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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Batman '66: The Lost Episode #1 Review - Harlan Ellison Two-Face Storyline Revealed

Harlan Ellison's Lost Batman '66 Episode gets made via a comic book

This month has been a bit of a milestone for Batman '66 fans, not only with the release of the Batman television series on Blu Ray and DVD, but with the long rumored lost manuscript titled "The Two Way Crimes of Two-Face" for an unproduced episode being told in comic book form.

Back in 1965, with the Batman television series about to hit the air, writer Harlan Ellison approached executive producer William Dozier with a story featuring Two-Face, one of the top members of the Caped Crusader's comic book rogues gallery. Like the Penguin, Joker, and Catwoman, Two-Face's origins went all the way back to the early 1940's. The Two-Face story was green-lit, but never made it on to the air.

The fact that this story was never produced was unfortunate for several reasons. For one, viewers would have had an undoubtedly great episode of Batman written by Harlan Ellison, whose "The City on the Edge of Forever" is frequently regarded as the greatest episode of Star Trek, another iconic television series of the decade. For another, this would have introduced the character of Two-Face into the lineup of classic Batman TV villains. Fans love to speculate who would have played the disfigured District Attorney turned psychopathic arch criminal, Harvey Dent. One rumor has it that the producers intended Clint Eastwood to play part. However, the casting remains simply a fun game of "what if" that dedicated Batman fans continue to play.

It's also fun to wonder what other episodes or Bat-Villain would have been cut from the first season had this made its way into production.

A more complete accounting of the events can be read in Volume 5 of Harlan Ellison's Brain Movies anthology series, but here is Mike Cecchini's from Den of Geek explanation of the circumstances:

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.
The manuscript was written just as filming was beginning on Batman. Case in point, you can tell the format of the manuscript was written for the episode to be a hour long rather than the usual two-parter, which originally, Batman was intended to have hour long episodes before ABC decided to break it up over Wednesday and Thursday nights. However, the mid-point in the story could have been used as a typical Bat-Trap. The escape, reminiscent of the method used in the episodes Ring of Wax/Give 'Em the Axe.

Also, many bat-vehicles, such as, the Batcopter, Batcycle, and even the Bat Plane are mentioned in the outline. Most likely, the use of these vehicles may have had to be changed in the final draft. A different version of the more recognizable Batcycle was used during the first season however, in the episodes, The Penguin Goes Straight/Not Yet He Ain't and they may have used that same version for the Two-Face episodes, but the Batcopter would not be seen until the movie and future seasons. It is conceivable that this episode could have aired later in the season if the Batcopter was completed, but in order to see this episode as it was intended, it would have worked better for the second season.

Other aspects that I enjoyed from the manuscript was having Batman and Robin meet Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara at the scene of the crime rather than the Commissioners office. Also, it was refreshing to see Batman and Robin split up to determine Two-Face's intended target. Sadly, had this episode gone into production, these aspects would have undoubtedly been re-written to be more like the typical Bat-Episode.

Overall, it was fun to get an idea of what might have been and recommend my fellow Bat-Fans to check it out. Now, if only they would do a version of the Sandman episode using the original script before it was edited to add Catwoman.

Anyone else pick of this issue of Batman '66?

About the author: John Sholtz is an avid toy collector and the interim editor of the Batcave Toy Room due to the abrupt death of Bruce Wayne. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter at, Facebook, Google+ and Linkedin.
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John Sholtz is a well known entrepreneur and man about town, toy and movie memorabilia collector, contributor for Cool & Collected magazine, and creative head of the soon to be multi-platform media behemoth known as Geek Life Industries.