Despite memorable appearance from the Joker (Caesar Romero) The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and three Catwomen (Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether, and Julie Newmar), the 1960’s Batman TV series featured a bevy of bizarre baddies you might not remember. If you blinked, you might have missed scores of seldom-seen salacious schemers! Readers beware: below is not for the faint of heart, for after the jump, the ten most audacious and absurd antagonists are yet to come!
10. Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (Carolyn Jones)
Though called the Queen of Diamonds; Marsha was really more like an urban witch with the ability to put people under spells using potions and special darts. In her debut appearance she uses one of her mind-altering concoctions on Batman and nearly succeeds at becoming his wife! Of all the cliff-hangers in the TV show, this is the only instance where a member of the dynamic duo is not facing a life-threatening dilemma. Instead, the notion of marriage serves as the “exciting” quandary. Apparently if The Queen of Diamonds marries Batman, it will give her complete and legal access to the Batcave. Holy matrimony! Why didn’t the Penguin ever think of that?
9. The Clock King (Walter Slezak)
One of my favorite things about the 60s Batman show was the ability to watch most episodes in any order. This narrative trick was made possible when Commissioner Gordon got on that red phone and told Batman that some bad guy was “back” or “up to their old tricks.” But this statement was particularly strange when said villain was only featured in one story! At the beginning of The Clock King’s only appearance on the show, he is so totally “back.” As children, this disappointed my sister and I. Despite watching what we thought were ALL the episodes of the show, we never saw the “first” episode with the Clock King. I suppose it’s appropriate that a villain interested in time itself wouldn’t have any true linear origin. So, what were the Clock-King’s special crime-making techniques you ask? Time-bombs. Duh.
8. Ma Parker and the Parker Gang (Shelley Winters)
Having the notoriety of possessing the most ammunition of 60’s Gotham City criminals, Ma Parker was an obvious homage to the real-life mobster Kate “Ma” Barker. And just like her real-world counterpart, Ma Parker was surrounded by a whole family of gangsters. With names like Pretty Boy Parker, Mad Dog Parker, Machine Gun Parker, and of course her daughter, Legs Parker, Ma and her brood were more ridiculous than they were formidable. Still, you have to respect a gangster lady with exploding hairpins.
7. Shame (Cliff Robertson)
Shame is a bad cowboy. He robs trains. He talks like a cowboy. He employs henchpersons with names like Calamity Jan, and Chief Standing Pat. Of all the terrible ethnic stereotypes in 60’s television, Shame might be the most subversive, as he officially made being a slow-talking, western white guy totally uncool and outdated. I mean who needs six-shooters when you’ve got the bat-laser? I know for a fact that this yahoo put my sister off westerns for years until Back to The Future III came out.
6. False Face (????WHO KNOWS???)
Actually he was played by a guy named Malachi Thorne, but in the opening credits False Face was always being played by “?”. As a child, I believed whole-heartedly that the people filming the show genuinely didn’t know who this guy was. The other great thing I remember about False Face from my childhood was that I found him particularly terrifying. It’s almost like David Lynch was taking note when this guy showed up. In any case, when a master of disguise is un-masked, only to reveal another mask, cheesy brilliance ensues.
5. Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle)
There’s really nothing I love more than over-the-top 1920’s mobster-speak. Usually life is even better when said mobster-speak occurs on a show which doesn’t normally feature mobsters. The only competition Louie the Lilac has in this particular department might be all the mobsters from 60’s Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action.” But Louie is right up there. Not to mention, if someone is going to have a trick lapel, it should be a guy named “The Lilac” and not The Joker. Louie’s appearances on the show were limited, but there is a particularly memorable scene in one of his exploits in which he tries to feed Batgirl to a man-eating plant. Sorry. I meant to say he feeds her to a Batgirl-eating plant.
4. Egghead (Vincent Price)
Okay, forget his egg-cellent voice over at the end of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Vincent Price should truly be remembered for his role as the villainous Egghead. Why was he called Egghead? Because he was bald, I think. Why did he say things like “egg-citing” and “egg-static”? Because his name was Egghead. This was basically the entire character. I can just imagine the writer’s room on the 60’s Batman when they came up with this one. “So he’ll be bald and make a bunch of egg-puns.” And if that wasn’t enough, one of his episodes featured a golden egg. It’s hard to believe as I write this that I’m not making this stuff up.
3. Lord Ffogg & Lady Peasoup (Rudy Vallee & Glynis Johns)
As a child the three-part episode featuring Lord Ffogg & Lady Peasoup was hands-down my favorite. There was something epic about this particular story. If you’re not sure Lord Ffogg and Lady Peasoup weren’t hardcore, consider this: Batman and Robin relocated all the way to Londinium to stop them! What did Lord Ffogg really do? Well he harrumphed a bit and had a pretty sweet pipe which emitted the trade mark green-Batman gas. His sister, Lady Peasoup, appeared to be nice to everyone, but actually wasn’t nice at all. Now, no other villains were granted a three-part episode, much less one that also featured Batgirl, so I guess we’ve just go to assume there’s something really scary and badass about Ffogg’s velvet nightgown, and even scarier about his sister’s accent.
2. King Tut (Victor Buono)
Now I am in no way in favor of the death penalty, but if there’s one place that might want to consider offing a few felons, it’s Gotham City. Most of these guys end up getting let out of prison on good behavior, only to get picked up by Catwoman and immediately start wreaking havoc. With King Tut, the writers took this conceit one absurd step further. King Tut is actually a nice guy named William Omaha Mackelroy who teaches Egyptology at Yale University. (Yep, that’s right. They can use the name of a real university, but when they went to England it was the antiquated term “Londinium.”) Anyway, when the Professor gets hit on the head with a book or a misplaced vase, he turns into the evil and criminal-minded King Tut. Invariably, at the end of every King Tut story, when he transform back into the Professor, those geniuses with the Gotham police department allow him go back to teaching. Okay, fair enough, but maybe it might be a good idea to force him to wear a helmet all the time now.
1. Chandell/ Harry (Liberace)
So, just in case there weren’t enough plots in the 1960’s Batman involving false marriages, famous guest-star Liberace serves up a doozie. It seems famed musician Chandell had turned to a life of crime after being blackmailed by his twin brother Harry. His plot involves killing both Bruce and Dick, marrying Aunt Harriet, and using the money to pay off his criminal debts. He also sings. Purportedly, Liberace supplied his own pianos and gaudy outfits for this episode. Also, Liberace’s portrayal of both these baddies earns him the number one spot for another legendary reason. This episode was the highest rated episode of the 1960’s Batman during its entire run. Let’s be serious, the only other person who could pull that off would be a time-traveling Lady Gaga guest starring as herself.
Now don’t think I forgot about the Minstrel, The Mad-Hatter, Zelda the Great, Colonel Gumm, and the rest of them. But holy blog lists, readers! I only had ten!
Ryan Britt’s writing has been published with Clarkesworld Magazine, Opium Magazine, Nerve.com and elsewhere. He is keenly aware of how many Batman actors later showed up on Buck Rogers.