Harlan Ellison’s Unproduced Batman 1966 Teleplay Featured Two-Face – UPDATED!

UPDATED! Two-Face was one of Batman's iconic villains who never made it to the screen on the 60s Batman TV show. But he almost did...and it was Harlan Ellison behind it all!

Holy Harlan Ellison! Of all the brilliant Batman villains who made their way to the small screen during the run of the iconic 1960s Batman TV series that starred Adam West, Burt Ward, and a bevy of special guest batvillains, Two-Face was always noticeably absent. Strange, considering that his striking (if grotesque) look and very specific modus operandi would have fit perfectly into the world of the show. But it turns out that Two-Face did come close to trading brightly-colored punches with Adam West and Burt Ward…in an episode that was to be penned by none other than the legendary Harlan Ellison.Brain Movies Volume 5, the latest in the series that focuses on Mr. Ellison’s TV work, prominently includes “The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face!” The official description of this segment of the book reads:

“Though Harlan’s written numerous comic book scripts for the Dark Knight, his first slide down the Bat-Pole was in 1966 when he pitched an episode to ABC’s Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Tragically—for reasons explained in the editor’s notes—“The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face” was never produced, but now you can read what the Unrepentant Harlequin had in mind for the Dynamic Duo and their Bifurcated Foe.”  

Let’s try and wrap our heads around this one more time. Harlan Ellison, one of the great figures in all of genre fiction, pitched an episode of Batman featuring Two-Face, and somehow it never got made. Sign us up for this ride! The title of the unproduced eleven page treatment for the episode, “The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face” is reminiscent of the story that first introduced Two-Face in 1942’s Detective Comics #66, “The Crimes of Two-Face.” While that could be a coincidence, plenty of episodes of Batman were inspired directly by their comic book counterparts, and to see what a writer like Ellison could do with Two-Face on a show like Batman would have been a dream come true. So, why didn’t we get to see “The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face?” Brain Movies editor, Jason Davis provided Den of Geek with some background information, which confirms the idea that Ellison’s difficulties working with ABC stemmed from a physical altercation with Adrian Samish, head of ABC’s Broadcast Standards and Practices department, which ended with Samish threatening that “Ellison will NEVER work on ABC again!” A threat Samish apparently made good on. From Mr. Davis: 

Indeed, Ellison only pitched to Batman because Samish was leaving ABC; in a case of poor timing, his storyline went to the network for approval on Samish’s last day on the job. Ellison remembers sitting in executive producer William Dozier’s office as several storylines were approved while his was deep-sixed with the phrase “Ellison doesn’t work on ABC.” The vendetta evidently continued after Samish left ABC for Quinn Martin Productions, where Ellison’s superb storyline for an episode of The Manhunter (in Brain Movies, Volume 3) was cut off before going to script.

 Mr. Davis also confirms that the treatment is dated prior to the premiere of Batman, which first aired in January of 1966. So, then how could it be for a single episode rather than the two-parters that were standard in Batman‘s first season? “It may be that the decision to go to the two-part format was made after Samish killed “The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face,” but we’ll probably never know,” he tells us. More details about Mr. Ellison’s troubles at ABC (including the details of the fight with Mr. Samish) and the genesis of the stillborn Two-Face episode of Batman are promised in the pages of Brain MoviesYou can order Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison, Volume 5 (and plenty more) from HarlanEllisonBooks.Com. And we owe an additional tip of our cowls to the great Neil Gaiman for alerting us to this in the first place with this enthusiastic tweet:  — Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) December 1, 2013

So, what incredible celebrity could have played Two-Face? We don’t know if it ever got that far, but we did have a suggestion of our own in this piece about the 10 Special Guest Batvillains We Wish We’d Seen! Now, if only they could hurry up with the official home video release of the show, we’d feel a whole lot better. More on this as it develops!

CORRECTION AND UPDATE NOTES: Thanks to Jason Davis, editor at Harlan Ellison Books for providing us with additional background information about Ellison’s difficulties with ABC. A previous version of this article assumed that Mr. Ellison’s Batman episode was a two-parter, but thanks to Mr. Davis, we now know that it was intended to be a single episode.

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