Saturday, December 19, 2015
Finally got around to watching all of the immense second season of the vintage Batman TV show from 1966 and 1967. This is the core of the series, a full sprawling season in which the popularity of the rocket ship-like show ascended and began to descend.
The second season is one full of vivid satire as some pretty decent names agree to appear on the show as villains, not full-blown A-Listers but rock solid B-Listers of the time. Liberace as Chandell, Art Carney as The Archer, Van Johnson as The Minstrel, Maurice Evans as The Puzzler, Shelly Winters as Ma Parker, Walter Slezak as Clock King, and most memorably Vincent Price as Egghead. Lots of others, but the regular villains were not forgotten (save for Frank Gorshin's Riddler who was in conflict with the producers -- John Astin's turn in the part was not successful). We get a heady dose of Julie Newmar's Catwoman and Cesar Romero's Joker and quite a large helping of Burgess Meredith's Penguin.
It was the Penguin I most enjoyed in these episodes, not one of my previous faves. Meredith really seemed to love the part, frolicking relentlessly and waddling ferociously into and out of scene after scene. Cesar Romero's Joker too seemed to be honed to a fine edge as he showed up time and again, his best outing the lampoon of modern pop art. I did get a bit weary of Catwoman as while Newmar is lovely and funny the romance between her character and Batman was lame on TV, though spicy in the comics.
David Wayne's Mad Hatter is a lot of fun, though he chews scenes with gleeful vigor. I've never cottoned to Victor Buono's King Tut, though I appreciate what he's trying to do and he does it raucously, it all seemed a bit to complicated to me. Cliff Robertson's Shame is fun at first but the joke gets old too quickly. Where they dug up Talulah Bankhead to play the Black Widow I'll never know, but it was an atmospheric is weird outing. We even had two different Mr.Freezes, first Otto Preminger and later Eli Wallach - both had something though neither was a really creepy as had been the original George Sanders.
The highlight of the season was the crossover with Green Hornet (Van Williams) and his appearance along with Kato (Bruce Lee) was tons of fun. I want that series on DVD desperately. It's a real gap that it doesn't exist. Roger Carmel's Colonel Gumm was very rich.
We get some of the more famous wall-walking cameos in this season with lots of cross promotion for other ABC series, indicating the power of the Batman TV show and its rather unique position in terms of breaking the fourth wall of narrative. Most I knew (Howard Duff, Werner Klemperer, Art Linkletter) but several I had to look up like Cyril Lord.
This season also saw Alfred develop into a more interesting character, being called upon many times to dig their behinds out of trouble. He donned the costume more than once and even debuted his own "Alf-cycle".
All in all the second season is a whopper, and as I watched I realized that I'd probably not seen a few of these ever and none for many many years.
Now on to Season 3 and Batgirl!