Casting Call: Special Guest Villains for the 1966 Batman TV Show

13 Batman Villains That Didn’t Appear on the Batman TV Show and the Actors I Would Pick to Play Them If I Were In Charge of These Matters

tv-batmanHoly half-century, Batman! Has it really been 50 years since the Batman TV show first aired?

Why, yes, it has — on Jan. 12, 1966, viewers tuned in to ABC at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to watch the very first episode of (na na na na na na) Batman, a show I think it’s fair to say was unlike any other at the time.

It was a huge hit with kids and grown-ups right from the start, and before the first season was halfway over the show’s producers were fielding calls from Hollywood agents whose famous clients wanted to appear on the show as a “special guest villain.” Sadly, the show lasted just three seasons and it couldn’t book everyone who wanted in on the bad-guy fun.

But what if it could?

Our mission: to travel back in time and cast the villains for a fourth season of Batman. The network executives have just told us viewers have had enough of Joker, Penguin, Catwoman and other villains who have already appeared, so we’ll need to turn to the comics for new villains to cast.

But that’s okay, because we have special future-seeing powers that allow us to choose any Batman villain we want, even ones that debuted in comics published after 1969. The only catch is we can’t pluck celebrities from any part of the timeline; we can only use entertainers who were alive and working in the late 1960s.

Got all that? Great. Let’s start casting!

1. Poison Ivy
Name: Ann-Margret
You might remember her from: Bye Bye Birdie, Viva Las Vegas, The Cincinnati Kid, Tommy, Grumpy Old Men

Why her? Why not her? Swedish-born Ann-Margret’s appearance in Bye Bye Birdie made her a star, and she’s one of those versatile entertainers who can go from a Grammy-nominated album to a critically acclaimed film to guest-starring on The Flintstones (as Ann-Margrock, natch) without breaking a sweat. Yes, Milton Berle’s Louie the Lilac already introduced felonious flowers to Gotham City, but so what? What kind of monster would pass on the chance to see Ann-Margret poured into a pair of leafy green tights and cackling maniacally while entrancing Batman with her toxic kisses? An un-American monster, that’s for goddamn sure.

The death-trap: I dunno, what did Uma Thurman use in that misbegotten film, some kind of giant Venus fly-trap? Let’s go with that.

2. Two-Face
Name: Clint Eastwood
You might remember him from: Rawhide, A Fistful of Dollars, Hang ‘Em High, Dirty Harry, Escape from Alcatraz, Every Which Way But Loose, In the Line of Fire, Unforgiven, Gran Torino, The Bridges of Madison County… wait, he was in that, too? Damn, is there nothing this man can’t do?

Why him? As the legends tell us, Two-Face was one of the classic Batman villains slated for the show, and Clint Eastwood — a TV actor who was fast becoming a famous film star around the time Batman was on the air — was considered for the part. But the network nixed the idea, thinking a villain with half his face scarred would be too gruesome for the kids to see. To which I say: screw that, put Eastwood in makeup, pronto. As a concession to the network worry-warts, we can skip the character’s horrific origin and instead make Two-Face more of a two-toned criminal, similar to the bisected alien Frank Gorshin played in that classic episode of Star Trek. The “double” entendres, the bifurcated suits, the crimes based on the number 2, henchmen who come in sets of identically dressed twins — the script practically writes itself.

The death-trap: I have to go with a classic Two-Face death-trap and tie Batman and Robin to opposite sides of a giant coin that Two-Face plans to flip with a catapult. “Heads I win, tails you lose! It sounds so nice, I’ll say it twice!”

batman66-scarecrow     batman66-anthony-perkins     
3. Scarecrow
Name: Anthony Perkins
You might remember him from: The Matchmaker, Mahogany, Murder on the Orient Express, The Black Hole, Five Miles to Midnight, Psycho

Why him? Seriously? You even have to ask? Though Perkins was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1956’s Friendly Persuasion and won the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award in 1961 for Goodbye Again, he will forever be identified with his most famous role as homicidal hotel owner Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. That and his lanky frame (all 6’2″ of it) makes him a shoo-in for the part of the one nefarious nemesis among Batman’s rogues who considers fear his stock-in-trade.

The death-trap: I’m thinking something simple that capitalizes on one of the more common phobias out there, like Batman and Robin lowered into a pit of snakes, or tied to a pole at the top of a really tall building, or forced to speak in front of a large crowd without any pants. (Or maybe that last one is just me.)

4. Ventriloquist and Scarface
Name: Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy
You might remember him from: The Muppet Movie (1979), The Muppet Show, The Tonight Show, these YouTube clips

Why him? The Ventriloquist is such a brilliant concept for a Batman villain that I’m surprised it took the writers so long to come up with him. He first showed up in the comics in 1988, and the Batman animated series took the ball and ran with it just a few years later, creating one of the most vicious and simultaneously sympathetic villains in Batman’s stable. To make this villain work on live TV, we’re going to need an actual ventriloquist, and I can’t think of a better choice than Bergen. Born in Chicago in 1903, Bergen taught himself ventriloquism during his teen years; in 1919, he paid a Chicago woodcarver $36 to sculpt a likeness of a red-headed Irish paperboy he knew. That was the birth of Charlie McCarthy, and the start of a long career for both of them in vaudeville, radio, film and television. Bergen was also a decent actor without the dummy, and I can’t see him not jumping at the chance to ham it up as a timid man channeling his criminal urges through a vicious gangster-dummy.

The death-trap: The Ventriloquist has a machine that can turn human beings into life-sized dummies, and he can’t wait to try it out on Gatman and Rogin… er, Batman and Robin.

5. Clayface
Name: Boris Karloff
You might remember him from: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Scarface (the 1932 version), The Mummy, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Why him? There have been a handful of villains named Clayface over the years; the first one, a horror movie actor who resorts to murder when someone else dares to play his signature role, appeared in 1940. His given name was “Basil Karlo,” and we don’t need a forensics team to figure out he was named in honor of Karloff, an actor best known at the time for his classic horror roles. He was still working in the late 1960s (he died in 1969), and I can’t think of a better way to respect the man’s contributions than by giving him the role of a lifetime playing a character specifically created with him in mind.

The death-trap: Clayface is a theatrical sort, so I can easily imagine him coming up with an elaborate death-trap based on one of the classic film tropes: tying Batgirl to train tracks, leaving all three crimefighters literally hanging from a cliff, stuff like that. Or maybe in a nod to Karloff’s most famous role, he’ll tie Batman and/or Robin to an elevated operating table in a lightning storm. “It’s alive — but it won’t be much longer! MWHA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!”

6. Professor Hugo Strange
Name: Leonard Nimoy
You might remember him from: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, In Search Of, Fringe, and a little art-house project called (adjusts glasses, reads card) The Star Trek 

Why him? Because if the Star Trek people can come over and nab Frank Gorshin for a guest-star role, then we can damn well do the same in return (fun fact: Gorshin did the voice for Hugo Strange in 2004’s The Batman shortly before his death in 2005). One of Batman’s first recurring villains, Strange is an unhinged psychiatrist who uses his mastery of the mind for nefarious purposes; he was also one of the first villains to correctly deduce Batman’s real identity. Nimoy is an actor who has proven he can handle playing a smarty-pants type, plus anyone who has ever seen the goatee-of-evil Trek episode set in the mirror universe knows he can handle scary. Sign him up.

The death-trap: Dynamic Duo + flat surface + two-ton suspended weight = human Rorschach test. You know it’s happening.

7. Calendar Girl
Name: Diahann Carroll
You might remember her from: Julia, Dynasty, Porgy and Bess, Paris Blues, the sexual fantasies of Chewbacca’s dad (no, really)

Why her? One of Batman’s more gimmicky villains, Calendar Man based his crime sprees on holidays, seasons and days of the week. A 1998 episode of The New Batman Adventures saw a masked ex-supermodel named Calendar Girl steal his shtick by staging revenge crimes based on the four seasons. Ms. Carroll was modelling for Ebony magazine at age 15, and she soon proved she wasn’t just another pretty face with head-turning roles in theatre, film and television (in 1968, she became the first African-American woman to star in her own TV show, Julia). She has the beauty and grace to convincingly play a fashion model, and anyone who saw her acting on Dynasty knows she can throw some serious shade. (Wait, do the kids still say that? God, I’m old.)

The death-trap: It has to be something with a seasonal or holiday motif, so I’m thinking a death-trap that involves baking our heroes inside a giant Easter chocolate egg, or turning them into human fireworks for the Fourth of July, or forcing them to stand right in front of the doors at the start of a Walmart Black Friday sale. You know, something evil.

8. Farmer Brown
Name: Eddie Albert
You might remember him from: Roman Holiday, The Heartbreak Kid, Oklahoma!, The Longest Yard, Falcon Crest, Green Acres

Why him? If we’re going to raid the Batman cartoons to get Calendar Girl, we might as well bag Farmer Brown while we’re at it. The plot for “Critters” was so bizarre (farmer/mad geneticist develops giant-sized livestock that goes berserk, then vows revenge on society when he’s ordered to stop his experiments) that it could easily be lifted into an episode of the  1966 Batman show; just add some henchmen in overalls and straw hats and voilà. Seriously, you have to go see it if you haven’t already, it’s just so weird. Albert had a long and successful acting career, but he’s probably best known for Green Acres (1965-71), a hugely popular sitcom in which he played a New York attorney who moves out to the country. Albert was also an active environmentalist and proponent of organic farming methods, so it wouldn’t take much effort to convince him to play a villain who’s basically Big Agri-Business with a cornpone accent.

The death-trap: If wanting to see Batman and Robin face certain death at the hands (hooves?) of giant mutated pigs and goats is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

9. Maxie Zeus
Name: Anthony Quinn
You might remember him from: The Guns of Navarone, Zorba the Greek, Lawrence of Arabia, Lion of the Desert, Viva Zapata!

Why him? Like King Tut, Maxie Zeus is a man whose mental illness convinces him he is above ordinary mortals, only in his case he’s obsessed with Greek mythology and believes himself to be king of the Greek gods. Cue the crimes based on the symbols of the Zodiac while Batman and Robin smash plates over his henchmen’s heads (“KRASH!” “ZONK!” “OPA!”). The Mexican-born Quinn carved out a nice career playing passionate men representing many ethnicities; one of his most famous roles was Zorba, the dancing Greek who teaches a British traveler how to enjoy life. It’s easy to imagine the larger-than-life Quinn putting on a toga for this scenery-chewing role.

The death-trap: I’m thinking a “labors of Hercules” theme here, maybe leaving Batman in a pit to fight his own Nemean Lion. Or maybe just lower him into a giant vat of bubbling olive oil. You know, to keep with the theme.

10. R’as al-Ghul
Name: Ricardo Montalbán
You might remember him from: Fantasy Island, How the West Was WonStar Trek, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 

Why him? You’re kidding, right? Let’s see: charismatic leader of a group of fanatical followers who have dedicated their lives to obeying a genetically superior guy who sees himself as the rightful leader of a new world remade by his hand… Nope, can’t see Montalbán pulling off that kind of role. But seriously, folks: asked and answered, people. Asked and answered.

The death-trap: The sky’s the limit when R’as hits the scene. He’s usually motivated by a desire to save the planet from overpopulation and environmental collapse, so maybe he’ll trap our heroes in a room with a couple of pissed-off polar bears. Or force them to watch that Al Gore documentary on repeat. Bad news either way.

11. Mime
Name: Marcel Marceau
You might remember him from: Barbarella and Silent Movie, but he was better known for his many live and televised performances 

Why him? This obscure villain first appeared in a 1987 issue of Batman; her family’s wealth came from  fireworks, and she was so traumatized by the death of her parents in a factory explosion she tried to find solace in complete silence. After her dreams of touring with a mime troupe were dashed, she went to extreme lengths to make the  world a quieter place, including attacking a heavy metal band during a concert. Marceau was the most famous practitioner of his craft (he’s even referenced in the story introducing the Mime as one of her inspirations), and I think it would be intriguing to see how a mad mime on a mission to impose silence on the world would work on a show in which everything was designed to be loud.

The death-trap: Nothing too fancy, just have the Dynamic Duo trapped in a glass case filled with “absolute silence” that’s designed to slowly drive them mad. Or put them in front of a giant laser gun designed to “silence” their molecules and turn them into motionless statues. I’m really just in this to see the world’s first totally silent Bat-fight, with all the “OOOFs” and “ZLONKs” written inside parentheses.

12. Fay Gunn
Name: Irene Ryan
You might remember her from: The Beverly Hillbillies

Why her? Born in 1903, Ryan began her career in vaudeville at the age of 11, and over the next half-century found success in radio, film, Broadway and television. She made her first sitcom appearance on The Danny Thomas Show in 1955, but the role she’s best remembered for is Granny Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71), for which she received two Emmy nominations. It shouldn’t be too hard to convince her to take on the role of a villainous Gotham City schoolteacher who secretly teaches her young orphan charges how to rob and fence stolen goods.

The death-trap: Spelling bee. Electric chair. ‘Nuff said.

13. Black Mask
Name: Robert Lowery
You might remember him from: The Mark of Zorro, The Mummy’s Ghost, Batman and Robin, The Ballad of Josie

Why him? Though not as famous as guys like Eastwood and Quinn, Robert Lowery appeared in more than 70 films before dying in 1971 at the age of 58. He was also the star of 1949’s Batman and Robin, a 15-chapter serial that marked the second time the Caped Crusader appeared on the silver screen (Lewis Wilson starred in the first Batman serial; he retired from acting in 1954). Having him make an appearance in the Batman TV show would be a great way to honor Lowery’s previous turn as Batman, much the same way Adam West’s guest-star role as the Gray Ghost in the Batman animated series was a nod to his place in the Batman franchise. Black Mask, a gangster boss obsessed with masks, would be a great villain for Lowery to play, given how similar Black Mask’s story is to Bruce Wayne’s. And, of course, the whole mask thing. Plus we could have Black Mask taunt Batman by saying something like “Nice mask; I bet it’d look better on me” as a super-sized wink to the audience.

The death-trap: Tough one. If we’re going all in with the homage idea, I might suggest using one of the cliffhangers in the Batman and Robin serial as an inspiration for a death-trap. Or hell, let’s just threaten our heroes with being crushed by a giant mask. I don’t know, the writers will figure it out.

2 responses to “Casting Call: Special Guest Villains for the 1966 Batman TV Show

  1. Way back when, science fiction author Harlan Ellison actually submitted a plot for an episode of the Batman television series that would have featured Two-Face. Obviously it was never filmed, but half a century later it was adapted into a really cool comic book by Len Wein & Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez…

  2. Awesome! Have you been reading Jeff Parker’s Batman ’66? I think he based Scarecrow on Perkins…and Ivy on Ann-Margaret. ’66 Harley Quinn is an awful lot like Goldie Hawn. He went Christopher Lee as Ra’s. I agree Montalban is the way to go there, though. I would suggest Wally Cox as The Ventriloquist, though. Not sure about Clayface. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but you really need to read what Parker did with False Face!!! It was awesome! I would throw in Sportsmaster played by Brian Keith maybe? If it were me I’d kick off a Season Four with Sonny and Cher as Punch and Jewelee. I’d also submit maybe Bob Denver, or someone, as Rag Doll.

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