Tag Archives: rudy vallée

Batman 3.13 – The Bloody Tower

Well, just when you thought this story could not get any dumber, Batman and Batgirl escape from Lord Ffogg’s dungeon by way of the Indian rope trick. The less said about that, the better.

Daniel identified his first special effect tonight. He saw right through that African killer death bee, or whatever they called it, and said that it was fake. But he wasn’t sure whether it was meant to be a toy bee with a killer sting that could still hurt Robin, or whether it was a fumble of the production. Eventually, he erred on the side of caution and ran to hide, just in case.

Anyway, this is the end for Rudy Vallée and Glynis Johns’ characters. This story really works for child audiences, but for adults, it’s a mammoth missed opportunity. Compared to the rollercoaster feel of the three-parters in season two, this really was tedious, dull, and really lacked focus. I didn’t enjoy it at all, apart from some playful innuendo that Adam West and Yvonne Craig brought to the scene where Batman uses a file to cut Batgirl free from her chains. Have a look at it sometime, and watch their faces. It’s not even remotely subtle.

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Batman 3.12 – The Foggiest Notion

Oh, look, it’s 1967.

Watching this turkey through my son’s eyes reveals a little more about why I may have been enthralled by this story as a kid. It really is unusual in scope, and our heroes are constantly behind the villains, entrapped again and again. Even knowing who and where the villain is, they can’t get the upper hand. Lord Ffogg doesn’t even have to hide in some abandoned umbrella factory or disused joke book warehouse; he and his sister flaunt their wealth and power and the good guys cannot seem to win. Especially when most of the shows this season are over and done with in thirty minutes, to have Lord Ffogg and Lady Penelope Peasoup not just evading capture, but downright slapping the good guys around really does make them look like awesomely powerful foes.

The proof? Daniel is miserable. He’s having trouble articulating it, but things feel completely hopeless in a way that the old cliffhanger deathtraps just don’t convey. Here, it’s just one trap and one obstacle after another. Two episodes in and Lord Ffogg is totally in charge of the situation. If you’re an adult, it’s just tedious, but if you’re a kid, it’s apparently overwhelming. That is how I remember it, and that is how he is experiencing it.

But proving that some things never change even though they clearly should, co-writer Charles Hoffman still somehow found room for another wacky Batcomputer gag. This time, the computer is trying to spell “winch” but can’t get the vowel right until Batman slaps the computer hard enough. Hoffman is the only writer who attempts to mine comedy out of the computer. Everybody else knows that it isn’t funny.

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Batman 3.11 – The Londinium Larcenies

The last time out, I said that we were tabling Batman for a bit, and we will. Its replacement show hasn’t arrived, and to be honest, I’m much happier to get this mess of a story over with rather than leave it as something to look forward to.

Yeah, time has not been kind to “The Londinium Larcenies.” It’s unusual, because I remember completely loving this story as a child and feeling that it was epic. Something clicked in my little kid head and I thought that Lord Ffogg was one of Batman’s greatest opponents, and that the story, which takes him away from Gotham City for the only time, left our hero out of his element. There’s also a really scary moment with a killer bee coming up.

About ten years ago, I went halfsies on a bootleg DVD set of this show, because it sure didn’t look like it was ever coming out legitimately. I left most of it alone as I never seemed to have the time, although I did marvel at the ten full hours of bonus features the bootleggers assembled. (No kidding; ten. It’s even got Peter Graves hosting an A&E Biography on Cesar Romero.) I did make time to rewatch the first two episodes of this story, expecting excellence, and couldn’t make it to the third. It’s awful.

A big part of the problem is the casting of Rudy Vallée, of all people, as Lord Ffogg. Why they couldn’t have hired, you know, an actual British person for this job is beyond me. The rest of the cast is full of the sort of expats who knew how to believably say “cor” and “blimey” and “stone the crows, missus, what a sticky wicket” and, like Glynis Johns (playing Ffogg’s sister Lady Penelope) and Maurice Dallimore, frequently ended up in Walt Disney films set in jolly, merrie old Engerlund. (Bizarrely, this isn’t the only example I can come up with of an ostensibly British criminal duo on TV played by a British female and an American male passing as English; there’s a Columbo with Honor Blackman and Richard Basehart.)

Anyway, Ffogg could have been played by Bernard Fox or Terry-Thomas or, heck, Dallimore himself would have made more sense, but they went with Vallée, fresh from the huge success of the stage and film productions of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and he just sleepwalks through the episode like he could not possibly care less. Earlier in this blog, I mentioned how Adam West had some animosity toward guest star Otto Preminger. Yvonne Craig was, similarly, less than impressed with Vallée, and had some really choice words about him and his crummy attitude in West’s autobiography.

But the real problem with this story is that it’s smug and it requires everybody to be stupid. There’s not even a reason to suspect Lord Ffogg in episode one. Somehow, the Dark Knight Detective jumps from “the criminal creates his own fog” to “there’s this guy with a big lawn full of fog grass,” and fingers him. And the humor never rises above “Barnaby Street! Londinium! Ireland Yard! Get it?”

It is amusing, at least, that Monte / Monty Landis, another expat who started his career in the UK in the 1950s and moved to Hollywood around 1964, plays Lady Penelope’s cockney butler and somehow manages to be even more wooden than Parker on Thunderbirds.

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Batman 2.13 – An Egg Grows in Gotham

What has got to be one of the strangest little bits of meta-fiction happens in this episode of Batman. The plot involves the every-fifth-year contractual obligation that the heirs of the Savage, Tyler, and Wayne families have to the Mohican Indians. Centuries before, their ancestors leased the land of Gotham City for a payment of nine raccoon pelts, and tonight is the night that each must bring three more to the last Mohican Indian, Chief Screaming Chicken, who’s played by Edward Everett Horton.

Now, casting Horton is a great big wink at the audience in the first place, as Horton is basically just repeating his F Troop role of Roaring Chicken. Of course, it’s done with all the grace and subtlety that you’d expect from a 1966 sitcom to give to native Americans: none whatsoever. But what you’re seeing is exactly like when George Clooney and Noah Wyle showed up as doctors on an episode of Friends. It’s a good reminder that even in 1966, TV networks acted like TV networks, and found reasons for their actors to cameo in the other shows in the lineup.

But here’s the really weird part: Bruce Wayne explains that the last time they did the raccoon exchange, they got the pelts from a popular singer from the 1920s who wore a raccoon coat, and who had fallen on hard times and had to sell it. This is a reference to Rudy Vallée, who was sometimes called America’s first pop star, and who sang jazz age hits such as “Doin’ the Raccoon” and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” Vallée hadn’t worked in Hollywood for several years when this was made, having spent quite a time on Broadway, but he’d make a comeback the following year playing a villain on this very show. How fun is that!

So I’ve talked around the real highlights of the episode: the villain and the script. The baddie is Egghead, played by Vincent Price, and the script is another laughs-first effort by Stanley Ralph Ross. Egghead speaks in egg-scrutiating puns about egg-splosions and uses the word egg-sactly as much as possible. This pleased my pun-loving wife, who said something about how she appreciated a good yolk as much as the next guy and I’ve only myself to blame for showing her this and encouraging this behavior. I was, on the other hand, inordinately pleased that she caught a reference to The Lone Ranger among all of Chief Screaming Chicken’s “how” babble. She normally misses all the pop culture stuff.

Daniel wasn’t too taken with this episode. He was really wild and hyper this evening and did not want to sit still tonight. He growled at the cliffhanger, and said “That wasn’t any fun.” It’s a shame that he didn’t like it, because Stanley Ralph Ross, showing again that he’s more interested in developing an internal continuity and growth of characters than just shoehorning celebrities in (no matter how well that has worked, and, Archer aside, I think season two has worked a lot better than I remember it), came up with a humdinger of a cliffhanger.

Egghead believes that he’s the smartest of all criminals, and has been thinking about Batman’s secret identity. He has a double purpose in abducting Bruce Wayne and the other heirs, Pete Savage and Tim Tyler beyond intercepting the contractual pelt delivery. He has deduced that Batman must be an athletic millionaire in his early thirties. Tyler is left-handed and Savage, who spends most of his days in Paris, has an accent, and so Batman is most probably Bruce Wayne… or possibly, he concedes, a wealthy rock star who lives in Gotham. He intends to use his wild-looking machine to egg-stract all the knowledge from Bruce Wayne’s mind and settle the question. I really enjoyed that; like the bit earlier this season with Catwoman complaining about all the other supervillains asking her out, it shows that Ross really did consider how the characters would think and act when they’re not onscreen.

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