of the bar, as baddies do.

So, yes, Daniel loved that fight, as well he should, because it was a great one. Shame’s crew only gets the upper hand because the dame of the week, Joan Staley, shoots the chandelier above the Dynamic Duo and brings it crashing onto them. This is especially amusing because Shame had earlier dismissed his girlfriend’s usefulness in a fight. Staley is the second former Playmate to appear in Batman; she had been Miss November 1958. But Daniel was very alarmed by the cliffhanger. Shame has the heroes staked out on the dirt street of the western town and sends a herd of cattle stampeding. We’d seen stock footage of Big Ben used as the location of a previous cliffhanger, but this is the first time that stock footage has directly threatened our heroes! My son was a little more worried than usual, and hid his face in his security blanket.

Appearing in an unbilled cameo this week, it’s Jack Carter, who was omnipresent on television in the sixties, and was still racking up a heck of a lot of screen appearances and voiceovers very late in life, until he passed away in June of this year at the age of 93. He’s best remembered in this house for being one of the gang of troublemakers on Match Game in the 1973 season. (1970s episodes of Match Game, you must understand, are the greatest thing ever.) Anyway, he doesn’t get a Batclimb cameo; he plays a disc jockey called Hot Rod Harry, and he does a good job with the motormouth patter required by the script.

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The Ghost Busters 1.8 – Which Witch is Which?

Daniel didn’t quite get upset with this episode, but he did fret a little bit. Ann Morgan Guilbert, playing the Witch of Salem, puts Tracy in a trance and has him march around doing her bidding. He pouted and curled up next to me, worried about the big ape. Then, because her dimwit assistant, with the terrific name of Gronk, has messed up the concoction in her cauldron, her next spell accidentally swaps Tracy’s mind with Spencer’s. This leads to the odd sight of Bob Burns’ ape costume’s mouth opening and closing for human speech to be dubbed over the movements. I didn’t expect that, but it relieved Daniel tremendously to see some more dopey slapstick.

Overall, this wasn’t quite as entertaining as the previous episodes, although there is a great bit where Spencer lobs an invisible book – The Life of Claude Rains – over his shoulder and breaks a vase. Huntz Hall is endearingly stupid as Gronk; it’s tough to decide whether Gronk or Spencer is the bigger dimwit.

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Captain Scarlet 1.6 – Manhunt

Finally! This is the first episode of this show that I’ve really enjoyed. It’s the first one to spend the bulk of the episode with the Spectrum characters without any guests of note, and it marks the point where Spectrum becomes aware of Captain Black. Knowing that he’s been reanimated and is their agent on Earth, they’ve got an enemy to hunt.

Captain Grey and Captain Ochre still don’t get very much screen time, but every bit that’s with them, and not anonymous power plant guards and military personnel is welcomed. All of the real character development is between Scarlet and Blue – I’m sort of wishing Scarlet would get teamed up with someone else, just for a change – and these two, and Magenta, are kind of firmly in the background, so we’ll take what we can get. We also get Lt. Green trying to convince Col. White to allow him to go into the field. Poor Green; I don’t know that he ever gets out of that chair.

The action got a bit intense for Daniel twice: once when Captain Black kills a mechanic, actually a freelance Spectrum field agent, in order to steal a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle that he keeps hidden, and once when he has the drop on Symphony Angel and forces her into a radiation chamber. He’s not bothered by this villain in quite the same way that certain Bat-foes unnerve him. In fact, he’ll often play with the syllables of his name in a cute little chant: “Cap-tain-BLACK…Cap-tain-BLACK!” But he still runs behind the couch when this baddie does something particularly bad.

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Batman 2.24 – Marsha’s Scheme of Diamonds

…oh yeah, and Marsha’s aunt, who lives in the basement, is a witch. Seriously. She used to be a chemistry teacher at Vassar, but now she’s a witch.

This episode is bugnuts. The climax is the silliest thing in the universe. Aunt Hilda has shelves of chemicals which are meant to turn men into various animals. It turns out that while she can brew up love potions, this alchemy is a little above her station, and during the Batfight, she unsuccessfully splashes various beakers of colored chemicals on our heroes, the last one, after they’ve been felled by gas, meant to turn them into toads.

In the next scene, Marsha and her right-hand man march into Gordon’s office with a small cage containing two toads in superhero costumes. There was a moment of absolute astonishment in our house. No way. No way this show’s gone this silly, has it? Really? Mercifully, no. Marsha, absent any better idea – you’d think that’s what screenwriters are for – has decided to try and bluff the location of the Batcave out of Gordon, threatening that she’ll feed them to her cat if he doesn’t spill.

You wouldn’t imagine I’d ever forget something so amazingly silly. This story, however, is one that I had never seen. I remember reading The Official Batman Batbook in the late 1980s and being utterly amazed by two things: an episode where Batman almost gets married, and the existence of a three-part adventure that I did not recall. I remembered “The Zodiac Crimes” (and I seriously, desperately, hope that it’s as fun as I recall) and the Lord Ffogg one, but in between there is another three-parter, also with the Queen of Diamonds. Despite watching this show as often as I could as a child, between errands or vacations or occasional agonizing long waits at the Atlanta Allergy Clinic for shots, we would often miss episodes, but we’d get another chance the next time WGNX-46 (or perhaps still WANX) broadcast the series. Somehow, circumstances just worked against me, and I managed to see 115 of the 120 episodes of Batman at least once, but never before saw the five with the Queen of Diamonds in them. I’m not going to hold my hand to my heart and say this was worth the wait, but it was amusing.

Daniel, meanwhile, man, for a minute there, they totally had him convinced our heroes were toads. He just about got upset over that!

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Batman 2.23 – Marsha, Queen of Diamonds

First things first: Daniel hated this episode. Wow, we haven’t seen him react like this in a few months. He’s never liked Robin being in trouble. This time out, the villainous Queen of Diamonds has shot O’Hara and Gordon, along with some other hapless suitors, with love darts, which instantly bend them to her will and leave them desperate to prove their devotion. Batman also gets one in the shoulder, but, while it’s touch and go for a few minutes, his iron will allows him to shrug off the drug. Robin is not so tough, and when Marsha zaps him, Batman has no choice to obey Marsha’s commands in order to get the antidote. Meanwhile, Daniel hid behind the sofa.

And so we come to a very labored, but nevertheless hilarious, set of obstacles in order to get us to the cliffhanger of Batman led down the altar, forced to marry his foe. In the previous installment, I mentioned that classic kids’ TV trope of the coincidence where the thing that the villain wants is suddenly depicted for the very first time as something the hero has. Queen Faroh wanted a magician who looks like an ape in the same episode that Tracy the gorilla starts to learn stage magic. In this episode, the Queen of Diamonds comes to Gotham looking for diamonds, and Batman is revealed to have a diamond about the size of an armoire powering the Batcomputer.

Marsha suggests trading Robin, Gordon, and O’Hara for access to the Batcave. The problem, which you wouldn’t think would be quite this insurmountable, is that Batman swore a sacred vow never to bring a stranger into the Batcave. Except for Jill St. John. And Francine York. And Sherry Jackson on Commissioner Gordon’s lap. And “Commodore Schmidlapp” with five dehydrated henchmen, although, in fairness, the Caped Crusader didn’t actually know those five were there.

So Batman mentions a vow, and the Queen of Diamonds pounces on it. He couldn’t possibly refuse her access to the Batcave if she isn’t a stranger, and who could be less of a stranger than Batman’s bride? And so Batman accepts in order to save Robin. The episode ends just as our hero is about to sadly say “I do.” I think they got the idea for the cliffhanger first and worked backward.

The Queen of Diamonds is played by Carolyn Jones, the first of a trio of Addams Family actors to appear in this series. According to The Official Batman Batbook – and more on it in the next entry – Zsa Zsa Gabor was originally announced in the role, but for some reason that actress couldn’t make the filming dates. The diamond-obsessed character of Marsha seems an obvious fit for Gabor, but she’d make her way to the show as a Batvillain in the next season.

But speaking of The Addams Family, isn’t it strange the way that child-friendly dramas and action shows from the 1960s and 1970s used to depict marriage as a terrible trap? I never watched the police series CHiPs, but I remember two family friends, about when I was nine years old, coming over with their parents one evening for the grownups to play pinochle or whatever, and the kids absolutely desperate to see the second episode of a two-part episode of that show. Apparently Ponch and Jon were going to get married – not to each other, but I imagine that there’s fanfic for that – and they were horrified that the show was going to end. Being good hosts, my parents let them watch that on the color TV in the den, while my brother and I watched our show (probably Wonder Woman) on the portable black and white set.

Another example: you remember why all the fun in The Avengers ended. It’s because Mrs. Peel’s husband finally showed up. But it was just the dramas and adventure shows that portrayed marriage as a dead end, destroying all the good times. Comedies like The Addams Family, The Munsters, and before them, The Dick Van Dyke Show, made marriage seem completely awesome. And they were right. What’s up with that?

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