What’s The Story?

False-Face, a master of disguise who loves all kinds of falsehood, is planning a complicated caper — he’s gained access to the plant that produces the paper used to make dollar bills, and he’s going to make counterfeit money — and then break into the bank and replace the bank’s money with his fakes! Everyone will be using fake money, except him, and to make sure nothing goes wrong, he’s kidnapped Chief O’Hara and taken his place in disguise. Unfortunately for False-Face, when he tries to kill the dynamic duo, his moll Blaze realises he’s evil, and not only helps them escape but gives them the clues they need to capture False-Face.

The story is extremely loosely based on The Menace of False-Face written by Bill Finger and drawn by Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris, from 1958′s Batman #113

The Goodies
Batman

“That towering power for right and justice,the Caped Crusader”, he believes that “part of our heritage is the lore of living things, the storybook of nature”, and that “sound mind and sound body” are “a necessity in the relentless war against crime”.

Sees through False-Face’s disguise at one point because “Only a criminal would disguise himself as a licensed bonded guard, and yet callously park in front of a fire hydrant”.

Is once again in favour of rehabilitation, even of the most hardened criminals, believing even False-Face has a conscience. He’s also egalitarian almost to a fault — when talking to Alfred over the Bat-radio while tied to train tracks, he can’t bring himself to give Alfred an order, even to save his own life. He also forgives Blaze while tied to the tracks, saying “any young girl might follow the wrong impulse”.

Robin

Has very little to do in this episode. Finds botany difficult. He says “Jiminy!” a lot. Epithets used: “Holy Houdini!”, “Holy armour-plate!”, “Holy wigs!”

The Baddies
False-Face

False-face is a master of disguise who can manage to perfectly imitate almost anyone, and takes seconds at most to change his appearance (including clothing). He has a love of falsehood, saying the opposite of what he means (except when he doesn’t — this is ignored for most of the story) and theming his crimes around fakery. His hideout is an old film studio, because of the false building fronts. He knocks people out by blowing a blueish powder into their faces.

Both here and in the comics, False-Face is a one-shot villain, not thought worth bringing back. He’s played by Malachi Throne, a moderately well-known character actor (he’s one of those people whose name most people don’t recognise, but who you’ve seen in dozens of things), but for reasons variously reported as a dissatisfaction with the amount of money he was paid or the fact that he spends almost all his screen time in a mask and therefore thought anyone could have turned in the same performance, he asked that his name be taken off the show. The production company capitalised on this (and the fact that Throne was unrecognisable) and credited the special guest villain as being played by “?” (though Throne was credited in the closing credits of the second episode), causing viewers to speculate that a much bigger star was playing the part.

False-Face’s Sidekicks
These are credited as “fat man”, “thin man”, and “midget”, which tells you everything you need to know about their characterisation.

Blaze
False-Face’s moll, she is as talented at disguise as he is, at one point disguising herself perfectly as an old man. She turns on False-Face halfway through the story, leaving a radio message that Alfred hears and which he uses to rescue Batman and Robin from the cliffhanger, and leaving a vital clue as to False-Face’s plans. She is thoroughly rehabilitated by the Wayne Foundation by the end of the story, and is forever grateful to both Batman and Bruce Wayne.

The Gadgets
False-Face’s van can change its appearance while he’s driving it, turning into an armoured car, a police van, and more.

Batman has a two-way batradio on his wrist, which can communicate with a bat-transmitter in the Batcave. There’s also a function on the bat-transmitter that can cause the bat-radio to short-circuit explosively.

Batman has a batlaser, which shoots beams of blue light except when the special effects people forget to overlay the colour, when it shoots beams of black light.

Batman has an inflatable duplicate Batmobile.

The radio to which Alfred is listening while cleaning the Batcave is labelled “Intergalactic Recorder”.

Gotham City
As well as the usual range of banks and exhibition halls which exist only for themed criminals to steal stuff from them, Gotham is also home to the abandoned Bioscope Pictures film studio (which is in remarkably good condition, and so must only recently have been abandoned) and the warehouse where all the paper used to print dollar bills is kept.

Gotham also has a subway system.

What’s New?
This is the first screen appearance for False-Face (who won’t appear on screen again for more than thirty years). It’s also the first story in which Stafford Repp gets a significant part in the story, as Chief O’Hara is kidnapped and replaced by False-Face in disguise.

Review
This is dreadful.

These reviews, on the whole, have been attempts to see what the screen depictions of Batman tell us about the time they were made, but all this one tells us is that in 1966 sometimes TV wasn’t very good at all.

Part of the fault lies in the direction. William Graham occasionally seems to be trying some interesting things with the way he’s framing the shots — the reveal of False-Face in the vending machine is a genuinely good shot — but a lot of the time everything’s just sloppy. Actors are seen waiting, supposedly out of shot, for their cue to enter, a cameraman is caught in shot, and most of the performances are below par. These things wouldn’t normally matter, but the editing is off as well — all the shots are cut just slightly too short, and everything seems to have been composed as shots rather than as scenes, with no thought given to storytelling.

All this would be acceptable, however, were the script any good, but Stephen Kandel (a jobbing writer who worked in the TV industry for over thirty years, working on almost every adventure show going, from Mission: Impossible to Star Trek to Macgyver) turns in something that’s just dull. Those who have seen his Star Trek stories featuring Harry Mudd will be shocked to learn that this actually makes those legendarily-bad stories look quite good.

Given the premise of the story, he could have had some real fun with the evil doubles of O’Hara and, later, Gordon, but while Repp gives it his all in the couple of scenes where he’s playing False-Face as O’Hara, there’s nothing really for him to work with. The plot logic doesn’t really hold together, which is usually not a problem for Batman, but there’s also not a single interesting idea or good line in the thing, and not one memorable visual idea or gimmick. This is what all the Batman TV series’ detractors think the whole series was like.

William Dozier said this was the worst story the series ever did, and the guest villain had his name taken off it. I think that really says it all.

Personnel
Cast
Adam West: Batman
Burt Ward: Robin
Malachi Throne: False-Face
Alan Napier: Alfred
Neil Hamilton: Commissioner Gordon
Myrna Fahey: Blaze
William Dozier: Narrator

Crew
William Dozier: Executive Producer/Creator
Stephen Kandel: Writer
William Graham: Director

[These are being published several weeks in advance on my Patreon, where I've just posted the twelfth Batman 66 TV series post, which will not appear here until late next month. If you want to read now about the Riddler and how he affects US foreign policy in the LBJ era, sign up to support my writing at $1 per month or whatever you can afford. If you can't afford anything or don't like the idea of me having money, they'll all turn up here for free eventually anyway.]

5 Responses to “Batman ’66 True or False-Face/Holy Rat Race”

  1. Zakaria Says:

    I’ve missed this.

    And now I really have to watch this episode.

    The worst? You promise?

  2. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Well, it’s the worst I’ve seen in this rewatch. Some of series three is pretty bad, too, though…

  3. Jack Feerick Says:

    Who the fuck thinks the Harry Mudd episodes of TREK are “legendarily bad,” and were they dropped repeatedly on their heads as children?

  4. amypoodle Says:

    That image at the top there is creepy AS, Andrew.

  5. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Yeah. That’s the one *really good* shot in the episode. Had to choose it…

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