Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Tallulah Bankhead faces down Batman

"You may be caped and you may be dynamic, but I find you a crashing bore!" -- Black Widow

When the campy Batman TV series hit the airwaves in the late sixties, a number of well-known actors were signed to play guest villains. Definitely the most memorable was talented stage [and screen] actress Tallulah Bankhead, with her trade mark gravelly voice and withering, highly amusing delivery. Bankhead had already shown how good she could be in TV comedy when she guest-starred on what was probably the best Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour episode. On this two-part second season episode of Batman, she plays the comically sinister Black Widow, who apparently rode roughshod over Gotham City in the past [but never appeared previously on the show] and now is robbing banks with the aid of several confederates and a machine that saps men's wills. Therefore she sort of hypnotizes the bank officers into simply handing her oodles of cash. The cliffhanger has Bankhead unleashing cat-sized black widow spiders on Batman and Robin ["Batman! They're getting closer!"/ "I know, Robin!"]. Arguably the funniest sequence has the Widow dressing up as Robin and growling at police officers, with her voice coming out of Burt Ward's body as the actor does a funny parody of Bankhead. Bolstering the proceedings -- along with Adam West as Batman and Ward as Robin, both excellent as usual [not to mention wonderful Neil Hamilton and Stafford Repp as the police and Alan Napier as Alfred]-- are the appearances of Grady Sutton [The Bank Dick] as a nervous bank teller and the unidentified actor who plays the bank president. The campy approach to Batman is now passe, but I must say this was a very, very funny and clever episode of the often dopey series. Bankhead's most famous movie is Hitchcock's Lifeboat; she starred in Die, Die My Darling two years before doing Batman.

Verdict: Bankhead and Batman are an unbeatable combination. ***.

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