Sometimes you get an idea and it won’t leave you alone. This is one of those. A lark. A goof. A what-if, not to be taken seriously. Please don’t sue me.
It started with a simple question: What’s your favorite Batman story?
Honestly, that depends on what day you ask me. Sometimes it’s “Half An Evil”…
Other times it’s “Night of the Stalker”…
But most of the time, it’s this one. The two-parter from Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers that brought back Dr. Hugo Strange.
The reason is because of all the great moments in it. Englehart really pulled out all the stops; as he himself said, “I put everything I had into a character I’d always wanted to do.”
In particular, he gave us the scene I’d always wanted to see–the one that had been the subject of numerous playground discussions since the Adam West show first went on the air. The bad guy’s got Batman and Robin at his mercy, bound and helpless. Before putting them in the giant deathtrap, why the hell doesn’t he rip the masks off? Especially when he remembered to take the utility belts.
At long last, Steve Englehart and Marshal Rogers gave us that moment. The greatest Bat-cliffhanger ever.
Just looking at that bottom panel, I can still remember the visceral thrill of thinking Finally! when I first read it….and being on fire to know what happened next. Detective Comics was bi-monthly then, so God knows how the kids waited two whole months….I got mine as back issues in 1979, so I was spared that.
I’ve always been disappointed that, even though we’ve seen Strange in a couple of animated adaptations, we never got that moment.
The trouble is, with modern Bat-movies and TV shows, you can’t just tear off the damn mask. They’re these sculpted rubber monstrosities.
Then I thought, you could do it with Adam West, though.
How cool would that have been? Of course no one had heard of Hugo Strange in 1968, I don’t think either Englehart or Rogers were even in comics then…but still. I let myself daydream about it for a moment. Wouldn’t Adam West have made a meal of this moment?
And think for a second how much fun it would have been to see Alan Napier play this scene…
The more I thought about it, the more I could see it. It helped that Englehart’s narration has a very similar cadence to William Dozier’s narration in the TV show. I could absolutely hear Dozier saying this, for example…
And Adam West’s Batman deserved a real finale, anyway. The actual last episode was pretty weak tea… “Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires” with Zsa Zsa Gabor as an evil spa owner.
No, the final episode of the third season should have been a real finale. Something that resolved all the ongoing bits of business with Batgirl and Alfred, moments for Aunt Harriet and the Commissioner and…
…and then I saw it all, clear as day. As though it actually existed. The two-part final episode of Batman ’66, adapting my favorite Batman story ever. I kept thinking about it and adding refinements to it and, well, here it is. With all respect to Englehart and Rogers and the cast and crew of the original Batman ’66.
Hope you like it.
We open with Bruce and Dick and Alfred in the study at Wayne Manor. Bruce looks a little unwell.
Dick: Gosh Bruce, I feel like it’s my fault you got hurt! If I hadn’t let that goon with the knife get so close–
Bruce (smiles): Don’t take it so hard, chum. Boss Thorne and his gang are on the run, now, and we prevented the theft of the plates from the Gotham Mint! Imagine the chaos if he had been able to flood the city with counterfeit bills as he planned. Commissioner Gordon has ordered his men to be on the alert and Chief O’Hara assured me that they are combing every neighborhood.
Dick: I know you’re right, Bruce. But we were so close!
Bruce: Crime fighting is a marathon, Dick, not a sprint. Patience is an advantage we have over the criminal classes.
Bruce stands up …and winces.
Alfred: Master Bruce, I believe you may need medical attention. More than we can do here.
Dick: You’re right, Alfred! Only how can we explain Bruce Wayne coming in with a knife wound?
Bruce: Why, I was trying to show my youthful ward Dick Grayson the finer points of fencing, with our antique sabers, and we got a little carried away. (pause) That, along with doctor-patient confidentiality, should serve. To a medical doctor, the guarantee of privacy is a sacred oath! Alfred, if you want to bring the car around, I’ll be out shortly to join you.
Alfred: Certainly, sir. May I inquire which doctor we’re going to see?
Bruce: Several millionaire society friends recommended Doctor Hugo Strange, at the Graytowers Clinic. They particularly mentioned Strange’s concern for maintaining privacy. Which is also a concern for us, as you pointed out, Dick.
Dick: Gosh yes!
Alfred: Very good, sir.
Bruce turns to Dick.
Bruce: I’ll have to ask you to make my excuses to Aunt Harriet. I’m afraid I may miss dinner.
Dick: Of course I will. You just get yourself fixed up!
Bruce nods, exits. Dick watches him go, then smacks his fist into his palm.
Dick: Holy clumsy cutlery! Even with that cover story, it’s still my fault!
Main Title Credits roll.
Fade in on the Wayne limousine, seen from above. Tooling along the same road we usually see the Batmobile using to get to Gotham City.
Title: “The Monster Men”
The limo continues down the familiar curves.
Title: “Special Guest Villain
Telly Savalas as Dr. Hugo Strange”
Different angles on the limo as credits continue.
Title: “Extra Special Guest Villain
Cameron Mitchell as Boss Thorne”
Moving closer on the limousine.
Title: “Catherine von Schell as Magda”
We should continue to follow the limo from above throughout the credits.
Title: “Special appearance by Cesar Romero as the Joker”
Title: “Special appearance by Burgess Meredith as the Penguin”
Cut to angle on Bruce and Alfred through the windshield. Alfred is wearing a bowler hat. We see Bruce holding a mobile phone handset.
Alfred: Do you wish me to wait, Master Bruce?
Bruce: I don’t think that’s necessary, Alfred. The Batcave computers still need the maintenance data updates. That’s of greater importance. I can find my own way home. I’ll need my attache case, though.
Alfred: Very good, sir.
Bruce (into phone): Hello, Graytowers Clinic?
Cut to the interior offices of Graytowers. The office should be at the standard villain’s lair diagonal.
Magda is at a desk. She picks up the phone.
Magda: Yes, this is Graytowers. How may I help you?
Bruce (v.o.): This is Bruce Wayne. I was hoping to see Dr. Strange if he’s available. It’s a somewhat urgent medical matter.
Magda: I think we can find time for the head of the famous Wayne Foundation.
Bruce (v.o.): I don’t wish to exert undue influence…but…I’m afraid delay would be medically inadvisable.
Magda: No, please come on in. The doctor’s schedule is flexible.
Bruce (v.o.): Excellent! Thank you. I’ll be there shortly.
Magda hangs up, then punches an intercom button.
Magda: Dr. Strange? Good news. We’ve got our biggest one yet coming in… millionaire Bruce Wayne!
Strange (v.o.): Excellent! Let’s be sure to give him a proper welcome.
Narrator (v.o.): Watch out, Bruce! Sinister doings are afoot at the Graytowers clinic!
The door to the office opens and Bruce comes in, holding an attache case. Magda stands and smiles.
Magda: Welcome, Mr. Wayne! May I take your case?
Bruce: I’d prefer to keep it with me. It’s important…Wayne Foundation business.
Magda: Of course, Mr. Wayne. Please follow me. The doctor is waiting for you.
Cut to stately Wayne Manor. Aunt Harriet, as usual, is looking a little anxious.
Aunt Harriet: Mercy me, I wonder where Bruce has gotten himself to.
Dick: He had a doctor’s appointment, Aunt Harriet.
Aunt Harriet: Doctor’s appointment! Oh my! Is he sick?
Dick: Uh… no. We had, uh, a fencing accident.
Aunt Harriet: You boys need to be more careful! Such dangerous hobbies! Someone could get really hurt!
Alfred sees Dick is foundering and steps forward.
Alfred: It was just a scratch, madam. We should see Master Bruce shortly.
Narrator (v.o.): Not so, Alfred! Because back at Graytowers…
In a treatment room, Bruce is waiting patiently for the doctor. Suddenly, purple gas floods from the vents! Bruce grabs the attache case and runs for the door. It’s locked! Then Bruce tries to open the case, but the gas overpowers him and he falls to the floor.
Magda enters the room, wearing a gas mask. She gestures and two huge shambling figures enter.
They’re human… but not quite. Sort of neanderthal and monstrous. And tall. Maybe seven feet. The monster men pick Bruce up and Magda retrieves the attache case from the floor. She tries to open it and can’t, shrugs, and waves at the monsters to follow. They exit.
Cut to Bruce on a cot in a cell. He wakes up, slowly, looking first groggy, then grim. He looks around the cell and sees with relief that the attache case is there. He picks it up, fiddles with the lock, and opens it. And there is Batman’s costume!
Narrator (v.o.): Trap millionaire Bruce Wayne, and you also trap the greatest nemesis of crime that ever lived! Once the Caped Crusader’s out of his cell, Strange and his crew are in for a reckoning!
Cut to Batman, doing a Bat-climb up the side of the Graytowers building. It’s night now, and he’s being very cautious, checking the windows as he goes. Suddenly a voice calls out.
Marston (v.o.): Batman! Thank heavens!
It’s coming from a barred cell window a few feet away. An older man, portly fellow with a walrus mustache.
Batman: Samuel Marston! The shipping magnate!
Marston: Yes, Batman! These vile criminals have been holding me captive for days. Thank heavens you’re here!
Batman: What are they doing, Mr. Marston?
Marston: I don’t know! I only ever see the girl, Magda–and her monsters!
Marston: Seven feet tall, at least, and incredibly strong! Be careful, Batman!
Batman: A crimefighter is always careful, Mr. Marston. Be of good cheer. I hope to have you free very soon.
He continues up the wall. Marston watches him go.
Marston: Luck be with you, caped crusader.
Batman reaches the roof– and the monster men are waiting!
Batman raises his fists.
Batman: Well then, gentlemen.
A Batfight ensues.
Batman’s holding his own, but the monster men clearly have the advantage.
Batman: Wait! Strange uses gas–let’s see how you like a little Bat-gas, then!
He whips out the little black-and-yellow aerosol from the utility belt and sprays. The monsters go down.
Satisfied, Batman moves toward the roof access door.
Cut to Strange and Magda, sitting in Strange’s laboratory. Strange’s back is to us.
Magda: Now that we have Wayne, what’s next?
Strange: We liquidate all the Wayne Foundation assets. After all, charity begins at home.
The door bursts open and Batman is there, wearing his little Bat-rebreather.
Batman: I think not, Doctor! I’m putting an end to your filthy criminal schemes!
And now we get our first real look at Hugo Strange. Bald, bespectacled, and bearded, he still exudes an air of urbane menace.
Strange: Ah, Batman in the flesh! The famous caped crusader! I knew it was inevitable we would cross swords when I came to Gotham.
Batman: Do you want to surrender and save us some trouble?
Strange: I think not. To me, my monster men!
More of the shambling giants enter the laboratory. Batman again whips out his Bat-gas aerosol, but it sputters and dies.
Batman: Confound it! I had to use too much on the roof!
Another Batfight breaks out.
And this time, it’s Batman that goes down.
Strange: Magda! Use the gas! I don’t want them to kill him!
Fade to black.
Lights come up slowly, as Batman returns to consciousness.
Strange: Welcome back, crimefighter.
Angle on Strange….holding Batman’s cowl!!
Strange: That’s right. I saw my chance and seized it! Your secrets are secrets no longer–BRUCE WAYNE!!
Angle on Bruce in the Bat costume, but unmasked. For the first time ever, he looks genuinely scared.
Narrator (v.o.): But wait! There’s worse to come! For outside of Graytowers, criminals are gathering!
At the entrance to the clinic, the Joker, the Penguin, and Boss Thorne are all starting up the steps.
Penguin (annoyed grunt): Gentlemen…
Cut back to Strange, in full gloating mode.
Strange: I have taken your identity, Mr. Wayne, and soon I shall take your millions….and when I give you to your greatest enemies–I shall have taken your life!
Narrator (v.o.) (these all appear as superimposed titles as well):
BATMAN’S IDENTITY EXPOSED!
SURROUNDED BY MONSTERS!
CAN YOU SEE ANY WAY OUT?
BE HERE NEXT WEEK–
SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-CHANNEL!
BUT WE WARN YOU…
THE MOST SHOCKING IS YET TO COME!!
And there you go. Conclusion next week. Like the man said, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.