There must be a particularly remarkable reason for me to pass up on posting a picture of the gorgeous Dee Hartford in a bathing suit in favor of West, Ward, and guest star Otto Preminger on the floor. That’s because Preminger turned out to be the first of two guest villains – the other will come in season three – to really get on the leads’ bad side.
In his Back to the Batcave memoir, Adam West spared no love for Preminger, who just didn’t gel with the cast, made a nuisance of himself, and argued with the director. And then there’s this little bit pictured above, which West remembered with particular animosity. West was expecting Preminger to “help” West pull him up from the floor, by bending the right way, distributing his weight, or whatever, but instead found Preminger a solid two hundred pounds of dead weight. He “stiffened like a sandbag and literally dug his nails into the floor,” and West nearly threw his back out lifting him. West then stepped on Preminger’s hand, “accidentally,” on the second take, and whatever take that is above that made it into the show still doesn’t look like anybody’s being nice to anybody else. When Mr. Freeze returned at the end of the season, Preminger was not asked back.
And yet, with all respect to the cast and crew who were terrorized by him, you can’t help but like Preminger a little. He might have been an heel, but he looks like he is having an absolute blast as the bad guy. He said that he took the role to impress his kids, and it appears to have been his first acting job in quite a few years. He was usually happier behind the camera – and if you’ve never seen Anatomy of a Murder, you definitely should – but he really seemed to have a great time, even if at the expense of the stars, and it might, just might, have been his experience on Batman that led him to make Skidoo.
I’d never heard of Skidoo until about 2006, when Mark Evanier started mentioning it at his blog. A good buddy soon rustled up a bootleg copy of it – I’m not sure whether he wants to be identified with such nefarious no-goodery as bootlegging, so I won’t name him – and a gang of us watched it at his place with our eyes wide open and jaws on the floor. I figure that Preminger’s experiences on Batman left him wanting to connect with “the kids” a lot more. You can see it in the way his Mr. Freeze is constantly – constantly – saying “Wild!” That’s not the catchphrase you’d expect from Mr. Freeze, really.
So Preminger made this absolute trainwreck of a movie about… heck, I don’t know. Hippies, the generation gap, prison reform, gangsters, yachts, LSD, pretty much everything. One of this show’s regular writers, Stanley Ralph Ross, was one of many who contributed to the script, and three of this show’s regular villains, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, and Frank Gorshin, play supporting roles. It’s also got Groucho Marx, Carol Channing, Jackie Gleason, Austin Pendleton, Frankie Avalon, George Raft, and Mickey Rooney, because nothing says “appealing to teenagers” like Mickey Rooney.
Skidoo was released at the end of 1968, about four months after the last network repeat of the canceled Batman, baffled everybody who saw it, not that many did, and entered obscurity, withheld from release for decades and left to bootleggers to circulate. Eventually, TCM or somebody convinced Preminger’s estate to let them show a nice clean copy of it. Everybody’s relaxed now and can admit that the otherwise brilliant Preminger made just the one stinker, but at least it’s a completely fascinating spectacle of a stinker and you can get it all pretty and restored on Blu-Ray. I highly recommend it, with friends and two bottles of wine.