Monday, August 26, 2013

Batman 1966 Casting Call: Judge Madison, Vicki Vale and Jack Ryder

The Batman is a Gothic creature of the night. He is The Dark Knight. He is also the Dark Knight Detective.

After the cruel murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne what every normal, rational individual with tons of money and a lot of free time would do. Become a revenge-seeking costumed vigilante. Dressed like a bat.

For three seasons, two nights a week, on Wednesday and Thursday nights on ABC, Batman was the "Caped Crusader". He fought the good fight in broad daylight. On occasion he went out after dark. He was not scary, and neither were the rogues he fought. As ground-breaking and landmark a series as the 1966 live-action Batman television show was, the producers still played it safe. The show was a half-hour program two nights a week; but really, it was a sixty minute program broken up into two half hour segments that hinged on a cliffhanger. Producers didn't want to scare younger viewers, or alienate adult viewers watching with their children, so Batman became campy, and played for laughs. Gone were the Gothic, scary, thriller elements - and characters. Two-Face, The Scarecrow and Clayface were nowhere to be seen on the series. The Joker, instead of the insane psychotic we all know and love, was more clownish than terrifying like he was in the early comic books. The 1950's had been unkind to comic books. German-American psychiatrist Frederic Wortham had concluded in his 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent that "comic books were a negative form of popular literature and a serious cause of juvenile delinquency". Wortham had become a "Harold Hill", his "pool" were comic books. Twelve years later, in January of 1966, Adam West and Burt ward took the country by storm when Batman debuted. Batman was a show EVERY body wanted to be on.

Instead of characters like Two-Face, The Scarecrow, Clayface, Poison Ivy, viewers were treated to Bookworm, Egghead, King Tut, Lorelei Circe, Louie The Lilac, Marsha Queen of Diamonds and Zelda The Great.

Interestingly enough, immediately after the series had been cancelled, The Batman returned to his Gothic, suspense roots with stories by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, like, The Secret of the Waiting Graves.

Batman was still campy in cartoons, though.

In 1989, The Batman returned to theaters as a dark figure of the night with Michael Keaton as The Batman.

 But, what if? What if YouTube videos were true? What if fan-made videos and films were what the original producers had accomplished with the 1966 series? Over the passed couple of days, I've wondered aloud who I would like to see added to the cast, here and here.

Along with Adam West, Burt Ward, Alan Napier and Neil Hamilton, I would add Lyle Waggoner as Gotham City DA Harvey Dent, Jessica Walter as Dent's fiance Pamela Isley, Raquel Welch as Bruce Wayne's fiance Julie Madison, Meredith MacRae as Kathy Kane and Donna Reed as Dr. Leslie Thompkins.

On top of that I would cast the late Raymond Burr, best known as Perry Mason and Ironside as Julie Madison's father, Judge Madison. Like Chief O'Hara and aunt Harriet Cooper, the judge would be a completely original character created solely for the series. Batman would have access to Commissioner Gordon, DA Harvey Dent, Dr. Leslie Thompkins and Judge Madison. Bruce and The Judge would be social friends, because of his engagement to Julie. Like Harvey, The Judge would be a resource for law. But, The Judge might not be one hundred percent sold on The Batman as a Caped Crusader. More as a Dark Knight. One of the weaknesses of the series was that Jim Gordon and the Gotham City Police were reduced to incompetence around Batman. Instead of trying to arrest and unmask a costumed vigilante, he's been "duly deputized"! Instead of the urban myth that helps promote his war on crime and inspire fear in criminals, Jim Gordon has a hotline under glass in his office to summon the savior of Gotham.

Next, I would add news photographer Vicki Vale, Batman's version of Lois Lane, with fashion model-slash-actress Lauren Hutton. She could be the original Kim Basinger. Vicki would be obsessed with revealing this urban legend and unmasking Batman. Of course, Bruce Wayne would be fascinated by her photos. Nothing like Corto Maltese; more along the lines of portrait, landscape and scenery.

And then there would be Jack Ryder. Much like Vicki Vale, Jack would be obsessed with proving that The Batman is a vigilante and a menace to Gotham City. This would be tricky. Crusading television newsman Jack Ryder is the alter-ego of The Creeper. If The Joker could have a "martian" in an episode, (episode 118, "The Joker's Flying Saucer") then certainly Batman could face Jack Ryder's "Hotseat" program, while teaming up with The Creeper; along with Meredith MacRae's Batwoman, Cyd Charisse's Wonder Woman and Peter Lupus' Superman.

I would invite James Darren, from Gidget, The Time Tunnel and T.J. Hooker fame to join the Batman cast as Jack Ryder.

This is all fantasy casting. If there were no limits. What if? What if each one of these celebrity actors and actresses were available and agreeable to appearing on the series.

Jeff Parker expressed the desire in a recent interview at Comic Book resources to introduce Killer Croc to the Batman '66 comic book he is currently producing for DC. He expressed the desire to base the character on Ted Cassidy, who played great characters on The Addams Family, Star Trek and I Dream of Jeannie. I started wondering - what else could be possible?

What if?           

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