Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Batman 1966 More Fantasy Casting

According to, one of the most asked about television shows for season  or series box set collection is the 1966 live action Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Forty-seven years after it debuted on ABC as a mid-season replacement, it is still hugely popular. It was a show that every celebrity, star, actor and actress wanted to be on. That right there may be the reason it has yet to be collected in season sets or a series set.

Royalties may be holding up home release on DVD of the Batman television series indefinitely. Royalties to estates of cast members, celebrity villain guest stars and the bat-climb cameo appearances. The series was a collaboration of DC Comics, Warner Bros. and competitor 20th Century Fox, along with Greenway Productions. There may be royalties due for the Batmobile, and certain costume and set designs.

Jeff Parker, along with Jonathan Case, Mike Allred and Ty Templeton have been working on a new DC digital-to-print comic, Batman '66. It is possible that the estates for actor Alan Napier (Alfred) and Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet) have not agreed to license the likenesses of the stars for the series. The first issue shows different character designs from the actors that played the characters. Parker said in an interview with Comic Book Resources promoting the series that he would like to introduce modern villain Killer Croc based on actor Ted Cassidy, from The Addams Family, Star Trek and I Dream of Jeannie.

It's this kind of dream casting that got me thinking.

What if?

What if Lyle Waggoner had been cast as Gotham DA Harvey Dent? What if Jessica Walter had been cast as Dent's fiance Pamela Isley. What if over the course of a season these two characters had begun their descent into the villains Two-Face and Poison Ivy? It would have risked the shows light, comedy camp factor, but it could have given the series depth and legs. So would adding Bruce's comic book fiance Julie Madison, in star Raquel Welch. Bruce and Batman both could have been conflicted by Kathy Kane, played by Meredith MacRae, who would be inspired by the Caped Crusader to become Batwoman. Along with Alfred, Bruce and Dick would have Dr. Leslie Thompkins to confide in as played by Donna Reed. Bruce could seek legal counsel from Julie's father, Judge Madison played by Raymond Burr.

Another character that would be great to introduce into the 1966 timeline would be Wayne Foundation director, Lucius Fox.

Up until the series wash cancelled, and The Batman was returned to more dark, Gothic roots, Bruce Wayne was a millionaire-philanthropist, and head of a charitable organization, Wayne Foundation. It was not the industrial Wayne Enterprises in later years similar to Luthorcorp. It would be cool to see Moses Gunn in the role of Lucius Fox, bringing even more diversity to the cast and series. Believe it or not television was a male dominated club even into the 1990's with programs like Law & Order. Richard Brooks provided a racial diversity; but it wasn't until the mid-'90's and the casting of S. Epatha Merkerson, Jill Hennessy and Benjamin Bratt that gender and ethnic diversity was reached. Gunn would round out the regular and recurring cast of supporting characters for Batman and Robin.

The campy approach to the series eliminated a number of classic, more Gothic or scary villains; such as Two-Face, with his horrific scars. The Scarecrow was another, along with psychiatrist Doctor Hugo Strange, Clayface, Blockbuster and Poison Ivy. I would also suggest rogues like the Golden-Age Green Lantern villain Solomon Grundy, The Golden-Age Flash nemesis Rag Doll, and the rogue Deadshot.

With Two-Face (Lyle Waggoner) and Poison Ivy (Jessica Walter) covered; I would cast '60's Western-Action-Sitcom star Denny Miller, as Solomon Grundy. Most recently, Miller was the Gorton's Fisherman. 

This would be a radical change from the safe formula that dominated the series. The villains had pretty much been reduced to common thieves, robbing banks, stealing payroll, benefit proceeds and valuable works of art. Murder and mayhem was replaced by petty larceny and kidnapping. Grundy would be Batman's Frankenstein, a Hulk -years before the Bixby-Ferrigno series that lasted five seasons on CBS. Grundy would be simple and basic. He would be a better television rogue than Blockbuster.

Next, I would cast the late comic actor Wally Cox as Professor Jonathan Crane, alias The Scarecrow. Cox was best known as the voice of Underdog. It would be fun to see Cox in a very different role. Fear gas would be kinda cool against Batman and Robin. A Scarecrow episode could start with robbery, but then he would move on to terrorizing Gotham with his fear gas.

Next, I would cast limber comic Dick Van Dyke as the contortionist clown villain, Rag Doll, Peter Merkel. It would be fun to see Mr. Van Dyke bring the same multi-jointed action from Chitty-Chitty, Bang-Bang, and Mary Poppins to Batman. He was between series at the time Batman was on, so it would be a hoot to see.

Finally, I would cast another family-friendly actor, Disney staple Dean Jones as actor Matt Hagen, alias Clayface. He didn't become an actor until the Batman: The Animated Series years; but it would be fun to combine the original Basil Karlo and Hagen into this '60's live action Clayface. He would be similar to a the Spider-Man villain, The Chameleon, or what Malachi Throne's False-Face character ended up being: a master of disguise.

It would be cool to see Two-Face, Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, Clayface, Solomon Grundy and Rag Doll added to the already larger-than-life celebrity guest-villains.

What do you think? Hit or miss? Share a comment.

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