As much as I enjoy classic TV shows like Batman, I love classic movies more. I’ve always been especially intrigued by the silent comedians from the early days of cinema. Well, today’s episode of Batman shows us that one of Gotham’s ultimate criminals also has an interest in silent movies. The Riddler, played by Frank Gorshin, makes his fourth and final appearance of season one in today’s episode, Death in Slow Motion.
We begin at a silent film festival where the films collected by the wealthy Van Jones are being exhibited. As the audience files out into the lobby, they are surprised by a man dressed as Charlie Chaplin. He flirts a bit with a lovely woman and then is chased by a band of Keystone Kops. While the audience is distracted, the Little Tramp sneaks into the ticket office and makes off with the dough. The Chaplin impersonator is, of course, the Riddler. But why would he go for such a small score? A mere $200 was stolen. Of course, a riddle is found on the scene which leads Batman and Robin to deduce that Riddler will next strike and Mother Gotham’s Bakery to attempt to steal the payroll.
Sure enough, Riddler and his gang, including the lovely Pauline (Sherry Jackson) are at the bakery. Pauline pretends to be a poverty stricken maiden looking for scraps of bread for her starving mother to gain entrance. Riddler then uses pies made with sleeping cream to knock out the employees with a pie to the face. All the while, Riddler’s men are filming the caper. When the Caped Crusades show up, the crooks are hiding in their truck…but they still film the heroes. Why is Riddler doing this? Well it seems that Van Jones has commissioned him to make the ultimate silent film. It goes without saying that another riddle is left behind… “Batman! As one baker to another – How do you make a dishonest shortcake?” Robin figures out the answer – a Lie-Berry…as in Library. And there just happens to be a branch on Baker Street.
The heroes head to the library and use the Bat Key to enter. As they walk in they are clunked on the head with a giant book. This is the second episode in a row to feature a giant book! This one is called “A Pictorial History of Silent Films.” Inside, there are more riddles, so they take the book back to the Batcave to research. Of course, the Riddler is filming all of this.
Back at the Batcave our heroes examine the riddles. One reads, “When is a new car considered to be seedy?” Robin gets the answer quickly – when it’s a lemon. It’s almost too obvious. Mr. Van Jones is hosting a party where only lemonade will be served. So, the heroes head for the party. Little do they know that Riddler has spiked the lemonade with a concoction that causes all the guests to fight with each other. Of course, Riddler films the mayhem. While Batman tries to break things up, Robin waits in the Batmobile. The Boy Wonder then encounters Pauline dressed as Little Bo Beep (!?!?!)…but the sweet innocent thing uses knockout gas on him. The next thing we know, Riddler has Robin unconscious on a conveyor belt headed towards a whirring saw blade. Cue the cliffhanger narration…
After many gassers…
Here’s a real buzzer!!
Is Robin going to wind up as his own double??
Incredible but true…Batman will not arrive in time!
Will we see the Boy Wonder sawed in two?
Tune in tomorrow!
Frank Gorshin’s Riddler was the first villain featured on the show, way back 30 episodes ago, and he also had the most appearances in season one with four stories (8 episodes). This episode gives little doubt as to why as Gorshin is once again at his lunatic best. It’s fun to see him start the episode doing a Charlie Chaplin routine. Gorshin made a name for himself as an impressionist and was quite popular in Las Vegas. He was known for his take on stars like Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, but he shows off his skills in a different way here – impersonating Chaplin’s style of movement. He’s quite good at playing the Little Tramp.
The whole silent film theme to this story is a real treat, especially if you’re a film fan like me. There are numerous nods to the sort of gags that were common in classic comedy shorts. As soon as the action started to head toward the setting of a bakery, I knew someone was going to get hit in the face with a pie. In old comedy shorts pies aren’t for eating, after all, they’re for throwing at people. One thing I never saw in those old comedy films, though, was an explosive device baked into an eclaire. That’s what Riddler uses to blow the vault at the Bakery.
If you’ve been following our episode by episode look at the this series then you know by now that the villains often have a lovely lady among their gang. This episode gives us one of the loveliest and most interesting in the form of Sherry Jackson as Pauline. In 1966, audiences would’ve been very familiar with Jackson. Beginning in 1953, when she was 11 years old, she appeared as Terry on The Danny Thomas Show (aka Make Room for Daddy). After that she made guest appearances on almost every major 60’s TV series. You name it – The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Lost in Space…she was on them all. She even appeared on a famous episode of Star Trek just a few months after appearing on Batman. She makes quite an impression in this episode. I don’t know that the makers of Batman played off the sexuality of any of the other bad guys’ girls as much as they do here with Jackson. In the bakery sequence she’s dressed in a raggedy short skirted outfit, a la Daisy Mae from the Li’l Abner comic strips. One shot of her sitting in the Riddler’s truck has her prominently showing off her legs. Later she acts strangely suggestive toward the oblivious Robin while dressed as Little Bo Beep. Considering that she was a former child star, it’s interesting that the producers chose to make her character one of the sexiest of the show’s first season. Can’t really blame them, though – Jackson is very attractive.
But not only was she attractive, she was also deadly. We mustn’t forget that because she gassed Robin, the Boy Wonder is now doomed to be sliced in half Snidely Whiplash style. How on earth will Batman save him? You’ll have to wait until next time to find out in Batman Makes the Scenes. Next week…same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Holy Triple Feature