Tuesday, November 24, 2020

OMAMORI HIMARI, DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND (both 2010)

 






PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: (1) *fair,* (2) *good*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological, metaphysical, psychological, sociological*


I’ve no acquaintance with specific changes in the business of making anime serials for Japanese TV. However, it seems that during the 21st century it’s become common for production companies to adapt manga serials, often serials that ran for several years, with a very conservative production of twelve to fifteen episodes for a single season. Without reading the original serial, one can’t be sure that the brevity of the adaptation necessarily resulted in a rocky translation. I suspected that this might be the case with the adaptation of DATE A LIVE, but for all I know the original manga might not have been much more coherent than the anime. One anime serial, CORPSE PRINCESS, ended its only season without a clear resolution, suggesting that the creators were hoping for a second season that didn’t materialize. Yet it must be admitted that for many years a lot of television shows, animated or otherwise, have been prematurely terminated before reaching a stopping-point, so perhaps this is simply an innate problem with the television medium.


I’ve not read the manga-series OMAMORI HIMARI, though since it lasted about four years it’s certainly likely that the twelve-episode TV show left out a lot of stuff. The show looks in most respects like a cookie-cutter “magical girl” show. Yuuto, a completely average high-school boy, lives an ordinary life, with parents who are either deceased or never seen, and a pretty neighbor-girl who acts like a girlfriend even though she’s not defined as such. Then Himari Noihara, a busty teen girl with cat-ears, bursts into Yuuto’s life. She reveals that he’s the descendant of a line of demon slayers, and that Himari is one of those demons. However, because one of Yuuto’s ancestors spared Himari’s life, she swore fealty to defend the last remaining scion of the line from other demons. In Himari’s first interaction with Yuuto and Rinku, she gives a graphic display of demon-slaying when an insect-creature briefly possesses one of Yuuto’s classmates.


In addition to Himari moving into Yuuto’s house and constantly threatening his virginity, OMAMORI quickly becomes a cookie-cutter harem comedy as well. Yuuto, despite being a nebbishy non-entity, attracts numerous cute girls into his sphere: a cute water-demon, a cute “tea demon” (who plies her trade in a Japanese “maid café”), and a cute demon slayer from another demon-slayer family. It’s possible that in the original manga these secondary love-interests may form an ensemble where they’re as important to the series as the primary couple. However, because the show only has twelve episodes to work with, I would rate all of the other girls as supporting characters.


I’m not even sure Yuuto qualifies as a central character. Despite descending from demon fighters, Yuuto doesn’t become versed in the ways of battling boogiemen. Himari states that Yuuto possesses an inherent talent to bring forth a mystical phenomenon called “the Passing of the Light.” He finally manifests this talent in the final episode, but his power consists of being able to “power up” Himari so that she can slay the main demon-villain, one Shuten Doji (an authentic Japanese boogie, for what that’s worth). Though manga and anime are replete with dozens of everyman protagonists, Yuuto is one of the dullest out there, so that I tend to view Himari as the show’s only central character.


The TV show has one ingenious idea. Though at first the show seems concerned only with rooting out malicious goblins, the true threat is that the demons are also in danger. Shuten Doji can only restore himself to full power by consuming demons with the use of a voracious minion, so the demon-girls in Yuuto’s harem have a vested interest in making common cause with Yuuto and Himari. Both the supernatural action-scenes and the humorous erotica are average, so another season probably wouldn’t have revealed any profound depths.





DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND, also a one-season wonder with just twelve episodes, had a much greater capacity for spectacular failure. The manga-series DANCE has ranged over several years and several volumes and still has not reached a stopping-point. Nozomi Tamaki’s manga is as layered as any of the best prose adventure-novels, with two strong leads and a wealth of impressive supporting characters. DANCE takes place in a world where vampires and werewolves have existed since antiquity, but only in modern times has Mina Tepes, the Queen of the Vampires, established a self-sufficient kingdom for the vampire people. But Mina has countless enemies, and her strongest ally in preserving the Vampire Bund is her werewolf bodyguard Akira. The two of them, who possess both a nascent romantic bond and a figurative “daimyo-samurai” relationship, embody the heart and the soul of this extraordinary serial, to which I’ve devoted two essays, here and here.

Happily, the DANCE teleseries does not make the error of attempting to condense this sprawling saga into a single season, as did (for instance) the second season of ROSARIO + VAMPIRE. Although DANCE elides a lot of plotlines and supporting characters, and changes one support-character from male to female, the twelve episodes faithfully adapt the essence of the first two or three major arcs. The show references Mina’s three main enemies from the early continuity and concludes by causing the trio to be stymied though not precisely defeated. In addition, the final episode alludes to yet another major evildoer, but anyone who wants to learn more about that character would be forced to seek out the manga-stories.


It’s almost standard for anime serials to faithfully emulate the artistic look of the manga-art, and DANCE effectively mirrors Tamaki’s lush designs of characters, locales and attire. Tamaki’s series was more vulnerable to being censored in one respect: that the character of Mina, seeking to protect herself from being forcefully married to some vampire-lord, has transformed herself into a pre-teen girl. For this reason, the potential romance between Mina and Akira remains merely a wish-dream, even though one episode makes it clear that under the right circumstances Mina can transform into a mature form, albeit temporarily. I’ve argued that Tamaki was not playing to the “lolicon” undercurrents in Japanese manga and anime but that he was in fact deconstructing that cultural meme by showing that Mina’s immature body was not on display for the purpose of erotic stimulation, and might in theory even discourage anyone so inclined. Even in Japan, though, this meme could have been censored for television consumption. DANCE not only keeps the meme but is true to Tamaki’s handling of it. Since this accuracy might not have lasted over the long haul, the brevity of this particular anime series might be a blessing in disguise.





Sunday, November 22, 2020

THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1964)

 




PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *metaphysical, psychological, sociological*


Someone has said that artists are like sorcerers who can be bound by their own spells. Certainly this is true of those creators who become so enraptured by certain themes that they repeat them obsessively. That said, obviously there are also creators to whom spell-casting is just a job, and they use magic after the fashion of Mickey Mouse’s junior magician in FANTASIA.


This line of thought comes to me as I grapple with the fact that the film under review seems to reproduce the esoteric aspects of an archaic Egyptian story, “The Tale of the Two Brothers.” Yet the career of the movie’s primary architect Michael Carreras does not seem to follow any thematic pattern in the various films that he wrote and/or directed for Hammer Studios. In contrast, some of the films that Carreras simply produced, such as HORROR OF DRACULA and CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, qualify as two of the most mythic films in the Hammer oeuvre. Based purely on the works that Carreras did write or direct, then, I tend to think that Carreras merely flirted with the esoteric content of the Egyptian myth—that of a sibling rivalry expressed through ancient magic—in order to sell a new mummy-movie. Carreras deserves some credit for finding a novel approach to this subgenre of monster-films, since it would have been the easiest thing in the world for Hammer to grind out a simple pastiche of Universal’s mediocre Kharis-flicks. But Carreras’s use of the fresh material is still executed with the style of the journeyman filmmaker.


Certainly CURSE starts out with one standard trope of most mummy-movies. Circa 1900, the tomb of an ancient Egyptian royal, Ra-Antef, is unearthed by a team of European archeologists, consisting of French professor Dubos, his daughter Annette, her British fiancée John and another scholar, Sir Giles. When the archeologists clash with a representative of the Egyptian government, the possibility of a mystic curse comes up. In addition, ill fortune, not explicitly mystical in nature, befalls Dubos, who is captured by Bedouins who kill him and cut off one of his hands. These raiders, whose antipathy for the expedition remains mysterious for much of the film, also arrange a surprise for Annette, leaving the severed hand in her bedding to shock her.


But even though these developments disturb the Europeans, the man financing the expedition, a money-minded promoter named King, won’t allow anything to interfere with his plans to exploit the unearthed mummy. Much to the displeasure of both Sir Giles and the Egyptian emissary Hashmi, King plans to take Ra-Antef on tour, charging yokels a quarter to view the remains of the mummified prince. Giles breaks off relations with King, but John and Annette continue to work for the exploitative American financier, helping him plan his traveling sideshow. It’s possible that the two of them stay with King in order to build up their monetary reserves in preparation for their planned marriage, though neither character makes this justification.


The members of the expedition depart Egypt for England, and two incidents take place on the ship. A knife-wielding assassin assaults Giles, and when John interferes, the young man throws the killer overboard to his presumed death. As a result of this scuffle, John, Giles and Annette make the acquaintance of another traveler from England, a well-to-do nobleman named Adam Beauchamp. No one can explain the assassin’s attack, nor does anyone connect the incident with the murder of Professor Dubos by Egyptian fanatics. Beauchamp for his part professes a great interest in Egyptology and once the group reaches England, the nobleman invites John and Annette to have dinner with him. In the ensuing days, it becomes evident that Beauchamp is putting the moves on Annette whenever John is too busy to accompany her, due to his work on King’s exhibit. At one point, someone breaks into said exhibit, stealing a list of the Egyptian artifacts, but at this point nothing has transpired that might not be the relatively mundane activities of a murderous cult.


Annette relates to the fascinated Beauchamp the history of the mummy. In Pharaonic Egypt Ra was a great scholar fascinated with the occult preservation of life. Ra’s jealous brother Be, reputed to have been a self-indulgent sensualist, poisons the minds of the people against Ra, forcing Ra’s father to exile the sinless prince. Ironically, it’s in this exile that Ra stumbles across a nomadic tribe that possesses knowledge of the secrets of life and death, embodied in a sacred medallion—which also happens to be one of the items recovered from Ra’s tomb in the present era. However, the archaic tale ends with Be taking preventive action against Ra’s return to the throne, by sending assassins who slay Ra, cutting off one of the prince’s hands as proof of the kill. There the ancient tale ends, or seems to end.


In her conversations with Beauchamp, Annette discloses a bit of a father-complex, mentioning that she followed in her father’s archeological footsteps to catch her negligent parent’s attention, and Beauchamp responds by flattering her for her intellect. John, apparently not knowing how to regain his fiancee’s wandering affections, busies himself investigating the medallion in the possession of Sir Giles, but someone breaks into John’s house, knocking him out and stealing the artifact. Immediately thereafter, the mummified corpse of Ra-Antef goes missing from the exhibit, presumably stolen by the same person(s) who attacked John.


But the mummy wasn’t stolen; rather it was revived with the use of the mystic medallion. The bandaged behemoth begins stalking all those who violated his tomb, killing both King and Sir Giles. And at last Annette learns Adam Beauchamp’s true reason for following the members of the expedition: he’s not only responsible for reviving the mummy, he wants Ra-Antef to kill him. It seems that Beauchamp is none other than Ra’s evil brother Be, rendered immortal by the curse of his Pharaoh-father so that his life can only end at Ra’s hands. For some reason—antipathy toward the modern world, perhaps? —Be wants Ra to slay Annette as well. However, the mummy still possesses some of the good prince’s better nature, and spares Annette while destroying Be (after significantly crushing one of Be’s hands). Then Ra brings down the roof on his own head, so that he will be once more entombed and removed from the living world. There’s no guarantee that John and the straying Annette will be united once more, and the film’s final spoken words consist of an unexplained phrase: “Rest, my father, rest.”


In a script less concerned with piling up mysterious occurrences to be solved by the Big Reveal, some of Carreras’ motifs—particularly the quasi-Freudian emphasis on severed hands—might have sustained a deeper symbolic discourse. Yet CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB is mostly concerned with just solving a mystery rather than delving into psychological or metaphysical mysteries, so its mythicity can only be judged as “fair.”

ENTER THE NINJA (1981)

 





PHENOMENALITY: *uncanny*
MYTHICITY: *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *sociological*


Ninjas had been kicking around in both Eastern and Western entertainment-venues for roughly twenty years before this film, and Chuck Norris’s THE OCTAGON, appearing in theaters the year before ENTER THE NINJA, may have kicked off the eighties craze for black-suited assassins on both sides of the good/evil spectrum. Yet ENTER, despite some sizeable shortcomings, proves a more entertaining film than the majority of ninja-flicks of that decade.


I’m not making any great claims of profundity for ENTER. It’s one of dozens of unassuming B-films to have issued from the production studios of Golan and Globus, sometimes (but not always) under the imprint of Cannon Films. ENTER has the distinction of being one of the few films in the directorial oeuvre of Menachem Golan (forty-plus flicks in all) that anyone remembers, aside from the 1986 Chuck Norris vehicle THE DELTA FORCE. Like THE OCTAGON, ENTER offers the spectacle of a Caucasian protagonist becoming initiated into the mysterious Eastern discipline of ninjutsu. Protagonist Cole (Franco Nero) graduates from some secret ninja school over the protests of a fellow student named Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi), who maintains that true ninjas can only be Japanese. But apparently Cole completes his course without being required to become an assassin in the service of anyone, Japanese or otherwise, and he then departs to visit Landers, an old war-buddy at Landers’ home in the Philippines.


The bulk of the film emulates one of the most popular tropes of western films: the mysterious stranger who rescues an embattled family, whose property is desired by one or more grasping money-men. When Cole arrives at Landers’ home, Landers’ wife Mary Anne holds a rifle on him, and he disarms her, all of which goes to proving how much the two owners of the property are under siege by an evil millionaire, Venarius (Christopher George). Venarius keeps throwing nasty henchmen at Landers and his wife, and Cole devastates all comers, until the rich guy finally gets an emissary to find him another ninja. One guess who.


Though there’s nothing original about the plot, Golan and scriptwriter Dick Desmond toss in a lot of mildly amusing business in between fight-scenes, particularly in the depiction of Venarius’ comical henchmen. In contrast, most ninja-flicks are pretty short on amusing bits, and thus ENTER’s biggest flaw is not the dull parts between the fights, but the star of the show. For some reason, Franco Nero, despite having essayed the role of Django, one of the most memorable spaghetti-western heroes, walks through his role, looking perpetually annoyed rather than seeming to be a tower of strength. Even when his buddy’s wife begins an affair with him—something Shane certainly would never have done—Cole always looks sour and maybe a little dyspeptic.


There aren’t a lot of exotic ninja weapons here, so the uncanny phenomenality inheres wholly in the costumes worn by both Cole and his opponent. Strangely, though Sho Kosugi’s performance isn’t much better than Nero’s, Kosugi was promoted to hero-status in the next two “ninja-hero” films from Golan and Globus, one of the few times an Asian got to portray such a protagonist in an American film.


RAWHIDE: “INCIDENT OF THE PALE RIDER” (1963)

 





PHENOMENALITY: *uncanny*
MYTHICITY: *good*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological*






The programs RAWHIDE and WAGON TRAIN ran roughly concurrently. Both were westerns, and both concerned the business of transportation across the frontier. Both tended to deal with naturalistic story material, but occasionally devoted a few episodes to uncanny occurrences that happened either the regular characters or to guest-stars. Yet WAGON TRAIN, even in its uncanny moments, always projected a rational outlook. The wagon-master and his allies were in the business of conducting settlers to find new lives in the Old West. Thus, even if there were times when their progress was impeded by unusual events or even just melodramatic tragedy, WAGON TRAIN always emphasized the theme of progress. In contrast, RAWHIDE’s main characters, though also engaged in a hardnosed business, had but one task: to move herds of dumb, easily panicked beasts to waiting markets, where the beasts would be used, in one way or another, to provide food for humans. Rather than reinforcing the notion of progress, most episodes of RAWHIDE, uncanny or not, portray the lives of the drovers as peripatetic and repetitious, with figurative specters of death haunting their peregrinations.


Trail boss Gil Favor sends some men—including his ramrod Rowdy, the Mexican drover Hey Soos, and a non-regular named Calhoun—into a small town for supplies. Hey Soos, who often acts as the voice of superstition on the series, intuits the threat of death in the area. Rowdy scoffs and seeks out a Wells Fargo office. He spots a stranger mournfully singing the elegy “Streets of Laredo” but thinks nothing of it until the man, later identified as an outlaw named John Day, draws on Rowdy with the intent of robbing him. Calhoun walks in on the scene, Day shoots him and Rowdy shoots Day. Calhoun is only wounded, and as Day perishes, he pronounces an ambiguous curse on Rowdy.


Rowdy, Hey Soos and Calhoun—whose wound continues to plague him—return to the drive and acquaint Favor with the occurrences. To Rowdy’s disquiet he learns that in his absence Favor has hired a drover named Rivers, who looks exactly like the late Day. Favor believes the resemblance is a coincidence, Hey Soos believes Rivers is an agent of death, and Rowdy doesn’t know what to believe—particularly when Rivers has the habit of singing “Streets of Laredo” and making enigmatic remarks about death.


Favor wonders if the lookalike might be a twin brother, and somehow he comes across an old man in the area who knew the Day family, and who attests that although John Day had a twin, he’s supposed to have died long ago. But this news exacerbates Rowdy’s fears. The strange fellow even agrees when Rowdy wonders if the name “Rivers” suggests some barrier that he Rowdy has to cross. Further, Calhoun dies, apparently of his festering wound, and Hey Soos injures himself in trying to avoid contact with the double.


Rowdy finally confronts Rivers, and the non-supernatural truth is revealed: he’s Jim Day, and his apparent death was faked to save him from a false legal charge. To sell the illusion of death, Day even allowed himself to be buried alive, after which he lived a life apart from men, becoming a pariah. To avenge his brother, he pretended to be a ghost in the hope of provoking Rowdy into killing him—which would have led to Rowdy’s hanging, since Day could not physically draw a gun. Favor allows Day to leave the camp, since he can no longer harm anyone, and he’s condemned to a living death by his own hate.


While the explanation of the “haunting” might seem rational, Day’s ability to generate fear with his illusions qualifies as an uncanny version of the phantasmal figuration trope, since the fear of death is in no way lessened by the revelation. Favor pronounces the closest thing the episode has to a “moral,” emphasizing the importance of showing courage in the face of fear. But the fear is no less for all that, and the title’s use of the Christian term “pale rider”—which does not otherwise appear in the episode-- suggests an archetypal dimension to such apprehensions. Day’s illusion is more subtle than most similar types, since it’s accomplished through suggestion, not unlike a more pervasive hoax perpetrated in the 1944 film WEIRD WOMAN.


Though RAWHIDE boasts a few combative episodes, “Pale Rider” conforms to the overall subcombative tendencies of the series.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

AMERICAN NINJA (1985), AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION (1987)

 





PHENOMENALITY: (1) *uncanny,* (2) *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *poor*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *sociological*


I commented in one of my reviews of the later "American Ninja" films that I thought the first two were decent timewasters. However, my re-screening of the first two films has revealed that they were pretty dull affairs overall, and are mostly interesting for having launched the action-career of Michael Dudikoff, who definitely went on to better vehicles.

Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff) serves as am Army private with a unit stationed in the Philippines. He was conscripted into the armed forces after some minor crimes, but Joe has an excuse: he's a high-functioning amnesiac who doesn't remember his own background. He's a monosyllabic loner with no friends in his unit, and this status becomes worse after an army platoon is attacked by black-garbed ninjas. seeking to kidnap the daughter of the base colonel. Joe saves the young woman, but everyone else in the platoon is slain. He returns to his unit under a cloud of suspicion, since no one knows where the hell this gang of ninjas came from.

Joe then makes a friend the hard way, when one Corporal Jackson (Steve James) challenges Joe to a fight. Despite Jackson's martial talents, Joe smokes him easily, and the two become buddies. Over time the duo investigate the provenance of the ninjas, who are working for a gang that steals army ordnance and sells it on the black market. Why this gang decided to use ninjas is anyone's guess.

Sam Firstenberg's direction is pretty dull except in the fight-scenes, and these are far from top-rate, since Dudikoff shows himself a novice at fake-fighting. 




Firestenberg's direction doesn't get any better for the second entry in the series, but Joe looks much better in the fight scenes, as does returning partner Jackson. This time, the main villain (Gary Conway) is a drug-dealer who has a side operation: that of using genetic manipulation to create an army of "super ninjas." (Thus I find out why the fourth and fifth films in the series made a big thing about giving their respective protagonists "super ninja" antagonists; the writers were trying to coast on whatever very small charge viewers got from this film.)

Once again the good guys must rescue a rather uninteresting damsel in distress, who in this case is the daughter of the villain's imprisoned geneticist. Everything not involving the fights is dull, and though the bad guy talks about his pet ninjas having super speed and being reinforced with steel limbs, it doesn't appear that his existing ninjas have been so enhanced. Still, since the doctor's genetic program appears to be a work in progress, I judge the second film to be marvelous in nature. Joe Armstrong doesn't use many special weapons, and those that the bad ninjas utilize are pretty mundane, like nets and ropes.





Wednesday, November 18, 2020

BATMAN: “MINERVA, MILLIONAIRES AND MAYHEM” (1968)

 





PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological, sociological*


The final episode of BATMAN ’66 ends the series on a “clever-zany’ note. Villainous Minerva (Zsa Zsa Gabor) runs a spa for celebrities. Writer Charles Hoffman may have derived her name from the general association of the Roman goddess Minerva with health in general, and thus with concepts like Roman baths. To Minerva’s spa go such many wealthy men—two of whom are played by showrunners William Dozier and Howie Horowitz—and she then uses a machine called the “Deepest Secret Extractor” to, uh, suck the secrets out of the men’s minds regarding the places where they hide their valuables. This big score depends entirely on the millionaires hiding their goodies in all sorts of easily accessible locations, though at least, when Minerva uses her device on Bruce Wayne, she has to harvest a combination number to Wayne’s safe to steal a trove of diamonds. Wayne doesn’t remember having this particular secret sucked out of him—which one would not think to be his “deepest secret”—but he becomes suspicious of Minerva’s operation.


Bruce and Dick change to Batman and Robin, and they show up, requesting Minerva’s massage treatment, though they don’t even doff their costumes for the process. Minerva’s feminine intuition tells her to get rid of these quasi-cops by having her henchmen shove them into a deadly pressurizing machine. Naturally, the heroes escape while the henchmen are looking the other way, and when they charge Minerva with the crime, she claims that it was all just an innocent mistake. Batman, having overheard that Minerva’s planning a rendezvous with another millionaire, attempts to set up the sinister spa-owner so that they can catch her in the act. Once again, Alfred, sans any makeup, is sent into a villain’s hideout in order to impersonate a famous figure. Minerva is initially fooled by the imposture, but her Extractor reveals that Alfred is a phony. In addition, the machine comes close to revealing the butler’s knowledge of three secret identities, but Batgirl makes the scene and interferes. Minerva has her thugs pop Batgirl and Alfred into the pressurizer, but by that time Batman and Robin move in, and the heroes wipe up the gym with the henchmen, after which Minerva is taken prisoner. Minerva, while only a modest supercrook, is certainly an improvement over Doctor Cassandra, and Gabor, never known for superlative acting skills, imparts an appealing combination of charm and deviousness to the character. The episode ends with Batgirl disappearing once again, and Batman ends the series with the quizzical query about her: ‘Who knows, Robin? Who ever knows?”


BATMAN: “THE ENTRANCING DOCTOR CASSANDRA” (1968)

 






PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *poor*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological, sociological*


Bad as Louie the Lilac was, at least the role didn’t require sixty-something Milton Berle to dress up in mod hippie garb. Such is the unfortunate fate of Ida Lupino and Howard Duff for having agreed to play the sinister swingers Doctor Cassandra and her henchman Cabal. According to Stanley Ralph Ross’s script, Cassandra is a master of the “occult sciences” and of alchemy. In contrast her compatriot, despite having a “cabalistic” name, seems to be a jive-talking dullard. Cassandra comes from a long line of old-time witches and alchemists who were scorned as failures, and now she seeks to control all of Gotham City. One of her devices is an invisibility pill, which sounds positively sane next to her other “dumb-zany” contrivance. The latter is her “Alvino Ray Gun,” which seems to borrow its principles from animated cartoons, since the gun has the power to turn flesh and blood humans into flat cardboard cutouts. (As with the episode “A Piece of the Action,” writers of the show liked the idea of turning the actors into two-dimensional figures like those seen in comics.)


Cassandra and Cabal obligingly drop the flattened fighters off at police HQ, the better to show off their power. This proves a big mistake, since the cops transfer the figurines into the custody of Alfred, and he again uses a Bat-miracle device to restore all three crusaders to normal.


Meanwhile, Cassandra enacts her plan to make all of Gotham’s supercrooks into her allies, by releasing them from the prison. All of the arch-fiends are played by doubles, though some of the sound-effects, like the laughs of Romero and Gorshin, are recycled to sell the illusion. The three heroes track down Cassandra’s hideout, but the evil alchemist has given all the crooks her invisibility pills. For a few moments the crimefighters are on the ropes against an invisible horde, but after Batman puts out the lights, the odds are evened and the good guys win out.


Lupino and Duff are pretty bad in their roles, though the actors have little to work with in these dumb-zany roles. This might qualify as the worst episode, except that Ross does throw in a few clever lines. In one scene, when Robin seems to fancy Batgirl, Batman remarks that Robin may be experiencing “the first oncoming thrust of manhood.” Similarly, when the three heroes are being zapped by the ray-gun, Batgirl claims that she feels herself being “flattened,” Batman makes the not-quite non-sequitur remark, “What a pity.”