It’s time once again to settle in with some Batman ’66. This time, we’ve got, sigh, another villain created for the show. We’re getting a lot of those this season. It’s getting a little ridiculous. They cut Frank Gorshin so we could see Art Carney mope through a couple of episodes or Van Johnson lose interest midway through shooting.
It’s weird because I really enjoyed Season One new creations King Tut, Bookworm, and Falseface. But those guys feel like Batman villains. There’s a little something to them. Right now, my working theory is that you know a new villain is bad if their name is a literal description of their gimmick (Archer, Minstrel) or if their name is one letter off from a reference (Ma Parker, and I assume Shame when we get to him). So yeah, we’re kicking things off with Ma Parker. And once again, not even trying to rhyme the titles anymore.
“The Greatest Mother of Them All” / “Ma Parker”
Yes, Shelley Winters plays Ma Parker and unlike Art Carney, she puts a lot of work into it. It’s still not great. She’s basically the mother of a hillbilly crime family and the gag is that they’re all terrible shots. There is no payoff to this joke, they just mention it occasionally. The first part opens with a minor crime and Batman and Robin having way too much trouble arresting them. Oh, it’s sort of funny that Ma only likes her “sons” (who don’t seem to be related) and is super dismissive of Legs, her “daughter”.
So two-thirds of the way through the episode, the gang’s in jail. But then it turns out that Ma has been replacing the guards and trustees with members of her gang and now she runs the prison. Which is a good idea that they fail to develop. One of her guys buts a bomb in the Batmobile that will explode once it hits 60 MPH. Also maybe it’s a timer. It seems to be both. And also it’s just a stick of dynamite that the dude dropped in. He didn’t wire it to anything.
Now, they don’t hit 60 because Batman doesn’t speed and then he decides that trustee was acting weird so he checks the engine and tosses the dynamite before it explodes. (See what I mean?) There’s a scene where Ma tell the prison that she’s in charge, and Catwoman shows up for this. Ma says Joker and Penguin are still in solitary, which is weird because they’re not more dangerous than anybody else on this show. Also, way to erase the Riddler completely.
They do one scene of the gang committing a crime and then hiding out back in jail. Batman almost catches them and realizes they’re wearing prison uniforms, so that’s solved. Ma somehow gets the drop on Batman and Robin and puts them in electric chairs, but they manage to get a message to Alfred to shut down the power to the prison. Probably should have reached out to Gordon, but there you go.
This is another fun idea that’s just kind of let down by bad execution. I feel like if the initial capture hadn’t gone on forever, there would have been more room to play. I don’t know why they frontloaded the season with original villains, but it was not a smart move. We also get Gordon berating O’Hara again, so it’s everything I don’t really like about Season Two.
Also, when they’re in jail, Legs’ prisoner number is “35-22-34” which are presumably her measurements. Cut it out, show.
But it gets better!
“The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes” / “The Clock King Gets Crowned”
The Clock King is an existing villain, but there are so many incarnations of him and none of them quite match the show. Still, a familiar name makes me happy. Also, these episodes were co-written by Bill Finger, who co-created Batman although he was only officially acknowledged for it in the last couple of years. (Bob Kane had very good lawyers.) Anyway, Clock King is played by Austrian character actor Walter Slezak and he seems to be having some real fun.
He uses a trick clock to put everybody to sleep in a fancy jewelry shop and rob the place. Batman and Robin track down the place that made the clock and then reach out to one of Clock King’s former henchwomen, and I really like seeing them do some legwork. Meanwhile, Clock King puts on a disguise to display his sculpture in a museum. It looks sort of likes the inside of a clock and makes so much noise that it disguises the sound of the saw cutting into the next room to steal a valuable painting. (Which is implied to be Salvador Dali’s work but they don’t say it or ever show it very clearly. But, you know, melting clocks.) Batman and Robin, after they stop for Batburgers, show up to stop him. But then he fakes a wrist injury and shoots springs at them.
Clock King drops a watch at the scene, which Batman uses to track him. And because these guys are always falling for traps, they end up trapped in a giant hourglass for the ciffhanger. In a nice change of pace from never-before-seen gadgets, they knock it over and then run to move it like a hamster ball. They run this thing straight out into traffic and it’s not clear if they get hit by a truck or if a friendly motorist opens it from the outside.
Meanwhile, Clock King learns that one of his henchmen mistakenly planted a device he needed for his bomb in a regular clock that Aunt Harriet bought. They break into Wayne Manor to steal the clock back, plus all of Bruce Wayne’s watchers. It’s one of the few times we see Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson confront the villains. It all ends with a big fight at a surprisingly well-designed clock tower and once it’s over, Bruce Wayne gets to celebrate his birthday.
I really liked these – the villain had a consistent and internally logical gimmick, Batman and Robin used actual problem solving, the plan was clever. The silly stuff isn’t insultingly so. This made me feel like they’re finally getting back on track for this season, because these episodes were a hoot. Good job, Bill Finger! I think this might be the first time he actually got to have his name on a Batman story, which is very sad.
Some neat things – early in Part One, Adam West makes a series of bizarre acting choices, including a moment where it seems like Bruce is considering striking Aunt Harriet. It’s very weird but it seems like West was still having a lot of fun by this point.
The Clock King’s sculpture is called “Time Out of Joint”, which is the title of the episode where he makes his return appearance in Batman: The Animated Series. That never made sense to me because it’s not an expression that I’ve heard before and it didn’t seem to be a play on anything. Here’s where it comes from!
Sammy Davis Jr. pops out of a window as they’re climbing a building, and it’s the first one of these that hasn’t been painful to watch. Sammy knows who they are, he’s happy to see them, and he wants to hang out. For the most part, the guests do not commit to the idea that they’re supposed to be leaning out a window, by the way. Obviously they’re standing on the floor and the camera is flipped, and so far everybody has looked like they’re doing exactly that. They’re all just sticking out of the window, halfway up. I’m waiting to see if anybody contorts to try and sell the physicality of it.
So much like the last two weeks it’s been an underwhelming two-parter and a good one. Next time we’ve got two original creations. I’m looking forward to seeing Vincent Price’s Egghead because I remember liking him. I’m looking forward to seeing Liberace’s Chandell, because that’s got to be a glorious disaster.
We’ll see you next week! Same Bat-website, Similar Bat-time!