Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! Extra: Batman vs. Two-Face

Batman vs. Two-Face
Written by Michael Jelenic & James Tucker
Directed by Rick Morales
Original release date: October 10, 2017

The Bat-signal: Batman and Robin are invited by Dr. Hugo Strange to witness the testing of a new crimefighting tool: the Evil Extractor. En route, Batman stops by the Gotham State Penitentiary to visit Catwoman, giving her a gift of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s love poetry. Their attempt to kiss through the bars is interrupted (of course) by Robin.

They arrive at Strange’s demonstration. He and his assistant, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, set up the extractor with Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Egghead, and Mr. Freeze. (At one point Quinzel and Joker exchange a wink. This may or may not be important later.)

Also present is Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent, whom Batman “meets” for the first time (though he and Bruce Wayne are good friends). Given Batman’s track record in prosecuting cases himself, the presence of a decent DA is probably a relief to everyone.

However, the repository for the evil that is extracted from the five subjects explodes and hits Dent on the left side of his body (Batman manages to cover his right side with his cape). Dent is transformed into a creature of evil called Two-Face, and over the opening credits, we see several of Batman and Robin’s encounters with Two-Face over the years.

Once the credits are done, we see Dent in a plastic surgeon’s bed, having had his face operated on to restore his good looks. Dent is made an assistant to the assistant district attorney, and he says he hopes to win back the people’s trust.

King Tut goes on a rampage, stealing a biplane owned by a famous Egyptologist, and then he goes after a double-decker tour bus owned by the Nile Bus Company—and Alfred and Harriet are attending a soiree on that bus! Batman and Robin swing into action and fisticuffs ensue. The Dynamic Duo defeat the Tutlings, but Tut himself gets them with robot asps. He traps them in canopic jars and puts them in a construction site’s foundation. But even as the cement pours onto them, they escape via the bat boot jets, and then when they catch up to Tut, he gets conked on the head, reverting him to Professor McElroy of Yale University.

O’Hara interrogates Tut, but his dual identity confuses the matter. Lucille Diamond, public defender, comes in, ending the questioning. Later in court, Diamond uses O’Hara’s rather violent interrogation methods against him. However, McElroy confesses under Dent’s questioning, and Tut goes to jail.

Dent and Bruce Wayne share a celebratory drink, leaving Dick to feel like a third wheel. Dent mentions a charity event for underprivileged twins at the Winning Pair Casino. However, Bruce and Dick are called away to the bat-phone—there’s a package for Batman at Gordon’s office, which contains a clue indicating that Bookworm is going to steal rare editions of A Tale of Two Cities, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and The Man in the Iron Mask. Batman and Robin arrive in time to stop them, and fisticuffs ensue. As Bookworm and his henchmen are taken away, Bookworm is genuinely surprised that the Dynamic Duo received a clue to his robbery. In addition, the books are missing, even though the robbery was foiled.

Batman deduces that, while all the recent crimes fit the mode of the villains in question, they also had a duality theme—biplane, double-decker bus, the themes of the three books—and that indicates Two-Face. But Dent is still working hard as the assistant to the assistant DA.

They check out Two-Face’s last known hideout, an abandoned sign factory on Gemini Drive, where they see Two-Face and his twin henchmen—but the place is too dark to see the “good” side of his face. They assume that one of Dent’s enemies—he made plenty as a DA—is setting him up.

Two-Face has them trapped, but the villain flips his coin, and it comes up the non-scarred side, so they live. Robin insists that Dent has reverted to his villainous persona, but Batman believes in his friend. Batman tells Robin to go to his room, but Robin instead decides to investigate on his own.

Diamond is also representing Catwoman, who is grumpy because Batman has been so focused on the Two-Face thing that he missed their “date.” She uses one of her cats to scratch Diamond and then switches outfits with her.

Strange, embittered because they fired him after the accident with the extractor, is kidnapped by Two-Face and told to build a new extractor.

Robin follows Dent, and only to be ambushed and knocked out. When he awakens, he sees Two-Face—still keeping his “good” side hidden—who has Strange use the new improved evil extractor to turn Robin into a Two-Face of his own.

Alfred discovers that Robin’s missing and activates the bat-homing beacon in his utility belt and gives Batman the coordinates. Batman manages to subdue him and bring him back to the Batcave. Robin goes back and forth between being himself and being evil. Once Batman finds an antidote and gives it to Robin, the Boy Wonder explains that he thinks Dent is being forced to work for this new Two-Face. They head to the Winning Pair Casino, only to be ambushed by Two-Face—who is also Dent. It turns out that he’s been legitimately trying to reform, but like Robin when he was exposed to the evil from the extractor, his personality split.

Two-Face ties the Dynamic Duo to a big coin and he unmasks Batman. Two-Face is gleeful at learning Batman’s secret ID, and Dent feels betrayed that his best friend never told him his secret. Two-Face gathers Joker, Penguin, Clock King, Riddler, Egghead, Shame, and Catwoman for an auction to see who gets to learn Batman’s identity. Catwoman tries to outbid the others with a five million dollar bid. (Why she needed a public defender when she had five million bucks laying around is left as an exercise for the viewer.) The rest of them, at Joker’s urging, pool their cash to make a ten million dollar bid that wins the day.

However, Batman and Robin manage to escape before the bad guys can unmask them. Fisticuffs ensue, and with Catwoman’s help, the Dynamic Duo are triumphant. But Two-Face had something else in mind: while the villains bid, the extractor pulls out a ton of their evil. Two-Face uses that evil to turn the entirety of Gotham City into Two-Faces, spraying it over the city in the biplane that Tut stole.

The Dynamic Duo shoot down the biplane, and it crashes in Lorenzo’s Oil Factory. Batman insists on stopping Two-Face alone due to his long friendship with Dent. He manages to convince Dent to fight Two-Face, and he does so, defeating the evil within him.

Using the batwing, our heroes cure the rest of the city as well.

Three months later, Dent is let out of prison in order to host a charity bachelor auction. The first eligible bachelor is Batman—and Catwoman starts the bidding…

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Surprisingly low on bat-gadgets this time. The bat-computer does its usual work, of course, and the bat boot jets save our heroes’ bacon on two occasions. Plus we have the bat-homing beacon in Robin’s utility belt and the batwing.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! We have “Holy Romeo and Juliet” when Batman is visiting Catwoman in jail; “Holy hieroglyphics” when Batman reveals why King Tut stole a biplane; “Holy hypodermic” when they’re hit with poisonous asps; “Holy entrails” when Batman explains what canopic jars are for (ewwwwwwwwwww); “Holy Amelia Earhart” when Gordon reveals that the biplane Tut stole is missing (nice to see Batman is educating him about great aviators even when they’re women); “Holy plagiarism” when they realize that Bookworm is back; “Holy overdue book!” when they arrive at the Gotham Public Library; “Holy English lit!” after Batman reels off the titles Bookworm is after in the library; “Holy hideosity” (which isn’t actually a word) when they discover that Two-Face is back; “Holy blind spot” when Batman refuses to listen when Robin insists that Dent is responsible for Two-Face’s rampage; “Holy resurrection” when Robin stumbles across the evil extractor; “Holy billiards” when Batman discovers blue chalk residue on Robin’s uniform; “Holy compaction” (really?) when they’re about to be crushed by giant pool balls; “Holy half-dollar” when they’re tied to a giant coin; “Holy Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” when Dent reveals that he’s still Two-Face; “Holy indecent exposure” when Two-Face rips off the cowl; “Holy hairpin turn” when Two-Face avoids the mini Bat-zooka; “Holy amnesia” when Dick realizes that Dent doesn’t remember that Batman and Robin are really Bruce and Dick; and finally, for some reason, “Holy Hugh Hefner” when Catwoman bids on Batman. 

Gotham City’s finest. Gordon and O’Hara make a show of discussing how they’d deal with Tut before they bow to reality and activate the bat-signal. When they interrogate Tut, O’Hara keeps clubbing him on the head to turn him from Professor McElroy back into Tut (with Tut clubbing himself on head to change himself back to McElroy). O’Hara is dinged for this on the stand by Diamond when Tut is on trial, as giving suspects repeated cranial trauma during interrogation is frowned upon in these enlightened times. Later, after he’s restored from being Two-Faced, O’Hara says he feels like he’s been on a bender, which pretty much confirms what we always believed about the chief…

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Batman visits Catwoman in jail, and they almost kiss before Robin interrupts. At the end, Catwoman bids on Batman as an eligible bachelor, hubba hubba.

Special Guest Villains. The main villain is right there in the title: William Shatner as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, with Julie Newmar back as Catwoman. Wally Wingert absolutely nails both Victor Buono and Frank Gorshin’s inflections when voicing both King Tut and the Riddler, while Jeff Bergman does a fine job with Joker and Bookworm, William Salyers remains mediocre as the Penguin, and Jim Ward is kinda meh as Hugo Strange. Egghead, Shame, Mr. Freeze (looking like a mix of Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach), and Clock King show up for silent cameos as well.

Oh, and Sirena Irwin does the voice of Quinzel; in the Blu-Ray edition, there’s a scene of her breaking Joker out of jail in her Harley Quinn persona.

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

“I always knew you’d make an asp of yourself, Bat-Boob!”

A classic King Tut insult

Trivial matters: At the very end are two title cards dedicating the film to Adam West, the first the dedication, the second saying, “Rest well, Bright Knight.”

This film was discussed on The Batcave Podcast by John S. Drew, along with Dan Greenfield of 13th Dimension, Billy Flynn of Geek Radio Daily, and Ben Bentley of 66batman.com.

This is the first (and last) time West and William Shatner have acted together since the 1964 Alexander the Great pilot.

In addition to West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar, one other alumnus from Batman ’66 provides a voice: Lee Meriwether, who played Catwoman in the feature film and Lisa Carson in “King Tut’s Coup”/”Batman’s Waterloo,” plays Lucilee Diamond. (It’s unknown whether that name was a tribute to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” a song Shatner famously recorded a hilariously terrible version of for the 1988 Golden Throats album.) In tribute to Meriwether’s role in the film, Catwoman escapes prison by switching clothes with Diamond, thus putting Meriwether’s character in the outfit. She admires herself in the mirror when she wakes up in the costume.

Despite rumors to the contrary, this movie does not use Harlan Ellison’s unproduced story treatment for the ’66 Batman with Two-Face as its basis. That story was adapted by the late Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez into a comic book in 2015.

Harvey Dent is animated to look like Shatner did in 1966.

Although the Gotham Public Library is robbed by Bookworm, neither Batgirl nor Barbara Gordon appears in the movie, which seems like a missed opportunity. As with the previous animated film, it’s possible they decided not to re-cast the role following Yvonne Craig’s death in 2015.

The character of Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn was created 25 years after Batman 66 for Batman: The Animated Series, and then later brought into the comics, and now she’s brought into this little corner of the Bat-verse as well.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “You know what they say: if you can’t kill them in a horrible lab experiment, join them!” A fitting finale to Adam West’s storied career, you couldn’t have asked for a better last role than getting to play the role that made him both famous and infamous one last time. West sounds good, too. Looks like Warner spent the extra money to do post-production work to get rid of the tremors in West’s voice.

As an added bonus, West gets to act alongside William Shatner, 53 years after the first time, and five decades after both got a reputation for overacting and being typecast.

And Two-Face is one of those villains that you can understand why they never used him in the TV show, but you’re both sorry and not sorry they didn’t. Certainly, the (awful) Tommy Lee Jones interpretation of Two-Face we saw in Batman Forever might have worked in Batman ’66. This version sorta kinda works, too. It borrows from the comics—in the character’s various appearances in the 1940s, he became Two-Face, menaced Batman and Robin, got plastic surgery to restore his face, but then reverted back to Two-Face eventually. (Frank Miller and Klaus Janson riffed on that in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as well.)

Still, I’m iffy about the alteration to Two-Face’s origin. Almost every version has retained the notion that Dent was scarred as part of his prosecutorial duties. Here, he’s just observing a procedure. And the whole evil extraction thing is—well, actually, perfectly in line with some of the other bits of technological nonsense in this iteration of Batman, so I guess I’m okay with that. But it still doesn’t quite feel right.

Everything else, though, is the same self-aware nostalgia-fest as The Return of the Caped Crusaders was. Sometimes that’s part of the problem—they hang an even bigger lantern on the GCPD’s incompetence, which is a bit much. Having said that, I welcome the return of Harriet’s nudge-nudge-wink-winking to Alfred because she’s sure that Bruce and Dick go off to disappear and shag endlessly.

And while it’s great to hear Lee Meriwether join the party, and the joke with her character in the Catwoman costume lands beautifully, Julie Newmar’s presence feels perfunctory. Scripters Michael Jelenic and James Tucker don’t come up with a good reason to have Catwoman in the story, and it feels like she’s only there because Newmar’s still alive and they don’t want to waste the shot.

Shatner himself does superbly as Dent—less so as Two-Face, as the growl he puts on is not nearly as menacing or interesting as he’d like it to be. But it’s a fun, solid performance.

Still, this is fun, and with West’s death, we’re unlikely to get any new ones. It truly closes the book on a delightfully goofy era of Bat-stories. It is, if nothing else, a fitting ending to pair West and Shatner up for the finale. (I just wish there’d been a character named Alexander…)

Bat-rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido did a rewatch of all of Batman 66 from October 2015-May 2017 on this very web site, including every episode of the TV show, the feature film, The Return of the Caped Crusaders, and a bunch of ancillary stuff (including Alexander the Great).  Check him out on Patreon.


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