Holy Criminal Reincarnation! : Top 10 Underused TV Batman Villains Repackaged in the Movies

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We are incorporating two elements here in the Caped Crusader’s universe: applying the Batman 60’s ABC-TV show (1966-1968/3 seasons) with the Batman film franchise (1989 and beyond). The link that we are looking for to connect Batman’s cheesy television past and its current and future filming state of mind is the conception of repackaging the Dynamic Duo’s cartoonish villains from the small screen and giving them new life on the big screen in the millennium. Let’s examine this line of reasoning, shall we?

As any Batman enthusiast (or casual observer) knows about the campy TV series back in the late 60’s is that the main off-kilter charm was the colorful and wacky regular guest star villains that populated the program many times through the three-year broadcast on the network. Household hooligans such as Catwoman, the Joker, the Penguin and the Riddler would return and become the routine rabble-rousers that would engage in dastardly deeds thus keeping Batman and Robin at bay.

Of course when the Batman films from 1989 and later on would emerge we got to see pretty much the same notable villains from yesteryear get the same updated treatment as the masked crime-fighter himself. So the Joker (Jack Nicholson/Heath Ledger), Catwoman (Michelle Pffeiffer), the Penguin (Danny DeVito) and the Riddler (Jim Carrey) would all figure into the sinister pot for Batman to tangle with as he did on the television series some four-plus decades ago. The Batman films even called upon other semi-regular villains from the TV program such as Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwartzenegger) and included other fringe baddies on the side as in Tommy Lee Jones’s Two Face (the TV show featured Malachi Throne as “False Face”) and Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy.

However, the question remains: would it have been a better approach to use some of Batman’s underused TV villains and see if you could give them animated life in the Batman films of today? After all, there is nothing really that mysterious about the Joker or Catwoman that true Batman fanatics do not already know as the heavy duty villains. Maybe that is asking too much to separate some of the Masked One’s famed foes? It is like imagining Superman without the presence of chief mastermind misfit Lex Luthor.

Still, there would be a creative challenge in breathing some interest into the televised Batman criminals that were largely filler personalities when the Joker/Catwoman/Penguin/Riddler took their hiatus away from the cameras. Would it not be fun and fresh to reinvent some of Batman’s lower tier villains and give them a bouncy beginning in the films? Besides, what would be wrong with trying to improve upon the backburner Batman riff raff lawbreakers from the boob tube and give them some complete identity in cinema? Baddies such as the Clock King, Bookworm, Colonel Gumm and the Sandman would make for some zany adversaries on the big screen. Even TV Batman villains a notch below the common “Big Four” such as King Tut would suffice if given the chance to be reborn as major Gotham City troublemaker.

So in Holy Criminal Reincarnation!: Top 10 Underused TV Batman Villains Repackaged in the Movies let us select those incidental villains from the nostalgic program and give reason as to why they would make for rotten ballbusters for the Dark Knight. Do any of you even recall some of these obscure Batman villains? Plus, what no-name Batman villains not being mentioned below would you consider for the movie climate of today?

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1.) The Archer (as played by Art Carney)

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Emmy and future Oscar winner Art Carney portrayed Batman baddie The Archer as he made his first appearance  in the television episode “Shoot a Crooked Arrow” in season 2. Basically, Archer was Gotham City’s modern-day Robin Hood who wanted to steal from the rich (including Bruce Wayne’s posh mansion) and distribute to the poor–not to mention himself to a certain extent.

In the Batman films of today the Archer would be an ideal rascal given the continual economical struggles, high unemployment rates and loss of jobs due to the fickle financial landscape plaguing a frustrated nation. The advanced and sophisticated special effects could make the Archer a rather resourceful threat for a millennium aged Batman.

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN ARCHER: James Spader

2.) Black Widow (as played by Tallulah Bankhead)

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Legendary screen and stage actress Tallulah Bankhead appeared in what many considered her last television appearance before her 1968 death on Batman’s “Black Widow Strikes Again” from season 2. On the show the aging yet wily Black Widow is methodically robbing banks around Gotham City while utilizing a brain transmitter machine to help along with her twisted agenda in collecting major loot. It does not help that Black Widow has Batman under her deceptive trance as she orders her henchmen to carry out her dubious plans.

In the Batman movies having a senior citizen villain could bridge the gap between young comic book movie fanboys and their grandparents (or in some cases perhaps great grandparents!). How hip would it be to see a maturing menace lay the smackdown on her cowl-wearing crime-stopper in a superhero actioner?

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN BLACK WIDOW: Betty White

3.) Chandell/Harry (as played by Liberace)

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Flamboyant entertainer Liberace made his presence known on the 60’s phenomenon that was the Batman TV series in the episode “The Devil’s Fingers”. Liberace played twin siblings Chandell and Harry. Chandell was the notable concert pianist whose musical gifts tickling the ivory keys made him a superstar with a large female following. Harry was the scheming and notorious look-a-like brother who had poor Chandell in a bind to do his evil bidding. In fact, Harry has dirt on Chandell because he is not quite what he seems to his adoring public (read: a pure fraud).

The Batman movies could certainly instill twin brothers in show business as they become no-good villains especially in the age of gossip sites as TMZ, social media outlets and the thirst for celebrity scandals.

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN CHANDELL/HARRY: Michael Douglas (he has already played Liberace in his Emmy-winning performance from Behind the Candelabra)

4.) Egghead (as played by Vincent Price)

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Macabre B-movie star Vincent Price got into the Batman craze as he scored a recurring role on the show as the chrome dome criminal Egghead. Egghead was not really in the elite crowd of Joker, Penguin, Catwoman or Riddler but he might join the second level of Batman returnees with Mr. Freeze, King Tut and The Mad Hatter. The bald baddie made his first Batman TV appearance in season 2’s “An Egg Grows in Gotham City”.

An Egghead villain in the nowadays Batman cinema world could present some feisty comical possibilities since Price’s shifty villain showed shades of cowardice and wanted no part of Batman and Robin’s active fists pounding against his hairless skull. Egghead had sophistication and a sense of style as he was not Batman’s average ruffian ready to rumble in the show’s climatic fight scenes.

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN EGGHEAD: Willem Dafoe (with shaved head and pencil thin mustache)

5.) Louie the Lilac (as played by Milton Berle)

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Veteran comedian Milton Berle’s Batman experience began with the episode “Louie the Lilac” from season 3. The criminal activity behind Louie the Lilac’s motives involves his manipulation of the flower power children in Gotham City Park (remember, Batman took place in the turbulent 60’s during the hippie movement) especially when his henchmen kidnap the leader of these sit-in “peaceniks”.

Louie the Lilac, the naughty mastermind of flowery scents and sprays, is a formidable agitator on a grand scale. Imagine this villain in today’s Batman films where his petal-pushing platitudes could cause havoc with disenchanted political groups such as the Occupy Movement protesters demanding economical equality. Louie the Lilac would be the right fiendish foe to stir the pot and raise cynical awareness making Batman a frazzled mediator in a societal uproar.

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN LOUIE THE LILAC: Comedian/actor Lewis Black

6.) Ma Barker (as played by Shelley Winters)

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Two-time Oscar-winning actress Shelley Winters got some notable mileage playing the spunky villainous Ma Parker who oversees her rambunctious offspring as they are the source of disruption and theft at the Ladies Auxiliary Mother of the Year event in Gotham City.

Winters appeared on Batman in “The Greatest Mother of Them All” season 3 episode. Should Ma Parker and her wayward bunch challenge Batman in today’s cinema maybe we could get some shrewd commentary about the state of familial discord joining at the hip in crime and punishment.

The Batman movie could be played for loose-minded laughs or dramatic impulsiveness. Nevertheless, the broken family unit that sticks together also stinks together! Not a bad sentiment to explore in the cinematic climate of Batman’s psychological realm.

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN MA PARKER: Helen Mirren

7.) The Mad Hatter (as played by David Wayne)

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The villain Mad Hatter (a.k.a. Jervis Tetch) was first played by David Wayne in season 1’s episode “The Thirteenth Hat” of the Batman television show.  The Mad Hatter’s purpose for his nasty agenda at large was to get even with Batman and his fellow jury members for convicting him in court and sending him behind bars. Now the Mad Hatter wants to exact revenge on the Caped Crusader and will use his collection of deceptive top hats as his tools to terminate Batman and others.

The Batman films could definitely add some nerve-racking adversity utilizing the pesky Mad Hatter as the evil-minded attack dog on Gotham City in the name of showing his contempt for the overwhelmed Batman.

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN MAD HATTER: Dustin Hoffman

8.) The Puzzler (as played by Maurice Evans)

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Shakespearean character actor Maurice Evans assumed the sophisticated role of Batman villain The Puzzler in the season 2 episode entitled “The Puzzles are Coming”. In the case of The Puzzler’s antics he was supposedly after a Gotham City billionaire and his associates. Naturally, Batman wants to foil The Puzzler’s nefarious plans.

In the Batman movies The Puzzler could prove to match complicated wits with the Dark Knight. The sinister Englishman could deliver the perplexing puzzles that play into the daring dynamics of a criminal plot twisted enough to jeopardize the financial welfare of the global economy. In essence, The Puzzler could be a great adversarial rival for Batman on an intellectual level.

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN MAD HATTER: Ricky Gervais

9.) Shame (as played by Cliff Robertson)

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Oscar winner Cliff Robertson (“Charly”) became a Batman villain in the form of crooked cowboy Shame in season 2’s “Come Back, Shame” episode. Naturally Robertson’s Shame on Batman was a parody of Alan Ladd’s 1950’s cinema cowboy Shane from the movie of the same name. Anyway, Shane had popped up a handful of times on Batman as the warped western weasel wanting his carousing showdown with the Caped Crusader.

If Shane were to materialize in the current Batman films then the movie-makers could take advantage of two genres–the sci-fi/comic book superhero actioner and the western put to high-tech sensibilities.

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN SHAME: Country singer/actor Trace Adkins

10.) The Siren (as played by Joan Collins)

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The alluring Joan Collins–no stranger to American episodic television in the 1960’s–took to the Batman hysteria when she made a one-time  appearance as the hypnotic honeybun Siren in the season 3 episode “The Wail of the Siren”.

The Siren was a dangerous diva to the male population armed with dazzling beauty and treacherous talent to reinforce her criminal intent. Siren was the heralded chanteuse whose various spellbinding octaves can put the most hardened of men under a trance willing to do her combustible bidding. Among the vulnerable targets that the Siren has in her sights is Commissioner Gordon.

The Siren in the Batman films could render our masked hero helpless and hapless with her feminine wilds as well as be a threat to all unsuspecting Neanderthals good or bad. Being charming, sexual and deadly could be disarming for Batman and the other alpha males out there where the Siren can score in the name of opportunistic womanhood.

RECOMMENDED BATMAN MOVIE VILLAIN THE SIREN: Angelina Jolie

–Frank Ochieng

 

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