The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 1.8 – A Haunting We Will Go

Tonight’s episode is the perhaps inevitable story about somebody in the old theater dropping lights down onto the stage and almost killing somebody and this was no accident, this rope’s been cut, and so on. They brought in a pile of good actors for it, though. Victor Buono, Bob Crane, and Dina Merrill are among the thesps playing thesps, a group who staged a show called Murder in the Fourth Act twenty-two years previously. They’ve all gone on to successful showbiz careers, but when they’re invited to tread the boards in the small town of River Heights one last time before the old theater is torn down to make room for a youth center, they all rush back, hating each other, because they all buried a secret down in the theater’s cellar.

Michael Sloan’s story is lighthearted and fun, and our son enjoyed it a lot, even if some of the jokes were a little over his head. I guess he figures that if his dad gets a good chuckle from a gag about Marcus Welby or Dr. Kildare, it must be funny somehow, whoever they are.

Batman 3.23 – I’ll Be a Mummy’s Uncle

Yes, I know it isn’t fair to hold fifty year-old TV programs to contemporary standards, but why, why didn’t they hold this one back and use it as the season – and consequently – series finale? They must have known that the ratings were in the basement and a renewal probably wasn’t happening, and this episode, ever so briefly, provides the first time that a villain invades the Batcave and knows where it is. It’s all resolved by amnesia-gas and a blow to Tut’s head, but for just a moment… this looked game-changing in a way that sixties television so rarely is.

It’s also tremendously entertaining from start to finish. Almost all of Stanley Ralph Ross’s scripts were great, (and one more of the final three is his), and he had a ball writing for Tut and Victor Buono certainly had a ball playing him. There’s also a tremendously amusing bit of continuity here, when Tut finds the Batdummy that deceived him in the previous episode and petulantly beats it up!

Also appearing this week: Henny Youngman, the “take my wife…please!” guy, in an unbilled cameo as the real estate agent who sells Tut the plot of land next to Wayne Manor (Bruce totally should have checked to make sure the land didn’t have any abandoned mine shafts in it), and Angela Dorian, who was yet another Playboy Playmate – I think the third – to show up in this series.

Batman 3.6 – The Unkindest Tut of All

This is a terrific episode. Writer Stanley Ralph Ross is at his absolute best, giving Batman all sorts of civic-minded square and hoary exclamations to the no-goodniks of Gotham City, and not only does Adam West nail all of the overacting, he gets to share lots of screen time with Victor Buono in this episode.

Buono has an absolute ball yelling and sneering at Batman. At the end of the episode, he’s pronounced Bruce Wayne a “deadly dull socialite lump,” trying to warn Barbara Gordon off from returning to their interrupted date that opens the episode. That was a fine afternoon at an accordion recital, listening to “Lady of Spain” eight times.

For all his unbelievable stupidity, King Tut becomes the first villain to absolutely be certain that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same, and even a silly only-on-TV trick with a supposed dummy Batman doesn’t completely persuade him that he’s wrong. He hates Batman for being so square, and hates Bruce Wayne for being so dull, and doesn’t quite get that they’re two sides of the same coin.

Daniel was not at his best this evening, and, worried for Batgirl’s safety, he ran and hid behind the sofa when she arrived to take on King Tut by herself. He remains a little concerned that she and Robin might get into too much trouble without Batman to save the day.

Batman 2.54 – Batman’s Waterloo

Daniel had a moment of fear with this episode. I wondered whether he remembered the third episode of H.R. Pufnstuf, which had a scene that really alarmed him. Then, Witchiepoo threatened to drop the helpless Freddie the Flute into boiling oil, and he didn’t like that at all. This time, King Tut started making threats to do the same. “What is he going to do?!” cried Daniel, and clutched his security blanket for help.

Then Tut scalded his hand on the side of the vat and Daniel chortled. I paused the episode and reminded him that while some of Batman’s enemies, like the Riddler and Egghead, are very intelligent and so smart that they’re dangerous, King Tut is a big dummy. And a minute later, Tut touched the vat and burned his hand again, proving me right. Of course, his grandiose stupidity is what makes King Tut such a hilarious and wonderful foe. A little of him goes a long way, but he is such an amazing bonehead, and so very entertaining.

Around the time that this story was filmed, Victor Buono also made a pilot for producer William Dozier, which I mentioned last week. He played the villain Mr. Memory in the failed Dick Tracy pilot, which you can watch on Dailymotion. It’s not especially good, but Buono is by far the best thing about it. Well, that and the revelation that, had it gone to series, it would have starred Eve Plumb, making her unavailable to play Jan on The Brady Bunch.

Anyway, King Tut bumbles and shouts and, in what might be a unique moment, the Batfight at the climax starts with Tut getting clobbered and taken out of action. His four hoods fight on without him for some fool reason, while the damsels in distress, played by Lee Meriwether and Grace Lee Whitney, look on helplessly. Meriwether gets a downright amazing scene at the end, where she invites Bruce Wayne in for milk and cookies after a date, and Adam West actually breaks the fourth wall to remind viewers that, after 43 or so very chaste stories where this so-called millionaire playboy never once acted like the playboy he’s purported to be, man cannot live by crimefighting alone.

There’s also a downright amazing scene in which Commissioner Gordon phones Batman because all these shenanigans on colleges with professors getting hit in the head has him worried about his daughter named Barbara because his daughter named Barbara is at college and his daughter named Barbara is going to graduate soon, and did he mention that he has a daughter, and that her name is Barbara? It’s almost as though they’re trying to tell us something.

Batman 2.53 – King Tut’s Coup

Hooray, King Tut’s back, and he’s just as big a bonehead as ever! I like how they keep Victor Buono separated in all the dialogue scenes from West and Ward; it lets Buono completely steal the show and leaves the stars unable to do anything about it.

This episode answers a question I had when we first met King Tut back in season one. I swore I remembered from when I was a kid seeing the mild-mannered professor of Egyptology lose his marbles and think he was the baddie. It happens here… not in flashback, though, it’s just the latest occasion in which he gets conked on the head.

Other notable names appearing in this episode: Richard Bakalyan, who we last saw as part of the Riddler’s gang, has a very odd scene as a performer whom Tut has roughed up to leave a message – in hieroglyphics, on a scroll – for Batman. Lee Meriwether, who had played Catwoman several months before in the feature film, here plays Bruce Wayne’s date for an ill-timed Egyptian-themed costume party, the sort of thing that a sensible citizenry would cancel if they know that King Tut’s prowling around. Predictably, Tut sees her in costume as Cleopatra and falls in love with her.

I’ve been remiss in noting the Batclimb cameos. This week, a popular gossip columnist of the day, Suzy Knickerbocker, pops her head out. Recently, we’ve also seen Art Linkletter and Edward G. Robinson, who didn’t appear to appreciate his grandkids pestering him to do this silly show.

Batman 2.8 – Tut’s Case is Shut

There’s a hilarious moment in this episode where Victor Buono lets out an improvised growl – slash – hiss of impatience and frustration and, by chance, managed to make almost exactly the same sound that Daniel makes when he growls at the villains for doing something rotten. “He growls just like you, Daniel,” Marie told him, and he responded with an epic series of grumbles, eyebrows narrowed.

Shortly afterward, Commissioner Gordon, who has been “scarabdated” with the will-sapping potion (and that’s a terrific word, “scarabdated,” and a great shame we don’t have many opportunities to use it) buys Batman a refreshing lemonade and drops a scarab-potion pill into it. Batman, anticipating the possibility of poison, had already consumed six glasses of buttermilk to coat his stomach.

Grown-ups watching that scene probably predicted that he had some kind of plan, but kids wouldn’t. Batman pretends to be under Tut’s spell, and acts zombified and goes to do King Tut’s bidding. Daniel grumbled and growled some more and hid his eyes. Then us grown-ups watched the fight scene with winces, just waiting for somebody to punch Batman in the gut. After six buttermilks and a lemonade, I don’t care how much martial arts training you have.

Batman 2.7 – The Spell of Tut

I love King Tut. He’s such a fun villain, a loudmouthed and immature tantrum-throwing bonehead. Victor Buono plays him starting at 10 and ratcheting up to 11 by the end of every scene. It’s a huge, huge shame that the producers never teamed Tut up with any other Batvillains. It would have been so fun to watch him reach for grandiosity around somebody downright crooked and competent like the Penguin only to get barked down. I can just see Tut leaving a room, extemporizing loudly, only to have the Bookworm or somebody shake his head over what a complete wacko this guy is.

Anyway, in his second outing, he’s brought some trapped-in-amber scarabs back to life to use in an ancient formula that saps people’s will. Funny how the writers could come up with a concept that I believe was then on the edge of speculation, proving that they read the same journals that Michael Crichton would, and then bungle such basic science like agitating the preserved scarabs with 200,000 volts. I think that if you want charcoal scarabs, that might work.

King Tut has a Royal Apothecary to help create his elixir from the scarabs, and he’s played by the great Sid Haig, and I’m pretty sure we’ll see Haig many more times in this blog. He’s completely unrecognizable without facial hair! He also has a dame, of course, who is revealed to have the terrific name of Cleo Patrick. She’s played by Marianne Hill and her betrayal, about four minutes before the end of the episode, is pretty darn obvious from her first scene in Commissioner Gordon’s office, even before we know her full name. One of the laws of conservation of TV characters informs us that pretty girls in throwaway parts in the beginning of the episode often show up in a meatier role by the end.

This law isn’t for celebrity cameos, of course. Already this season we’ve seen Dick Clark and Phyllis Diller in little walk-ons. This time, the Green Hornet and Kato interrupt our heroes’ batclimb to let everybody watching who may not have heard know that their own program aired Friday nights on the same network. Well, they’re a little less subtle than that, but nobody was really watching their show – about which, more another time – so they had to get their faces in wherever it was possible.

I thought that the cliffhanger might have frightened Daniel, but he handled it okay. Robin gets stuck on a plank above a pit of hungry crocodiles. Since he never likes it when Robin is in trouble, and since the giant alligators in Thunderbirds alarmed him a few weeks ago, I was a little concerned for him, but he did just fine. He really enjoyed this week’s batfight, especially when one of the henchmen throws a barrel across the room, Robin ducks, and it smacks King Tut in the chest!

Batman 1.28 – The Pharaoh’s in a Rut

Okay, first thing’s first: this is the third time in four stories that an arch-criminal steals the Batmobile. Our hero definitely needs to do something about that.

As entertaining as it is watching Victor Buono rant as King Tut, I’m afraid that at this stage in the series the villain is really being kept aloft by luck and some good hires among his henchmen. His underlings are much more competent than he is, which kind of makes sense. They’re in the business of being bad guys; he thinks that he’s the reincarnation of an Egyptian god-deity and doesn’t quite know how he should go about it.

At one point, he has Batman and his traitorous Nefertiti stuffed into canopic jars to drop pebbles on their heads and drive them mad. Daniel was alarmed by how that looked, but had a ball when they were freed and ordered to dance for the king. Of course, that’s got to be just about the stupidest move a bad guy could make.

Batman keeps his sanity and clobbers the criminals; Daniel loved that fight, but he really loved the chase, as Batman, Robin, and Alfred steal Tut’s gold-plated pickup truck to follow the Batmobile. The high point: somehow a circuit gets crossed and King Tut gets ejected from the Batmobile.

After I post one of these stories, I like to see what else has been posted by other WordPress bloggers about the tags that I’ve used. Last night, I read up a little on Victor Buono, about whom I didn’t know very much. Classic film bloggers have written a lot about the 1962 film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, which made him a star. I had no idea that Buono was so young! He seemed to be in his early forties in this episode, but he was actually only 28, and he died of a heart attack when he was 43. He had the unique privilege of playing a recurring villain in three separate adventure TV series: he was also Count Manzeppi, one of only two recurring baddies in The Wild Wild West, and the nasty Mr. Schubert in several episodes of Man From Atlantis.

Batman 1.27 – The Curse of Tut

Before I get started this week, I wanted to make sure all of Fire-Breathing Dimetrodon Time’s Batman fans know that there’s another blogger covering the 1966 series. Over at Comic Alliance, a writer called Chris Sims is writing these up, one a week, with a lot more detail and illustration than yours truly, and is up to episode 31. They’re very entertaining, and you should check them out. I say that even though I’m horribly jealous that, months before I did, Sims figured out that the TV show’s producers got access to the comics that inspired stories three and four from a contemporary reprint volume. I was really happy about making that discovery, but he beat me to it by seven months!

Anyway, back in the present, and here’s the first example in FBDT of the condition that one of Doctor Who‘s producers, John Nathan-Turner, used to call “Memory Cheats.” I’ll come back to this with a bit in Pufnstuf next month, but there are times where the mind plays tricks on us, and my big example from Batman comes from this episode, the first to feature Victor Buono as the nefarious King Tut.

Tut is by leagues the most successful of the created-for-TV bad guys. He makes five appearances in the show (Egghead is second-best with three), and he’s also possibly the only one to get a proper explanation of why he’s a villain. Batman reminds the police, who are really exceptionally alarmed by Tut’s reappearance, that King Tut should be pitied. He was once a mild-mannered professor at Yale who was hit on the head during a student demonstration. He woke up thinking that Gotham City was Thebes and he was the reincarnation of King Tut.

The thing is… I remember seeing that happening. I distinctly remember Buono playing that part and getting conked on the head, but it doesn’t happen here. Maybe he gets back to normal and gets whacked again later in the series? I’m very keen to find out, but I seriously thought “The Curse of Tut” was an “origin” episode for the villain. Guess not!

Daniel has been a little wild and crazy today, but he found a new ally in his own war against crime today. We finally moved an old toybox into his bedroom today, and he found a few new treasures in it, including some Battlemech-type robot with cannons for arms. It stands about six inches tall, and he went into action as the Dynamic Duo faced off against five of King Tut’s minions in Gotham Central Park, blasting “ptchow! ptchow!” at the villains.