Batman 3.26 – Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires

Well, it’s not as though anybody was expecting this show to do much more than limp across the finish line, but this is one of Charles Hoffman’s very few scripts to impress me a little. With cancellation assured by this point, they messed with the formula just a little more than usual, and had the villain be a character known and trusted throughout Gotham City.

Her name’s Minerva, played by Zsa Zsa Gabor, and she runs a spa. She’s begun extracting secret information from all her millionaire clients, and, in a great little bit of continuity, has enlisted Freddie the Fence to move the stolen goods. We saw Freddie, played by Jacques Bergerac, once before in a season two episode. I like the idea of a villain who’s hiding in plain sight, but that’s about all I liked.

It’s a weak, smug, dull episode, and even the final Batfight is boring, but it does have a tremendously colorful corridor set, and I was very pleased by an observation that Daniel made. As Minerva extracted the “deep secrets” of two of her clients, who are producers William Dozier and Howie Horwitz playing themselves, Daniel said “Hey, I know who she is! The Queen of Diamonds!”

This was a remarkably neat thing to say, because Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, whom we saw in five episodes of season two, was written for Zsa Zsa Gabor to play, but they couldn’t work out the schedule and Carolyn Jones took the part instead. It was nice for Gabor to get the chance to join the show in the end as a different character (albeit one who calls everybody “DARLING!” as often as possible), but oddly, Joel Eisner’s Official Batman Batbook says that Minerva was written for Mae West, of all people! West ended up being unavailable, and Gabor appeared after all.

So that’s it for the 1960s Batman, but that’s not quite it for Adam West and Burt Ward… and for Frank Gorshin…

Batman 2.50 – Batman Displays His Knowledge

The last time we saw Catwoman in this series, I wondered whether they might have run her last two stories in the wrong order. I’m completely certain of it now. Whatever bonehead at ABC decided that they wanted to get a few viewers on the back of the latest Lesley Gore single and juggled the episode order really should have been kicked in the head. Sure, as continuity errors go, this isn’t as bad as, say, every third week watching Firefly on Fox, or that episode of Homicide: Life on the Street which mentioned one of the characters being dead before NBC showed the hour where his body was found, but it really rankles.

American television in the 1960s just didn’t have continuity like this, and what Stanley Ralph Ross wrote for Catwoman is a genuine arc with progression of her character across three stories, from December 1966 to February 1967, and ending with her tragic demise, choosing death over prison. So for this to open with her in prison and accepting Bruce Wayne, who shows no emotion over this situation after being quite openly – and surprisingly – devastated by her death, without addressing her – and let’s be blunt – attempted suicide, is a mockery of what Ross intended.

I’d strongly suggest that anybody watching these DVDs to swap the order around; watch this story in between the two three-parters in season two, and then watch the “That Darn Catwoman” two-parter in place of this one. You’ll still get the Penguin and the Joker hopping in and out of jail like the door’s a revolving one, but you’ll see the stories in the order the producers intended.

As for the content of what was meant as the second act and not the finale, it’s great fun. Daniel, who was restless and wild last night, was calm and awesome and enjoyed the show, asking me to pause only to get an explanation of what in the world Catwoman was wearing (a mink stole) in the climactic scene, which is set in a real estate agency’s model home with a staircase almost exactly like the one in the Brady Bunch house. Ah, the sixties. Stanley Adams has another scene in this episode, but the real acting surprise is having Jacques Bergerac show up as French Freddy TouchĂ©, a fencing instructor who’s also a fence. Bergerac, beloved to fans of bad old movies as the “Gaze into…The Hypnotic Eye!!!” guy, had been married to Ginger Rogers, and he’d retire from acting a couple of years after this to take a job as a high-ranking executive at Revlon, which is an awfully strange career arc.

So, this was Julie Newmar’s last appearance in the show. When Catwoman returns in season three, she’ll be played by Eartha Kitt. One note on that point: the story that everybody repeats is that Newmar was not available for the three weeks in November 1967 that they filmed those three Catwoman half-hours because she was filming the Western MacKenna’s Gold, which has one of the most amazing casts of any film, ever: Gregory Peck, Telly Savalas, Omar Sharif, Ted Cassidy, Burgess Meredith, Edward G. Robinson, and more are in that movie. But I don’t buy that explanation. MacKenna’s Gold wasn’t released until May 1969. I figure that November in the desert might can look a lot like any other time, and they could have shot it then, but spending a couple of months shooting a Gregory Peck film and letting it sit on the shelf for seventeen months wasn’t how movies were made or distributed in the sixties, I think. Hmmmm….