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Monster Squad 1.2 – Mr. Mephisto

Since his mother missed out on tonight’s episode, she was treated to a breathless recap of the mid-show deathtrap. Our son is absolutely loving this series, and, excitement overflowing, he explained that Dracula and Frank N. Stein were going to get turned into sausage – blood sausage and a frankfurter, of course – and then the Wolfman crashed through the window to rescue them, and I thought the kid was going to pop. I explained that we’ll probably watch the next episode Sunday morning. Waiting that long, he’ll definitely pop.

The villain this week is Mr. Mephisto, a crooked dollmaker played by Barry Dennen. We saw him several months ago as one of Shane’s hilarious henchmen in a season three Batman story. Dennen has had an amazing number of small roles over the course of his career, but he may be best known as that deliberately, extraordinarily normal character in The Shining who shows the Torrances around the hotel.

I’m absolutely loving all the underplayed gags and puns in this show, dropped without winks or tuning up the volume on the laugh track, just simply mentioned in the dialogue as naturally as any other information. This time out, there’s a gentle lob thrown at “Sid and Marty Craft,” lyrics from “Paper Doll” and “Guys and Dolls,” and the first appearance of a recurring character played by Griffin GA’s own Edward Andrews. He plays a guy named Goldwyn who is the mayor of the city, and we learn in this story that this city is simply called “Metro.” That’s right, Metro Mayor Goldwyn. We also learn that the wax museum is owned by a woman called Mrs. Tallow. For such a dumb show, it sure is making me chuckle.

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Batman 3.22 – The Great Train Robbery

Daniel pretended to sour on this episode despite hooting and laughing all the way through the two fight scenes, both of which are pretty awesome. Interestingly, the second one, deliberately echoing such one-on-one showdowns as High Noon, is just a two-hander, with Adam West and Cliff Robertson, and their stuntmen, going at each other in a deserted street. But the earlier one is the usual big mob of people, and it includes a great big urn that Barry Dennen gets dunked in, which was probably the funniest thing my son’s seen in days.

Shame’s egomania and rank stupidity make him one of the show’s most entertaining villains, but you can see why they never used him, or anybody like him, in the comics, despite the rights issues. The comic book Batman is far too competent and intelligent to face any kind of challenge from this guy, which makes all the build-up about what an unbelievably dangerous arch-foe he is even more hilarious. And Robertson is so incredibly funny, with his double-takes, slow burns, and body language. I don’t think that he had very many comedic roles in his long career, but he certainly should have.

That said, Adam West gets the brilliant payoff line with one gag. Shame’s gang is waiting to open fire on Batman when they get within twenty feet of each other, but Batgirl and Robin spoil that plan behind Shame’s back. When Shame realizes they’ve crossed that twenty feet frontier, he starts twitching and looking over his shoulder, just brilliant physical comedy, because somebody needs to start shooting before Batman beats him senseless. He almost sheepishly asks Batman, “Say, uhhhh, about how far apart are we?”

“Eighteen feet and six inches,” Batman deadpans. Daniel didn’t quite get the joke, but his parents roared with laughter.

Also this week, Arnold Stang gets a small role. Hooray for Arnold Stang! He wasn’t actually in everything in the sixties, but he certainly should have been.

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Batman 3.21 – The Great Escape

I love the way Daniel reacts when Shame shows up. He’ll occasionally have his little growls or kid-melodramatic cries of “Oh, no! Catwoman!” or so, but he found this completely hilarious low grumble for this villain, and every time he or his henchmen do anything mean, he’ll go “Shaaaaaaaame!”

Speaking of henchmen, Cliff Robertson has a pair of hilarious ones in this story. Barry Dennen, who has had small roles in just about everything, plays Fred, an upper-class British man who wears a Mexican bandit disguise in order to fit into Shame’s gang, and Victor Lundin, who we saw back in season one as a scene-stealing member of one of Penguin’s gangs, is Chief Standing Pat, who communicates only with cigar smoke signals that only Shame’s girlfriend, Calamity Jan, can translate.

The quality certainly plunged in season three, but this story is just really funny. Robertson and his then-wife Dina Merrill, as Jan, are having so much fun and it really comes across well. Hermione Baddeley plays Jan’s mother, who doesn’t want any smooching until the wedding’s arranged, and Robertson has a blast with the underplayed mother-in-law jokes that Jan never notices.

Oh, I suppose there are superheroes in this one as well, but with baddies this entertaining, who noticed?

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