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Batman 3.2 – Ring Around the Riddler

We think of Batman as a very old-fashioned program, very much of its time, but look what they did with season three: start the season with the new format and new character, and, in week two, bring out the big gun: Frank Gorshin, the villain who made the show so watchable and popular in season one, and heavily link him with the new villain who will take the lead in week three: the Siren, played by Joan Collins, with a big cliffhanger ending to get people to tune in next time. That’s pretty much what modern TV people would be doing to start the new season with a bang, isn’t it?

This was Gorshin’s final appearance in the series. I’m not sure how they persuaded him to come back, when he balked at returning for season two because he wanted more money per hour and this is only thirty minutes. Daniel said that this was pretty good and he enjoyed it, but it feels like the writer was really struggling to make the thirty minute format work. Batman has to act really out of character to get into the ring for a fixed fight against Riddler, and that’s done, bizarrely, with our hero wearing boxing trunks over his costume. The scene isn’t funny at all; it’s just silly.

Not much of this is worth mentioning at even this much length, but perhaps I should also point out that James Brolin made his third and final appearance on this show in this episode as a boxer named Kid Gulliver. It was nice to see Gorshin do his unhinged shtick again for a little while. We won’t see him don those green tights again for another eleven years…


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Batman 2.34 – The Catwoman Goeth

To be sure, this story is disjointed and a little odd, but we all ended up really enjoying it. I think some elements of the compromised production are still fumbles, most notably the bizarre maze in which Robin and a policewoman are trapped, and which was achieved on a budget of… well, practically nothing, and it shows. But turning J. Pauline Spaghetti from the male character that writer Ellis St. Joseph devised into an elderly widow brings things to a deliciously fun climax that couldn’t have been present in the original draft.

But before we get there, we have a second appearance from James Brolin, this time playing a rookie cop who doesn’t know who Batman is, and doesn’t really care. He’s found the Batmobile, stolen by Sandman and parked illegally, and wants to write our hero several citations. Frankly, for letting his car get pilfered for something like the eighth time in this show, he deserves a ticket or two.

It’s established early on that Catwoman and Sandman clearly intend to betray each other, but surprisingly it’s Sandman who gets the drop on Catwoman. It’s a great betrayal, too. He and his bride-to-be stop by one of her banks to cash a whopper of a cashier’s check, and he leaves Catwoman’s address with the bank’s president, asking him to phone Commissioner Gordon.

The funniest moment of the episode comes when Batman confronts Catwoman, and asks where Robin is. “…who?” she replies.

But there’s just a lovely, lovely twist yet to come, when Sandman and J. Pauline arrive at her island getaway. It’s very, very subtle, but there’s this lovely bit where J. Pauline shows her future husband these four plaques set into the wall of her noodle factory. Each of her previous four husbands has taken her last name… and each of them has met a grisly end in this factory. And look, there’s a fifth, blank plaque.

They never draw attention to it, but Michael Rennie’s eyes tell the story. In a few months, Tallulah Bankhead would appear on the show as the criminal Black Widow. She came late to the party. It’s only the silly convention that demands there be a Batfight, and that, down two henchmen, Sandman has to shed his coat and join this fray. If the man had a lick of sense, he’d have surrendered and gone away without fuss, before J. Pauline entombed him with the other four fellows!

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Batman 2.4 – The Cat and the Fiddle

You know, I’d really sold Marie on part one of this being completely wonderful. I don’t appreciate part two being so downright ordinary.

I should probably leave it there, but it really does have some great visuals, including Batman using little “jet” rockets to lift a stalled elevator 102 stories, and Jack Kelly’s gossip columnist suddenly turning into a partner in crime so he can join in with the batfight. It would totally not surprise me to learn that, eight or nine years previously, Adam West and Kelly traded punches in an episode of Maverick. (Or 77 Sunset Strip or The Alaskans or whatever late 1950s Warners Brothers adventure show needed them that week.)

And it does have the great surprise of James Brolin, of all people, playing an armored truck driver named Ralph Staphylococcus. I didn’t recognize him. imdb.com surprised me with the revelation that he plays small roles in two other Batman episodes. Later, among sixty gajillion other roles, he’d play the father in The Amityville Horror and star for years in the 1980s nighttime soap Hotel.

And we probably should mention that Catwoman gets all sweet on Batman this week. After he saves her life, she gets a last scene in the epilogue after her trial, before she heads off to prison for ten to twenty years (or weeks). She gets to cuddle up to Batman and rub cheeks and give a deeply inappropriate but hilarious ecstatic growl. Neil Hamilton got a lot of great, great lines in this show, and delivered them all perfectly, but “Why, Batman, are you blushing?” might be the very best of them.

But overall, it just doesn’t have that weird, funny, zippy, sexy, and very sixties vibe that part one had. Kind of a letdown.

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