Atomic batteries to power.  Turbines to speed.

T.V. shows from the 60’s hold a special place in my heart, and none more than the ’66-’68 Batman series with its gloriously colorful, over-the-top villains. Apparently, doing a guest spot on the show was such a blast that producers had big name actors lining up for a shot to chew up the scenery.  Over the course of its three season run, the show featured roughly three dozen villains (and variations thereof including three version of Mr. Freeze, three Catwomans [if you count the movie], and two and a half Riddlera [I say a half because in addition to Frank Gorshin and John Astin’s portrayals, stage veteran Maurice Evans was brought in to play the role of the suspiciously similar Puzzler following Gorshin’s departure].

Anyway, this is one of those classic shows that you can still re-watch and enjoy, this time as an adult with a whole new level of appreciation.   There’s so much to love, from Adam West’s gloriously straight-laced Batman to that insanely convenient utility belt to those incredibly manic villains.

These were my Top 10 Favorites…

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#10 – Shame (Cliff Robertson)

I ain’t all bad.  Just mostly.

Unlike most of Batman’s villains, Shame was a bit of an imbecile and that, I suppose, is what made him somewhat sympathetic.  Decades later, Robertson would return to the world of comics, playing Peter Parker’s uncle Ben in one of the innumerable big screen features.

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#9 – Bookworm (Roddy McDowall)

“Now the fact is that our bats have flown the belfry, unaccountably still squeaking.”

Not only was he a literary-themed villain, but he was played by Roddy McDowall, star of my favorite film series at the time, The Planet of Apes.  You get the sense McDowall truly relished his delightfully low-key performance (Well, certainly restrained in comparison to many of the other big screen greats who graced the Bat set).

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#8 – Mr. Freeze (Otto Preminger)

“Batman, but–but you were supposed to be a famous frostie freezie by now!”

Sure, the series boasted a slew of outlandish casting coups, from Liberace to Tallulah Bankhead, but one of the wildest was famed director Otto Preminger who positively revels in the role of the villainous Mr. Freeze (changed from the originally conceived Mr. Zero).  Rumor has it, however, that his demanding nature made the behind-the-scenes interactions with co-stars a little…chilly.

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#7. Catwoman (Earth Kitt)

“Karate isn’t effective unless accompanied by yelling. Let him howl until he springs a vocal cord, then get him!”

While she wasn’t the first actress to play the feline-themed seductress, she certainly sunk her claws into the role and made it her own.  Some southern affiliates objected to the casting and threatened not to broadcast her episodes to which the producers responded: “We don’t care.”

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#6 – Egghead (Vincent Price)

“Please, please, Miss Bacon. All of you are approximately the right age, in your early thirties, but I have eliminated you, Mr. Tyler, because you are lefthanded. No, the Caped Crusader is not portsider, and you, Mr. Savage, are out because of your accent. So aside from a couple of aging rock-and-roll singers, you, Mr. Wayne, are the only Gotham city millionaire who is athletically inclined with eggsessive agility. Therefore, you must be Batman!”

As someone who grew up on Hammer horror films, seeing Vincent Price guest on my favorite t.v. show was a real treat.  Yet another actor who really makes the most of his onscreen presence, Price was said to have loved the series which he considered well ahead of its time.

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#5 – Penguin (Burgess Meredith)

“Politics is wonderful! I can use all my lowest, slurpiest tricks, but now they’re legal! I should have been a politician years ago!”

Meredith (who took on the role after both Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy turned it down) holds the record for most villainous appearances in the series at a whopping 20 episodes.  The actor freely admitted his bird imitation was decidedly more duck than penguin (due to the fact that the smoke from his “prop” cigarette irritated his throat), but that trademark Waugh! Waugh! Waugh! became as essential a part of his character as his umbrella.

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#4 – King Tut (Victor Buono)

“It isn’t that I love you any less, Batman, simply that I love me more.”

Buono delivers a tour de force performance as the Professor-turned-King-of-Egypt going from zero to one hundred and back multiple times over multiple scenes.  I imagine filming his episodes must have been a hell of a lot of fun.  According to Buono: “Batman allowed me to do what actors are taught never to do, overact”.

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#3 – Catwoman (Julie Newmar)

“If you pick the right door, I’m yours, Batman. If you pick the wrong door, you’re mine. So which is it, Batman? The lady or the tiger?”

My first true t.v. crush.  She always struck me as one of Batman’s most formidable villains.   The fact she could wield a whip certainly helped cement that impression. According to Newmar, she was going to turn down the role only to have her brother, and his friends from Harvard, convince her to take it because it was their favorite show.

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#2 – Joker (Cesar Romero)

“Uh, Susie, Sweetie.  A special extra bonus.  A half pint bottle of the most exquisite Canadian perfume.”

Yeah, yeah.  Many other actors have portrayed the clown prince of crime on the big and small screen, but nostalgia makes it hard for me to love anyone else in the role.  Apparently, Frank Sinatra loved the character so much that he threw his hat in the ring in the event Romero ever grew tired of playing the Joker.  Still, as much as I loved Romero, his decision NOT to shave his mustache for the role (requiring a heavy application of make-up that never really held up in close-ups) kept his character from taking top spot.

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#1 – Riddler (Frank Gorshin)

With money, who needs friends?

Gorshin left the show after its first season due to a contract dispute, but returned for its third, garnering an Emmy nomination for his memorable performance and turning a relatively (at the time) obscure comic book villain into a formidable Bat-foe.  He apparently developed his character’s high-pitched laugh at Hollywood parties – and that laugh was won him the role.

Agree?  Disagree?  Weigh in with your opinions, Bat-readers!

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Jon Robert Hrubesch

Yes! This is available on Roku. I only just re-watched the first episode recently. So good. I loved this show too when I was young.

Ponytail
Ponytail

Oh I totally agree! Didn’t realize until you sumed it up that this show was full of super big stars. Guess they enjoyed letting it all hang out.

Tom Gardiner
Tom Gardiner

Holy nostalgia, Batman! I had forgotten how many big names played big bads, and seemed to have a blast doing it. I had to google it and found a great post on Mental Floss listing all 37 villains from the TV series. So. Much. Memory. Coming. Back. http://mentalfloss.com/article/60213/visual-guide-all-37-villains-batman-tv-series

Gildermcc
Gildermcc

Confession: I was a pre-teen Bat-fan…from the first season, if not the premiere!

Another confession: I abandoned “Batman” as too camp as I grew into a “sophisticated” teen.

Maybe it’s time to give the old series another watch.

Colleen Scott
Colleen Scott

Book Worm and King Tut are personal favorites.

jimfromjersey

I, like you, grew up on this show. Absolutely loved it. I haven’t attempted to re-watch it, but I will now. No commentary on the ranking of the villains. They were all memorable. Your screenshots had it all flooding back to me.

When I was 7, we traveled to Alaska to visit family, and I found a Penguin action figure in Montgomery Wards in Anchorage. (Inorite?!) Had to have it. And I did.

Margaret Clayton

I was not allowed to watch Batman when I was a child. I don’t even remember why. Too silly? Too violent? But that summer, my mom flew to Europe to meet my dad in assorted ports as the aircraft carrier he was on was doing an extended Med and North Sea tour. I went to live with family friends. I was very surprised when they took us girls to see the Batman movie. From then on, I caught every rerun I could; I guess Mom relented. While I have never seen the entire series, I just might need to do so.

Cat Woman, every incarnation.

Tate
Tate

Loved Julie Newmar and her cronies. And the Catusi. Bookworm, Penguin, Riddler, tough to beat Cesar Romero surfing.

Tammy Dixon
Tammy Dixon

I don’t remember some of those villains (King Tut, Egghead, Mr. Freeze or Bookworm?). We re-watched some of the episodes with my son and he just didn’t get it. Ah, the youth of today….

Anyway, my favorites were Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar. Eartha had that great purr and Julie Newmar had that ditsy, crazy vibe. I’m not sure which one was my favorite Catwoman because they each brought something different/fun to the role.

A few other shows I loved was Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, The Monsters, Buck Rodgers, Lost in Space and The Adam’s Family. They were all good fun escapism and the closest things to Sci-fi out there.

shinyhula
shinyhula

Shame killed me, that writers room must have been a ball. We used to tie jump ropes to the posts and scale the patio. This was my eldest brother’s fave and since there was just one TV we all had to watch. My first crush was also on celluloid; I adored Jim West and his dancing eyes at age five. My romantic daydream was Jim West holding my hand. Hand holding felt very daring at five, especially since boys had cooties. Poor Jim West became Jim Who the afternoon I clapped eyes on Luke Skywalker.

shinyhula
shinyhula

Oh and I forgot about the Batgirl logo go-go boots! I thought if I planted myself in front of them and stared long enough my mom would buy them for me. Sadly mom chose sensible Mary Janes. I could see myself parading through school in my Batgirl boots, the envy of all, but it was not to be.

DALLAS MARSHALL (@MrsTigercat)

I wanted to be Julie Newmar’s Catwoman. And, of course, I was hopelessly in love with Batman. I was seven.

PBMom

I loved them all, although I don’t remember Earth Kitt playing Catwoman. Julie Newmar was my first memory of Catwoman. As a young girl, I enjoyed women being portrayed anywhere on TV — whether it was a villain or a hero. Batgirl was my favorite. SHE DROVE A MOTORCYCLE!!!! It was so cool. I got to meet her at Women of Sci Fi up in Plano Texas (my very first convention). It was sad that Yvonne died in 2015 but I was so fortunate to see her in (I think it was 2011?).

Out of the men I want to say King Tut was my favorite just because well — KING TUT!! I got to see the King Tut exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in NYC in the 80’s. I’ve always loved things Egyptian. I credit my older sister who really opened my eyes to the world. My sister had wanted to major in anthropology and minor in archaeology but she had to stop going to college in her junior year because of funding. Later she went back and got her BSN in nursing and then went and got her master’s degree in comparative religions. My sister is a very interesting person. Now she is a postulate in a convent, a calling she feels she ignored during her life. But the conversations she and I have had about the world and challenging my points of view by making me provide proof of my thoughts. I used to play with her microscope and look at specimens she had, and gaze at the stars through her telescope. She has been my teacher all through my life and sometimes had to step in and be my mother when my mother failed at that job.

I know all three of us watched Batman and I can’t remember which villains were their favorites. I’ll have to ask.

PBMom

I asked Jeff. He said,
1. Joker
2. Egghead
3. Mr. Freeze
4. RIddler,
5. King Tut