Episode Title: Louie the Lilac
Original Airdate: October 26, 1967
If you were to ask a comic book fan which Batman villain launches schemes involving flowers and plants the answer would probably be pretty obvious…Poison Ivy. That character first appeared in the comics in 1966, right at the time that the Batman television series was originally on the air. But in 67, when it came time for a story involving botany, the producers of the show did not turn to the lovely new villainess. Instead, they created a new character to be embodied by classic comedian Milton Berle. Here comes Louie the Lilac.
This time the flower children of Gotham are planning a “Flower In.” There’s one problem, though, the city’s flower supply has run dry. It seems that the crafty Louie the Lilac has gotten his hands on all of the city’s flowers so he can then save the day and get the flower children to become his biggest fans. It doesn’t hurt, either, that he has a hypnotic flower that will make them do his bidding. He figures these are the future world leaders so now is the time to put them under his control. He starts with the leader of the flower children, Princess Primrose…an old college friend of Barbara Gordon’s. In fact, it’s Barbara who takes it upon herself to use the Batphone and call the Caped Crusaders into action.
After meeting with Commissioner Gordon, our heroes return to the Batmobile to find a card on the steering wheel from Lila’s Lilac Shop (at 11 Lavender Lane). They decide to investigate. Of course, it was put there by Louie to lure them to his hideout. While there, Lila uses some poisonous Alba Bulgaria to knock out the Dynamic Duo. Next thing we know they are tangled up in some man-eating vines in Louie’s Hot Room. Meanwhile, Barbara is at her apartment dealing with one of Louie’s men who followed her home from the library. Louie put him on her tail because of her presence at the Flower In earlier.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for Barbara to be able to slip away and remerge as Batgirl. Once free of Louie’s goon, she races off to the Lilac Shop. Meanwhile, Batman manages to get one legs free so he can kick a flower pot through the window. The cool air rushes in and kills the vicious plants. Then the obligatory fight breaks out, which Batgirl shows up for midway through. She even manages to spray Louie with some powdering mildew to finish the battle.
This is a very strange episode to take in today given all we know about Batman’s rogues gallery. Of course, the character of Poison Ivy was brand new in the comics, but you can’t help but wonder why they didn’t use here here. The story seems perfect for her. Plus, one thing this season of the show has been lacking in so far is some sexual tension. We have yet to see a character like Catwoman or Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, and Joan Collins’ Siren didn’t really turn up the steam with Batman all that much. Here we have an opportunity for Poison Ivy to slink around with our heroes, but instead we get Milton Berle.
Speaking of Uncle Miltie, his performance as Louie the Lilac is perhaps one of the most surprising we’ve seen on the series so far. Berle was a huge comedy star, a former vaudevillian, and yet he is one of the few villains we’ve seen on the show who doesn’t seem to realize that he’s in a comedy. Berle plays the role straight and because of that his performance quickly wilts on the vine.
One thing that was fun about this episode was seeing the series trying to satirize the whole flower child trend that was going on at this time. There’s one hippie character in particular who looks a bit like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo mixed with Franco Nero’s space Jesus character from the movie The Visitor. An obscure reference, I know, but it’s the best I could do. We even get Robin attempting to use some of the hippie lingo in one scene. “The flower children think we’re cool man, like we turn them on, you know.”
As for next week’s villain, as Batman and Robin are getting ready to haul Louie off to prison the catch sight of a woman on a horse and a familiar bald figure riding a donkey. Yep, Vincent Price returns as Egghead along with Anne Baxter as Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. See them next time in The Ogg and I. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Holy Purple Cannibals
Holy Luther Burbank