Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch, Batman! “Marsha, Queen of Diamonds” / “Marsha’s Scheme of Diamonds”

“Marsha, Queen of Diamonds” / “Marsha’s Scheme of Diamonds”
Written by Stanford Sherman
Directed by James B. Clark
Season 2, Episodes 23 and 24
Production code 9727
Original air dates: November 23 and 24, 1966

The Bat-signal: The police are on alert at U Magnum Diamonds because Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, is back in town—she’s been after the Pretzel Diamond, which U Magnum has on display, for years. O’Hara himself shows up to make sure all is well—and then escorts Marsha inside to take the diamond! O’Hara is completely devoted to her, fawning all over her and threatening the staff at U Magnum with arrest if they don’t give Marsha the Pretzel Diamond.

Apprehensive about his subordinate’s going rogue, Gordon immediately calls Batman, who is in the Batcave doing maintenance on the Bat-diamond and the machine that channels the power to the Bat-computer through that massive, perfect gem. They head off in the Batmobile to GCPD HQ—but Gordon isn’t there! On Marsha’s orders, O’Hara has called the commissioner to Marsha’s hideout.

O’Hara isn’t the only man whom Marsha has seduced, either—she has at least half a dozen men in cages, all of whom are begging for a chance to just be near Marsha. She promises to visit them at least once a week, and then retires to her Arabian Nights-ish boudoir, where her Grand Mogul reports that the Bat-diamond is over 10,000 carats in size and is in the Batcave. Marsha is determined to not only find out where the Batcave is, but get inside it.

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Gordon shows up to rescue O’Hara with absolutely no backup, because he’s a doofus. Marsha hits him with a love dart from the Cupid statue she keeps in her boudoir, and Gordon becomes her latest devoted slave. He calls his own office, and Batman answers, with the Caped Crusader figuring out that he, too, has been caught in Marsha’s seductive web. But they have no choice to walk into her trap.

Marsha heads down to the basement to her aunt, Hilda, who acts like a witch straight out of Macbeth, but who is in truth a disgraced chemistry professor, who was fired from Vassar for turning the students orange. Marsha needs a love potion even stronger than the one on her love darts for use on Batman.

The Dynamic Duo arrive at Marsha’s hideout. Marsha hits Batman with a love dart—but Batman is able to resist the effects of the drug, though it’s an uphill battle that takes every last ounce of his willpower. (Robin, meanwhile, just stands there with this thumbs in ears.)

Marsha is outraged and summons her Grand Mogul and three other thugs. Fisticuffs ensue, but Marsha uses the distraction of the fight to hit Robin with a love dart. Robin doesn’t have Batman’s willpower and succumbs. Batman gives up rather than be forced to fight Robin.

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However, while Batman is willing to give up his life to save Robin, Marsha’s price isn’t quite that high: she demands access to the Batcave so she can take the Bat-diamond. While Batman is willing to give her the diamond, he will not allow her ingress to the Batcave. He says he swore an oath that no stranger would ever be allowed in the Batcave—which must be news to Molly, Lydia Limpet, Gordon, Pauline, and the Penguin.

Since she doesn’t want Batman to break his vow, Marsha suggests that they get married. Then she won’t be a stranger and she’ll have every reason to go to the Batcave. Batman resists, but the alternative is for Robin, Gordon, and O’Hara to remain on their metaphorical knees worshipping Marsha. So he goes for it.

At Wayne Manor, Alfred and Harriet see the news report about Batman’s impending nuptials to Marsha, and Alfred convinces her that they need to help get Batman out of it.

The wedding starts, but before Batman can reluctantly say, “I do,” Alfred and Harriet burst in with a forged marriage certificate “proving” that Batman is already married—to Harriet. (Well, to “Henrietta Tillotson.” Alfred is pretending to be her solicitor.) The reverend leaves in a huff, unwilling to marry a bigamist, and Marsha and the Grand Mogul leave in a minute and a huff, furious at the two-timing bat-fink.

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With Robin out of commission, Batman asks Alfred to assist him, which Alfred agrees to. (Leaving Harriet to, I dunno, catch a cab?) They head out, having rice thrown on them by confused wedding celebrants and then they drive off in the Batmobile, which has cans attached to it and a “JUST MARRIED” sign on it. They drive it as is, which probably turned some heads in 1966 Gotham what with two men being in the car…

Marsha and the Grand Mogul discuss Plan B: injecting Robin with a slave potion that will make the Boy Wonder obey her. However, Batman and Alfred arrive before Marsha can administer the potion, and they give Robin, Gordon, and O’Hara Bat-antidote pills, which restore them to their normal selves. Thus foiled, Marsha goes to Hilda—interrupting her bubble bath—to find a potion that will work on Batman and Robin both.

The Dynamic Duo set the Bat-radar to track Marsha’s diamonds, and they find them—in the basement underneath the hideout they were in earlier. (Geez, they needed the Bat-computer and the Bat-radar to find the place they’d already been to.)

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Gordon and O’Hara congratulate Alfred on his and Harriet’s quick thinking, and Alfred in turn advises them to lie to their wives about where they’ve been all day. To their credit, the cops think that’s a terrible idea—though they’re also very reluctant to actually call said wives back…

Batman and Robin show up at Marsha’s underground lair, but she was expecting them. Hilda splashes her latest potion on them, but it fails to turn them into mice as advertised. A grumpy Marsha instead sics her thugs on them, and fisticuffs ensue.

During the fight, Hilda tries two more potions that are equally ineffective. However, Marsha does succeed in gassing the Dynamic Duo, rendering them unconscious on the floor. Hilda splashes a potion on them that she’s sure will turn them into toads.

Marsha shows up at Gordon’s office with a cage containing two toads wearing Batman and Robin’s costumes. Gordon and O’Hara are skeptical, right up until Toad Batman identifies himself in a croaking voice. Toad Batman tells Gordon to take Marsha to the Batcave—but Gordon has no idea where it is.

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Then the real Batman and Robin show up. Turns out the potion didn’t work, but Marsha stuck the Dynamic Duo into a pair of her cages and dressed up two toads like Batman and Robin, with the Grand Mogul using his ventriloquist skills to try to play Gordon and O’Hara. However, our heroes escaped, using a very complicated manner that Adam West and Burt Ward explain in as soporific a manner as possible. (I think it involved turning the cage into an antenna and using the Bat-computer to calculate, er, something.) The Grand Mogul fails to stop Batman and Robin, and so Marsha surrenders.

Batman tells her that maybe now she’ll realize that diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend. Marsha’s reply is to roll her eyes and declare Batman to be hopelessly square.

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Our heroes have a giant hydraulic Bat-press which they can use to manufacture the gigunda Bat-diamond that powers the Bat-computer. Said Bat-computer also has a Bat-printer that can produce very convincing forgeries of documents. They also have Bat-antidote pills that counteract Hilda’s potions.

Also I must mention Hilda’s bureau which contains drawers labelled, “POWDERED UNICORN,” “INSTANT ADDER,” “FROG TEETH,” “LIZARD HAIR,” “NEWT TAILS,” and “SHARK TOES.”

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Holy #@!%$, Batman! Robin grumbles, “Holy Houdini, where’s the commissioner?” when he and Batman show up at GCPD HQ and Gordon isn’t there, and when the ensorcelled Gordon calls Batman, Robin cries, “Holy hypnotism!” His reaction to Marsha’s faux Arabian hideout is, “Holy harem, Batman.” Robin encourages Batman to resist Marsha’s love potion by crying, “Holy fate worse than death!” When he realizes that Marsha’s HQ is underground, Robin exclaims, “Holy stalactites!” and when he enters that underground lair, he mutters, “Holy trolls and goblins!”

Also when providing the voice for Frog Robin, the Grand Mogul does an excellent job of staying in character by croaking, “Holy hors d’oeuvres!” when Marsha threatens to have her cat eat the froggy heroes.

Gotham City’s finest. We meet several of O’Hara’s subordinates: O’Leary, O’Toole, O’Rourke, and Goldberg. One of these is not like the other. (Goldberg was probably an affirmative action hire, a sop to those pencil-pushing pinkos in Mayor Linseed’s office…) They simply stand around and watch as their boss commits a felony.

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Special Guest Villainess. Carolyn Jones, best known as Morticia Addams in the contemporary TV adaptation of The Addams Family, plays Marsha. The role was originally intended for Zsa Zsa Gabor, and indeed Gabor was announced in the press as being cast in the role. Gabor would eventually show up in the series’ final episode as Minerva.

Marsha is another villain created especially for this TV series, but like Egghead (and unlike the others we’ve met to date), Jones will return as Marsha, teaming up with the Penguin in the three-parter “Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend” / “Penguin Sets a Trend” / “Penguin’s Disastrous End.”

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Hilda’s love darts are strong enough that they cause utter smittenness with Marsha in its victims. One guy tries to show his devotion by committing suicide by dryer: he tried to tumble himself to death.

Batman is the only person who’s not instantly affected, though he still looks like he’s having a Bat-gasm even as he’s fighting off the effects.

Also we learn that both Gordon and O’Hara are married, and that Alfred has remained a bachelor.

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

“This is my most powerful potion—it’s never failed!”

“Like all the others?”

“I can guarantee that this will turn them into a pair of toads. I’ll stake my reputation on it!”

“You haven’t much to lose…”

–Hilda expressing confidence in her work and Marsha being sardonically skeptical.

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Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 30 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Robert Long, independent filmmaker and manager of a Facebook group for the show.

Hilda is played by the great Estelle Winwood, who was 83 years old at the time, and continued to live until the age of 101. She was still working into her 90s and still making public appearances when she hit the century mark. She’ll return for Marsha’s next appearance in “Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Carolyn Jones is the first of three Addams Family alumnae to appear on the show during this season. Ted Cassidy will appear in character as Lurch as a window cameo in “The Penguin’s Nest,” and John Astin will temporarily take over the role of the Riddler in “Batman’s Anniversary” / “A Riddling Controversy.”

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Take my life, take my love, take my all!” Parts of this story are fun to watch. In a show that has raised overacting to an art form, the players are in rare form. Neil Hamilton does a particularly absurd job, modulating from outrage at O’Hara’s being ensorcelled to becoming chemically smitten with Marsha himself. But all the men who fawn over Marsha are hilariously over the top—as is Adam West in his ludicrously played fight to not succumb to the love dart. (As usual, the weak link is Burt Ward, whose devotion to Marsha is wooden and unimpressive.)

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Carolyn Jones—despite setting a record for most uses of the word “darling” in an hour—gives Marsha the bored cleverness of a rich woman who turns to crime because she’s obviously lost interest in everything else. She hasn’t a care in the world—even her surrender at the end is flippant. Plus she forms a magnificent double-act with Estelle Winwood. Indeed, the episode might have benefitted from more scenes with these two women.

There’s even a strong theme of devotion running through the two-parter: not just the artificial devotion prompted by the love darts, but the bonds between people who depend on each other. There’s Gordon’s dedication to O’Hara that has him beard the lion in his den alone to save him, Alfred and Harriet’s dedication to Batman that prompts them to stop the wedding with a fake first wife (complete with phony paperwork!), Hilda’s dedication to help her niece with her crime wave, the Grand Mogul’s like devotion to Marsha, and, of course, Batman’s devotion to Robin, for whom he will lay down his life (but not give up the secret of the Batcave’s location—hey, the line’s gotta be somewhere).

Unfortunately, it falls completely apart at the end. After the misdirect of the Toad Batman and Frog Robin, Batman and Robin show up and go into a lengthy, tiresome, spectacularly uninteresting chronicle of how they escaped a death trap we didn’t even know they were in (because we thought they were toads). Honestly, turning our heroes into amphibians would’ve been far more compelling (as Walt Simonson proved back in 1986 when he turned Thor into a frog—yes, really) than this nonsense, which is followed by an abortive fight with the Grand Mogul and a whole lot of standing around and talking. A total fizzle of a climax to a story that was enjoyable despite itself—seriously, the overacting in this one is epic…

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Bat-rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Balticon 50 in Baltimore this weekend. The Author Guest of Honor is George R.R. Martin, and several of Balticon’s previous 49 Author GoHs will be there as well. I’ll be doing readings, autographings, panels, workshops (including an in-depth seminar on the business of writing, which you can sign up for here), a launch party, and a Boogie Knights concert. His full schedule is here.

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