So: The Maltese Falcon. Terrific novel, even better movie. John Huston’s first film, not to mention Sydney Greenstreet’s, and a picture that made stars of all its major players. Humphrey Bogart is amazing, Peter Lorre is oily and creepy, and Mary Astor’s inability to make eye contact with anybody to whom she is lying is one of the great cinema “tells.” With all love and respect to Dashiel Hammett, there are many detective novels that I enjoy more than this, but none of them – nothing by Sayers, Chandler, Doyle, anybody – has ever had a screen adaptation this perfect.
The point might surely be raised that seven’s a bit young to understand, let alone appreciate, The Maltese Falcon. And I knew that going in, and wasn’t either surprised or disappointed to see our son genuinely struggle with this story. It’s a complex one, not helped by every character in the picture other than the cops and a couple of cab drivers telling one lie after another. So I’ll give the kid a few years before I force The Big Sleep on him. Anyway, he struggled, and became restless, and got so sick of Sydney Greenstreet that he started pointing his finger guns at the screen and “shooting” him.
Kind of rough for a kid to recognize that a character is a villain awful enough to want to shoot without being able to explain why. But I’m sure part of it was that Greenstreet’s character, Kasper Gutman, just does not stop talking. Seven year-olds prefer men of action. Well, The Maltese Falcon wasn’t made for seven year-olds. Marie and I have loved it for years and years and seen it dozens of times. It’s one of a handful of “drop everything” movies if I hear it’s playing on a big screen somewhere nearby. But then again, she and I were each a little older when we first discovered it.
So it isn’t really geared toward seven year-olds and we showed it to him this morning knowing that he wouldn’t enjoy it all that much, and I’m illustrating it with a photo of the back of Elisha Cook’s head. Some of you good readers know perfectly well why we exposed our son to this confusing movie for adults, and are probably asking “you’re showing him High Noon next, right?” (The answer’s no; that would make him completely miserable!) The rest of you, check back later. All will be revealed.
Did you know that Batman keeps live fish in his utility belt? Now you do.
This is dire. It’s the end of the season and there’s no money left. There’s stock footage with voiceovers and old film clips of icebergs. The most entertaining thing that happened tonight was that Daniel repeated his “iceburglars” pun, which really wasn’t funny last night.
It is kind of unfortunate that each Mr. Freeze was less entertaining than the previous one, but Eli Wallach’s “daffy old scientist” take got really old really quickly. Elisha Cook spent all of this part recovering from having dry ice injected into his veins (!) and frozen at 200 below zero (!!), because this show doesn’t make any sense, and fumbled around with a goofball expression and his mouth hanging open and his eyes all bugged out like the producers actually wanted Don Knotts for the part. It’s pretty awful.
We did learn that Bruce Wayne has a municipal ice rink named after himself, which is kind of surprising. We were also reminded that Commissioner Gordon has a daughter at college. Her name is Barbara. Are you listening, audience? This might turn out to be important one day.
My wife and her father share this disquieting, horrible habit of making terrible, terrible puns. Every so often, I get a little evidence that genetics are passing this down to my son. Tonight, summoning his troops for the fight, Mr. Freeze calls them “icemen.” Daniel replied, “He means ICEBURGLARS!” He then repeated this about ten times during the brawl, because four year-olds do that when they come up with something that they think is clever.
Mr. Freeze is played by Eli Wallach for this installment, making him the third actor to play this villain. Allied with him is a besotted ice skater, Glacia Glaze, played by Leslie Parrish. We saw her back in season one as Dawn Robbins in the very first Penguin story. Rounding out the notable guest stars, none other than Elisha Cook Jr., who had played Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon 25 years previously, and had been doing a heck of a lot of television in the mid-sixties.
This episode features one of the all-time goofy phone gags, in which Commissioner Gordon rings Batman at the same time that Chief O’Hara rings Bruce Wayne, and the cops listen in while Adam West talks to himself in slightly different voices into each receiver, and the police are clueless, as usual. When I do go bad and turn into a criminal, I’m moving to Gotham City.