An odd little coincidence here: Marie drew a connection between this episode and one that we watched in August, “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine.” Both concern actors that escape into the unreality of a film, although the two stories are very different. In “A World of Difference,” written by Richard Matheson, the fictional character of a movie doesn’t understand why his life doesn’t seem to actually exist, why everybody keeps insisting he’s actually a Hollywood actor, and why a very unpleasant woman claims to be his ex-wife.
The coincidence is that the protagonists are played by Ida Lupino in “Shrine” and Howard Duff in this episode. The actors were married in real life, and would appear together onscreen about eight years later as the Batvillains Dr. Cassandra and Cabala. Lupino would return to direct a celebrated episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Masks,” in the fifth season.
Anyway, we were pleased that our son enjoyed this episode, because the last couple weren’t among his favorites. I enjoyed seeing Eileen Ryan and David White in supporting roles, although White would later get so identified as Larry Tate on Bewitched that I couldn’t remember the actor’s name! The very best part of the episode, though, features an eerie synthesizer piece while Duff’s character races back to the studio in a stolen car. It’s absolutely terrific POV camerawork from the car’s hood, showing off the wide, wide avenues of the Los Angeles suburbs and dozens of beautiful old fifties cars.
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!
One-third of the way into season two and things are very uneven. This is a very dull and uninspired episode, with very little of note. One thing is that they found a familiar costume for the babe of the week. Kathy Kersh, as Cornelia, is wearing the same outfit that Linda Gaye Scott wore as Moth in season one.
Another thing is that, following their meeting with the Green Hornet and Kato during a Batclimb earlier in the season, Bruce and Dick sit down to watch The Green Hornet on television. As the ratings for both shows started edging downhill, and sharply, it was nice to imagine that somebody was watching that program Friday nights, even if it was only the fictional millionaires in imaginary cities.
I did not recognize the Batclimb cameo in this episode. It’s Howard Duff, the star of Felony Squad, a cop show that began on ABC that fall and continued for three seasons, in his role as Detective Sam Stone. Like Batman and Hornet, Felony Squad was also made by 20th Century Fox, so corporate synergy is very hard at work in this episode. Unless I’m in for a surprise, Duff might be the only actor to show up for a Batclimb cameo and later appear as a Batvillain.
But no, this really is a dull episode. Marie was so bored that she pulled out her tablet to confirm that the producers did not bother to obtain the correct tartan pattern for a character named Ferguson. Daniel was very restless and couldn’t sit still. The grisly cliffhanger, in which the Joker has obtained a Human Key Duplicator – it has a “patent pending” notation, which is lovely – did send him behind the couch. Carving the notches of a key into a human body really is pretty sick. You have to wonder what in the world the US Patent Office was thinking.