Note: This article was originally published in July of 2013 in honor of the arrival of the Batman ’66 comic series. We figured that with the release of Batman: The Complete Television Series on Blu-ray, this would be a fine time to give it another viewing. Enjoy!
With the launch of DC’s Batman ’66 comic by Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case (not to mention a cover by Mike Allred!), it’s pretty easy to find yourself thinking about the incredible “celebrity guest villains” that used to pop up every week on the iconic 1960s TV show. But some classic foes, for one reason or another, were overlooked and never got to go up against Adam West and Burt Ward. Some of these characters simply weren’t created when the pop culture phenomenon of Batmania was at its height, but it’s a blast to think how other villains might have been utilized outside of the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, King Tut, and Egghead.
So here’s how these villains would have, could have, and should have been presented in the 1966 Batman show, and some fun speculation on who could have player these dastardly rogues.
Charlton Heston as Hush
Imagine a two part episode featuring Bruce Wayne’s childhood pal Dr. Tommy Elliot visiting Gotham during a crime spree by the bandaged brigand Hush. Elliot would be played by the usually heroic Charlton Heston to throw viewers off the trail. Who doesn’t trust Heston and his toothy good looks? While he was charming Aunt Harriet, he would also be robbing some of Gotham’s social elite all to get back at Bruce Wayne. Hush’s signature trademarks are his .45s, so Heston would feel right at home in the role.
Paul Winchell as the Ventriloquist
Boy, would the Ventriloquist be right at home on this show. Paul Winchell was one of the more popular ventriloquists of that era, and the banter between the dummy and the caped crusaders would have been phenomenal. Ventriloquist’s goons could have been named after famous dummies. Imagine, “Howdy, Kermit, Charlie, GET HIM!” Winchell’s famous dummy Jerry Mahoney could have even been listed as playing Scarface. Legendary.
Lee Marvin as Deadshot
I’ll just let the awesome of that sink in. Deadshot would have been a little more violent than most of the baddies that passed through Adam West’s world, but with some tweaks Deadshot could work. The show could have played up the sharpshooter angle (as opposed to the “deadly assassin angle.”) He could use paintballs or BBs to shoot out the Batmobile’s tires, or blast off Batman’s pointy ears. Marvin’s intensity would counter the show’s innate silliness. Perhaps a team-up with Shame (not a typo!) would be in order?
Lon Chaney Jr. as Clayface
Of course, in 1966, Clayface would not be able to be the formless monstrosity fans are familiar with today, but with some innovative make-ups techniques, Clayface would have been an awesome addition to the Bat Rogues. Chaney was best known for his legendary performance as the Wolf Man, but he also played the Son of Dracula, the Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster.
Chaney’s special form of villainy could exist in the zany world of the TV show without feeling watered down. Don’t believe me? Just check out his nuanced and tragic performance in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Chaney as Basil Karlo, former horror actor, shape shifter and master of disguise would have been a perfect match between actor and character. Chaney’s large physical presence would be an impressive visual going up against Adam West, and if they played up the disguise angle over the shape-shifting Clayface would work.
Barbara Eden as Poison Ivy
Excuse me while I savor this mental image. Could there possibly be anything hotter than Barbara Eden in her I Dream of Jeannie outfit? How about Barbara Eden wearing nothing but vines? Could even Adam West’s stoic sexual ambiguity resist the toxic sex appeal of Barbara Eden as Pamela Isley? With her man-controlling pheromones and toxic lipsticks, Poison Ivy would slink her way into femme fatale immortality, and this time, men would be calling her master.
Don Knotts as the Scarecrow
Gee, golly, the usually frightened Don Knotts would break all role expectations by playing the master of fear. This time old Mr. Ferley would be doing the scaring as Gotham’s master of terror. I guess the show would have to tone down the scares, maybe Jonathan Crane would make Batman afraid of caves, or masks, or Aunt Harriet. Come to think of it, I’ve always been a little afraid of Aunt Harriet. Knotts would be the perfect physical specimen to fill the straw suit, even though this Scarecrow would be way more Wizard of Oz than Nightmare on Elm Street.
Mil Mascaras as Bane
Nothing says cutting edge ‘60s pop culture like a luchador. As a great man once said, there is nothing classier than a luchador in a suit. Imagine wrestling legend, the barrel chested Mil Mascaras, ruling Gotham’s underworld as Bane. Of course, in this Batman, Bane would only speak Spanish. Steroids would not jive with the kid friendly tone of the show, so when Batman is near; Bane would remove his carefully tailored suit and drink his Strong Juice to take down the Caped Crusader. What appears as an ordinary soft drink would allow Bane the temporary strength to terrorize Gotham.
Goldie Hawn as Harley Quinn
I know when I think adorable, homicidal, and the 1960s, I instantly think about Goldie Hawn. Who would be cuter is the Joker’s moll than Miss Laugh-In herself? She would sock it to viewers with her curvy perfection and sock it to Batman and Robin with her trademark Warholian giant mallet. Hawn and Cesar Romero could be the Lucy and Ricky of crime, but no one would be laughing at the visual of Hawn filling out Harely’s traditional spandex clown suit. Any jaw not on the floor from the sight would be broken instantly by a well-placed boxing glove gun or concrete pie to the face. Harley’s obsession with her Mr. J combined with Hawn’s squeaky voice and wide eyed feminine innocence would have created a villainous beauty rivaling Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt.
Dean Martin as Two- Face
Usually Martin could be seen flipping back a highball, but how about a coin? It was a shame Harvey Dent never made it into the series as he’s one of the most iconic villains from that (or any other) period. Dean Martin and his unique brand of swagger would have made the perfect Jekyll and Hyde gangster, but he also would have garnered sympathy as Harvey Dent. And you know there would have been a musical number if this crooner donned the two toned suit. Can’t you picture Martin as Two-Face…singing a duet by himself?
Christopher Lee as Ra’s Al Ghul
The most Bondian of Bat villains, Lee would have added that perfect air of mysterious dignity to Ra’s Al Ghul. I’m sure Ra’s would have a swingin’ villain pad and there would be a hot starlet to play Talia (Diana Rigg, of course), as Batman would have to stop the environmental terrorist from taking over Gotham. Lee’s almost seven-foot height would have dwarfed Ward and West, and it would have given Lee a rare opportunity to ham it up. In the non-violent world of ‘60s Batman, they would have had to water down the ultra-violent League of Shadows (the League of Hooligans? The League of Nogoodniks?). Nevertheless, the prospect of Christopher Lee donning the robes of the Demon’s Head is almost too cool to contemplate.