Tag Archives: diane mcbain

Batman 2.52 – Batman’s Satisfaction

So back when VHS tape trading was a thing, and this is a subject that will come up often in this blog, I would get lists and catalogs from traders all over the country looking for copies, or better copies, of The Green Hornet. I eventually got curious enough to accept four episodes in a swap for something, and found the show didn’t really appeal to me, although the marvel of watching Bruce Lee move at light speed really can’t be denied. These days, you can watch the whole series on YouTube.

I mention this because back in the late eighties when I was trying to track down Honor Blackman episodes of The Avengers or season three of Land of the Lost, it really did honestly seem like every single tape trader in America either had this show on offer or wanted better quality versions. (Honey West was another rare high-demand show from the period.) Since they only made 26 episodes of Hornet, it was not a success in syndication. It remained available for purchase into the early 1990s, but few UHF stations bought it, since there weren’t enough episodes to interest them. Before I understood how rights worked, I often thought that Fox should have added them to the Batman package and make it 146 films.

No, The Green Hornet wasn’t a hit, but the people who did watch it in 1966-67 really loved it, and wanted to see it again and own copies. And while I wasn’t taken with it, the four episodes that I did watch were miles better than this story. Typically, the Green Hornet would bring in murderers, which makes him a weird fit in a program where nobody ever dies. The Hornet’s world of mobsters and syndicate hitmen is so far removed from the absurd Colonel Gumm that I’d be amazed Dozier was willing to cross the two over if it weren’t so clear that the whole affair was born of ratings desperation.

On the other hand, since his own show was ridiculously rare for so long, maybe it was for the best. At least showing up in the heavily-syndicated Batman kept the characters and their performances alive while their own show vanished from the airwaves, even if all us kids who saw the show in the mid-to-late 1970s just asked “Who the heck is this guy?” and wondered why somebody who was actually in Batman comics didn’t arrive for a team-up, like in an issue of The Brave & the Bold, and why the villain was so pathetic. These days, they get it right, and Flash and Green Arrow team up to fight the biggest bad guys together. Egad, now I’m imagining Vandal Savage played the way Roger C. Carmel played Gumm. We’ve come so far.

Daniel straight up volunteered “That was MUCH better than part one,” and he’s right, but it still wasn’t very entertaining to me. I am glad that he really got into this one and liked it more than I did, but it’s a shame that Hoffman again came up with a wacky Batcomputer gag to waste time instead of giving more attention to Van Williams and Bruce Lee. This time, forget what we learned a few months ago about a gigantic diamond powering the computer, because Aunt Harriet short-circuits the phones and the electricity in Wayne Manor and the cave because she’s under the hair dryer too long. Women!

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Batman 2.51 – A Piece of the Action

A few weeks back, I read in Entertainment Weekly how one of their movie writers has superhero fatigue. The poor darling.

See, in January 1966, Batman started, and everybody thought it was going to be a flash in the pan. In June 1966, everybody sat up and paid attention, because it really was not a flash in the pan. Then in January 1967, everybody realized that, yes, it was a flash in the pan after all, which was rather unfortunate as a pack of imitations was on the air in prime time and Saturday mornings.

On ABC, The Green Hornet launched in September 1966, around the same time as the Grantray-Lawrence “animated” Marvel Super Heroes cartoon in syndication, and Filmation’s The New Adventures of Superman on Saturdays. By January, CBS had a flop called Captain Nice, made by several people who’d worked on Get Smart, and NBC had a flop called Mr. Terrific, made by several other people who had also worked on Get Smart.

William Dozier, who produced Batman and Hornet, got ABC interested in a Wonder Woman comedy that never made it beyond a test film, and got NBC interested in a Dick Tracy half-hour drama which would have starred Ray MacDonnell. He made a pilot, with the actor who played King Tut, Victor Buono, as the villain Mr. Memory, but it didn’t get picked up, either. (I swear I read somewhere that one of the networks was planning a Mandrake the Magician show at that time, but I can’t confirm that now.)

With that background in mind, The Green Hornet was dying in the ratings and this crossover was executed to give the Wednesday and Thursday night audience for Batman a look at the characters, in the hopes that they’d stay home on Friday as well. They didn’t. Bizarrely, all the heroes are second bananas to Roger C. Carmel’s over-the-top one-off villain, Colonel Gumm, who steals the show from West, Ward, Van Williams, and Bruce Lee in the first episode. (It is standard in accounts like this to note that Carmel had played the recurring part of Harry Mudd in Star Trek. This, I now do.)

Colonel Gumm is running a counterfeit stamp ring in a factory without his boss, played by Diane McBain, knowing. This seems like an incredibly low-key and stupid reason to bring the Green Hornet from his home turf (Los Angeles?), but this is a script by Charles Hoffman, and we should expect such things. For the third time this season in a Hoffman script, there’s a labored and very unfunny scene with the Batcomputer acting wacky, so wishing for something more interesting than phony stamps might be asking too much. Anyway, McBain had appeared in season one’s Mad Hatter story and this time spends the episode flirting with both Bruce Wayne and the Green Hornet’s alter ego, millionaire Britt Reid. The three of them have lunch in a most bizarre hotel restaurant where beautiful models in ugly 1960s nightdresses wander around the tables giving their telephone numbers to the male guests. Gotham City, as it’s been noted, is a weird, weird place.

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Batman 1.14 – Batman Stands Pat

Well, Riddler, you have lost your crown as “most unnerving Bat-villain.” The Mad Hatter succeeded in freaking the almighty blazes out of our son tonight. Not content with dumping super-fast hardening plaster over Batman last time, he and his men had a big fight with our heroes in a room with a deathtrap machine on a conveyor belt and Daniel did not enjoy it at all.

This really struck me as unusual until I thought about it. See, the Batfight is always Daniel’s favorite part of the episode. He jumps and swings and laughs and enjoys them tremendously. But this time out, they really sold this machine as something full of spikes and blades and the Mad Hatter couldn’t wait to get Batman on it and… this gets really outre… stretch him and shrink him and turn him into a hat.

“He’s flipped his lid,” said one henchman to the other.

So now, with this silly machine firmly established as a really ugly threat, the Batfight in this room – which, incidentally, goes on forever – had Daniel on the edge of his seat, teeth clenched, security blanket in hand, and then Robin got knocked onto the darn thing and the world ended.

“I HATE the Mad Hatter! He’s worse than the Riddler!” Daniel bellowed. And he must be. The Riddler only made Daniel cry once in four episodes. The Hatter is two for two!

My daughter and I talked with Daniel about it and reminded him that Batman will always win, and always beat the bad guy, but I’ll tell you, friends, if they made a show in which Adam West and Burt Ward rescued kittens from trees, it would probably go over a little better. Thank heaven we’ve got Thunderbirds next…

Oh, and how did Batman get out of that plaster “shroud” in which he was encased last time? He held his breath until he was chipped free. Seriously.

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Batman 1.13 – The Thirteenth Hat

Oh, dear! I’m afraid that Daniel was upset by the cliffhanger to this episode, the first appearance of one of Batman’s sillier foes, the Mad Hatter. Everything was going swell until the very end. Previous villains unnerved him simply by virtue of their laughs or appearance, but David Wayne’s very mannered and prissy antics didn’t frighten him.

I think he was charmed on the one hand by the Mad Hatter’s moxie – just stepping up behind people and snatching their hats from their heads, before zapping them with his mesmerizing zap-eyes in his own hat – and bored on the other, because his scheme involves taking revenge on the twelve jurors who last convicted him, and Batman, who was a witness for the prosecution, and he is four, and doesn’t know what a trial is. Nor has he seen or been read a version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland yet, so he asked “Why is he mad?” a couple of times.

It really got confusing for him when the Mad Hatter disguised himself as the sculptor Octave Marbot. He couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then he cheered and laughed when the fight started, and then everything fell apart. Mad Hatter tried to zap Batman, but our hero quickly raised a mirror to reflect the rays back. But the Mad Hatter ducked and the rays zapped Robin instead! Daniel bellowed “Oh, no!”

Distracted, Batman then got shoved against a wall and Mad Hatter yanked a chain, and Batman got drenched by super-quick hardening plaster. Daniel lost it. “NO! WHY DID HE DO THAT?!” And there were tears. It took a couple of readings of a Mo Willems book before a bath, and he got calmed down.

This episode’s lineage is a very strange one. Wikipedia notes that it’s a mash-up of three different comic book adventures, but unlike the episodes we’ve looked at so far, none of them were available as reprints for the producers to easily pick up in late 1965, and the first of them hadn’t been seen since its original appearance in 1949. I wonder where they got copies? Maybe somebody looked through DC/National’s archive after all?

On the acting front, David Wayne had been in dozens of films in the 1950s, the best known of which are probably Adam’s Rib and How to Marry a Millionaire, before spending about five years on the New York stage and making very sporadic TV and film appearances. This is kind of the career arc for many of the Bat-villains, as the major studios started deliberately scaling back the number of pictures they released each year in the sixties, and former leading men, now in their forties, found themselves less in demand and with lots of TV options available. His sidekick Lisa is played by Diane McBain, in the first of her two supporting roles as different characters in the show.

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