Tag Archives: julie newmar

Jason of Star Command – Chapters 11 and 12

There’s just a hint that there may not actually be enough plot to fill sixteen chapters of this story. Some guest writers, among them kidvid vet Chuck Menville, come aboard for a two-part detour. Chapter ten had ended with our heroes helplessly about to crash on a planet, and chapter twelve ended with them helplessly about to land on the Death Sta– I mean Dragonship, which is where they were heading in the first place. In other words, you could safely excise these two chapters and lose nothing of the plot. Such was the way of the classic Saturday matinee serials that this program emulates.

The guest villains this time out are the gorgeous Julie Newmar, vamping it up as Dragos’s moll Queen Vanessa, and her associate Bork, played by Angelo Rossitto. We’ve seen Rossitto buried under foam and fur in some of Sid and Marty Krofft’s earlier shows. He was the original Seymour – and Clang, the smaller one – in H.R. Pufnstuf, and Mr. Big, the gangster hat in Lidsville. He’d been working in Hollywood since the late 1920s.

Bork controls a deeply silly monster with the head of a sheepdog and a costume that says “we can’t afford Julie Newmar and a monster costume at the same time.” Nevertheless, our son thought the beast was remarkably mean, with “claws like saws!” We mistakenly thought he was very excited when Jason was trying to activate a heavy switch before Queen Vanessa and Bork returned. He clarified that he was very nervous and worried. As ever, I’m pleased that when I find the shows a little wearying and see-through, he’s having a ball, loving the action completely.

Leave a comment

Filed under filmation, jason of star command

Monster Squad 1.8 – Ultra Witch

I was four and five years old when Monster Squad aired, about the same age as my son today, and “Ultra Witch” was the story I remembered the most. In part, of course, that’s because Julie Newmar plays the villain. My dad, who, as dads do, would occasionally look at the silly Saturday morning nonsense his allegedly intelligent son was watching when he could have been doing something productive, shake his head sadly and leave the room, came in the den to tsk-tsk what was on TV, stopped his nefarious dad scheme and sat down to watch her. My father would watch anything – anything – with Julie Newmar in it. Me, too, come to think of it.

(Incidentally, the exact same season Monster Squad was on NBC, over on ABC, the only television program I was ever forbidden to watch was on earlier in the morning. Dad caught a few minutes of Hanna-Barbera’s cartoon Jabberjaw. I don’t know whether it was Jabberjaw’s nyuk-nyuk voice or the unbelievable stupidity – even for a Hanna-Barbera cartoon – of that premise or if he had a really bad headache that morning, but I was sternly told to never, ever watch that program ever again. Dad’s been gone almost six years, but I’m pretty sure the prohibition still holds and I have followed that rule to the letter for four decades without complaint or appeal.)

Anyway, you probably don’t need any other reason besides Julie Newmar to watch this one, but the other thing that stuck with me is the Ultra Witch’s deadly weapon. She has a blaster called the Ronald Raygun that removes the third dimension from anything and leaves its target black and white. (Pause to make sure y’all caught that.) She uses it to turn the Monster Squad into full-size monochrome photographs, kind of like the flattening ray that Dr. Cassandra used in Stanley Ralph Ross’s final episode of Batman. This freaked me out as a kid. I don’t believe I ran from the room screaming or anything, but I was really, really worried about my heroes. Fast forward to today, and our son was, briefly, really worried as well, his security blanket crushed into a ball in front of his face. That’s never a good sign. He assured us at the end he was certain everything would be fine, though.

There are lots of other things to note about this one. The puns are impressively terrible, and the other guests include Richard Bakalyan, who had appeared in Batman as four different characters, Joe E. “Joey” Tata, who had appeared in Batman as three different characters, and Johnny Brown, best known for his recurring role on Good Times, but who we saw last year in the first episode of Filmation’s The Ghost Busters. Brown plays Dandy Andy, a parody of Famous Amos. I am 99% certain that Famous Amos was only known in southern California in 1976, so I figure somebody in the production department really liked those cookies. I am also 99% certain that Famous Amos cookies were also better in 1976 than they are today.

Bottom line: I will be quite surprised if another episode turns out to be this entertaining. It’s genuinely funny, or at least agreeably goofy when it isn’t, has four notable guest actors, is guaranteed to alarm five year-olds, and it’s got Julie Newmar being sexy, silly, and unforgettable. What’s not to love?

Leave a comment

Filed under monster squad

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 Touché, 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….

Leave a comment

Filed under batman

Batman 2.49 – Catwoman Goes to College

So of course, happy tender moments like the one shown here never last. Robin rushes in and spoils Batman and Catwoman’s milkshake date with the news that the police are after our hero! Stanley Adams, whom we saw a couple of months ago in a Ghost Busters episode, and who would get to have his pair of iconic guest star roles in Star Trek and in Lost in Space in the next TV season, has this very oddball guest part as Captain Courageous, an officer on exchange from Los Angeles who has never heard of Batman, and arrests him because twenty eyewitnesses saw him rob a supermarket.

This is all part of Catwoman’s plan, of course, to get him out of the way while she leads a student riot, and slips away in the confusion to steal some jewels. Things don’t go quite as planned, there’s a Batfight, and the episode ends with our heroes tied up in a giant coffee cup on a motorized billboard, with sulfuric acid about to be poured over them.

So yes, this is a suddenly silly installment for Catwoman, and it has one of the funniest moments in the series, when Bruce Wayne knows that the Batphone is about to ring, and just pauses with his hand above the receiver. I had to pause the DVD from laughing.

Daniel was in little mood for any of this tomfoolery, especially Batman and Catwoman sharing a milkshake. The boy just cannot stand the mushy stuff.

Leave a comment

Filed under batman

Batman 2.41 – Scat! Darn Catwoman

This is an extraordinarily strange episode. It is clearly, emphatically, meant to be Catwoman’s last appearance, and yet there’s one more story with Julie Newmar to come. I think that the producers had both in the can and chose to run this one to capitalize on the publicity with Lesley Gore and her “California Nights” single.

See, the climax is a chase across the rooftops with periodic back-and-forths between Batman and Catwoman, trying to convince her to surrender and considering a life together, she as a reformed criminal, offering insight into the villainous mind. But when Batman asks “What about Robin,” she can’t think of anything better to suggest than to kill him. There’s no hope for her. She finally chooses a death in the West River, leaving a glove behind for Batman to wipe his tears. I may not have seen it in decades, but I don’t believe for a minute that the next story should be set after this one. Even if villains always return, this had to have been intended as her grand finale.

Daniel hated this one. The main problem is that Lesley Gore’s Pussycat has developed a crush on Robin, and she serenades his framed photo, and then he wants to start a-smoochin’, and Daniel has no time for that. He rolled on his back and hid his face in his blanket to block out the mushiness.

2 Comments

Filed under batman

Batman 2.40 – That Darn Catwoman

I have not written much here about camp, because that’s a great big topic and this is a very small blog, and if I were to go off on too far of a quasi-academic tangent, I think that hundreds of you would hit the back button and never return, but Stanley Ralph Ross’s episode “That Darn Catwoman” is a really good place to pause and indulge me a little.

If you’ve never read Susan Sontag’s essay Notes on “Camp” before, you really should, because it’s incredibly interesting. As an aside, one of the things I like to play with is that pretty much everything that we may consider as camp today – Jack in Will & Grace, Anthony Ainley and/or Paul Darrow in Doctor Who, armies of shirtless men in Bananarama videos, and, of course, the entire Batman show – came after Sontag defined the term. If you read the essay, she comes up with some completely surprising examples, like Aubrey Beardsley drawings and Warner Brothers musicals of the 1930s, which really makes her point so much clearer. It’s been diluted by decades of people being too deliberate, rather than genuine.

So while genuine camp has often been obfuscated by incredibly mannered and affected acting in the modern day, with actors – most obviously Sean Hayes as Jack – really playing to expectations of type in an unnatural way, Batman was often pretty effortless in its goofball naivete. So if you were to ask me what’s the most camp episode of the series, I’d argue it’s this one, without a doubt.

Exhibit A: Pressed to portray a drugged and evil Robin, Burt Ward has no clue whatsoever what he should be doing. That should be all that’s necessary to give this one the award, but then there’s Catwoman’s new protege.

Exhibit B: Pussycat is played by Lesley Gore, who, halfway through the episode, brings the show to a screeching halt because Gore had a new record in the charts that week and she needed to sing it to Catwoman’s henchmen. (It’s “California Nights,” which was her final hit in the US.) I think that casting Lesley Gore effectively straddles both Sontag’s original explanation that genuine camp is natural and without affectation, and the more modern and deliberate mutation of what we perceive. On the one hand, while Lesley Gore is a wonderful singer, she doesn’t seem to know what the heck she’s doing in this show, and on the other, perhaps larger hand, Gore is one of that crowd of sixties female singers who got big new audiences years later after male singers with large gay fan bases (Neil Tennant, Calvin Johnson, Morrissey) started championing them. Bryan Ferry covered “It’s My Party” on his first solo record – yes, a 28 year-old man singing as a 14 year-old girl – and there’s not a cabaret or drag club in the western world that hasn’t had a queen lip-synching to Lesley Gore since.

Exhibit C: Batman tells Catwoman: “I find you odious, abhorrent, and insegrievious.” The line was so ridiculous that Gary Owens started using it on Laugh-In a year later. Adam West delivers it as naturally as he might order a pizza.

Thanks for the indulgence, we’ll get closer to normalcy with part two tomorrow night!

1 Comment

Filed under batman

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under batman

Batman 2.33 – The Sandman Cometh

To begin with this week, I’ve done you all a disservice by not mentioning another blogger who is writing about the ’60s Batman series. He goes by the handle “The Squonk” and he’s writing a new installment every Friday at Channel: Superhero. He’s just finished the fourteenth episode, which is Mad Hatter’s first story, so go check that out and enjoy!

Anyway, tonight’s episode is… odd. The original draft was written by Ellis St. Joseph, who is best known for writing several live productions from the late 1940s and early 1950s, back when quite a lot of TV drama came via anthology programs. Joel Eisner’s Official Batman Batbook gives this story a little more space than most, as the writer had a very high opinion of what he had submitted, and considerable disappointment at how it was rewritten by Charles Hoffman, and talked at length about it.

Briefly, St. Joseph contended that his submission was very unique and original, and owed a lot to German expressionist cinema and Dr. Caligari. Robert Morley was cast as the villainous Sandman, a rare example of a villain whom Batman has not met before, but then the reality of the grind of TV production reared up. The problem was that Julie Newmar had been contracted for several episodes, since the ratings were slumping and she was just about the only thing that could reliably prop them up a little. They had Hoffman bolt a Catwoman plot onto St. Joseph’s script, and Morley was less interested in playing the role if he was going to be Newmar’s second banana. Michael Rennie was cast in his place.

The finished product is still pretty entertaining, much better than the last couple of stories. Catwoman really doesn’t have a lot to do in part one, but Newmar still controls the screen when the two villains are together. Still, Rennie has a calm demeanor that most Batvillains don’t have, and it’s refreshing watching how he plays the part. I like the way that during the Batfight, Sandman mostly stays out of the way while his henchmen brawl, looking on with his hands in the pockets of his fur coat, waiting for a chance to gas a hero with his sleeping powder.

Daniel enjoyed it all, but the episode did come to a crashing, noisy halt with one of the stupidest moments of the whole series. They’ve asked the Batcomputer to identify any wealthy insomniacs in Gotham City, who Sandman, alias “Dr. Somnambula,” may have targeted. The computer suggests the rich J. Pauline Spaghetti, not by a name on a card, but by belching pink spaghetti out at Robin. This sort of dopey Hanna-Barbera comedy moment is probably precisely the sort of thing that St. Joseph was trying to avoid with his German expressionism storyline.

Leave a comment

Filed under batman