Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch, Batman! “Come Back, Shame!” / “It’s How You Play the Game”

“Come Back, Shame!” / “It’s How You Play the Game”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 2, Episodes 25 and 26
Production code 9729
Original air dates: November 30 and December 1, 1966

The Bat-signal: We open at the Gotham Speedway, where Grimaldi Smith is in the lead at the Gotham 100. During his pitstop, Shame and his gang steal his car, leaving behind a platinum bullet. It’s one of three car thefts perpetrated by Shame (the others being a hot rod and a go-cart), and Gordon’s only recourse is to call Batman.

Bruce and Dick interrupt their toy slot car races (Bruce keeps winning, of course) to head over to GCPD HQ. O’Hara reveals that they’ve rounded up the three stolen vehicles, but there was one part missing from each one—the carburetor from Smith’s stock car, custom-made alloy pistons from the go-cart, and milled heads from the hot-rod.

At his hideout on an abandoned movie lot, Shame has an axe to grind—no, really, he’s grinding an axe! He’s souping up a truck that can go 300 MPH so he can outrun the Batmobile. A little kid wanders in, thinking it’s an abandoned fake saloon, so he’s rather scared when Shame and his henchmen, Messy James and Rip Snorting, and his moll, Okie Annie, pull guns on him.

BatmanShame01

The “platinum bullets” are just regular bullets covered in platinum paint, so that’s of no use. So Batman and Robin use their brains (always a risk…). Shame seems to be building an engine—they think to enter the Gotham Grand Prix and win the $100,000 prize—and the next things they’d need would be a cam shaft and valve lifters. Batman calls Hot Rod Harry, a DJ who is also a car nut, as Bruce Wayne to say he’s got a new limo tricked out with the very parts Shame needs, which he’ll be showing off at the Gotham City Auto Show.

Shame takes the bait, abandoning the kid, whose name is Andy, in the fake saloon. Okie Annie tails Bruce and Dick as they go shopping for Aunt Harriet’s lingerie (!!!!!), and actually helps them, since apparently they can handle going toe-to-toe with the worst criminals in Gotham City, but are utterly bumfuzzled at the notion of buying women’s underwear. Okie Annie asks for a favor in return: her car broke down, and can they give her a lift to a repair shop? They agree, and the trio leave, Okie Annie squealing with delight. (The fact that she brought a shotgun and two revolvers into a snazzy women’s clothing emporium is left surprisingly uncommented upon.)

A cow is blocking the road, and when Bruce and Dick get out of the car to try to move it (unsuccessfully, I might add), Shame and his gang get the drop on them. They take the limo. Bruce had been counting on that, and had the Bat-cycle and the Alf-cycle following them via remote control from a distance. They wheel their way back to the Batcave.

Shame finishes his work on the hay-burner’s engine, secure in the knowledge that Batman has no idea where they are. That, of course, is when the Dynamic Duo show up. Fisticuffs ensue (the bad guys refrain from using their guns for fear a stray bullet will damage the engine they’ve worked so hard on), but while Shame, Messy James, and Rip Snorting get their heads handed to them, Okie Annie shoots the rope holding up the chandelier, which KOs the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder. Shame ties their hands and feet to stakes in the ground, and then he and the gang spook a herd of cattle, which then stampede toward our heroes.

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However, the cattle’s hoof-falls rattle the ground enough to loosen Batman’s stakes so he can get up. Rather than untie Robin and run out of the way, Batman removes his cape and acts like a matador at a bullfight to keep the cattle away from Robin’s prone form. Sure.

Andy sees Batman and Robin and realizes that Shame is a villain, and the fight wasn’t fake the way Shame said it was. Batman is pleased to see that Andy’s been set on the straight and narrow—and then just abandons him in the lot to head back to the Batmobile (Jesus, Caped Crusader, at least call the kids’ parents!!!!). Realizing that Shame’s not about to race the Gotham Grand Prix in a truck, they have to revise their theory of what he’s up to. They consult Hot Rod Harry, but he has no idea what the plan might be—but he knows someone even more plugged into the automotive world: Laughing Leo.

The Dynamic Duo arrive at Laughing Leo’s Used Car Lot, where he’s selling a beaut stick shift (which we know because there’s a sign on the car that says “A BEAUT STICK SHIFT”) to a little old lady from Pasadena. He says he has no idea what Shame is up to, either, so our heroes head out—but then Leo arrives at Shame’s hideout. We find out that Shame’s plan is to steal prize black Angus cattle from the Gotham City Rodeo, which are worth $300,000 each. And Shame finds out from Leo that Batman and Robin are still alive.

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Shame throws a temper tantrum, shooing the hideout up.

Batman and Robin find traces of chili and avocado, which points to the Adobe Hacienda Hotel, which serves the best chili-and-avocado dip in Gotham City.

However, they arrive at the restaurant to find no Shame. (Ahem.) Batman “reasons” that they’re back at the movie lot, since Shame knows that they know that that hideout’s blown, so Shame would assume that Batman wouldn’t look there because they know about the place. So they go there. Sure, why not.

Shame and the gang, however, are awaiting the Dynamic Duo. Shame “knew he’d think I’d think he’d think I’d think he’d come back here.” They start shooting, but Batman and Robin hide behind the Batmobile, which is bullet proof. However, Robin is nicked in the heel. (Gee, I could’ve sworn our heroes’ footwear was bullet proof also…) Batman extracts the bullet, then returns Robin to the Batcave for proper medical attention.

Alfred reminds Batman that Bruce Wayne is to be the grand marshal at the Gotham City Rodeo. When Alfred mentions the prize cattle, Batman realizes what Shame’s after. He has Alfred convey Bruce’s regrets that he can’t make it, but he’s sending Batman and Robin in his place. They arrive a moment too late—Shame has already stolen the cattle. They figure he’s gone to the KO Corral so they can feed the heifers.

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The Batmobile arrives at high noon, naturally, and our heroes face off against Shame in the street—with Messy, Rip, Okie, and Leo all pointing two six-shooters each at them as well. Shame has them fire, but Batman tosses a smoke bomb to foil their aim. Batman is concentrating, and then asks Robin if there are nine guns with six bullets each, how many does that make? Robin says it’s 54, and Batman says he only counted 53 being fired. (Yes, Batman can count bullets being fired rapidly all around him with perfect precision, but doesn’t know what nine times six is.) Once the 54th bullet is fired, and they’re all out of ammo, fisticuffs ensue (including Robin at one point riding Rip like a horse), and our heroes are triumphant.

Gordon and O’Hara show up just as the fight is over and take the gang away.

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Batman claims to have a precious metals bat-analyzer in Gordon’s office, but when he actually returns to the Batcave, he just bites the bullet. (Cue groans.) I think he was showing off for Gordon and O’Hara, personally—or just taking the piss out of him, and he and Robin were chortling in the Batmobile on the way back. “Can you believe they fell for the old ‘precious metals bat-analzyer’ gag? BWAH-HAH-HAH!” (Okay, maybe not. And we do actually see the analyzer…)

BatmanShame03

Batman can control the Bat-cycle remotely, and hey, look, it’s the triumphant return of the Alf-cycle! Batman also paints the tires of his limo with infra-red paint, which makes the tires glow if you look at it through the Batmobile’s specially tinted windshield. (How he knows where to look in the first place is left as an exercise for the viewer.) They use the Batroscope to examine the limo, and he uses a smoke bomb to spoil the aim of the bad guys when they shoot at them.

Batman gives Robin a Bat-cillin lozenge, which works like penicillin, only the effect is instantaneous. Why he hasn’t shared this medical miracle—which would actually do more good for humanity than all his other crimefighting combined—with the rest of the world is also left as an exercise for the viewer.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy jigsaw puzzles!” is Robin’s oddly inflected exclamation upon finding out that Shame has taken bits from each car he stole. “Holy stampede!” is Robin’s on-the-nose response to the cliffhanger deathtrap. “Holy toreador!” is Robin’s improper response to Batman’s bullfighting-style rescue, which he corrects to “Holy matador!” upon Batman lecturing him on the subject. “Holy guacamole!” is Robin’s utterance when they figure out where Shame gets his Mexican takeout from. “Holy bat-logic,” is Robin’s ironic proclamation when Batman “reasons” why Shame might be back on the movie lot.

Gotham City’s finest. The cops aren’t even a factor in this one. Seriously, Gordon and O’Hara just throw up their hands at the car thievery, and we don’t even see them again until the end.

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Special Guest Villain. Future Oscar winner Cliff Robertson—he won in 1968 for Charly—plays Shame. Robertson would later go on to play another comic book character, Spider-Man’s ill-fated Uncle Ben, in the 2002 Spider-Man. Robertson will return as Shame in one of the few third-season two-parters, “The Great Escape” / “The Great Train Robbery.”

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

“Makes no difference if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

“It’s easier to say that when you win.”

–Bruce being smug and high-handed, and Dick pointing that out.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 31 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, author and audio drama writer/producer Jay Smith.

Shame is, obviously, based on Alan Ladd’s title character in the seminal 1953 Western Shane, with Andy’s plaintive “Come back, Shame” a riff on a like scene in the film. Allegedly, Clint Eastwood was considered for the role that went to Cliff Robertson, and man, would I love to live in that alternate reality…

The KO Corral is, just as obviously, a riff on the OK Corral, the legendary locale of the gunfight between the Earps and the Clantons in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881. (Which your humble rewatcher has already discussed recently in the rewatch of Star Trek‘s “Spectre of the Gun.”) Shame’s platinum bullets are a riff on the Lone Ranger‘s signature silver bullets.

Western veteran John Mitchum plays Rip Snorting, while former Playboy Playmate Joan Staley plays Okie Annie. Milton Frome, who played the tiddlywinks-playing admiral in the movie, returns to play Laughing Leo. And Jack Carter is the latest stand-up comedian to have an uncredited walk-on role, as Hot-Rod Harry.

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The window cameo is Werner Klemperer in character as Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes. This is problematic on several levels: The series presumably takes place in the present day, which means World War II had been over for two decades, yet Klink hasn’t aged a day. Also, why are Batman and Robin having a pleasant, friendly conversation with a friggin’ Nazi war criminal? Having said that, it’s a testament to the show’s popularity, as Hogan’s Heroes was on a rival network, CBS.

Instead of “same bat-time, same bat-channel,” William Dozier’s urging to tune in tomorrow is to do so at the “Shame time, Shame channel.”

Laughing Leo’s Used Car Lot is on Surf Avenue and 20th Street—which is the corner in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn where writer Stanley Ralph Ross grew up.

Shame says that they’re east of the Mississippi (which tracks with Gotham subbing for New York, as it often does appear to)—yet Hot Rod Harry’s radio station is KCP, and K is used for radio and television call letters that are west of the Mississippi. (There is one exception: KDKA in Pittsburgh. Perhaps KCP is a like exception…)

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Shame on you, Shame!” This is, in many ways, the quintessential Batman 66 tale. As with all the best episodes, it has a superlative villain. Cliff Robertson magnificently inhabits the character of Shame, imbuing him with every single Western cliché in the book, with his down-home analogies, and every tired phrase of the genre (culminating in telling Batman that the town isn’t big enough for both of them at the climax). He also has strong support, as Joan Staley’s Okie Annie is a moll who actually contributes to the gang (in fact, she’s the only one, as she is singlehandedly responsible for both the capture of Bruce Wayne’s limo and of defeating the Dynamic Duo at the end of “Come Back, Shame!” while the other two are basically useless), and John Mitchum and Timothy Scott are delightfully goofy as the henchmen (Milton Frome somewhat less so as Laughing Leo).

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In addition to sending up all the Western tropes, we get some bullfighting thrown in (I particularly love Robin screaming, “Olé!” while tied to two stakes during Batman’s flamenco dance with his cape to save the Boy Wonder from being trampled to death), a wholly gratuitous Jan & Dean reference, cameos by Werner Klemperer and Jack Carter, the hilarious awkwardness of Bruce and Dick shopping for the latter’s aunt’s lingerie, a perfect sendup of contemporary DJs and their over-the-top slang, and some of the most tortured Bat-logic in the show’s history!

And nothing—nothing—will ever beat Batman easily counting the number of bullets that are flying all around him, but having to ask Robin a simple multiplication question. Bliss!

It’s not perfect. The joke with Andy saying, “Come back, Shame,” was funny the first time, cute the second, and wholly unnecessary and tiresome every time after that. And the very ending, when Andy shows up at GCPD HQ to get his radio back because he’s worried about pissing off his mother would be a lot more convincing if he hadn’t been wandering the streets of Gotham all by himself for the entire two-parter. You’d think that would be of more concern to his mother than a stupid transistor radio…

Still, these are minor nits in a storyline that is hilariously funny. Just as with Stanley Ralph Ross’s previous outings (with the notable exception of “Shoot a Crooked Arrow”/”Walk the Straight and Narrow,” which was done in by Art Carney’s phoned-in performance), he manages the perfect balance of goofiness, earnestness, and satire.

 Bat-rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido urges folks to support the crowdfunding campaign for Altered States of the Union, an alternate history anthology being put together by Crazy 8 Press and ComicMix, featuring a story by your humble rewatcher about the Conch Republic of the Florida Keys, as well as stories by David Gerrold, Michael Jan Friedman, Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald, Brendan DuBois, Malon Edwards, G.D. Falksen, Alisa Kwitney, Gordon Linzner, Sarah McGill, Mackenzie Reide, Ian Randal Strock, Ramon Terrell, and more besides! The book will launch at Shore Leave 38 in July.

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