KAPOW! ZLOPP! TOUCHE! THE BEST OF BATMAN (1966-1968), PART THREE

Before resuming Season Two of “Batman”, we’ll cave into the crave of batmania with one of the biggest chunks of studio-backed cinematic cheese ever conceived: 1966’s Batman, the Movie. For years, this was the only Batman vehicle available on home video. Batmaniacs have reason to rejoice, because this gloriously dated, souped-up big screen treatment of the series is an “it has to be seen to believed” extravaganza. The hopelessly dippy plot and dialogue may throw off angsty fanboys, but it’s all about our merry villains: Lee Meriwether in her sole performance as Catwoman, as the Riddler, as the Penguin, Cesar Romero as the Joker,  and the most color-saturated array of (inflatable) henchmen in cinema. After the sexiest psychedelic credits you’ll probably ever see comes Batman infamously fending off a rubber shark with his “Bat-repellent Shark Spray.” That gag’s almost topped with later with the “some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” routine. It only gets loopier from there.

Among the toys on display is the Batcopter, Batboat, and Penguin submarine (with flippers!). Even cooler are the fight scenes. Here’s where the multi-hued henchman get to show their mettle, withstanding the dynamic duo while an arsenal of “Kapow, Zlopp, and Touche!”s fills the screen. Each of the four primary villains is at their maniacal best, and all take turns stealing their scenes. Watching Romero’s Joker today, his influence on is blatantly obvious. Of course, Gorshin (a tad underused) twitches with caffeine; there’s a reason he was the sole actor from the series nominated for an Emmy. Meredith’s Penguin is delightfully obnoxious, and Meriwether’s Catwoman is a walking pheromone . Meriwether is criminally underrated, but they’re all so damned animated that you don’t care one bit that their goal is to turn the United Nations into colored sand.

If we weren’t so close to completing the List, I’d plead with the admin here to at least include Batmanas a List Candidate. It’s a rarity in being both weird and absurdly entertaining. Like the series, it’s bound to be considered as blasphemy to modern-day Bat toddlers, who erroneously believe the darker version of the Caped Crusader is truer to the comics. Yes, it is: to the later comics from the likes of Neal Adams, Frank Miller, and Alan Moore. But Batman didn’t start that way. The comics of the 40s and 50s were pure camp. Originally, “Batman” series producer William Dozier planned to create something more serious, akin to “The Adventures of Superman,” but after reading the comics he went high camp instead. That is what the series, and movie bring to life in a way that has never been replicated with such energy and dated style (the Blu-ray edition is a must, with Robin’s hot colors popping against Joker’s cool pinks and greens and Batman’s blue and grey).

Back to Season Two. In “The Impractical Joker/Joker’s Provokers” (directed by James Clark, written by Jay Thompson and Charles Hoffman, airing 16 and 17 November, 1966) the Joker is obsessed with keys; so obsessed that he rips up a copy of the novel “Keys of the Kingdom” and smashes an LP of “You’re the Key to My Heart.” The Joker’s henchbabe is Cornelia,[1] clad in skintight purple. She’s pure decor, and she knows it. There’s a big skeleton key, and we learn that Joker was a hypnotist in his youth when he attempts to revive his old talent on the Caped Crusaders. Robin throws a bat-wrench into Joker’s plans with counter-hypnosis bat-pellets! Cue the “Kapow!” Howard Duff does the bat climb cameo, and there’s a quick plug for us to watch “The Green Hornet.” Apart from the purple decoration, this episode only kicks in near the finale of Part One, when Batman (about to get his goose cooked) has to get in the last word: “Evil only triumphs temporarily, but never conquers!” It turns out Batman has a key too and uses it to get out of his predicament in Part Two. There’s also a magic box that stops time, and Alfred gets a piece of the action in two roles.

“Come Back Shame/It’s How You Play The Game” (directed by Oliver Rudolph, written by Stanley Ross, airing 30-31 of November 1966) is one of the most off-kilter episodes, which is quite an accomplishment. Old West shootist Shame (Cliff Robertson) is back, and he’s stealing parts from hot rods! “Why wouldn’t he steal the entire auto?’ Robin asks. “That,” Batman waxes, with pointed finger, “…is the question!” Shame has a duo of dunderhead henchmen in Messy James (Timothy Scott) and Rip Snorting (John Mitchum) along with gal pal Okie Annie (“Playboy” model Joan Staley). An ordinary lead bullet …with platinum paint is no help at all for the world’s greatest detective. Nor is the lame Shane ripoff tyke Andy (Eric Shea) who screams “Shame, come back” again and again and again and again. Like the kid in the overrated George Stevens “classic”,  Andy’s a good argument for birth control; but don’t give up yet, because there is a cow, by golly. “What’s a nice cow like you doing in a place like this?” youthful ward Dick Grayson asks. To the batcycles, but lo and behold there’s a stampede a-comin’, pardner, and I’m gonna turn you boys into some good ol’ hamburger helper. “Will Batman and Robin bite the dust? Is this the Last Roundup? Find out tomorrow, Shame time, shame Channel!” Part Two gets the batprize for most preposterous escape from a cliffhanger. “Holy Guacamole!” Then it’s Col. Klink (Werner Klemperer) from “Hogan’s Heroes” (the comedy about Nazi concentration camps!) for the bat climb cameo! Andy gets a moral lesson, Shame runs outta ammo and, sigh, the kid lives. Not all endings can be happy.

“That Darn Catwoman/Scat Darn Catwoman” was directed by Oscar Rudolph and written by Stanley Ross and aired on the 25th and 26th of January, 1967. Pop singer Lesley (“It’s My Party”) Gore shows up as a pussycat, belts out a couple of tunes, and not only bewitches Catwoman’s pussypatters, but the Boy Wonder himself. Batman falls prey to the pussy succubus too (“Yeah, Cat-Baby, we’re gonna wail, doll”); but it’s a trick! With a sip of Bat-sleep, the cat is conked and carried to the cave. “I’ll do everything I can to rehabilitate you.” “Marry me.” Everything, but that.” Well, there goes life number two when the cat falls to her death and the tears of a Batman get shed. Luckily, he has his bat-kerchief handy.

“Batman’s Anniversary/A Riddling Controversy”(directed by James Clark and written by William D’Angelo) aired February 8-9, 1967. It features John Astin (better known as Gomez in “The Addams Family”) as the subtsitute Riddler. Smartly, Astin doesn’t mimic Gorshin, instead making the part his own with subdued menace and a question mark cane, but the episode itself lacks the lunacy of those with his predecessor (who will return in season 3).

“A Piece of the Action/ Batman’s Satisfaction” (directed by Oscar Rudolph, written by Charles Hoffman, first aired March 1st and 2nd, 1967) is the crossover episode with “Green Hornet” which, like Batman, was struggling in the ratings. “Hornet,” which was darker in tone, only lasted one season. Batman was a pop phenomenon for a year, but was so original that its novelty was quickly fading by the second season.  Luckily, this twofer is a stylish change of pace, and a hoot to boot, with the Green Hornet (Van Williams) and his trusty kung fu sidekick Kato (the legendary Bruce Lee) arriving at the Pink Chip Stamp Factory in search of a counterfeit stamp ring. Owner Pinky Pinkston (Diane McBain—she has pink hair and a pink puppy) mistakes Green Hornet and Kato for villains and soon the Dynamic Duo are summoned. You guessed it, it’s the Batmobile vs. the Black Beauty. There’s a real villain afoot by the name of Col. Glumm (Roger C. Carmel, best knowns as Harry Mudd in “Star Trek”) who, with the focus on the guest heroes, gets short-shrifted. That’s unfortunate, as he has personality aplenty.  Glumm is a stamp-themed menace who perforates the Green Hornet and Kato, turning them into wallpaper: “Holy human collector’s item!” Batman and Robin aren’t ignored, of course, threatened with an undetachable “Holy flypaper, Batman!” glue pad. Solving an alphabet soup puzzle and feeding noodles to the bat-computer (!) will set things straight in Gotham for sure. Character actor Alex Rocco proves a colorful henchman. Angelique Pettyjohn (who will soon appear in “Star Trek” and get mauled by alien-loving Captain Kirk) is the lingerie-modeling babe, but our chaste hero isn’t moved. “I smell pink,” he intones (don’t go there). In the hippest bat cameo since Ted Cassidy (Lurch from Addams Family), Little Cesar legend Edward G. Robinson shows up for the bat climb to bitch about ! Yeah, if you can’t see the coolness of Batman, you just need to go away.

Michael Rennie as Sandman, Walter Sleazy as the Clock King, and Maurice Evans as the Puzzler are a few of the lesser-known, underrated villains of Season Two.

However, the Batbank was quickly drying up. For Season Three, producers dispensed of the two-episode format (holy no-more-cliffhangers!) but brought in a potential ratings booster with Batgirl (Yvonne Craig). “Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin” (directed by Oscar Rudolph, written by Stanford Sherman) aired on 14 September, 1967, with Commission Gordon’s daughter Barbara (Craig) kidnapped by the Penguin because he wants a bride. Alfred gets kidnapped, too, finds out Barbara is Batgirl and, trusty guy that he is, keeps her identity secret, even from his masters Bruce and Dick. With her Batgirl cycle, batkicks (she doesn’t punch) and batpartment, Batgirl is the coolest thing since sliced bread. Batman and Robin are barely present and get their batasses saved by BOTH Alfred and Batgirl (what a series that would have made).

Joan Collins made a wonderfully hammy villainess in “Wail of the Siren” (she has henchmen named Allegro and Andante). Both King Tut and Shame surpass their previous appearances in this season. , Anne Baxter, Rudy Valle, Milton Berle, and Zsa Zsa Gabor were colorful fillers in lesser entries. In addition to Batgirl, we are introduced to Eartha Kitt’s delightfully idiosyncratic take on Catwoman in the episodes “Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill” and The Joke’s on Catwoman (teaming her with Romero’s Joker). She was set to make additional appearances, but publicly criticized the Vietnam War and was sacked (!) “Batman” was fortunate in having three exceptional actresses essaying the role of Catwoman. Through no fault of her own (Kitt commands the scene for every second she is present–she truly is EEEEEEVIL), neither of the actress’ episodes quite match the scenes with Newmar, or Meriweather in the movie.

I want to end this survey by discussing one of the most bizarre episodes of the entire series. Joker made three appearances in the final season of “Batman.” In his second (“Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under”), both Joker and the caped crusader go a-surfin’, but the sheer insanity of that cheesy green screen gets blown to smithereens by “The Joker’s Flying Saucer.” Allegedly, it was directed by Sam Strings and written by Charles Hoffman (airing on leap year 1968), but I swear those are pseudonyms for . This literally feels like it’s written and directed by our favorite cross-dressing freak. For most fans, it’s the nadir of the series, but for a weird movie site, it may be the crowning achievement of “Batman.”

Surrounded by henchmen  (Shamrock, Chartreuse, and Green) wearing various shades of green, a Martian, and a babe (Emerald) adorned in a green mini, the Joker is going to be doing something with a flying saucer. I think he’s planning on an invasion of some sort. He kidnaps Alfred, believing the butler to be a mad scientist, and he kidnaps Batgirl too. “I’ve thrilled many a woman, Batgirl, but I’ve never sent one completely into orbit before,” the Joker says as he ties her to a rocket. There’s a professor Greenleaf, too (he’s a Joker plant), and a Mrs. Green who swears she saw a little green man. The Batcave is bombed and there’s a fight, and that’s about as a good a synopsis as any, because this is a mess, which doesn’t stop Romero from overdosing with glee. Take his cue.

  1. Played by Kathy Kersh, who briefly became Mrs. Burt Ward. It should have been a match made in bad bat-acting heaven. []                                                         *reprinted from 366 weird movies 

KAPOW! ZLOPP! TOUCHE! THE BEST OF “BATMAN” (1966-1968), PART TWO

On 30 , March 1966, ‘s Riddler returned for “Ring of Wax” (directed by James Clark, written by Jack Paritz and Bob Rodger). The local wax museum is supposed to be unveiling a wax figure of Batman. To the crowd’s horror, that loathsome lithe Riddler is on display instead, and up to his usual atrocious anarchy with a stupendous squirter, spewing crimson crud all over the Gotham gang. Of course, he leaves a pair of baffling riddles behind. In his cauldron of corruption, Riddler concocts a wax that burn its way through any vault in the world, sending him to the local library (!), where he is accompanied by a striped dayglo duo and a purple leather-clad villainess named Moth (Linda Gaye Scott). She’s one in a series of Gorshin’s increasingly bizarre disciples (in “A Riddle A Day,”  Riddler was followed by a girl who talks like a mouse and a trio of henchmen wearing a rainbow of primary colored hoodies, one of whom is the yellowed bug-eyed cheese munching stooge). The Riddler’s inexplicable entourage makes him all the more absurdly frightening. We get such a kick watching Gorshin’s bouncing, blithesome histrionics that the only disappointment is NOT getting to see him lay waste to the Dynamic Duo. However, he does get to stop them in place with “Dr. Riddler’s Instant Forever-Stick Invisible Wax Emulsion,” AKA spray-on superglue.  Escaping with a book on a lost treasure of the Incas, Riddler and his gang head back to their candle factory, where Batman and the Boy Wonder are tied up and lowered into an enormous cauldron. “Will Batman wax serious? For the sake of our heroes, let’s think positively!!! But it looks bad! Very bad! How can we wait until tomorrow night.. same bat-time… same bat-channel !!?”

Their escape in Part Two (“Give ’em the Axe”) is among the series’ most preposterous, and the battle with henchmen hits a garish high, all of which translates into camp delight. When Moth tries to flirt her way out of jail, Batman waxes chaste: “A moth that plays with fire is bound to be burned.” Needless to say, Gorshin owns both episodes.

“The Curse of Tut/Pharaoh’s in a Rut” (directed by Charles Rondeau, written by Robert Dennis and Earl Barret) aired on the 13th and 14th of April, 1966. “A giant Sphinx is uttering demented threats in Gotham Central Park in a woman’s voice!” “Holy hieroglyphics, this might mean a battle royal” with King Tut (Victor Buono), of course. “Maybe this sphinx will give us a clue!” Tut surrounds himself with 1960s Egyptian babes (including Zoda Rodann as a coney dog eating Nefertiti) and henchmen (including busy character actor and B-Western regular Don Berry), whom Tut dismisses as twits. Chasing the deluded creature Nefertiti in the park, Batman and Robin engaged in a hilarious QUNCKKK of a sword fight, but even that’s topped by a bonked Bruce rolling down a hill on gurney and heading for a cliff—which has to be the sexiest update on a serial cliffhanger to date.

The previous episode is one of the most nonsensical of season one. It looks downright linear compared to Part Two. Nefertiti  swoons amorously, and Tut blows his top. Alfred gets bonked. Batman gets gassed. Batman and Nefertiti, tortured with pebbles (!) are taunted with a chorus of “Twinkle, twinkle little bat, how I wonder where you’re at.” While Alfred drives Robin to the exhibit, BATMAN RETURNS WITH THE BATUSI; he tops his previous version with such flair that I swear Tut’s in love. Oh, but isn’t it just like Batman to burst the poor man’s beard with a “BIFF!”? After another duel (Errol and Basil they ain’t), the heartbroken Tut heads for the hills, but “that’s life—full of ups and downs.” Buono’s a different kind of villain; underrated, and his buffoonery fits the refreshing absurdity.

turns up as another unique, one-time-only nerd villain in “The Bookworm Turns/While Gotham City Burns” (directed by Larry Peerce and written by Hedrick Vollaerts, airing on April 20 and 21, 1966). McDowell is such a delight that one laments it’s his only appearance. “Holy Homicide!” Bookworm has infiltrated a bridge dedication by assassinating Commissioner Gordon live on TV (using stock black and white footage of a man falling from a bridge). “This is one time we don’t wait for the batphone.”

A buxom bookworm henchwoman (inconspicuously dressed from head to toe in a body-hugging bright red body suit) drops a copy of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in the Batmobile, but “holy reincarnation!” Gordon is alive! It was only a body double and a  “typical twisted bookworm joke.” The Batmobile is literally book bombed, and the Dynamic Duo darts to deduce dastardly designs by a failed novelist turned super bookworm. Wait, he’s gonna blow the bridge, which means time for a Bat-U-turn, and a call to the Batmobile parachute pickup service.

“Holy human flies!” Jerry Lewis shows up for the Batclimb cameo. “Holy headache!” There’s a Robin the belfry. “Holy Midnight, the first minute of the new day… the everlasting end for Robin! Stick merciful cotton in your ears…! The death-knell sounds tomorrow…same bat-time…same bat-channel!”

Where’s Robin? It’s time for Bat-meditation. “But Batman,” pleads Chief O’Hara. “Don’t interrupt! I’m trying to fathom the  subconscious of a deadly criminal!”

“Ohh,” the disappointed henchman moan in unison when the Boy Wonder is saved. The bookworms are dressed like ice cream men and wear glasses, echoing the big worm himself, who drops a giant cookbook in the middle of Gotham City. Luckily, Batman has a neon pink and yellow super-powered bat magnet. Okay boys, take off your glasses, it’s time for… “Thunk!”

I’m showing bat-bias for Gorshin, but his perfect impersonation alone justifies it in “Death in Slow Motion/Riddler’s False Notion” (directed by Charles Rondeau and written by Richard Carr, airing 27th and 28th of April, 1966). A silent film theme takes flight with Keystone Kops, pie fights, a damsel in distress named Pauline (Sherry Jackson), explosive eclairs, a vixen Bo Peep, Gorshin  (briefly channeling ) overdosing on Folgers, and one of the best dialogue exchanges of the entire series. “Holy molars, am I ever glad I take care of my teeth,” Robin says after catching the batarang with his teeth. “You owe your life to dental hygiene,” says Batman. In true silent film spirit, a hogtied Robin nearly gets split into two by a buzzsaw in one of the series most memorable cliffhangers. Ben Hur‘s Francis X. Bushman plays a small part as Mr. Van Jones, and Riddler prophecies, “this is your last reel.” Indeed it was; Bushman died a mere three months later.

takes cheese to a new level in Season Two’s “An Egg Grows in Gotham/The Yegg Foes in Gotham” (directed by Universal horror’s George Waggner, written by Stanley Ross, and Edwin Self, and aptly airing during the Halloween season, 1966).

Egghead is easily the best villain created specifically for the series, and it would never have worked with anyone other than Price, who makes his entrance at City Hall, stealing the Gotham City Charter from the eggsperts and eggsiting stage left with the loot. Egghead’s lair is eggsquisite (with eggdesks, eggchairs, and eggclocks) and populated by chrome-domed henchman: Benedict (Gene Dynakrski), Foo Young (Ben Welden) and eggsecutive secretary Miss Bacon (Gail Hire). It’s downright surreal slapstick, missing only . Egghead finds a loophole in the town charter—Gotham City must pay nine raccoon pelts to Chief Screaming Chicken (Edward Everett Horton)—that can make the city his! Stereotypes are as abundant as puns, with Egghead delighted with the eggstravagant eggshibition in Screaming Chicken’s tepee. Egghead wants an eggsclusive lease.

“You have egg on your face,” Robin announces on barging into the villain’s chicken coop. “Thwack!” “You put all your eggs in one basket,” says Batman. ”

Prepare yourself for an eggspeditious defeat!”

“That’s very apt, Robin.”

Egghead may have just broken the shell of Bruce Wayne’s secret. How diabolical!!! How inhuman!!! How eggscrutiating!!! Will the world’s greatest criminal mind eggstract the true identity of Batman??? The eggsplanation to these and other eggscentric questions tomorrow!!! Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!!!

If Egghead doesn’t give you a batgasm, then Liberace will surely be the batviagra you need in “The Devil’s Fingers/The Dead Ringers” (directed by Larry Peerce, written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr, airing October 26th and 27th, 1966). The Dead Ringers are twin brothers Chandell and Harry (Liberace x 2!). Cigar-chomping, tommygun-toting Harry is blackmailing Chandell into a life of crime. The virtuoso has a wee bonnie trio (a blonde, a redhead, and a brunette) of miniskirted henchwomen (you didn’t really expect Liberace to be hanging out with macho thugs, did you?) From afar, Bruce Wayne hears Chandell make a mistake in a C-minor chord. “Holy impossibility!”

Liberace a ladies’ man? Seducing Aunt Harriet?

That’s only topped by Liberace’s Jimmy Cagney impersonation, which makes him the most delightfully awful villain of the series.

Will the music end?

KAPOW! ZLOPP! TOUCHE! THE BEST OF “BATMAN” (1966-1968), PART ONE

It’s very simple: if you love “Batman” (1966-1968), starring Adam West, you’re in the cool kids club. If you don’t, you’re clueless and need to go away. Only freaks are allowed here.

“Batman” is still the yardstick by which all other live-action superheroes are to be judged. There has never been another series like it. I’ll go even further: it’s not only a genre and cult yardstick, but it’s a yardstick for television, period.

Before we catapult into the Batcave, I’ll share a few childhood memories, of which I’m damned proud. Adam West’s Batman and ‘ Superman  were the epitome of cool (I’ll never forgive for turning them into caped white trash and making them go commando). I caught Superman in syndication and already knew that Superman had blown his brains out. For me, that was part of his appeal. (I was a tad off-kilter. In my defense, Superman was a more appealing martyr than the Pentecostal Jesus). Admittedly, however, Superman had bland villains, and his second Lois Lane was too June Cleaver-Protestant boring.

Then came Adam West’ Batman. I caught the last season in its first-run, then caught up in syndication. Of course, the show was mass-marketed. Among the most cherished mementos was Batman trading cards, which I would often lose. They meant so much to me that my poor Dad would have to drive all the way downtown to buy me replacement cards from the only store that carried them. I found my true rainbow pot of batgold, however, through a wedding. My cousin was getting married and wanted me for a ring bearer. The last thing I wanted to do was climb into a tuxedo in front of a church crowd, but when she promised to buy me a Batman suit AND a Batmobile to pedal around the back porch on, I begged Dad to call the tuxedo shop immediately so I could be fitted. For Christmas, my brother asked for a children’s Bible (he was such a suck-up). In sharp contrast, I asked for, and received, a Batman View-Master set. With all those bat-toys, I was indisputably the coolest kid who ever lived.

“Atomic batteries to power! Turbines to speed!” “Roger. Ready to move out!”

Since I’m hard pressed to come up with a single non-enjoyable episode, a “Best of Batman” list is bit of an oxymoron, although of course there are standout episodes. This is really more an exercise in cherry picking highlights, because by the time I could finish covering the entire series, we might be heading into 366 Weird Movies, the Sequel. So, without further ado, I have to start with the pilot, which features Batman dancing in a disco.

On 12, January, 1966  “Batman” premiered with “Hi Diddle Riddle” (directed by Robert Butler, written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr,) and, yes, that means… the Riddler () is our first dastardly criminal. He pranks the World’s Fair with an exploding cake and inspires Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) to dial the batphone. Alfred, the butler (Alan Napier) answers, and rescues Bruce Wayne (Adam West) from a fatally boring meeting. Bruce uses the excuse of “gone fishing” with his ward Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) who utters his first “Holy Barracuda!”

“It’ll be a pleasure” to tackle the Riddler, Bruce tells Gordon with such square-jawed seriousness that we damn well believe him.  Cue the opening animation to Nelson Riddle’s iconic theme music.

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SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON TWO REVIEW, PART ONE

The Adventures of Supergirl:

Airdate: 10 October, 2016

Written By: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Jessica Queller
Directed By: Glen Winter

Superman finally appears and, despite the shoulder pad cape, Tyler Hoechlin proves to be the best actor essaying the man of steel role since Christopher Reeve. As Clark Kent, Hoechlin surpasses Reeve and keeps it mild mannered as opposed to tripping over his shoe strings. No one could mistake Reeve’s Kent as having sex appeal, but Hoechlin perfects the 21st century GQ geek so naturally that even Cat Grant is reaching for a new shade of lipstick. The scene where he is introduced to the DEO gets right what alludes Zach Snyder. Hoechlin’s portrayal has been rightly acclaimed, but to date, CW has not acted on calls to give him his own series and probably won’t for fear it will compete with Henry Cavill’s execrable big screen endeavors.

Still, this is Supergirl and even Hoechlin can’t outshine Benoist. “The Adventures of Supergirl” is a very good start to a sophomore season that sees numerous changes, most of which are for the betterment of the series.

After Cat offers Kara the “keys to the kingdom” through a promotion of her choosing, Kara opts for a reporter position, which casts her in the light of The Daily Planet’s Clark Kent. It’s a disappointing and imitative narrative solution. Still, it’s a small quibble. Better is Winn finally getting to prove his mettle by landing a job at the DEO, where his skills are better suited.

After Superman arrives, there’s entertaining relational angles; Winn’s hero worship, and Henshaw’s considerable tensions with the man from Krypton.

This is also the episode which brings in another strange visitor; Mon-El  (Chris Wood), Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), and her wretch of a mother: Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong).  Being mostly on ice after crash landing, Mon-El isn’t a factor yet, although Supergirl gets in a good reference joke comparing him to David Bowie’s character from The Man Who Fell To Earth.

The Jimmy Olsen/Kara Danvers romance gets holstered before it even began, which paves the way for Supergirl’s first big romance. To be continued, of course.

Lena, being a Luthor, is under suspicion, but she’s actually a target, as Superman and Kara discover. As Lena, McGrath is a marvelously shaded addition to the series and a needed one. She teeters on following the family tradition of super villainy (she doesn’t hesitate to shoot down a potential assassin) and hopefully the writers will avoid that and keep her an imperfect ally to Kara.

Luther mommy dearest Lillian also shows up near the finale and we’ll see why, with Lex, the proverbial apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The Last Children of Krypton:

Air Date: 17 October, 2016

Written By: Robert Rovner & Caitlin Parrish

Directed By: Glen Winter

This is the second part of the teaming with Superman and it surpasses its predecessor, making it one of the best episodes to date.

It opens with old fashioned small-time Super heroics with Hoechlin delivering a gratifying line to a crook who opts to throw a punch after attempting to shoot the man of steel: “If the bullets don’t work, why the punching? I’ve never understood that.”

The dialogue between the cousins from Krypton flawlessly nails the spirit of golden age comics:”Does this ever get old?” Supergirl asks Superman. “If it does, I’ll let you know.” We enjoy them being super almost as much as they do.

Henshaw, still harboring a Superman grudge, naturally tries to rain on the parade. “When you two are done showboating…”  Alex chastises the Martian: “You said you’d try to get along with Superman” and an eavesdropping Winn adds in an amusingly geeky Yoda imitation: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Meanwhile, Lillian is busy channeling Peter Cushing, creating dual monsters named Metallo (Frederick Schmidt and Rich Ting). Cat introduces Kara to her new boss; Snapper Carr (the underrated character actor Ian Gomez) who makes a colorfully grumpy addition (he will keep Kara in her place).  “Ponytail,” he calls her. “Oh, you jerky…guy.” This is the precursor to Cat’s departure here. Although complaints were lodged about this change, it’s needed. Cat discovered Supergirl, inspired Kara, and donned the matronly position. Now it’s time for Supergirl to fly out of the nest. Lena will be an edgier (and ultimately more interesting) replacement to Cat.

The Kryptonite-charged cyborg Metallo (Schmidt) proves to be a daunting advisory and the producers pay visual homage to the famous Crisis comic when he bests Kara. His victory is temporary because this is an episode about team-ups: Superman and Supergirl; Superman and Martian Manhunter (we knew that animosity wasn’t going to last): Martian Manhunter and Supergirl; Alex and Winn (we need more of them together); Alex and Supergirl; Winn and Superman. Winn cries.

Welcome To Earth:

Air Date: 24 October, 2016

Written By: Jessica Queller and Derek Simon

Directed By: Rachel Talalay

Now out of the nest with Mama Cat and Superman both gone, Supergirl takes on plenty of issues. This is the episode that inspired thousands of exploding Trump Toon heads and sent them crawling back to their basement and trailer parks, crying constipated tears of slush.

The offensive bullet points come fast and furious: Henshaw, Supergirl, and Alex engage in dialogue about the demonization of “them” (illegal aliens. Mr. Rod Serling is smiling down from that Twilight Zone in the sky); National City welcomes Madame President Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter channeling Clinton) who actually remembers what the Statue of Liberty is about and is “better than the other guy;” the closet door is opened for the same-sex relationship between Alex and Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima); and Jimmy Olsen-you know the African-American guy-is now the CEO of Catco.

There’s a villain of the week too in Scorcher (Nadine Crocker), but that’s only half-baked. More interesting is the interplay between Snapper and Jimmy and Kara;  the developments of the Daxamite Mon-El and Lena Luthor; and the finale into of M’gann M’orzz: The Last Daughter of Mars (Sharon Leal).

Survivors: 

Air Date: 31 October, 2016

Written By:  Paula Yoo and Eric Carrasco
Directed BY: James Marshall

This had an interesting premise with the villain Roulette (Dichen Lachman) running an underground fight club for aliens, but it’s short-shifted in what should have been the main story by again trying to cram in spotlights on all the supporting characters (something Star Trek was often guilty of). Despite rushed writing, the secondary narratives are all of interest: Gomez continues to add color to a character that could be reduced to cliche; In trusting M’gann; Henshaw is abducted and drafted into the fight club. Winn trains Mon-El; Maggie and Alex are slowly but surely stepping out and into…

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SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART THREE

Intro, with parts 1 &2 are here:

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/12/supergirl-exploding-trump-toon-heads-one-season-at-a-time-season-one-review-part-one/

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/19/supergirl-exploding-trump-toon-heads-one-season-at-a-time-season-one-review-part-two/

Truth, Justice And The American Way

Airdate: 22 Feb, 2016

Witten By: Yahlin Chang and Caitlin Parrish
Directed By: Lexi Alexander

With Astra dead by the hand of Alex, Kara joins Non for a Kryptonian funeral in the sky. Vance, as Non, does good work balancing grief with controlled menace. At Catco, Kara has a rival in new assistant Siobhan (Italia Ricci) and a villain of the week: the Master Jailer (Jeff Branson) who is executing escapees from Fort Rozz. Something akin to a vigilante Iron Man, the Master Jailer is a generic one-shot (Iron Man himself rarely had memorable villains).

Even short of a superior antagonist, “Truth, Justice, And The American Way” does a good job balancing the various plot points this time. Not too much time is spent on Kara’s growing resentment of Henshaw (for wrongly believing that he impaled Aunt Astra), Cat’s poignant revelation of a past mistake, the rivalry of Siobhan, Olsen’s conflicts over Lucy and Kara, and what to do with the imprisoned Max.

It is Olsen who motivates Kara and the DEO towards an ethical choice in the latter.  Mehcad Brooks shines in the scene and is more convincing as Supergirl’s pal than he is doing the lovestruck routine. Ricci and guest actor Todd Sherry (as alien professor Luzano) add salsa to the mix.

Benoist takes something of a side burner here, but the episode is well-paced.

Solitude

Airdate: 29February, 2016

Written By: Rachel Shukert, Anna Musky-Goldwyn, and James DeWille

Directed By: Dermott Downs

Enlisting”Smallville” Supergirl Laura Vandervoort as computer intelligence nemesis: Indigo was a smart casting move. Vandervoort’s interpretation of the Supergirl role having been quite different, she slips into her villainous blue x-man-like virus skin with iced charisma. Better yet, Indigo is in cahoots with an aroused Non, who is briefly allowed to grit his teeth. However, even he can’t compete with Vondervoort; Supergirl’s best baddie since Livewire. Vandevoort impresses enough that one resists accepting her inevitable defeat.

At Catco, Siobhan continues competing with Kara. She disses Winn when he tries to greet her: “I’m sorry, I have difficulty making conversation with men under six-feet tall.” Hoping to deliver a package with a potential “scoop,” Siobhan defends delivering it to Cat unopened: “I just spent the last 90 minutes in the mail room letting a glorified postal work stare at my chest so that I could be the one to give this to Cat. I’ll take the credit.”

On the domestic front, Lucy Lane and James Olsen appear to be kaput (finally), while Winn and Siobhan, having moved past her initial contempt, promise to be the series’ first interesting potential romance; both having deviant daddies, which of course can make for refreshing off-kilter bonding.

Winn also gets to flash techie talent in assisting good Supergirl against bad blue Supergirl, which may come in handy for a Toyman Jr. resume. Jordan has appealing eccentricity and needs to breath more as he does here.

With the truth of Astra’s fate finally revealed, the episode ends in a scene emotionally well-acted by Benoist, Leigh, and Harewood.

Falling

Air Date: 14 March, 2016

Written By: Robert Rovner & Jessica Queller
Directed By: Larry Teng

With the exception of Superman II, the Kent/Superman character has proven to be consistently better suited to television. Even the 1978 Superman with its episodic quality, plays more like strung-together TV segments (which is not a bad thing). Superman III and IV, along with the Zack Snyder movies are dung heap. Slightly better, but woefully uneven and dour is Superman Returns. However, the first two seasons of “Lois and Clark” are 90s bliss. The first actual Superman feature, Superman and the Mole Men was intended as a precursor to the series, “The Adventures of Superman” and feels like television. It’s also often forgotten that in the first noir season of the George Reeves series, Superman was darker than Batman.

Even with its traditional Superhero gone bad theme, “Falling” restores that darkness in the series’ best episode to date. Unlike the Snyder films, it retains a sense of entertainment and narrative coherence. Poisoned by red kryptonite, Supergirl loses her puppy demeanor and goes full pit-bull mode. Benoist is more than up to the challenge and napalms naysayers. There’s a small nod to one of the few decent vignettes from Superman III when Supergirl demolishes a tavern with a pile of peanuts. In this episode, she almost expunges memories of Christopher Reeve.

As iconic as Reeve was in the role of Kal-el, his Kent bordered on caricature and he really only had four good hours as Superman. Dean Cain was a fine Kent; albeit one stuck in a Superman costume. George Reeves’ Kent is the proverbial yardstick to measure all by; almost more steel than his alter-ego, which was quite good and paternal (something no other actor attempted in that role), but he only had one great season (his first), one very good season (2) and a final good, but uneven one (6). Tyler Hoechlin (from Season 2 of ‘Supergirl’) nails both characters with a balance unequaled by his predecessors. His Kent is sexy geeky, as opposed to cartoonish. Unfortunately, he is competing with the godawful Henry Cavill and it’s likely Hoechlin will be consigned to an occasional appearance in this series.

As distinctive as all the above have been respectively, it’s a supergirl who soars highest as a strange visit from another planet. In the space of one season, Benoist’ dual characters have done something none of the boys have managed; she’ve evolved and proves she was born to play this role. Here, she employs a range that takes comic book character acting to new heights. Supergirl begins by doing her usual suburban hero beat, but after being exposed to and poisoned by synthetic Red K, Kara becomes brassy, sassy, and competitive at work. She gets rid of potential usurper Siobhan (which unfortunately looks to end an interesting relationship with Winn), takes the boys dancing and then turns against everyone. That climaxes with nearly splattering Cat and leveling the city until Maxwell Lord (who created the poison to stop Non) creates an antidote for the DEO (oddly, Lord seems more creative and effective dealing with alien threats than the organization whose job it is to do so). Although Lord hasn’t lived up to full-blown antagonist potential, he’s an interesting minor character.

Henshaw again self-sacrifices, although why he needs to is questionable. Still, Harewood’s characterization is superbly colored (and has been throughout the series). Now, with the plot turn, he adds new potential that begins with a friend’s xenophobia. Along with Leigh and Benoist, Harewood is indispensable.

Exorcized, Kara is devastated and Benoist knocks it out of the park with a performance that has run the gamut within an hour.

For complexities beyond the simplemindedness of Trump and his toons, along with opening the xenophobia can of worms, “Falling” earns a “you ain’t grabbin’ shit award.

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SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART TWO

Part one is here:

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/12/supergirl-exploding-trump-toon-heads-one-season-at-a-time-season-one-review-part-one/

and…

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

Hostile Takeover

Airdate: 14 December, 2015

Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Caitlin Parrish
Directed by: Karen Gaviola

There are parallel potential hostile takeovers, but the second is akin to a sketch of something that will be colored in later.

The first and more prominent attempt at a coup involves a walking personification of white male privilege attempting to oust Cat from her own company.

Winn, Olsen, Kara, and Lucy Lane join forces to protect Cat from her potential usurper and there’s a bit of cold-war type of counterinsurgency that’s bubblegum fun. Olsen has a shining 007-like moment when sabotaging by Mr. White Male Privilege. Almost caught, our intrepid CATCO photo journalist slithers his way out of that scenario with all the charm of a GQ Sneaky Snake.

Meanwhile, Aunt Astra (Laura Benanti) and hubby Non (Chris Vance) attempt to hack Earth and there’s some gladiatorial combat in the sky afoot, but as DEO Green Beret Alex (take that John Wayne) observes; Kara’s not up to par. The emerald training session, where Alex proves to be an artisan in combative encounters, renders the Kryptonian tug-of-war as comparatively tame. Of course, the key ingredient is Chyler Leigh as Alex.

However, this episode ultimately belongs to Benoist and Flockhart in their respective roles, which enjoy edifying development here. Family secrets from both ladies are revealed and those revelations inspire them towards shared intimacy that’s heroic. This climaxes in the big reveal, which takes place after the threatening crisis has been subverted. Benoist excels with such hushed vulnerability that the scene is her best since “Human for a day.”

For exposing the morally bankrupt Trump Toon mindset of winning and the hypocrisy of white male privilege, “Hostile Takeover” earns …

Blood Bonds

Airdate: 4 January, 2016

Written By:Ted Sullivan and Derek Simon
Directed By: Steve Shill

“Blood Bonds” picks up where “Hostile Takeover” left off; in a rousing battle between Kara and Non. However, this outing becomes narratively cluttered and although enjoyable, the direction is off-kilter in kinetic pacing to accommodate multifarious bullet points.

There’s an additional misstep in the writing when it segues into handicapping Astra with sentimentality. Bennati is too commanding a presence in the role(s) to be potentially diminished. Likewise, Maxwell Lord is proving to be an underwhelming adversary when he holds back after capturing Olsen in a bit of photo espionage.

Olsen and Winn are two characters who thus far are lacking the level of complex development on a par with Kara, Cat, Alex, and Henshaw. Here, the interplay between Olsen and Winn refreshingly moves past Supergirl pals, but it’s still filler.

There’s also disappointment in the back-peddling of Cat’s discovery from the previous episode. The secret identity troupe can wear thin and it’s hardly conceivable that the smartest person at CATCO is so quickly convinced that she erred while Olsen and Winn are in the know. That aside, Cat’s relating to Kara and the big discovery is whimsically prismatic and there’s fun to be had in seeing Cat humbled. Henshaw’s aiding the ruse works wonderfully even if we’re not convinced it was necessary. Taking a cue from the “Adventures of Superman,” it’s a kick to see Supergirl and Kara side-by-side.

As with the source material, J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter is proving to be the enigmatic green “illegal” with a heart of fiery gold. Harewood is drawing out the character in a gradually compelling way and although his divulging to Kara comes sooner than expected, it’s also welcome.

The strength of this episode is the fleshing out of Kara’s authentic need for life at CATCO. Benoist adds considerably to the outsider quality of her character, especially when things go south. Per the norm, Benoist nails it; continuing to add versatility and meaty dimension to a pulp hero.

For guts in tackling status quo biases across the board, “Blood Bonds” earns one exploding Trump Toon head.

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SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART ONE

Pilot:

Airdate: 26 Oct,2015

Written by: Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, and Andrew Kreisberg.

Directed by: Glen Winter.

Starring: Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers AKA Supergirl

Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant
Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers
Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen
David Harewood as Hank Henshaw
Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott

This is one of the best pilots for any comic-based series, which is remarkable given that the origin is necessarily similar to that of Superman. Over the last few years, the Krypton saga has been taken to levels of extended banality (i.e. Man of Steel), so it’s refreshing that the writing team of Supergirl shoots through it like quicksilver and gets us to the heart of the matter : Supergirl herself. Immediately, the series establishes its brightness. Kara jumps for joy from the couch, embracing her super-ness after saving sis Alex from a potential plane disaster. Supergirl’s pilot was so pluckily modern and amusingly entertaining that sexist fanboys immediately took to social media to show us their heads exploding. Of course that reaction is so predictable as to be yawn-inducing since the genre base is often hyper-right-wing male-driven, which of course means xenophobic, homophobic, and misogynistic, Oh My! Since Supergirl is contrary to all that, that means the recent news of being renewed for a fourth season is going to inspire still more exploding heads. Bring out the cheesy popcorn.

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

Benoist’ enthusiasm for the role and show is contagious and although the cast is uniformly excellent, she’s the constant, even when the show’s writing occasionally slips (as it inevitably will in any series). She has strength in her innocence as both Kara and Supergirl and we can readily identify with both personalities. With her bun-haired nerdy demeanor, Kara lets her golden locks flow so fancifully as Supergirl that we completely buy her peers’ cluelessness. Benoist balances hero with mild-mannered alter-ego better than anyone in the man of steel role and that includes the late, much-missed Christopher Reeve. Her nerd qualities don’t come to the surface by walking into a wall, but merely by being a twenty-something who hasn’t figured life out. What she does know is that she loves being more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, even if she is initially out of her element, hugs too hard, and screws up more than she succeeds. Being a super girl is better than pizza and this lady loves pizza (and supergirl cake!) Unlike her famous cousin, Kara has no yearning to be human. What, are you crazy? She can fly and can’t wait to try out her powers. “Are you sure you’re bullet-proof?” “Hope so.” “I can do a car chase,” she says with voguish aplomb. On the other had, she tries on-line dating and it’s a friggin disaster. To heck with this jerk, time to go save some people. She’s excited about her secret and can’t wait to share it with National City CATCO co-workers, including future Toyman antagonist Winn ( the scene of ousting herself to him is pure adrenalin charm). Naturally, protective Alex chides Kara for loose lips and later in the season Supergirl herself will slip again on TV.

Benoist as Kara personifies the best qualities of millennials, who predictably are rendered a perennial demographic target of Trump Toons. It’s not that she means to provoke the barrel-bottom dwellers, but she’s having too much fun being a heroine to tiptoe through the tulips of their incessant hangups. For her unintentional exclamation point, she’ll even trump a villain who underestimates her because she’s a girl.

James Olsen is another co-worker that Kara bonds with. Brooks is so tight-shirt sexy self-assured as the African-American Supergirl pal that he should be able to help keep Milk of Magnesia in business with the series’ white-robed haters as long as he’s on the air.

Alex, being the crackerjack ninja that she is, gives Kara’s super-moniker serious competition, especially in her fight scenes and when it comes to heavy-duty pop emoting, Leigh, being the pro that she is, hooks us from the premiere on. She’s as essential to the series as Benoist. Alex will upgrade from kicking chauvinistic ass in season one to mantling David Cronenberg and napalming homophobe heads in season 2. Leigh and Benoist are the series’ yardsticks for gauging one’s broadness. If the idea of 21st century National City Valkyries clog your bowels, then you’re probably a Trump Toon and should stick to Hack Snyder fantasies.

CATCO CEO Cat Grant steals almost ever scene she’s in, as we would expect the former Ally McBeal to do. When she gives the reason for naming Supergirl, she does it with such style and conviction that we take her side over an objecting Kara and our own reservations. Cat’s the perfect inspirational model for coffee girls, superheroes, and us. She’s only a fixture in the first season and some have lamented her departure. Yet, she can be likened to a short, but sweet visit; knowing when to exit and knowing it will benefit the show to do so.

At this point Harewood as Henshaw appears to have a mixmaster up his ass and doesn’t know it, but… (stay tuned)

Jordan as Winn is one screwed-up sweetie and invites us to sympathize with him as the perennial Charlie Brown type (a quality that Kara occasionally shares). We hope against hope that he’s not going to turn. However, if comic lore is being followed here… (stay tuned)

The series establishes its cooler-than-peanutbutter-world of aliens in the premiere. Despite reservations, Henshaw recruits Kara to work with himself and Alex at the DEO (DEPARTMENT OF EXTRANORMAL OPERATIONS. How cool is that?). After an episode chock-full of hand-wringing over delivering cold latte and a couple of failed costume attempts, Kara is literally up to her x-ray peepers in dodging glowing alien tomahawks and ends her debut up, up and away.

For a girl superhero who likes being a superhero, two-African American leads, two women who can kick bad GUY ass, an empowered businesswoman, and Winn who thinks it’s cool that Kara’s gay (even though she’s not), “Pilot” earns an exploding Trump Toon Head.

Stronger Together

Airdate: 2 November, 2015

Credits same as pilot.

Kara is still adjusting to public superdom and per Cat’s advice, Supergirl backs up a tad from trying to be the quintessential hero. Her earnestness comes to full-flower when she saves a big snake stuck in a tree after being told it was cat. Even with her super-resistance, she hates touching the icky thing. Of course, being the trooper and animal pal that she is, she saves it anyway. Benoist invites us to keep it positive with her and we do. Of course there’s a couple of monkey wrenches: a bug-like alien who does gross things with his mouth and Kara’s badass Kryptonian Aunt Astra (Laura Bennati) fresh out of the Kryptonian prison Fort Razz (and gearing up for invasion).

After a humble butt-whipping, Kara is learning the ropes, gets taught by a mere mortal, and ready or not, prepares for the big interview.

For female empowerment (of course), having smart girls who refuse to be reduced to male receptacles (WHAT?!? WHAT?!? WHAT?!?), feminine wit, Peta-like BS, and girls doin’ good GUY things, “Stronger Together” earns an exploding Trump Toon head.

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SUPERGIRL: THE HIPPEST DAMNED SUPERHERO SHOW ON TELEVISION

Melissa Benoist is indisputably the most perfect actor embodying the role of a comic-based character since Christopher Reeve donned the red and blue for Superman in 1978. Given all the competition since then, such a statement might prove controversial… to constipated Trump Toon comic geeks, but their opinion is as worthless as their Craven Cantaloupe Christ who currently resides at 1600 Penn Avenue (or rather, the golf course). Too, I need to alter the title a tad; it’s not only the hippest damned superhero show on TV, it’s hipper than any of the comic-inspired productions being offered in cinema and the hippest genre series since the 1960s Adam West Batman.

Yet, Supergirl is also among the favorite of alt-right fanboys; favorite targets that is, joining the esteemed company of 2017’s Star Wars; The Last Jedi (how dare Rey-a girl-earn the role of a Jedi through work as opposed to being fathered in? Kinda the antithesis of President Oompa Loompa) and 2018’s Black Panther (for obvious reasons, despite the fact that the comic book off which it’s based is over 50 years old).

Let’s first address fanboy complaints from the yawn-inducing Goebbels Operational Playbook. Why? because it’s so damned fun to out them as the 19th century bigots and Neanderthals that they are. Naturally, they’re as predictable as a paint-by-number set; amusing in their ethical timidity and the ease by which they are offended.

Complaint One: “GASP! Jimmy Olsen is black! That’s PC BS! “

Never mind that to complain about political correctness is politically correct in itself. In some of the complaints seen on various social media outlets, the mentally and ethically challenged alt-right don’t often come right out and say it’s because he’s “black.”  Rather, they say “Olsen is supposed to be a geeky redhead with freckles and Mehcad Brooks plays Olsen like a GQ model!”

Let’s call this lame BS spin-doctoring for what it is. No one complained when a freckle-less Olsen had black hair in “Lois and Clark.” They didn’t complain when Hack Snyder killed Olsen off in a war zone. No, this is just a smokescreen to mask the inherent bigotry of Trump Toons.

Why? Because these are comic book fundamentalists. They have the same mindset as religious fundamentalists. Comic book characters are essentially gods to Trump Toons and even though the fanboys know the characters to be fictional (we hope), they still edify literal portrayals of deities who wear underwear outside of their pants-WHEN it’s convenient for them to do so (like bible fundies-they pick and choose).

In the comics, Superman doesn’t kill. Trump Toons didn’t protest one bit that this long-held tradition was deviated from in the execrable Man of Steel (2013). Superman had a curl hairdo. Henry Cavill doesn’t have a curl. Superman had red briefs. Not anymore. And so on. Thus, these complaints being spewed by funny paper-reading Trump Toons are rendered as cartoonish and hypocritical as they are.

Complaint Two:” It has lesbian sex!!! This is political propaganda! with a pro-gay agenda!”

Uh, no it doesn’t have lesbian sex. It depicts a couple who happen to be in a same-sex relationship and they did kiss a couple of times, but essentially we can translate this as: IF Hollywood happens to show any characters that are not hetero WASP males, then it’s … “POLITICAL!” Never mind that the Trump Toon geeks’ Kool-aid serving savior has a much put-upon wife who did a same-sex photo shoot ( a few years earlier these same politicos were outraged that Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress). This is also telling because homophobes only associate same-sex unions with sex. Of course we knows that gays are subhuman, they don’t have feelings and don’t do things like take out the trash, fold laundry, or go to church together, etc. Perhaps even worse, Supergirl’s big gay sis Alex (the too-hip-for-words Chyler Leigh) can kick male butt.

Of course, Hollywood is the great evil empire; the whore of Babylon; the secret illuminati trying to brainwash us by sending subliminal pro-gay agenda messages. Oh wait; Mango Messiah Trump was a Hollywood trash TV host? Throw a blanket over that inconvenient fact and scream “FAKE NEWS!”

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BORIS KARLOFF’S THRILLER (1960-1962): EPISODE GUIDE AND REVIEWS

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The reputation of  Boris Karloff’s “Thriller,” which ran from 1960-1962, is such that it was one of the most highly anticipated DVDs until its 2010 release. Despite its somewhat hefty price tag, it became a best seller (and was followed by a ‘greatest hits’  top ten release in 2012). Author Steven King’s proclaiming it the “best horror series of all time” (in his 1981 book, ‘Danse Macabre’) certainly enhanced its eminence. Of course, a statement that absolute is going to be argued, and it was (with naysayers pointing to the earliest crime oriented episodes as evidence against King’s boast). Naturally, like all series, “Thriller” is uneven. Still, the positives outweigh the negatives enough to justify its cult status.

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Karloff hosted each episode, and acted in a few. This was his second horror anthology series. His first,  the ten episode “The Veil,” from 1958, never actually aired; after its DVD release in 2001, it was dubbed by some critics as “the best television series never seen.” A later DVD release, under the title of  Tales Of The Unexplained From The Veil,” featured two additional “lost” episodes. “The Veil” has also been referred to as a precursor to “Thriller,” although it’s not quite as good and the flavor is different. Hopefully, we’ll get around to reviewing the earlier series by next Halloween.

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“Thriller” premiered on September 13th, 1960 with the episode “The Twisted Image” (directed by Arthur Hiller), which starred Leslie Nielsen and Natalie Trundy. “Her possessive eyes… Alan Patterson was aware of her eyes at the newsstand, at the lunch counter, in the elevator. He was aware of them for almost a month and they were to lead him into guilt, and terror, and murder as sure as my name is Boris Karloff. ”

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As we watch, Karloff informs us that this a tale of watching and being watched, assuring that a shattering effect lies within the “Twisted Image.” Nielsen, as Patterson, a married, successful business man, is watched by four psychotic eyes belonging to Lily (Trundy) and Merle (George Gizzard). Lily lusts after him and, at least on the surface, Merle is insanely jealous. Although director Hiller denied it, as it was written (by James P. Cavanagh adapting William O’ Farrell’s novel) and played by Grizzard, there is sexual longing in Merle’s voyeurism as well. Still, we’re not entirely convinced he deserves all the attention, as the very young Nielsen has none of his later charisma. Grizzard walks away with the episode playing a scheming, destructive looney tune coworker. Competent, but unimaginative with no surprises, this debut waddles its way to a lackluster finale.

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“Child’s Play” (also directed by Hiller and written by Robert Dozier): With marital discord between his parents (Frank Overton and Bethel Leslie), young Hank (Tommy Nolan) is overdosing on B-Westerns and William Tell while vacationing at a cabin. The potentially darker side of the imagination is explored, with young Hank transforming into a symbol for gun control. A slight improvement over the pilot episode, it’s surprisingly a stationary affair that could have used a dose of fantasizing.

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“Worse Than Murder” (directed by Mitchell Leisen and written by Mel Goldberg) takes a turn for the worse. If television viewers of 1960 relied solely on first impressions, it’s relatively easy to see why “Thriller” failed to find its audience. This one’s about a murder motivated by love of dyed green paper. Constance Ford kicks into high gear as a scheming gold digger, but her acting is the only thing that thrills here. Otherwise, it’s pedestrian in both writing and direction.

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While the first three episodes are dull and conventional, “Mark Of The Hand” (directed by Paul Henried, Laszlo of Casablanca fame, and written by Eric Peters) may be the series at its lowest ebb. An eight year old (Terry Turnham) may or may not be guilty of murder. While that premise might have potential in better hands, this is a mystery devoid of mystery: predictable, campy, and a sluggish affair.

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“Rose’s Last Summer” (directed by Hiller and written by Marie Baumer) could be easily dismissed as a small screen ripoff of Sunset Boulevard (1950) or a lame warmup to Whatever Happened To Baby Jane (1962). It’s about the murder of an aging actress, which remarkably fails to generate even the slightest interest, despite starring one time Oscar winner Mary Astor.

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“The Guilty Men” (directed by Jules Bricken and written by John Vlahos) is a run of the mill crime melodrama starring Frank Silvera  as a mobster who is trying to go clean and… yawn. On the plus side,  Silvera’s campy acting is a hoot.

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With “The Purple Room” (written and directed by Douglas Heyes)  starring Rip Torn and the house from Psycho (1960), we finally have a genuine “Thriller.” It’s hardly original, having an old dark house plot, but there’s some fun to be had in the send-up of genre traditions and stereotypes. Karloff never resented being stereotyped, believing that it gifted him a career niche. Additionally, unlike many actors of his period Karloff, had no qualms embracing the small screen medium, and with new producer William Fry, the series takes advantage of its host’s screen persona none too soon.

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Duncan (Rip Torn) has inherited his sibling’s Bayou mansion, with the condition that he must live there for a year. However, as lawyer Ridgewater (Alan Napier, best known as Alfred from TVs “Batman”) informs Duncan that, if he fails to do so, the mansion falls to scheming cousins Rachel and Oliver (Patricia Barry and Richard Anderson, who would later be known for rebuilding the Six Million Dollar Man ). Naturally, as host Karloff warns us in the intro, the mansion has a little problem with ghosts. Being a pragmatist, Duncan isn’t worried in the least, and to prove it, he will spend the night in the Purple Room, where a murder took place one hundred years before. Shot in crisp black and white, this episode almost makes up for a lack of originality and uneven acting with atmosphere.

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“The Watcher” (directed by Jon Brahm and written by Donald Sanford) is serial killer Freitag (Martin Gabel) who is so good at dispensing with his victims and playing the role of religious zealot that local law enforcement (Alan Baxter) believes the deaths to be unrelated suicides. Freitas sets his sights on sinful lovers Larry and Beth (a pre-“Doctor Kildare” Richard Chamberlain and Olive Sturges) and attempts to convert them before he judges them. There’s a latent bit of same sex lusting in Freitag, but despite the peanut butter and jelly theme of religious hypocrisy, this somewhat grisly episode is an also-ran in the “Thriller” canon.

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“Girl With A Secret” (directed by Mitchell Leisen and written by Charles Beaumont) missteps back into the crime melodramas of the first six episodes, courtesy of producer Fletcher Markle. Newlywed Alice (Myrna Fahey) discovers that her husband Anthony (Rhodes Reason) is not who he says he is. The same goes for his “family.” It takes a deft hand to sell this kid of espionage nonsense, and Markle is no Hitchcock. Also starring Victor Buono.

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“The Prediction” (directed by Brahm and written by Sanford) stars Karloff himself as a phony psychic who begins to have death visions for real. A first season “ Adventures Of Superman” episode covered related ground, and did it in a more entertaining way. Karloff wrings pathos out of his role, which almost makes up for the contrived plot.

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“The Fatal Impulse” (directed by Gerald Mayer and written by Phillip MacDonald) features a superb cast, which includes Robert Lansing, Conrad Nagel, Elisha Cook Jr. and, briefly, a young Mary Tyler Moore. It’s another preposterous melodrama about a loony named Harry (Cook) who gets caught in an attempt to kill Mayor Wylie (Nagel). Not one to concede defeat, Harry plants incriminating evidence—a bomb–in the purse of an office worker, which brings in a bleak Lt. Rome (Lansing). This crime caper has a different producer in Maxwell Shane, and it helps considerably. There’s tension aplenty as Rome races to find the bomb before it is set to go off. The flavoring of this episode supersedes awkward writing. Mary plays a librarian named Mary.

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“The Big Blackout” (directed by Maurice Geraghty and written by Don Tracy) is an anonymous, dull episode about an alcoholic amnesiac named Burt (Jack Carson) who belatedly discovers he was involved in some shady business.

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“Knock Three One-Two” (directed by Herman Hoffman and written by John Kneubuhl) stars Beverly Garland as Ruth, the put-upon wife of gambling addict Ray (Joe Maross). Ray, having cried wolf one time too many, is not going to be bailed out this time by his wife, which inspires him to hire killer Benny (Warren Oates) to make him a widower. Garland steals the show, although there’s not much to steal in this episode of contrived irony.

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“Man In The Middle” (directed by Fletcher Markle and written by Howard Rodman) miscasts comedian Mort Sahl  in the dramatic role of Sam, who overhears Mr. Clark (Werner Klemperer—son of conductor Otto and star of “Hogan’s Heroes”) plotting a murder. Reluctantly, Sam decides to try and thwart the thug’s evil plan. If the plot sounds hackneyed, that’s because it is. Series Producer Markle is also out of his element and bowed out for good after this entry.

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“The Cheaters” (directed by Brahm and scripted by Sanford from a story by Robert Bloch) is the first authentically “classic” episode, one worthy of the series’s cult reputation. It kicks off in an entirely different mood: rather than the usual Pete Rugolo jazz opening, producer William Frye brings in composer Jerry Goldsmith, who expertly shrieks and enhances the drama about to unfold. Former Karloff co-star Henry Daniell (from Val Lewton’s The Body Snatcher) briefly appears as an inventor who puts on a pair of queer “cheaters” (sunglasses) and has a vision that leads him to hang himself before dawn. His failure to destroy the lethal eyewear proves unfortunate for the victims ahead, who include “A little old fashioned lady named Miriam Alcott played by Miss Mildred Dunnock, a nephew named Percy Dean played by Mr. Jack Weston, and finally a man who discovered the real purpose of the spectacles, Sebastien Grimm played by Mr. Harry Townes. What they saw through those yellow gold lenses they never forgot, and neither will you, my friends, because as sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a thrillah.”

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This time, Karloff’s lisp lingers, convincing us of goosebumps ahead. Inscribed in the “cheaters” is the name Veritas, the Roman goddess of Truth and, like Dorian Gray’s portrait, the spectacles reveal the soul, shorn of pretense. In a cast of superlative performances, Paul Newlan is a standout as the junk dealer Joe Henshaw. Most fans and critics rank “The Cheaters” in the top five episodes and, for once, the consensus is spot on.

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THE PRISONER (1967-1968) EPISODE GUIDE AND REVIEWS

The Prisoner

The British series “The Prisoner” (1967-1968), starring and co-created by Patrick McGoohan, is the model for cult television. It is an indirect sequel to a previous series, “Secret Agent” (AKA “Danger Man,” 1960-1962), which also starred McGoohan. By general consensus, “The Prisoner” ranks as one of the best, if not the best, example of science fiction as a television genre. The consensus, for once, is probably accurate, because “The Prisoner” is far more than science fiction, dispensing with genre expectations. We could also describe it as being psychological, surreal, allegorical, existential, countercultural, satirical, Kafkaesque, psychedelic, nightmarish, absurdist, comic bookish, supernatural, born from the spy genre (in a far more interesting breed than 007), and enigmatic. It’s still enigmatic today, with enthusiasts and critics compelled to attempt to express its mystification in the absence of creator McGoohan, who steadfastly refused to ever explain it. Even its reputation is aptly enigmatic; it’s heard about more than actually seen. “The Prisoner” often causes polemical arguments among many who have seen it and debate the chronological order of its seventeen episodes. It was created smartly and contrary to our priorities and agendas regarding television. To many of us, the series should be ongoing. In its blueprint stage, the goal of “The Prisoner” was always to end, and yet in its (for us) brief run, McGoohan crafts a saga that feels narratively and aesthetically accomplished. Comparatively, many series, after being cancelled prematurely, will feel unfinished, cheating its dangling audience. At the other end of the spectrum, many ongoing series have trekked on well past the point of what should have been a well-developed beginning, middle, and satisfying climax. “The Prisoner” was originally intended to be even briefer, but was extended in order to ensure an American market. In hindsight, “The Prisoner” might even be seen as an advance metaphorical commentary on that puerile abomination known as reality television: elastically taunting and playing with our concepts of reality, daily humdrum, juxtapositional narrative, and cryptic completion.

THE PRISONER opening sequence

What we do know is the idea for “The Prisoner” sprang from McGoohan’s exhaustive workload on “Secret Agent.” In “The Arrival” (directed by Don Chaffey), its unnamed protagonist (McGoohan) quits the British Secret Service with no reason cited; but as we know, departing an intelligence position is hardly a done deal. Drugged and abducted by arcane forces, he  awakens …

Where Am I?

In the Village.

What Do You Want?

Information.

Whose Side Are You On?

That Would Be Telling. We Want Information.

You Won’t Get It.

By Hook, or By Crook, We Will.

Who Are You?

The New No. 2.

Who Is No. 1?

You Are No. 6.

I Am Not a Number, I Am a Free Man.

The Prisoner THE VILLAGE

As the Prisoner soon learns, the Village is a facade, seemingly populated by affable occupants, located on a remote island. And, as our protagonist will further discover, resistance is futile. Or so the Fascist state will try to convince him.

From this first episode, The Prisoner established its aggressive editing.  A series of village inquiries take the Prisoner nowhere. From the Green Dome, No.2 (Guy Doleman) invites the Prisoner to breakfast, which becomes an interrogation: “Why did you resign, No. 6?” The Prisoner is warned that he only has a short amount of time to cooperate before the information is extracted.

The Prisoner %22Arrival%22 Guy Doleman

After taking in the village, the Prisoner witnesses the fate of a fellow nonconformist who, upon trying to escape, is engulfed in an organic, white mass called the Rover. What is it? It is never explained, but its function is to capture and return potential escapees.

Undeterred, the Prisoner refuses to be identified by his number or fill out a questionnaire. He throws out the maid, and, in rage, destroys a radio, which continues playing music.

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After an encounter with the Rover, the Prisoner wakes up in the village hospital and is reunited with a former colleague named Cobb (Paul Eddington) who also talks of escape. However, that plan is put to an end with Cobb’s suicide by jumping out the window. At Cobb’s funeral, the Prisoner meets No.9, Cobb’s girlfriend (Virginia Maskell, who actually committed suicide shortly after filming on the series ended).

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Together, the Prisoner and No. 9 plot an escape via a helicopter, but with a new, more hostile No. 2 (George Baker) things are not as they seem: “Trust no one.” Even maps lie and villagers can take on multifarious incarnations. The end result is a hopelessly circular one.

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“The Arrival” stands as a well written, acted, directed and edited pilot, one of the most memorable in television. Yet, apart from the pilot, each episode can be a standalone (which renders arguments about its chronology as pointlessly silly).

In “The Chimes Of Big Ben” (again directed by Chaffey), a new No. 2 (Leo McKern) emphatically states that he does not want No. 6 broken into fragments. The Prisoner, on his end, awakens to the sound of an announcement for the Village Arts and Crafts Exhibition, which he responds to by placing the loudspeaker in the refrigerator.

The Prisoner The Chimes Of Big Ben Patrick McGoohan & Leo McKern

A new Number 8  (Nadia Gray) has arrived in the Village and is placed next door to No. 6. No. 2 is delighted to see that she and the Prisoner are hitting it offThe outcomes seems to be a softening of the Prisoner’s resolve. However, a sequence of  events, some of which utilizes the Crafts exhibition, lead to a daring escape attempt by both the Prisoner and No. 8. Fragments are indeed heartbreaking.

Both McKern and Gray are superb guest stars in this psychologically complex and entertaining episode. McKern is so good, he will be one of only two actors to reprise the ever-changing role of No. 2.

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In “A. B. and C. (directed by Pat Jackson, who also worked on “Secret Agent”) the new No. 2 (Colin Gordon) believes that the Prisoner’s defection was part of a plan to betray the agency. His belief is so steadfast that he subjects the Prisoner to a drug interrogation, performed by No. 14 (Sheila Allen, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Thus, the episode take us securely into the dream realm. The end result is surrealism-lover’s paradise, which does not mean (as is often the case with surrealism) emotional bankruptcy. At the heart of it is McGoohan, guiding us through a topsy turvy state where choices are never simple. This is a standout episode, which is saying a lot.

The Prisoner FREE FOR ALL

In “Free For All,” McGoohan steps in as both writer and director in this political manifesto in which the Prisoner chooses to run for office in the Village. The new and humorless No. 2 (esteemed character actor Eric Portman) assigns the Prisoner a maid, the non-English speaking No. 58 (Rachel Herbert).

Although the spy element is naturally retained, “Free For All” is more of a political parable (making it rather apt in this American election season, especially with delusional paranoia about fixed elections being bandied about). As a matter of fact, the Prisoner here could actually be in the predicament that a certain narcissistic candidate today likes to fancy himself in. Fortunately, the Prisoner is devoid of both demagoguery and rhetoric. He’s too inherently broken for that.

The Prisoner “The Schizoid Man”

Does 6 plus 6 really equal 12? So asks the aptly titled “The Schizoid Man” (directed by Pat Jackson). After a seemingly innocuous trifle about bonding with a psychic villager and a bruised thumb, the Prisoner lies down for a good night’s sleep, but it appears that the room night light has a faulty bulb.

Drugged once more, the Prisoner is taken by men in white coats who wheel him into the hospital, turn him into a southpaw (via electroshock, in a moment of karma for all us lefties who were at the mercy of brainwashing status quo teachers with rulers back in first grade), throw away his razors, and give him a new do.  After an indeterminate amount of time on the gurney, the Prisoner awakens with a new look in a new surrounding, as pawn of an elaborate scheme composed by the new No. 2 (Anton Rodgers), a surprisingly young administrator.

“You are Number 12,” the Prisoner is told at the Green Dome, “and you are to break Number 6.” “But I am Number 6.” And so he is, or at least his double is. And if you think that in addition to being an attempt at uncovering the reason for the Prisoner’s resignation, this is also a ploy to get him to own his number, you would be right.  See Number 12 fence with Number 6. See them box. See them duel with pistols.

Now actually, Number 6 is Number 12 , Number 12 is Number 6, and Number 12 is in cahoots with Number 2. Of course, No. 6 (12) knows this is a feeble scheme hatched by No. 2. Of course, No. 2 knows that No. 12 (6) knows that No. 6 (12) knows. But, what if No. 12 pretends to be No. 6? Perhaps then he could escape. And the helicopter circles back, as it always does. And the psychic is remorseful over having cooperated with No. 2, but neither she nor No. 2 counted on a bruised thumb. Ah!

The script for “The Schizoid Man” so impressed McGoohan  that he hired its writer, Terence Freely, to join the production company’s board of directors. In contrast, for years director Pat Jackson claimed to have been utterly confused by the script, but simply directed it as written. His confusion was an honest one and shows in one of the series most legendary episodes. McGoohan responds with a tour de force performance.

The Prisoner “The General”

Director Peter Graham Scott was reported to have been equally confused by the script for “The General.” Again, that turns out to be a plus (and undoubtedly an astute choice by McGoohan and company).

The Prisoner cannot even enjoy his coffee without Village trauma drama when he hears an announcement ordering history students to immediately return to their dwellings, which is followed by his witnessing the Professor being caught and manhandled (by his students) while attempting to escape.

The Village is obsessed with a new fad, Speed Learning: “Learn a three-year course in three minutes.” “It’s not impossible,” says No. 12. The Prisoner finds the Professor’s tape recorder, which has “information” that may prove damaging to the General and No. 2 (Colin Gordon, this time out). However, before he can listen to it, the Prisoner is forced to bury it and attend the very same history course subliminally taught by the Professor.

No. 2 actively searches for the tape recorder, which he believes is in the Prisoner’s possession. After finding no incriminating evidence, No.2, still convinced that No. 6 has it, hints at offering a ticket out of the Village.

After losing the tape recorder, and retrieving it via No. 12, the Prisoner hears the Professor’s message: “Speed learning is slavery,” and learns it is the General who is behind it all. Allies are hardly that, and this No. 2 underestimates the Prisoner’s cunning, as does the General who is asked an unanswerable question.

This episode is a chillingly contemporary one with commentary on mindless trends and shades of a Big Brother Fox Network appealing to and manipulating their sycophants.

The Prisoner “The General”

Gordon makes for a winningly effective No. 2 , who, along with Leo McKern, will be the only returning administrator to play the role.

McGoohan himself returns to direct “Many Happy Returns,” where he awakens quite alone. The Village is entirely deserted. Even the rover is missing. Apart from the Prisoner, the only sign of life is the No. 2’s black cat. Building a raft, he finally escapes and, after a tumultuous journey at sea, the Prisoner makes his way back to London.

The Prisoner “Many Happy Returns”

Sharing his incredible story, the Prisoner is accused of lying by his superiors, and that barbed wire fence he comes across isn’t just a prop. But, in the blink of an eye….

“Many Happy Returns” is often listed as an archetypal episode. Despite the multiple altercations, including a physical one at sea, this is a minimalist episode, sparse in actual dialogue.

The Prisoner “Dance Of The Dead”

“Dance Of The Dead” (directed by Don Chaffey), is, as its title indicates, is one of the bleakest episodes, with a female No. 2 (Mary Morris) who could probably give Harry Potter’s Dolores Umbridge a good run. She leads likeminded merciless, bloodthirsty women who the Prisoner will face, in a trial, after having found and stolen a transistor radio attached to a dead body. The ending is awash in harrowing despair, making this an episode that is often ranked as quintessential Prisoner.

The Prisoner “Dance Of The Dead”

Director Chaffee returns to helm “Checkmate,” and again shows a flair for suffocating gloom. This is one of the episodes whose chronology is debated, since it was actually filmed before the pilot. Regardless, in a human chess match played on the Village green, the Prisoner discovers a potentially useful ally in the Rook.  But, nonconformity necessitates therapy as this week’s No. 2 (Peter Wyngarde) is apt to remind us.

The Prisoner “Checkmate”

A distress signal, a pawn (brainwashed to fall in love with the Prisoner), would be rescuers, and guards who will be pawns are all symbols in this highly expressionistic episode that is one for connoisseurs.

The Prisoner “Hammer Into Anvil”

“Hammer Into Anvil” (directed by Pat Jackson) is an adrenaline rush tale of revenge against No. 2 (Patrick Cargill), whom the Prisoner blames for the suicide of No. 73. The revenge is psychological as the Prisoner searches for and finds flaws in his nemesis. It’s an episode of reversals as the Prisoner mercilessly begins his campaign to destroy No. 2. With the Prisoner slightly less sympathetic than before, our empathy for No. 2 rests on Cargill’s performance, which he succeeds in soliciting. Such shrewd emotional manipulation requires a degree of absurdity, which is bounced straight off a trampoline into a paradox of a finale. This is one of the most visceral and wily episodes that lingers well past its compact running time.

The Prisoner “It’s Your Funeral”

“It’s Your Funeral” (directed by Robert Asher) involves an assassination plot against the current No. 2 (Andre van Gyseghem) before a new No. 2 (busy and acclaimed character actor Darren Nesbit) steps in, although, he may or may not be be No. 2 after all.

The Prisoner’s preoccupation with freedom is relegated to the back burner as he and Monique  join forces to thwart the plot. Paranoia is the weapon of choice in a Village mutiny, but the lingering question lies with the mutiny itself: is it to be avoided or desired?

The Prisoner “A Change Of Mind”

 

“A Change Of Mind” (directed by Patrick McGoohan) opens with the Prisoner confronted by thugs from the gymnasium (which is fairly typical for workout fundies). Seeing that No. 6 would rather exercise in the woods, they accuse him of being “unmutual” (not status quo) and ferociously pick a fight with him. The Prisoner reacts by beating the hell out of them. Then, like all bullies who get whupped, they go and tattle. Of course, No. 2 (played by John Sharp this week) and his gang threaten a spanking,  in the form of a lobotomy for No. 6—a literal change of mind. Unfortunately, they haven’t found out yet what they need from No. 6: why the Prisoner resigned as an agent. The solution? Make the Prisoner believe he has been lobotomized. The episode uses Rod Serling circularity, with another confrontation in the woods and a table-turning that leads to the charge of “unumutuality” going much higher.

The Prisoner “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling”

“Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling” (directed by Pat Jackson) is a genuine oddity in a genuinely odd series. Its contrasting textures are off-colored, with the presence of “star” McGoohan kept to a minimum. He’s hardly even in it, as he was busy filming Ice Station Zebra (1968). Of course, the production team could have simply waited for McGoohan’s return. Instead they found an opportunity for a change of pace. Whether they succeeded or not is intensely debated.

On paper, the plot sounds fatigued. Yet another mind-swapping thriller, the type that “one idea” Universal hack Curt Siodmack wrote repeatedly.  When the Colonel (Nigel Stock) arrives in the Village, he is informed by No. 2 (Clifford Evans) that a professor Seltzman (Hugo Schuster) has invented a mind-swapping machine. Unfortunately, Seltzman is missing and, apparently, once done, the process cannot be reversed, which is hardly going to stop No. 2, if it means obtaining information from the Prisoner.

Yet again, the Prisoner is abducted and drugged, only to awaken in the body of the Colonel. It doesn’t take him to long to do the math and go looking for Seltzman. Along the way, No. 6 has his only love scene in the entire series, played by Stock (because the hyper-Catholic McGoohan refused to ever do a love scene). Stock plays the Prisoner throughout most of the episode without resorting to impersonation. His performance is an effective one, matched by Evans’s charismatic No. 2.

Apparently, the script was loathed by almost everyone, and many “Prisoner” fans rank it as the low ebb of the series. There’s no denying that it doesn’t quite come together, but it is a compelling effort.

The Prisoner “Living in Harmony”

“Living in Harmony” (directed by David Tomblin) is another episode which sounds wretched and could be dubbed “the Prisoner goes west.” However, as when the original “Star Trek” crew relived the gunfight at the OK Corral (in “Spectre of the Gun,” also from 1968), the end result is among the most refreshingly ludicrous in the show’s run.

The Prisoner finds himself in the guise of a recently resigned sheriff in the town of Harmony, which has a corrupt judge (David Bauer as No. 2) and an upstart trigger-happy gunslinger, known as The Kid (energetically played by Alexis Kanner).  The Kid, of course, wants to challenge the Sheriff’s reputation. Every western genre cliche is tapped: from an unruly, hysterical mob, to a trial, to a brutal beating of the pacifistic protagonist. There’s even a Wyatt Earp-like call for gun control, a damsel-in-distress saloon girl for the Sheriff to protect, and a despicable murder, which forces a reluctant hero to put his guns back on. The real question, after a heterodox resurrection, is: “why did the sheriff resign?” The answer is hardly going to be located in acid-induced visions of cardboard cut-outs.

The Prisoner “The Girl Who Was Death”

“The Girl Who Was Death” (directed by David Tomblin) is yet another mind-boggling episode that plays silly putty with formula writing. We are taken away from the Village to (apparently) the Prisoner’s past as a “Secret Agent.” This episode is in full satire mode, with a femme fatale Lady Death (Justine Lord, looking like a prototype from the modish 60s) and her mad scientist father Schnipps (Kenneth Griffith, AKA No. 2) wanting to blow up London with his big rocket. Death could be a dominatrix villain straight out of Adam West’s “Batman” series (or any Fu Manchu plot): threatening our hero with spikes, trapping him in a room of exploding poisoned candles, and locking his head in a fish bowl.

The macho spy, detective, and serial genres are all mercilessly parodied, and references abound to Sherlock Holmes (McGoohan in comical mustache), “Mission Impossible,” “The Avengers,” and even the Prisoner’s predecessor “Danger Man.”  It’s delightfully corny and kinetically paced, like any good children’s action book should be.

The Prisoner %22Once Upon A Time%22

Leo McKern returns as No. 2 in “Once Upon A Time” (directed by Don Chaffey), which usually makes every fan’s top ten list. In addition to  pop/abstract editing and sumptuous visuals, one major reason for this episode’s broad acclaim is a tour de force performance from McKern (who reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown due to the role’s intensity). No. 2 has sworn to “Degree Absolute,” meaning that he will engage in a battle of wills, to the death, with No. 6. McGoohan also gives one of his most determined, sustained performances in this despair-laden entry.

Drugged again, the Prisoner finds himself regressed to a childlike state with an unwanted paternal figure in No. 2, who fatally discovers, through the seasons of life, defiance and resistance accompany knowledge in his contentious student. The cruel secrets and dark purpled heart of the Village lie dead on the floor in the Embryo Room.

The Prisoner %22Once Upon A Time%22

As the new No. 2, the Prisoner is finally asked:

“What do you desire?”

“Number One.”

The Prisoner “Fallout”

Aptly, the two-part “Fallout” (directed by McGoohan) is a “Looney Tunes” finale that, in hindsight, couldn’t have been anything else, which is why it was nominated for a Hugo award. A tying up of loose ends or satisfying narrative conclusion would have rendered the entire series hypocritical. Fortunately, McGoohan is too vital an artist to solicit any kind of applause for the ending.

For the last time, we are subjected to the opening ritualized credits, but the Prisoner has evolved. He is no longer even No. 2. He is a cool-toned rugged individual. McGoohan throws in the allegorical kitchen sink with his Prisoner facing the temptation to become the Village idol.  As a simian No. 1 is blasted into outer space, the previous No. 6, with the resurrected Kid from “Living in Harmony” (Kanner) and No. 2 (McKern) rumba to “Dem Dry Bones.”  It’s a final image that ingeniously provokes even its most rabid fan base: paradoxically of its time and relentlessly contemporary.