Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch, Batman! “The Devil’s Fingers” / “The Dead Ringers”

“The Devil’s Fingers” / “The Dead Ringers”
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Directed by Larry Peerce
Season 2, Episodes 15 and 16
Production code 9721
Original air dates: October 26 and 27, 1966

The Bat-signal: Aunt Harriet is rehearsing for the Annual Wayne Foundation Benefit, at which she’ll be singing. She’s accompanied by Chandell, the famous pianist, and they’ll be playing some Scottish tunes. Their rehearsal is interrupted by three women in tartan miniskirts who talk with comedy Scottish accents and play bagpipes. They’re able to render Chandell and Alfred unconscious and stun Harriet enough so that they can steal her earrings. They then raid Wayne Manor.

Harriet calls the police. She’s distraught, and wonders what Bruce and Dick will think when they come back—turns out Bruce is out hunting with the Millionaire’s Club, and Dick is on a school holiday.

Gordon has the GCPD switchboard put him through to the Bat-phone. A nervous Alfred heads to the library to reluctantly tell Gordon that Batman is taking one of his infrequent vacations. Gordon and O’Hara are devastated, as this means they’ll actually have to do their jobs!!!!!!!!

Gordon and O’Hara question Chandell, and assure him that they will protect his concert at Gotham Town Hall.

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However, Chandell is actually the criminal responsible for the robbery at Wayne Manor, as we see him meeting with the three women who robbed Wayne Manor, Doe, Rae, and Mimi. That he was a victim puts him above reproach. But it turns out that Chandell isn’t a criminal willingly—he’s being blackmailed by his cigar-chomping twin brother Harry. During a performance at the White House—the one that put Chandell on the map—the pianist used a music roll to “play” the piano while he mimed it, as he’d hurt a finger before the gig. Chandell has a plan to buy off Harry and get himself out of his yoke.

At Gotham Town Hall, it’s pretty much a police state, with machine guns, barbed wire, and fingerprinting at the door. Gordon won’t let anything happen to Chandell’s concert, even if he has do mow down innocent civilians to do it!

Out in the forest, Bruce is listening to the concert on the radio, and he detects a wrong note—which is extremely unlikely from the fingers of the great Chandell. He calls Dick, interrupting a date with a girl, and they agree to meet at Wayne Manor.

While the concert is going on, the Burma Import Company is robbed by Doe, Rae, and Mimi, this time dressed in bellydancing outfits. At the same time, Chandell is playing a Burmese number—the same pattern as the Wayne Manor robbery.

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Bruce and Dick return home to get a report from Alfred. (Harriet stayed behind to visit with Chandell. Dick gets a bit worried about his aunt’s virtue, but Bruce assures him that Harriet is a woman of strong character. The levels on which this exchange, which includes a mention of Chandell’s reputation as a ladies man, is hilariously absurd are legion.)

Doe, Rae, and Mimi, still doing the bellydance thing, show up at Wayne Manor, on Chandell’s instructions, but disappear just as quickly. The Dynamic Duo call Gordon to assure him that they’re back, which relieves Gordon no end, and Gordon tells Chandell, who’s less happy about it. But he puts on a brave face as he shares a root beer with Harriet.

Once Harriet leaves, Chandell rolls his eyes and then goes to call Harry to give him the bad news that Batman and Robin are back in town. He has a plan, though, and tells Harry to wake up his piano movers.

Batman and Robin arrive at Town Hall just as Harriet is getting into a cab. Chandell hits himself over the head with the root beer bottle just before the Dynamic Duo enter. (How he knows that our heroes will be coming along just at this moment remains unclear.) They wake Chandell with smelling salts, at which point the pianist gives his brother up, sending the heroes to an abandoned player-piano factory.

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They leave him behind with his cranial trauma untreated and head to the factory, where they find Doe, Rae, and Mimi still doing their bellydance thing. Batman thinks they’re the victims of criminal hypnotism, but before they can try to interrogate them, Harry’s piano movers show up and fisticuffs ensue. The fight ends when Harry drops a music roll on their heads.

Harry puts them on the conveyor belt to the paper cutting machine, and they’re fed into it, to be cut to pieces as the machine re-creates the music that Harry plays over the PA system. Batman instructs Robin to start singing and matching him note for note. Then, in direct contrast, they both start randomly scatting, not remotely in tune or harmony, but their white-boy rap was louder than the PA system, so the machine made music from their voices, instead, and Batman claims to have picked notes that would punch holes around their bodies. (He totally didn’t, the notes are neither high nor low enough, but never mind.) Meanwhile, I’m wondering why they didn’t just roll off the conveyor belt when Harry left the room…

Doe, Rae, and Mimi manage to escape, but Batman and Robin do capture Harry and turn him over to the police. Unfortunately, O’Hara and Gordon’s attempt to interrogate him (in a room that has a subtle interrogation lamp, which we know because the switches for that lamp have a big sign over them that says “SUBTLE INTERROGATION LAMP”) is cut short by the arrival of his lawyer, Albert Slye. However, Harry does mention a criminal named “Fingers,” who is the true mastermind and who is after the Wayne fortune.

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Batman guesses (accurately) that “Fingers” is really Chandell, and that his plan is to seduce Harriet, and then kill Bruce and Dick, so that when the Wayne fortune goes to her, he’ll be her husband, and have access to it.

The Dynamic Duo also recall Chandell’s White House performance (using only their perfect memory), and Robin realizes that his performance is a perfect match for that of Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The heroes deduce that Chandell faked his performance with a play piano using a music roll from Harry’s factory.

The Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder arrive at Town Hall to find Chandell in full-on seduction mode with Harriet.

So, naturally, Batman decides to fake Bruce and Dick’s death. Chandell then plans to marry Harriet and he’ll have access to the Wayne fortune. However, Doe, Rae, and Mimi are worried he’ll go straight, so they render him unconscious with the bagpipe. Slye informs Harry that it’ll take upwards of eleven years for the will to be settled and for Harriet (and her prospective husband) to get their hands on Bruce’s money. Harry comes up with a new plan. He puts on one of Chandell’s outfits, and goes to console Harriet at Wayne Manor. He offers—not to propose marriage—but for them to perform a memorial concert together in Bruce and Dick’s honor.

However, Harriet isn’t as stupid as she—well, as she’s been in every single other episode of the show, and she knows that that wasn’t really Chandell. So she goes to the rehearsal Harry asked her to come to, and in mid-rehearse, she pulls a pistol on him. (Harry stands with his hands raised, at her request, and the piano keeps playing, as it’s a player-piano, since Chandell obviously got all the musical talent.)

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Harry reveals Plan B: to hold Harriet hostage and get a ransom from the Wayne Foundation. This plan still works, as Doe shows up with the bagpipes, rendering Harriet unconscious. However, Batman and Robin rescue her (and Alfred, whom they also rendered unconscious), and fisticuffs ensue. They also rescue Slye and Chandell, whom Harry had placed on the conveyer belt to the cutting machine.

Later, Gordon presents Harriet with a brave citizen award for her bravery. Bruce and Dick are present as well, though their explanation of how they are still alive happens off camera. Meanwhile Chandell gets to perform in prison, complete with striped piano.

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Batman and Robin spy on Harriet with the Wayne Manor TV Circuit (Closed). And the Bat-shield shows up at the very end to save the Dynamic Duo from being machine-gunned by Harry (with Batman folding it and then dropping at his side in the latest unconvincing mime of putting the oversized shield into an undersized utility belt).

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Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy impossibility!” Dick cries when informed that Chandell played a wrong note. “Holy apparition!” Dick utters when he sees Doe, Rae, and Mimi dancing outside Wayne Manor. “Holy relief!” Robin sighs when Harriet gets safely into a cab and away from Chandell. “Holy fratricide!” Robin screams when Chandell reveals his evil twin Skip— er, Harry. “Holy pianola!” and “Holy metronome!” are both things Robin says as they’re being fed into the piano roll machine. “Holy Caruso!” and “Holy perfect pitch!” are what Robin exclaims after they escape the deathtrap. “Holy fugitives,” Robin mutters when Batman says they’re letting the three molls go. “Holy greed,” Robin laments, wondering how anyone could go after the Wayne fortune. “Holy Bluebeard,” Robin yells when he realizes that “Fingers” is Chandell. “Holy Paderewski!” Robin on-the-noses when he realizes whom Chandell aped at the White House. “Holy heartbreak,” Robin grumbles when he thinks Chandell is going to propose to Harriet.

Also William Dozier says, “Holy sour note!” at the cliffhanger.

Gotham City’s finest. Faced with no help from Batman, Gordon turns Gotham City into a police state—at least until Batman returns to restore the GCPD to its proper function of traffic control (or whatever the hell it is they actually do).

Also when Slye arrives, O’Hara offers to toss the mouthpiece out, but Gordon cautions that in today’s political climate, that could land them in jail. Not that it was the right thing to do or anything, but “in today’s climate.” And then we remember that Miranda v. Arizona was only just passed the year this episode aired…

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Special Guest Villain. Piano great Liberace is another famous person playing a role devised for the series, in this case in the dual role of Chandell and Harry. (In real life, Liberace was also one of a pair of twins, but his sibling was stillborn.)

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Dick has to cut his date short. He gets rid of her by “accidentally” spilling ice cream on her lap, forcing her to go clean up while he surreptitiously talks to Bruce.

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Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.

“You know what this means, don’t you?”

“If you’re thinkin’ what I’m afraid you’re thinkin’…”

“Precisely, Chief O’Hara—the moment we’ve dreaded for years has arrived. This time—we’re going to have to solve a case ourselves!”

–Gordon and O’Hara’s worst nightmare come true.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 26 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, podcaster John Champion (Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast, DVD Geeks, Bif! Bam! Pow! Wow!).

For the first time, the bad guy has three molls: the musically named Doe, Rae, and Mimi, who are played, respectively, by Marilyn Hanold, Edy Williams (famous B-movie and softcore actor who previously appeared as a hostess in “Hot Off the Griddle“), and Sivi Aberg (who will return as the Joker’s moll in the third season’s “Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under!”).

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Liberace is reported to have been exceedingly gracious on the set, agreeing to play all-request mini-concerts for the cast and crew after each day of filming. He did, however, insist on only using his own piano.

This two-parter was the highest-rated pair of episodes of the show.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “The poor devil, he’s been assaulted with a root beer bottle!” An interesting episode that breaks with the usual formula, but does so in a manner that is delightful and enjoyable, particularly since its primary source of joy comes from two of the unlikeliest of sources.

The first is Madge Blake, whose main purpose has been to be a Fredric Wertham-mandated beard for Bruce and Dick living under the same roof, who for once gets the chance to shine. Mind you, it takes a while, as she’s mostly her usual bland self, but then she has to grieve for Bruce and Dick and then is consoled by Harry pretending to be Chandell, at which point she turns into a badass, seeing through his ruse (despite never having cottoned to who Bruce and Dick really are all these years), and pulling a gun on him. It’s a crowning moment of awesome for the character—hell, it’s the only moment of awesome for the character, who has otherwise been the single most useless character in the history of television. Kudos to Madge Blake for making the best of a rare opportunity to actually do something.

The other is the guest villain, who as an actor, makes a great pianist, yet he’s called upon to play, in essence, three roles: Chandell (who’s pretty close to the actor’s own public persona), Harry (whom he plays as a third-rate Edward G. Robinson), and Harry pretending to be Chandell (which is the only time he really successfully acts). Still, Liberace is so obviously having fun with the role that it’s impossible not to enjoy his performance, even though he isn’t really very good at it.

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On top of that, we’ve got three molls instead of three henchmen—though we get the latter, too, but they’re barely in evidence. It’s Doe, Rae, and Mimi who are the real assistants to Chandell and Harry, and they do superlatively in another break from the usual.

So much of Batman depends on the idiot plot—to wit, it only works if the people in it are dumb as posts—that it’s hard to get too worked up over it here, but seriously, how dumb are these people? Bruce and Dick going on vacation at the exact same time that Batman and Robin are on vacation, and then all “four” of them coming back at the exact same time also and nobody friggin’ notices???????

Then again, Batman doesn’t cover himself in glory in this one, either. He assures Dick that Harriet would never be seduced by Chandell, only for Harriet to be totally seduced by Chandell. He also insists that Doe, Rae, and Mimi have been criminally hypnotized and are poor deluded females, but in fact they’re total criminals and completely in it for the crime (and the money).

Bat-rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido is pleased to announce that his X-Files short story “Back in El Paso My Life Will Be Worthless” (in the anthology Trust No One, edited by Jonathan Maberry) was nominated for a Scribe Award by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. Here’s the full list of nominees. The winners will be announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego in July.

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