Tag Archives: vincent price

City Under the Sea (1965)

During his amazing career, Vincent Price probably made nine or ten pictures where he was by some measure the best thing about the whole production. One example: 1965’s City Under the Sea, which was released in America with the confusing title War-Gods of the Deep. This led to a silly moment early on, when a bargain basement Gill Man is chased away from a remote house on a cliffside and our son said “I think that must be a War-God!”

Like nine or ten other pictures in Price’s catalog, this one takes a little inspiration from a poem by Edgar Allen Poe. Our heroes, played by Tab Hunter and the redoubtable David Tomlinson, who is accompanied by a chicken in a picnic basket for comic relief, stumble across a first edition collection of Poe in the strange underwater city, so that Price can recite a passage from the poem over footage of the miniature of the city, next to a volcano as the pressure inevitably builds.

The movie has small parts for familiar faces like Derek Newark, John Le Mesurier, and Tony Selby, who isn’t credited, and the only female character is played by Susan Hart. It has some impressive sets, an underwater chase/fight that goes on forever and features old-fashioned diving suits so angular and clunky that they reminded our son of Minecraft, and, of course, a great big volcanic eruption. I thought the movie was the most boring thing we’ve watched in ages, and the villain’s henchmen were just about the most pathetic and sorry bunch of dopey bad guys in any universe, but it’s worth watching if you’re six, or if you want to marvel at Price’s ability to rise over everything, or if the movie comes on a double-feature DVD with something else and so you have a copy anyway.


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The Bionic Woman 2.7 – Black Magic

For the November 1976 sweeps month, The Six Million Dollar Man went big, with a pair of feature-length audience-grabbing episodes. One featured nineteen year-old Vincent Van Patten as the fourth bionic operative, about which more in a couple of weeks, and the second movie featured the USAF Thunderbirds precision flying team.

The Bionic Woman, meanwhile, went with an all-star comedy episode. “Black Magic” is a live-action Scooby Doo story written by Arthur Rowe. It’s got a big spooky house full of secret corridors and dungeons, and a weird monstrous figure in the bayou outside. Jaime goes undercover as the long-lost relation of a family of thieves and swindlers played by a downright fantastic cast. It’s got three – three! – Batvillains: Vincent Price, Julie Newmar, and Hermione Baddeley (Egghead, Catwoman, and Shame’s mother-in-law-to-be Frontier Fanny), along with Abe Vigoda as a creepy butler and William Windom as a scheming lawyer.

The episode is completely ridiculous, of course. It’s played strictly for laughs and it works perfectly. Our son adored it. I think he recognized that he’s precisely the age bracket for whom this was pitched. Nothing was really scary, even though, like Scooby Doo or The Ghost Busters, it plays with the imagery at a kid-friendly level. I might need to remember to dust this one off next Halloween.

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Batman 3.15 – The Ogg Couple

At a very early stage in prepping this season, the producers planned for a trio of three-part adventures: one with Egghead and Olga, one with Lord Ffogg in Londinium, and one with Eartha Kitt as Catwoman. Then they and the network got cold feet, fearing that the audience wouldn’t stick with the stories that long. They couldn’t do anything about the Londinium story, short of shelving the fool thing, but they decided to split the others into a two-parter and a one-off.

In this case, it almost works, as each half-hour has its own little plot, and some quick reshoots in the set of Commissioner Gordon’s office try to paper over the cracks and make this feel like the villains, captured after episode 3.9, are back in town. But this episode is clearly the first of the three: it introduces us to the idea that Egghead intends to marry Olga after stealing enough of a dowry. Part of this is a heavy, solid gold egg which is clearly seen in their lair in episode 3.8. So they almost got away with it if it weren’t for these meddling props.

This does mean that the original ending for the episode must have been lost. Remember that this season is light on the cliffhangers, but there must have been some level of wrap-up, a “what do we do next” scene. Instead, we get the remarkable coda in which it’s just casually revealed that Egghead and Olga were arrested offscreen, before the teaser announcing another chunk of the Catwoman story. I certainly don’t think we’ve seen them do that before and I hope we don’t see it again!

Anyway, Vincent Price, Anne Baxter, and Yvonne Craig all look like they had fun making this episode. It felt kind of odd having Batman and Robin being so superfluous to the story. Really, all they do this time is rescue Batgirl from drowning in caviar, otherwise this story belongs to Batgirl and not them.

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Batman 3.9 – How to Hatch a Dinosaur

When you’re a little kid, you shouldn’t see through Batman. Yet I distinctly remember watching this show at the tender age of six or so and feeling unbelievably cheated by the downright dumb double resolutions of this half-hour.

As an adult, there’s enough that will make any audience cringe, but Egghead’s plan – to bombard a 40 million year-old Neosaurus egg with radium, hatch it, and then rule Gotham City – is a whole new level of ridiculous. But that makes sense for kids, in much the same way that “the Penguin has a tank made from solid gold and nothing can stop it” does.

No, what let me down at the age of six was that when the egg hatches, this happens:

Even at six, I knew that this was a guy in a terrible, silly suit. The costume was refurbished from a couple of appearances on Lost in Space, and I bet that when this aired in November ’67, half the audience recognized it. (Kind of like when an old Sea Devil showed up in a Blake’s 7!) Still, you have to admire their moxie: recapping over tea in Barbara Gordon’s apartment, everybody even mentions the great big plot hole. How did Batman, inside the Neosaurus costume, get inside the egg without being noticed? Nobody knows for sure, and they just admire Batman’s awesomeness in pulling it off. You’d think that with a hole that big, they’d just quietly avoid the issue. I wanted to know that as a little kid myself!

But that was me at six. Daniel at four was behind the sofa. He didn’t like seeing Robin and Batgirl in trouble in the first place, of course, but that hatching egg had him really, really convinced. I’m glad that he’s not quite seeing through television yet.


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Batman 3.8 – The Ogg and I

Here’s a question for your bar’s trivia night. Who was the first actor to play two different Batvillains? It’s Anne Baxter, who had been Zelda the Great in season one, and now plays Olga, queen of the Bessarovian cossacks, in season three. Or is it? Milton Berle, star of the previous episode, might squeak in on a really obnoxious technicality. He played Louie the Lilac as well as a unbilled character called Laugh, in a cameo in season two’s Ma Parker story. Just because we never actually saw the story in which Batman and Robin sent Laugh to prison doesn’t mean he doesn’t count, you know. Pull that one on your trivia regulars when you’re mad at them.

Anyway, the only other things of note tonight are from a production standpoint. There is a three-part story coming up, but there are also some cases where we’ve got three episodes with the same villain broken into a two-parter and a one-off: these with Anne Baxter and Vincent Price, and some with Eartha Kitt. This whole thing feels very badly disjointed. I don’t remember what happens with Olga and Egghead in episode 15, but nothing that happens in episode 8 carries over into episode 9, does it? We’ll see what happens tomorrow night.

Oh, and Alan Hale Jr. plays a fellow named Gilligan who owns a diner. Hardy har. Otherwise, this whole episode is eggcrutiating, and I think it will just get worse.

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Batman 2.14 – The Yegg Foes in Gotham

So the story goes that for a few months and possibly longer, Burt Ward had shown some pretty diva-like behavior and made enemies of just about everybody on the Batman set. He still did his thankless job pretty well; in fact, he gets one of the best lines in the episode this time out. When Bruce Wayne explains, after setting off a radar-egg-bomb, that at the age of eleven he had been the junior marble champion of Gotham City, Dick simply replies “Even then.” Nobody ever said that Burt Ward had a tough job as Robin, but he did what he had to do pretty much perfectly.

That’s onscreen. Behind the scenes, he had allegedly become a holy terror. And Vincent Price, he was a professional, and didn’t like to see the crew mistreated. So when they came to film this fight, he didn’t appreciate Ward lobbing eggs at the cameramen. I’ve read that he did what he did on his own and I’ve read that one of the crew gently suggested that maybe Price could, instead of smacking Ward in the head with a single egg, maybe find a couple of handfuls.

Whichever, it’s absolutely beautiful. Watching these fights on DVD, you can always spot Ward’s stunt double, and occasionally the lead villain’s. That’s definitely the case here. It’s not like Vincent Price’s bald cap-and-dome is the best-looking work of makeup in the world anyway, but the poor fellow subbing for him in the long shots has an even worse fake head. So they filmed the fight with the doubles, and then brought the actors in for the closeups, and then Vincent Price takes an entire tray of eggs and smashes the living daylights out of Burt Ward.

To his considerable credit, Ward followed the instructions given by the director with the wonderfully-stylized name george waGGner, who told everybody that this was a one-take fight because of all the egg yolk on the studio floor. Plus, he probably had the sense to know that, for continuity, he was just going to have to play the rest of the scene with yellow all the heck over his costume and shells in his hair. He might have been a diva, but he knew to act like a professional when he needed to.

Daniel enjoyed this episode much more than the first part. He was much less hyper and wild today, which helped, but he paid attention and enjoyed things, egg-specially that final fight. He really liked this one and only got a little hyper in the wake of all the mayhem and egg-throwing.

One other note: I missed out on mentioning that Sammy Davis Jr. had a Batclimb cameo in the previous story. Bill Dana has one this time, in character as José Jiménez. Ben Alexander, who was Officer Smith in Dragnet, also gets a cameo in this story as a Gotham City detective, and gets to say “just the facts.”

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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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