Monthly Archives: April 2016

Batman 3.25 – The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra

Far out, baby! Your mind’ll be blown when those wild hepcats, the mad mod Dr. Cassandra and Cabala, totally flatten those square superheroes, Daddy-O! Or not.

So here’s Stanley Ralph Ross’s final episode of the show, and it appears to have been made for no money at all. They didn’t have budget left for stuntmen in the fight scene – which, in the episode’s best moment, Commissioner Gordon clocks at usually lasting forty seconds – so the villains are given invisible pills. Then Batman turns out the lights.

The villains include six of the most famous arch-criminals on the show, all freed from jail to work with Dr. Cassandra: Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, Egghead, and, bizarrely, King Tut, whom we just saw two installments previously restored to health and memory. The villains are played by stand-ins who don’t get any dialogue and who aren’t seen in close-up. It’s a phenomenal missed opportunity on one hand – again, imagine how a contemporary superhero series would do this at the end of a season – but it completely convinced Daniel. This might have been one of the highlights of the entire series to him, seeing six classic villains teamed up with newcomers. He’s too young to realize what a big fake-out it really is! And he loved the fight. Seeing our heroes flail around the set being “punched” by invisible villains had him howling with laughter.

As for the newcomers, they’re played by Ida Lupino and her husband Howard Duff. The actors were actually separated at the time, but they wouldn’t get around to divorcing for another sixteen years! Lupino had a long list of disparate film and TV credits and is remembered as one of the first women directors in Hollywood, with a few movies and lots of sixties TV episodes – everything from The Fugitive to Gilligan’s Island – to her credit. Duff had played Sam Spade for years on radio, and starred in ABC’s Felony Squad. He’d actually made a Batclimb cameo in season two in character as his Squad character Detective Stone. Together, the couple had starred in the CBS sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve for two seasons in the fifties.

Tune in next time for the final episode, and, more than a year after she was first approached to play a role, Zsa Zsa Gabor!

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Land of the Lost 2.8 – The Pylon Express

I remembered this one as a very fun episode, without anything that would shock our son too badly. Wrong!

It turns out that every few years, the moons will line up in a certain order several times over the course of a few nights, opening time doorways inside a locked, key-less pylon, and dumping things into the Land. Ta has taken advantage of this, and leads the Pakuni in a ritual dance as though he opens it. He also quickly realizes this is a chance to get rid of the humans and get all their stuff, too. Holly spends several worried hours with her brother and father missing before Ta agrees to “open” the door for her as well. They return right behind her and we see, from her perspective, the bizarre journey across time and space until she can get back as well.

This was Theodore Sturgeon’s only script for the series, although his associate Wina had written a season one episode under her professional name of Wina Sturgeon. Since the journey is a real tax on the show’s meager resources, even with a lot of cut corners, more than two-thirds of the episode is in the Land, with Holly trying to get the Pakuni to explain what happened, and where they got a shopping cart full of groceries. Daniel loved all this business, as well as the only dinosaur moment of the episode, when the baby allosaurus, Junior, stops by for some squeaks.

The trip is just kind of curious and odd. One of the stops is apparently ancient Altrusia, with a beautiful (drawn) depiction of the Lost City before the civilization crumbled, and Daniel said later that he really liked that. Then Holly gets a strange fellow passenger – the robot box shown above – and then we see an alternate version of the Land – it looks like they turned the greens of the jungle up to purple on the video desk, wild fringing and all – which has the words HOLLY DON’T written in the dirt. The robot box bounces out and is destroyed by an unseen force.

Then things fell apart. Holly only spends a few seconds on the next world, depicted by animation. It looks like a miles-long vacuum cleaner hose, emitting a horrible beeping noise, spots the pylon and investigates with a menacing red glare. Daniel was absolutely horrified. You can never tell! I didn’t think anything in this episode was all that troubling, but those ten seconds of animation, and Kathy Coleman’s shocked reaction to the cleaner robot, sold the scene as much scarier to kids than I remembered. He confessed later that he really liked this episode except for the giant robot vacuum. I assured him it wouldn’t return.

Suddenly it’s a shame that it didn’t…

Oh, yeah, and the words HOLLY DON’T…? Rick and Will didn’t write them. So who did? Hmmmmmm…

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Thunderbirds are Go 1.8 – Slingshot

“In case you were wondering,” Alan tells his brothers, “the back side of the sun looks exactly the same as the front.” This is a terrifically fun episode by the show’s lead writer, Rob Hoegee, which kept our son completely hooked as Alan and Kayo’s space rescue runs into one complication after another. It’s an incredibly fast-paced and exciting story, and if the science might be a little implausible here and there, at least they thought enough of the audience to make it all seem like they really considered the situation and the best possible outcomes and solutions. It’s a smart program.

I can’t have been the only person watching to have thought that Journey to the Far Side of the Sun would also have been a cute title, right? Cheeky it would have been, but calling it “Slingshot” sort of gave away the resolution. It was incredibly fun all the same, thankfully.

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Batman 3.24 – The Joker’s Flying Saucer

Every once in a while, we run into an episode so boring that there’s nothing to say about it beyond noting the firsts or lasts. This one, like the second Louie the Lilac episode, is just plain dull. It’s the fourth and final appearance in the show for Richard Bakalyan, who here plays one of the Joker’s henchmen, painted green and sent to cause a Martian panic in advance of the Joker’s arrival in a craft-built flying saucer. It’s the final appearance of Cesar Romero, and I would say that it’s the final appearance of the Joker, but I think we’ve got one very silly cameo by a stand-in to get through before that.

Earlier this evening, I picked up two more volumes of the cartoon Batman: The Brave and the Bold for our son, since he’s watched the 13 episodes on the one that he has about six times each. This episode was so dull that I genuinely felt bad putting on this bore instead of letting him have fun with the cartoon. I’ll make sure he has time to watch a couple tomorrow.

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Land of the Lost 2.7 – The Longest Day

Forty years on, and it remains absolutely astonishing that “The Longest Day” was broadcast on Saturday mornings with the rest of the television for children. This is the episode where Rick inhales a roomful of Sleestak smoke in order to have a telepathic conference with the Sleestak leader, and has to come down via a boatload of freaky hallucinations. In these, his children recede into the distance, they become cavemen, and Kathy Coleman briefly plays a young lass from the 1760s who will not be born “for two hundred years hence.” Will becomes a football player tackled by two ungainly fellows in green uniforms, and a weird swirly video effect makes a silent bargain with the human.

Joyce Perry’s script is obviously playing on a couple of archetype, folk notions. This story is effectively about climbing to the top of a mesa and ingesting your weight in peyote and mushrooms and communing with spirits in order to understand them and your enemies better. No, I’m somehow not surprised that something like this was made by Sid and Marty Krofft, but I am amazed that the snickering chuckleheads who insist that H.R. Pufnstuf stands for “Hand Rolled” aren’t watching this with their jaws on the floor, and I’m absolutely astonished that NBC broadcast it.

Naturally, this was unsettling and weird for Daniel; heck, it’s weird for everybody, but it’s really the visceral shocks of Sleestak jumping out from behind people in dark corridors that provided the real punches.

In an earlier entry, I mentioned that the Kroffts invested in some new sound effects and music and seem to have split the cost between this show and Far Out Space Nuts, which was made at the same time and shown on CBS. About half the aliens in that series spoke through some kind of vocoder or processor which must have sounded insanely weird in 1975, and in this episode, Walker Edmiston got to use it to play the disembodied voices of some of the ancestral skulls. We’ll be hearing more from them later.

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Thunderbirds are Go 1.7 – EOS

Very good continuity here, with a story following up information introduced in the previous episode. There’s a deliberate homage to Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a terrific sense of urgency, with no way to guess whether the storyline will continue into future episodes or find resolution here. Either way, it’s pretty clear that Thunderbird 5 isn’t going to be destroyed, but I think I found myself holding my breath for just a second.

This appears to be writer Ken Pontac’s only script for the show so far. Like Berkowitz with the previous episode, Pontac has a very long list of credits for American family and children’s television, and knows how to play with concepts that kids will find fascinating. We enjoyed asking Daniel about artificial intelligence afterward, and whether he’d like EOS to show up in his “talking” trucks and construction equipment. He really just wanted to eat his dessert instead of considering ethical issues like that, however!

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Batman 3.23 – I’ll Be a Mummy’s Uncle

Yes, I know it isn’t fair to hold fifty year-old TV programs to contemporary standards, but why, why didn’t they hold this one back and use it as the season – and consequently – series finale? They must have known that the ratings were in the basement and a renewal probably wasn’t happening, and this episode, ever so briefly, provides the first time that a villain invades the Batcave and knows where it is. It’s all resolved by amnesia-gas and a blow to Tut’s head, but for just a moment… this looked game-changing in a way that sixties television so rarely is.

It’s also tremendously entertaining from start to finish. Almost all of Stanley Ralph Ross’s scripts were great, (and one more of the final three is his), and he had a ball writing for Tut and Victor Buono certainly had a ball playing him. There’s also a tremendously amusing bit of continuity here, when Tut finds the Batdummy that deceived him in the previous episode and petulantly beats it up!

Also appearing this week: Henny Youngman, the “take my wife…please!” guy, in an unbilled cameo as the real estate agent who sells Tut the plot of land next to Wayne Manor (Bruce totally should have checked to make sure the land didn’t have any abandoned mine shafts in it), and Angela Dorian, who was yet another Playboy Playmate – I think the third – to show up in this series.

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Land of the Lost 2.6 – Gravity Storm

Season two is just wall-to-wall horrors for kids, isn’t it? Prior to this episode, Marie and I gave Daniel a short lesson in gravity so he’d have a better understanding of what the heck is going on in this episode. About halfway through, they make the educated guess that the reason everybody – human, Paku, and dinosaur – keeps getting pinned to the ground by an unseen force is that the Zarn is up to something in the Mist Marsh.

And up to that point, Daniel was doing just fine. There’s a very slight comic edge to everybody falling over, and again the animators gave so much character to the dinosaurs. When Spike finally gives up and stomps away, he cracks a tree with a grumble. But the Zarn is weird and off-putting at the best of times, and he’s in no mood to listen to the Marshalls. He doesn’t believe that a time doorway is necessary to return home; he thinks that the gravity drive of his spaceship can get him into space. He doesn’t understand that there’s nowhere to go; this Land is all there is inside the doorways.

When the Zarn gets bored of discussing physics with the Marshalls, he shoos them away with a robot guardian. Roughly dinosaur-shaped, about nine feet tall and lacking arms, he calls it Fred, and it scared the bejezus out of Daniel, especially when another gravity storm leaves the humans trapped on their backs as Fred, screeching, marches closer to them. Nobody has ever been so relieved as he was when Fred is struck by lightning and collapses, its circuits fried.

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