On this week’s episode of “Bewitched”… wait, this is “Batman”?? What has become of our beloved played-serious-for-humor show? The tone now feels like a full-on sitcom, and the Dynamic Duo have been reduced to Penguin’s playthings, on the excuse that they have to “keep an eye on him” but can’t arrest him JUST YET… Oh, and by the way, there’s a hand puppet in this arc.
Still, there’s plenty of interest to talk about in the Penguin-Marsha three-parter: Its reflexivity in presenting the making of a film in a film; how the people on screen can’t see anything we can’t see, even that film crew that’s just ten feet away from them; the way this arc is simultaneously moving ever more aggressively away from the normal formula, and giving us things we haven’t seen since Hi Diddle Riddle!
We also get into the background of the Dance of Seven Veils and the “Scene 12” milk bath, and ask the question: if the show is becoming more like a sitcom, does that mean it's MORE or LESS campy?
Plus, another overflowing Bat-Mailbag, and the Sam Chalpin version of the Batman theme!
Shots of the film crews shown in this arc (click to enlarge)
Ever since the ’66 series was finally released on home video, the bat-gods have continued to favor us with cool new stuff featuring Adam West as Batman. Now here comes the big, colorful, and informative Batman: A Celebration of the Classic TV Series, by Bob Garcia and Joe Desris, filled not just with production stills and backstage shots, but a great writeup built on interviews with cast and crew - many of them done for Cinefantastique 25 years ago with folks who are no longer with us.
In this episode, Tim and Paul dig into this book, asking questions like, what does this book tell us about how the show was conceived and made? Does the writeup seem to spin a bit positive? Does all the backstage info augment our bat-dreams, or spoil them?
PLUS: Bat-mail on the nature of camp and on a certain cameo appearance in Batman '43, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra's version of the Batman theme!
Bob Kane, newsboy!
Lesley Gore assists Catwoman, and does a show-stopping performance — as in, bringing the story to a screeching halt — with her “California Nights.” She also administers “cataphrenic” to local-police-respecting Robin, making him into a cop-shoving, cliche-spouting hood!
We talk about how Julie Newmar's portrayal (and Stanley Ralph Ross's writing) of Catwoman has changed since her season one appearance, Burt Ward’s punishment for complaining about his workload, more Gotham City Police incompetence, the show’s mucking with the formula (this podcast’s name is never spoken in this arc!) and more.
PLUS: The Maxwell Davis version of the Batman theme, and a sampling of your voluminous bat-mail!
AND! Help us discuss this draft of The Purr-fect Crime in a future episode! Write up your comments (or record them as an MP3 file up to one minute long) and send them to us (batpoles at deconstructingcomics dot com) by March 15, 2017!
In 1943, Columbia released a 15-episode Batman serial to movie theaters. This was during a time when the government was asking Hollywood to tailor its movies to the message the government wanted to send to the public about the war effort, which often resulted in racist images of the Axis Powers, especially Japan. In this episode, Tim and Paul look at all aspects of the serials, and compare and contrast them with the 1966 series.
Watch starting at 18:30 for Marilyn Monroe impression
“The Zodiac Crimes” -- that three-parter with Joker AND Penguin! -- is a favorite arc from our childhood that seared itself into our memories — maybe more than we realized! In this episode we look at why this arc stuck with us, and whether it still stands up.
What we didn’t appreciate about Zodiac as kids was the campiness, from Penguin using “cologne” to Venus acting as a “sexually-available woman.” Why does Venus seem to contain several characters, and is that good or bad?
Also, Paul psychoanalyzes the giant clam, and we look at who and what is flaming in this episode — including, perhaps, Batman’s cape!
Plus, the Sensational Bat-Boys version of the Hefti theme, the first installment of “Bat-Research Lab” and your mail!
When Mad Hatter’s foppishness is now complete with lisp; when Batman is wearing a pink cowl; when Bruce and Dick are afraid Alfred is going to reveal their “secret” to Aunt Harriet, you know it’s the campiest Batman arc ever! Perhaps too campy; David Wayne’s portrayal of the Hatter is now so over-the-top, the character seems to be in on the joke. We ask: at this point, has Batman killed camp?
Other burning bat-questions: How much does plausibility matter in comedy? With this mid-season two arc pushing every possibly boundary, how far is too far? Are those bat-skeletons being signified by a marimba, or a xylophone? Why can’t Batman remove radioactive headwear even in the privacy of his own Batcave?
We also beg to differ with other commentators’ complaints about this arc, and find some surprising skeletons in the supporting cast’s closets!
This episode's theme:
The Jean Hale role that caught the Bat-producers' eyes!
We've reached our 50th episode, and reached the point the series was at exactly 50 years ago! So we take a pause this episode, first to discuss the series itself and how it's progressed (or deteriorated!) by this point.
Then, at last, we discuss that script we obtained several months ago: Hickery Dickery Doc, by Jay Thompson, extensively revised by Charles Hoffman to become the Impractical Joker arc. This script was written when only the pilot Riddler arc had been filmed; what does it tell us about the choices that were made in defining this version of Batman? Is it better or worse than what was filmed? Why was it severely revised, rather than discarded?
Plus, Kazombie's Wurlitzer 145B Band Organ version of Neal Hefti's Batman theme, and your mail!
The notorious European criminal Sandman is in town - and he’s teamed up with Catwoman! But that’s not how writer Ellis St. Joseph had envisioned this episode, which he based on the classic film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” He had written a Catwoman-free script, and Michael Rennie wasn’t in it, either! Tim and Paul are joined by cartoonist and podcaster Joe Dator to discuss the crumbling of St. Joseph’s vision; how Batman’s inability to envision switching costumes anywhere other than along the Batpoles creates logistical nightmares — and is also perfect for this iteration of the character; J. Pauline Spaghetti, Getty Images, and a certain Bat-related video in their library; and some Bat-gossip!
ALSO: The Kinks’ version of the Batman theme, and your mail!
Howie Horwitz in the final Batman episode
Howie Horwitz? You decide!
Carl Christie? You decide! (compare the noses!)
With Batman ’66’s most popular Special Guest Villain still holding out for more money as the show was cutting its budget, it was decided that Fred De Gorter’s Riddler script “A Penny for your Riddles” should be rewritten to instead feature a new villain: The Puzzler, played by occasional Shakespearean Maurice Evans. A kind listener sent us a PDF of the original Riddler script, so in this episode we take the opportunity to compare the Riddler version to the Puzzler arc that was broadcast, Santa and all, right before Christmas 1966. Besides the change in villains, the changes also show plenty of evidence of making the script cheaper to shoot!
This episode's featured take on Hefti's Batman theme:
What does a Lorenzo Semple Jr. Batman script look like? What does it tell us about the contributions he made to the series? His influences in setting the tone for the series? The things he tried to set up that didn’t make it to the screen? In this episode, The Batcave Podcast’s John S. Drew joins Tim and Paul to look over Semple’s Scripts for Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle and Fine Feathered Finks/The Penguin’s a Jinx and examine the evidence regarding Semple’s huge contributions to the series.
ALSO: The “Homemade” version of the Hefti “Batman” theme, and your mail!
Read the scripts at Knowitalljoe.com
Holy timeslip! West, Ward, and Newmar are back in their 1966 roles in Rick Morales’ Return of the Caped Crusaders! In this episode, we dig in (in other words, SPOILERS) on the new movie. Does Catwoman’s “batnip” really make Batman “evil”? Or change him in some other way? How did we process hearing the voices of the three surviving principles 50 years later? Did the animation style fit the feel of the film? Also, scenes that serve multiple purposes in Michael Jelenic and James Tucker’s well-written script, searching for “easter eggs”, and more.
PLUS: our greatest haul of Bat-mail yet, as you fill us in on "Red Ameche", why Catwoman was at Mr. Oceanbring's salon, clues to the location of Penguin's electrified pool, and more!
As Catwoman and Batman get in touch with their feelings over each other (and for some reason, Robin is a factor), our heroes’ Dynamic Duo-ness is challenged by out-of-towners Chad and Jeremy. And Stanley Ralph Ross turns in such a jokey script that the rhyming question must be asked: is this the arc that jumps the shark?
Then, our friend Wally Wingert is back! He voiced The Riddler in the new animated movie “The Return of the Caped Crusaders”, and he’s here to talk about it.
Finally, a bushel of Bat-mail, on the relationship between Shame and hot rods, Roy Gleason/Grimaldi Smith, alternative Marsha hypnosis methods, and Adam West’s veracity on the bats-in-the-cave story. ALSO: The Batman theme as performed by The Dynamic Batmen!
In December 1966, the “Penguin’s Nest” arc was finally broadcast. But it was the first season two arc to be shot; why the delay? We also discuss the 1946 comic book version of this story; Lorenzo Semple’s gift for making humor from situations, rather than the goofy jokes added by some other Bat-writers; the majesty of Burgess Meredith as the Penguin; and a swaggering Batman who gets taken down a peg. This arc marks the show’s being bestowed a high honor in sixties TV: The Vito Scotti seal of approval!
Also, the Who’s version of the Batman theme, and updates on our collection of Bat-theme covers and… hey, look, it’s Jay Thompson’s first-draft script that eventually became “The Impractical Joker”!
Batman faces a showdown when Shame arrives in Gotham City! This swaggering cowboy is after… hot rod parts? This somewhat odd arc by Stanley Ralph Ross is full of references to both the old west and drag racing; what’s going on here? Looking at Cliff Robertson’s first Batman appearance, we also touch on the mysterious Roy Gleason, several ways that times have changed since this one was shot, the problem of the cowboy being a bad guy, and THE one and only Little Old Lady from Pasedena!
Plus: a country-fried cover of the Batman theme, Batman/Room 222 links, and… is Batman “bigger than Jesus” now?
Various other Bat-commentaries paint this arc in drab tones. What Carolyn Jones (apparently replacing Zsa Zsa Gabor at something close to the last moment) brings to the role of Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, is basically Morticia Addams with a different look, says conventional wisdom. The arc is full of filler scenes that don’t advance the story, say commentators. In this episode of To the Batpoles, Paul presents a much different view of Marsha, which sees these “filler” scenes as absolutely necessary to the theme of this arc. And what is that theme? Listen to find out — and pack your Coleman stove, because there WILL be camping!
PLUS: The Jam’s version of the theme; an intertextual reference in Marsha that you might have missed; Tim investigates the “bat-cave scene” from spaghetti western The Relentless Four that Adam West described in Back to the Batcave, and works to track down the original Jay Thompson script that was rewritten into The Impractical Joker; and your mail!
“The Impractical Joker”/“The Joker’s Provokers” is Charles Hoffman’s rewrite of a draft by Jay Thompson, and it’s a bit of a kludgefest: interesting ideas are introduced and abandoned; Joker’s strategy and goals (related to keys — sometimes) are a muddled mess; they even botch a chemistry reference. But, as always, there ARE enjoyable nuggets to be found, and Tim and Paul list some of them. Also, admiring a Robin dummy, the problem with a gasoline-sharing Dynamic Duo, and the luscious, distracting Kathy Kersh.
PLUS: David McCallum’s version of the Batman theme, another Adam West memoir assertion disproved, and your mail about the Otto Preminger Mr. Freeze!
In his 1994 book Back to the Batcave, Adam West tells… some. Yes, there are recollections of funny things that happened on the set of Batman, a discussion of the development of how the character Batman would be played on the ’66 show, and answers to some lingering questions that have come up on this podcast. On the other hand, his love life recollections tend to be shrouded in anonymity, and mentions of Burt Ward are surprisingly few and neutral. Also, a disturbing number of his assertions are provably false!
Having read Batcave, Tim and Paul try to clean up the record, parse West's negative reaction to Batman being referred to as “camp”, and consider the question: What if Batman had used a laugh track?
PLUS: The Ventures' version of the Batman theme!
It's Otto Preminger's turn to be Mr. Freeze! Why does his version keep saying "wild"? What aspects of this version are better than the George Sanders version, and which are worse (aside from his demeanor on the set)? The script itself has more than its share of head-scratchers, as well as some bits of comedy (and camp) gold. And, wait... are there references in this arc to the 1940 film His Girl Friday? This episode, we go up against an in-office blizzard, an arm-injuring explosion, and worst of all... a little boy's "boo".
PLUS: the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra's version of the theme, and a new iTunes review (have you written yours yet?)!
Batman battles it out with the Penguin — at the polls! Who will be voted mayor of Gotham City? In Hizzoner the Penguin and Dizzoner the Penguin, writer Stanford Sherman and director Oscar Rudolph deliver biting political satire (complete with Barry Goldwater references!) — but does the arc’s ending invalidate some of their points? Were Paul Revere and the Raiders, with their appearance here, really the first rock band on a sitcom? Is it a coincidence that so many game show hosts make cameos in this arc? (We think not!)
PLUS: Sun Ra’s version of the Batman theme, the series’ ratings trajectory, and revisiting some Batman soundtrack questions.
As we continue through the series, we notice more and more awesomeness in the Nelson Riddle incidental music- and we also have some questions about it. Pat Evans is working on getting answers to those questions as he does a series of interviews for his documentary film “The Beat of the Bat”! We discuss how Riddle’s scoring for the show is more like that of a Warner Brothers cartoon than most live-action shows; how Riddle and Neal Hefti both recycled bits of past music into “new” music that’s more familiar to us; Billy May’s cringey lyrics to the Batgirl theme; and the burning question: should Hefti’s iconic Batman theme be sung as “Nana nana” or “Dada dada”?
And in the Bat Mailbag, a collage of ‘60s Sears-catalog Bat-crap! (Click image to zoom in) (Collages by Aaron Lange)
It may be tough to appreciate for us 50 years later, but having Liberace on your show was a big deal in 1966. When he appeared on Batman, it reportedly led to the show’s best ratings ever. Of interest to Tim and Paul is how the show dealt with his alleged homosexuality, writer Lorenzo Semple Jr’s references to Liberace’s real-life backstory, and what his attempts at acting remind us of.
His Bat-appearance was such a big deal that the Dynamic Duo themselves were shoved aside for the first 15 minutes, leading to the funniest Gotham City Police joke ever. Also in this arc: another reference to James Cagney’s The Public Enemy, weaponized music, a current events reference, Madge Blake’s moment of badass glory, and a trifecta of SCTV references!
PLUS: We pay a visit to The Marketts, look into director Larry Peerce’s back catalog, and get some Bat-mail that clears up questions about where the show got the ideas for batpoles and Cat-Bat attraction!
Vincent Price makes his Bat-debut as Egghead! Price is generally associated with the horror genre, although he could also be considered a camp icon. And so could someone else in this arc! Is the character of Chief Screaming Chicken satire or racism? Well… yes. Also, a window cameo by Jose Jimenez. Who? We explore this and several other cameos and familiar faces (or voices) in this arc, with detours through Get Smart, The Brady Bunch, F Troop and more! Holy intertextuality!
ZAP! POW! The Batman TV show became famous for its “comic book” fight sound effects. Odd, though… before the show began, punches in Batman comics were silent! So where’d the show get the idea for noisy punches? We ponder this question after reading many ‘60s Batman comics, and also explore the changes of “New Look Batman” in 1964; determine what the show borrowed from the comics —and what the comics borrowed from the show; discuss whether the TV show is what saved the character (our verdict: nope!); and more.
Our expounding on the coolness of the Clock King arc concludes with a look at “The Clock King Gets Crowned”! Did Madge Blake need help with her lines from the film editors? Is Millie Clock King’s “beard”? Might the first draft of this episode have called for a climactic fight at Wayne Manor? (And, if so, why was it scrapped?) Plus, this episode’s cluster of “meanwhile” cross-cuts and its operatic fight music, and a couple of international Bat-records!
Where some see a disappointing script from Bill Finger, we see a camp masterpiece! We're talking about The Clock King's Crazy Crimes, which features an amazing riff on pop art (well, and quite a bit of art that isn't actually of the "pop" variety); a Daliesque painting of the Dynamic Duo (who painted it?); another great (but rather subtle) villain theme from Nelson Riddle;Batman and Robin doing some actual detective work;scenes that happen simultaneously and then intersect; and the campiest, flashiest hourglass you ever saw!
All this fun also occasions a dig into how comics and the pop art movement fed off each other in the '60s, a Camping Trip into old Hollywood codes for homosexuality (back when you couldn't just admit it!), and much more. Dress up like an "Artist" and join us!