Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “True or False Face” / “Holy Rat Race”

“True or False Face” / “Holy Rat Race”
Written by Stephen Kandel
Directed by William A. Graham
Season 1, Episodes 17 & 18
Production code 8713
Original air dates: March 9 & 10, 1966

The Bat-signal: The Gotham City Exhibit Hall received a note from False Face, the master of trickery and disguise, according to O’Hara, saying he’d be robbing a crown belonging to a princess. The princess herself arrives, expressing concern over her crown being stolen, as she got a note as well: “All that glitters is gone,” which is signed “F.F.” The museum manager says it should be “all that glitters is gold,” and O’Hara points out that False Face’s trademark is false quotes. (In fact, the quote from The Merchant of Venice is “all that glisters is not gold,” but whatever.)

The princess’s aide reveals himself to be False Face, and he lights his fake beard on fire, which then explodes. False Face runs away, and the princess goes after him, dropping her cloak—which then inflates to a giant pillow that blocks the doorway, delaying O’Hara and another cop long enough for False Face and the fake princess—really his assistant Blaze—to steal what looks like a police car, but turns out to be a gimmick car of his that he changes into an ice cream truck, enabling him to lose the cops.

The museum manager takes the crown back to police HQ, only to discover that the crown itself is a fake!

Stymied, Gordon calls Batman, interrupting Dick’s botany homework, to the boy’s relief. They arrive at GCPD HQ, where Batman warns that this crown is the tip of the criminal iceberg.

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A messenger arrives with a note for Batman from False Face: “I intend to give money to a defenseless little girl.” Since False Face always tells the opposite of what he means, they deduce that he will take money from a well defended boy—which leads them to the Ladd Armored Car Company. Batman also sees through the messenger’s disguise: it’s Blaze. She challenges Batman to prove she’s committed a crime. Then she jumps out a window, where a giant pillow is waiting to break her fall, and she and False Face drive off.

False Face—now wearing a big red wig for no compellingly good reason—has gathered his counterfeit crew along with Blaze, where he plans to stop Batman and Robin once and for all, clearing his path to rule Gotham City and then the world. The counterfeit crew give False Face three cheers and False Face thanks them, saying he knows they didn’t mean it.

Batman and Robin discover that one of the Ladd Armored Car Company’s trucks is late, and it’s due to pick up a shipment of money from the Gotham City National Bank. The Dynamic Duo head there, and see the truck taking the money from the bank—but they recognize that it’s False Face because only a criminal would callously park in front of a fire hydrant. (I shudder to think how Batman would respond to armored car drivers in New York City. Just sayin’…) False Face is done in by Batman’s “cleverness,” and then hits them with a smoke bomb. He and Blaze—who was disguised as the other driver—head off. Our heroes give chase in the Batmobile.

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They lure the Batmobile into an alley where they stop to let a boy scout help a little old lady across the street—but the old lady is False Face, and the boy scout one of the counterfeit crew. Fisticuffs ensue, but then False Face and Blaze pull a disappearing act just as the cops show up. The counterfeit crew are taken in by the police—but O’Hara is also kidnapped by Blaze, leaving False Face behind disguised as the chief.

Back in the Batcave, the Dynamic Duo examine the note Blaze brought for Batman at police HQ and discover it’s the same stuff they print money on. They head to the Official Bank Note Printing Company, the top-secret place where the paper is created—we know it’s top secret because there’s a big sign on the fence that says “TOP SECRET!” (with an exclamation point!) and to make the point further, there are signs that read, “DANGER, MINES!” “GUARDED!” “MONEY PAPER STOREHOUSE, KEEP OUT!” and “WIRED!”

The Dynamic Duo find a place to hide, awaiting False Face striking again. Sure enough, Blaze shows up, gassing an employee and trying to steal more paper with the help of two of the counterfeit crew (no doubt freed by the fake O’Hara). They leave those two for the guards, taking Blaze to be interrogated at police HQ by Batman, Robin, Gordon, and “O’Hara” (who says he has a toothache, and so can’t talk much).

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Blaze insists she doesn’t know what False Face’s greater plan is—he trusts no one and refuses to divulge everything, not even to his primary assistant. She does reveal that False Face has one fear: Batman and Robin. Blaze promises to help them find False Face, and “O’Hara” offers to follow along with some hand-picked cops. Gordon praises his smart policework (which should’ve been his first clue that this is a fake O’Hara), while Blaze leads our heroes to a closed subway station, which Blaze says is False Face’s HQ. She then gasses Robin while a candy machine gasses Batman. False Face secures them to the train tracks with what he says is quick-setting plastic cement but which sure looks like saran wrap. Blaze thinks murder is going too far, but False Face insists. Blaze begs Batman’s forgiveness, which of course he grants ’cause he’s a sap.

In the Batcave, Alfred is dusting the Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City where he hears a radio message addressed to the friends of Batman: “Many are called but two are chosen—be receptive.” After hearing this, Alfred tries contacting Batman over the Bat-radio, and Batman asks him to short circuit the transmitter, which sends a surge through the cement holding Batman’s wrists. He frees his feet and then Robin just in the nick of time.

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False Face accuses Blaze of helping the Dynamic Duo escape. She insists that she’s innocent, though she was the one who planted that radio message. Batman and Robin head back to the Batcave, where Alfred sews Batman’s glove up while Batman is still wearing it. (I’m still trying to figure out if that’s manly and tough or just overwhelmingly stupid.) They head to the radio station to see who sent the message, but the station manager says it was anonymous—but the woman who paid for it had green hair. That indicates Blaze—who has already worn half a dozen different colored wigs throughout this storyline.

O’Hara stumbles back to police HQ, having been rescued from a garbage scow. Impossible to say if that was expediency on Blaze’s part, or an editorial comment on his policework.

Blaze left another clue with the station manager: when she gave over the check, she said you could bank on it being false. The check was drawn on Gotham National Bank, and Batman deduces that False Face plans to plant his counterfeit money in that bank.

False Face has disguised himself as a night guard at the bank, and he managed to sneak his counterfeit gang in. (No clue as to how they got out of custody this time…) But before he can open the vault, Batman and Robin open it from the inside (????) and burst out. Fisticuffs ensue, with the midget member of False Face’s gang getting into it with O’Hara, but the bad guys escape.

The Batmobile gives chase to Bioscope Studios, an abandoned movie studio. They’re stopped by a net that falls in front of the Batmobile but Batman takes care of that with a Bat-laser which he uses to trap the counterfeit crew in the same net.

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Then they use an inflated Batmobile as a decoy, which False Face blows up, but then they capture him—or so they think. He manages to escape on a motorcycle. They free Blaze—whom he had handcuffed in the truck—and the trio give chase through the old movie sets, soon joined by Gordon and O’Hara. False Face tries to escape by disguising himself as Gordon, but Batman sees through it, as Gordon is right-handed and False Face is holding his handkerchief with his left hand. False Face is arrested, to Blaze’s glee.

Later, Blaze comes to Wayne Manor, having been completely reformed thanks to the Wayne Foundation Rehabilitation Fund. She plans to live with her brother, a simple sheep farmer in New Zealand.

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! They use the Batanalyst to determine that False Face is using the same paper they print money on. Later Batman uses a Bat-laser to burn through the net at the studio. Amusingly, the television is the Batcave is just labelled “TELEVISION” without a Bat-prefix. Plus, we see Alfred dusting the Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City! Hooray!

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Holy #@!%$, Batman! When they determine that False Face’s target is the Ladd Armored Car Company, Robin cries out “Holy bouncing boilerplate!” Yes, really. He utters, “Holy Houdini” when False Face escapes from the fistfight in the alley. Upon realizing False Face uses incredibly strong paper, he mutters, “Holy armor plate!” When they decide to check out the radio station, Robin says, “Holy transistors!” and when the station manager says the woman had green hair, he says, “Holy wigs!” “Holy rats in a trap!” is what he cries when the net falls in front of the Batmobile, cutting off their chase of False Face through the old studio.

The Part 2 voiceover summing up Part 1 includes “Holy entanglement!” when Blaze gasses Robin.

Plus, of course, the title for Part 2 is “Holy Rat Race,” the only time Robin’s signature phrasing is used in an episode title.

Gotham City’s finest. The GCPD fails to notice a giant pillow with the initials FF on it under the window to Gordon’s office, and subsequently fail to stop Blaze or False Face from making their escape from being parked right outside police HQ.

Later, three cops just stand there while O’Hara struggles to fight a midget while sitting down—O’Hara, not the midget. It’s quite possibly the lamest example of hand-to-hand combat in television history, not aided by the three cops who are, I may have mentioned, just friggin standing there!

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Ladd’s secretary is smitten with Batman—after Ladd says that every law-abiding citizen of Gotham goes with him in spirit, the secretary moonily adds, “And if it were possible, in body!”

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Special Guest Villain. The actor playing False Face was credited only as “?” until the closing credits of “Holy Rat Race,” where he was finally identified as Malachi Throne. Throne—probably best known in genre circles for playing Commodore Mendez in Star Trek‘s “The Menagerie” (as well as the voice of the Keeper in “The Cage“)—was reportedly not happy with not receiving full credit. While Throne is mostly behind a mask, and others play False Face when he’s in disguise (including both Neil Hamilton and Stafford Repp), Throne’s face can be seen when False Face poses as one of the armored car guards.

Na-na na-na na-na na-na na. “We are about to double dizzy Batman and Robin until the dexterous duo is duped, decoyed, and diabolically destroyed!” –False Face showing his love of alliteration.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 9 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum Jay Smith, the creator, executive producer, and scripter for the Parsec Award-winning audio drama HG World (for which your humble rewatcher served as the voice of Todd Rage).

The episode is written by veteran genre scripter Stephen Kandel, who also wrote the three Harry Mudd episodes of Star Trek (the live-action “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd,” as well as the animated episode “Mudd’s Passion”), as well as “Jihad” (your humble rewatcher’s favorite episode of the animated Trek). Kandel will return to write Batman‘s first three-parter in the second season, “The Zodiac Crimes” / “The Joker’s Hard Times” / “The Penguin Declines.”

Several different versions of False Face have appeared in the comics, starting in 1942 and going all the way to the present day. This particular version is inspired by the one that appeared in Batman #113 in 1958, and another iteration of this False Face appeared in the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold (voiced by Corey Burton). Another version of the character appeared in Batman Beyond voiced by Townsend Coleman (best known as the voice of the title character in The Tick animated series).

Part of the cliffhanger voiceover refers to our heroes being “bashed by the BMT,” which is a very specific New York reference, as one of the companies that ran subway lines through New York was the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation. They sold their lines to the city in 1940, and the J, L, M, N, Q, and R trains are still sometimes referred to as the BMT portion of the subway.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Only a criminal would disguise himself as licensed bonded guard yet callously park in front of a fire hydrant!” On the one hand, Malachi Throne is obviously having an absolute blast as False Face. Denied the use of his face, instead he makes copious use of body language to make his character compelling. Tellingly, he knows when not to use it, as well, as the reflection of his plastic face in the vending machine as Batman falls unconscious toward the end of Part 1 is brilliantly scary because he’s not moving.

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In addition, the episode gives Stafford Repp a rare chance to actually act, as he does an excellent job playing False Face pretending to be O’Hara. Plus Myrna Fahey does fine work as Blaze, who’s a worthy foe to Batman in her own right, though her heel turn at the end of Part 1 is a bit too sudden. Still, she too is obviously having fun, from her outrageous accent at the beginning while pretending to be the princess to all the colored wigs!

Sadly, while the acting and directing is superb, the script just doesn’t hold together. If the princess is fake and the crown is fake, what exactly did False Face steal at the museum? How was the vault in the bank a fake if it was just a regular old vault with an alarm system? If False Face’s plan was to counterfeit money why was he just robbing the bank—he didn’t have the counterfeit money with him, he was just robbing it. So what was stealing the paper in aid of? Why did he use the paper for the notes? Why was Blaze’s challenge to Batman never followed up on? If his trademark was false quotes, why did he only do that once?

And how the heck did he change clothes so fast? And accusing someone of being a wanted criminal because he parked in front of a fire hydrant? This native New Yorker was laughing his ass off at that one…

Despite all the fun the actors are having (and seriously, it must’ve been a relief to Repp to play something different), the episode just sort of stumbles from bit to bit with no rhyme or reason. Not the show’s finest hour.

 

Bat-rating: 4

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Derpycon 2015 this weekend in Morristown, New Jersey, along with fellow authors Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Michael H. Hanson, and Mike McPhail; actors Richard Hatch and Carel Struycken; voiceover actors E.L. Fortner, Jessica Gee-George, Grant George, Austin Tindle, and David Vincent; cartoonists Kevin Bolk and Jessi & Matt Pascal; puppeteer Doctor Puppet; performers Children Driving Robots, Cosplay Burlesque, Inverse Phase, LeetStreet Boys, Manly Battleships, Professor JP McClendon, Scott Melzer, Munchausen Society, Overly Dramatic Readers, Uncle Yo, Voltaire, and “Greggo” Wicker; and Santa Claus! Keith will have a table where he’ll be selling and signing books, and he’ll also be doing bunches of programming. His full schedule can be found here.

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