Favorite Films – The 80’s

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This blog is a continuation of a series I started earlier this week. Somebody had the idea to post a list was to consist of your favorite films from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. My last blog focused on my favorites from the 1970’s and this one will feature the 1980’s.

I have a feeling that there will be more movies per year for me to pick from in this decade.

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1980 was a year for sequels.  Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason returned for another adventure in Smokey and the Bandit II, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker faced off in The Empire Strikes Back, and Christopher Reeve was back as Superman in Superman II. We were first introduced to Jason in the first of many installments of the Friday the 13th franchise.  Queen provided the theme song for the film Flash Gordon.  A few years before he was dealing with a Delorean, Robert Zemeckis directed Kurt Russell and Jack Warden in Used Cars. Jack Nicholson yelled “Here’s Johnny!” in the Shining and Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin dreamed of knocking off their boss in Nine to Five.

I mentioned in the last blog that I had a feeling it would be more difficult to pick just one movie per year as I headed into the 80’s.  That was proven to be true as I looked over the movies for 1980 and saw three of my all-time favorites were released.  ANY three of these could easily be my one pick for the year for the following reasons (1) all three of them have an amazing cast (2) all three of them are funny (3) all three of them are all full of great movie lines!  I want to break the rules and make this a three way tie!  Alas, I have to pick just one.

The first runner up – Caddyshack. Such a funny movie that is quoted every day on golf courses all across the country!  Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase all combine their talents to make this such a funny movie!  Second runner up – The Blues Brothers. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are Jake and Elwood Blues.  It is a comedy of epic proportions and has one of the best soundtracks ever.  Also, very quotable.

The pick for my favorite, though, has to be THE most quoted movie of the ’80s – Airplane!  “I am serious.  And don’t call me Shirley!”

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Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hayes and SO many more!  The Zucker Brothers brought us this comedy, a direct rip-off of a film called Zero Hour (look for the comparison on YouTube), and it is a joke after joke laugh riot.  Having serious actor say these comedy lines straight makes the line even more funny!  The scenes with “Johnny” are worth the price of admission!

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1981 brought us some great films.  Some of my favorite action movies from ’81 include Burt Reynolds in Sharky’s Machine, and Sylvester Stalone and Billy Dee Williams in Nighthawks. Adventure films included stop-action creatures from Ray Harryhausen in Clash of the Titans and our introduction to Indiana Jones with Harrison Ford starring in Raiders of the Lost Ark (the face melting scene still creeps me out!).

1981 was full of comedies, some better than others (Remember Ringo Starr’s Caveman?!).  Dudley Moore was brilliantly funny in Arthur.  The Muppets return for fun in The Great Muppet Caper.  Chevy Chase, Dabney Coleman, and Nell Carter appear in the underappreciated Modern Problems.  George Hamilton plays dual roles in a film I recently blogged about, Zorro The Gay Blade.  Not his best, but I still laugh at Jerry Lewis’ Hardly Working.  And Mel Brooks offered up History of the World Part I (and left many of us longing for Part II).

Stripes starring Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis comes in as a close second here.  It could easily be THE favorite for this year.  It is still funny today, and I find myself quoting it often.  Just edging it out as my favorite is The Cannonball Run.

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Burt Reynolds leads an all star cast in the race across the country!  Silly fun and many funny lines.  Dom Deluise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Farrah Fawcett, Bert Convy, Jamie Farr, Roger Moore, Jack Elam, Adrienne Barbeau, Peter Fonda, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Tillis, and so many more star in this comedy, which will always remain one of my favorites!

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In 1982, Sylvester Stallone introduced us to Rambo in First Blood while Harrison Ford starred in Blade Runner (which finally just recently got a sequel).  ET phoned home, Sean Penn was stoned out of his mind in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Scott Baio had super powers in Zapped!  Airplane II: The Sequel recycled some old jokes and was not as good as the original.  Michael Keaton drove Henry Winkler crazy in Night Shift.  Creepshow was creepy (and had a cool cameo from Stephen King).  A favorite from this year is Steve Martin’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, which is shot in black and white and Steve interacts with old movie stars.

My top pick for 1982 has got to be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

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I didn’t care for the first Star Trek film, but this one was excellent.  Again, we have the original cast back on the Enterprise.  This film goes back to the original series for a tie in.  Ricardo Montalban played the character on the series and now, years later, he finds Kirk and plans to get his revenge.  It is a great story, and the film has a powerful ending.  The best of the entire series in my opinion.  Montalban is just amazing in this movie!

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The scene with William Shatner screaming “Khan!” – how can you not love it?

1983

I can already sense the backlash I am going to get for my pick from this year, please remember this is MY list and not yours!

In the comedy category, 1983 had Michael Keaton stepping in for Teri Garr in Mr. Mom. Gary Busey, Marsha Warfield, and Mr. T are a riot in DC Cab while Bob and Doug McKenzie (Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis) get their first feature film in Strange Brew. Dan Aykroyd takes on “mom” in Doctor Detroit while Rodney Dangerfield takes on his mother-in-law in Easy Money.  1983 also introduced us to the Griswold family as they make their trip to Walley World in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

The Skywalker’s were back for the third part of the original trilogy in Return of the Jedi, while Christopher Walken woke from a coma with psychic powers in The Dead Zone.  And who can forget Al Pacino’s thrilling performance in Scarface?  My pick for favorite of this year is a holiday classic – A Christmas Story.

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So why this film?  Because it remains one that I faithfully watch every Christmas.  Who can’t relate to the way the Parker boys feel as Christmas approaches?  While it is set in the 1940’s, their excitement mirrors what every child feels during the holidays.  It’s a classic!  I had the chance to see the Christmas Story house this year (and blogged about it) and it was fun to walk through.

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As I looked over my list from ’84, I once again see more comedies than other genres.  Eddie Murphy went to Detroit to film Beverly Hills Cop, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis took on the spiritual realm in Ghostbusters. Michal Keaton and Joe Piscopo are mobsters is Johnny Dangerously.  We meet the first batch of recruits in the first Police Academy movie, while Cannonball Run II fell flat, despite a great cast. Sight gags and puns galore were seen with Val Kilmer in Top Secret, and we first met Sarah Connor in the first Terminator movie.

1984 was the year the Detroit Tigers last won a World Series.  I will never forget the excitement of that series or the season that led up to it. Perhaps that is why my favorite flick from 1984 is The Natural.

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Robert Redford is Roy Hobbs and he is an amazing ball player.  The film is based on a 1952 book by Bernard Malamud.  (Spoiler, in case you haven’t seen it) In the book, Hobbs strikes out at the end.  However, in the movie, there is an amazing homerun that knocks out the lights and sparks fly all over the place – one of my favorite endings!

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“Knock the cover off the ball ….”

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My list of favorites from this year is not too long.  Not that there weren’t some great films released, because there were, but many of them didn’t make an impact on me.  I enjoyed the James Bond film A View to a Kill (Roger Moore as Bond), Harrison Ford in Witness, and Chevy Chase as Fletch.  The “Brat Pack” film The Breakfast Club was released with your “stereotypical high school teens”. The Goonies was one I watched once. It was ok, but I didn’t see the hype that everyone else did.  As stupid as it was, Transylvania 6-5000 always made me laugh.  Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., John Byner, Geena Davis, and Michael Richards are all part of the cast, and there are some funny (and some very dumb) scenes.

Who would have thought that a board game could inspire a very funny film?  Clue came out in 1985 and had three different endings (it varied on wherever you saw it).  Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, Martin Mull, Madeline Khan, Michael McKean, Eileen Brennan, and Lesley Ann Warren play the various people from the game and it is just a blast to watch.  This easily could be my pick, but there is one film that stands out far above the rest.

As someone who always loved stories about time travel, I was hooked immediately by the trailer for Back to the Future. It remains one that I can watch over and over today.

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There is just SO much to love about this film!!!  Great story.  Great characters (and a great cast).  Comedy.  Suspense.  Good music and a cool car that when it hit 88 miles per hour, you saw some “pretty serious sh*t!”

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1986 really doesn’t have a stand out film for me.  I enjoyed Top Gun with Tom Cruise (it also has a sequel coming out).  Little Shop of Horrors was an ok movie (Steve Martin as the dentist is a high light).  Tough Guys had some good scenes, but with big stars like Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, I expected more. One Crazy Summer had some funny scenes, but wasn’t a laugh out loud riot.  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was good.  I loved the premise of this kid skipping school and doing all that he did … and still making it home before his folks found out (what kid didn’t want to do what Ferris did?!).

The only film that stands out to me from 1986 is one that you may question.  It gets the my pick as favorite for sentimental reasons.  The Three Amigos starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short.  I don’t care how many times El Guapo yells “It’s a sweater!”, I laugh!  But that is not why I picked this one.  Back when my oldest son was just diagnosed with autism, we were watching this movie.  There is a scene where the Amigos are sitting around a campfire and they begin to sing the song “Blue Shadows”.  My son walked to the TV and just stared.  He loved that song.  At that time, we had no idea if he would ever really speak more than a few words.  He would watch this scene over and over! I even have it on my iPod because it makes me think of him.

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After the song, we used to have to wait for the turtle to say “Goodnight, Ned” before we had to rewind that scene.

1987

1987 offered up some classics.  Who wasn’t freaked out by the rabbit scene in Fatal Attraction? Even though you saw it coming, you cried when Richie Valens died in La Bamba. Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World was given new life on the radio thanks to Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. “Nobody gets outta here without singing the blues” is one of my favorite lines from Adventures in Babysitting.  Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks team up for a Dragnet movie that misses the mark.  Danny Glover and Mel Gibson first teamed up for Lethal Weapon and Kevin Costner played Elliot Ness in The Untouchables.  We also enjoyed the fairy tale The Princess Bride and Mel Brooks parodied Star Wars and space movies with Spaceballs (“We Break for Nobody!”

If you loved Airplane, but have never seen Amazon Women on the Moon, you need to.  It’s as silly as Airplane and has some very funny scenes.  For years, I’ve joked that I’d like my funeral to be like a roast.  I said I would want people to share funny stories about times we shared together.  In this film, there is actually a funeral that is a roast – with a dias that includes Steve Allen, Slappy White, and other comedy greats!

My 1987 favorite goes to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

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This is just one of the best John Hughes films.  You get every emotion watching this film.  There are times that are laugh out loud funny and there are times where you are wiping tears from your eyes.  Steve Martin and John Candy are just great together.  This film makes me miss John Candy.  He was such a great actor.

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In 1988 Dirty Harry returned in The Dead Pool, Tom Hanks wished he was Big, and Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall were Coming to America.  Bruce Willis starred in the first Die Hard and Michael Keaton was Beetlejuice.  I was impressed by the interaction between humans and cartoons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and (as a Monty Python fan) loved John Cleese and Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda.

With my favorite movie that kicked off this decade (Airplane), it should come as no surprise that my pick from 1988 is The Naked Gun starring Leslie Nielsen.

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Shortly after Airplane, the Zucker brothers created Police Squad.  It was a short lived TV show starring Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin.  It aired just 6 episodes.  The show is the premise for the movie.  George Kennedy replaced Alan North and OJ Simpson (pre-murder trial) also starred.  Ricardo Montalban plays the villain in this and is just great.  Not as many lines as Airplane, but just as funny!!

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1989

As I come to the last year of this decade, I am faced with the same issue I had with the first year.  I have many favorites from this year and wonder just how I can pick only one movie as a favorite!

Comedies included Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights, Weird Al Yankovic starred in his first film UHF, John Candy was Uncle Buck in another John Hughes film, and Charlie Sheen was Wild Thing in Major League (“Just a bit outside!”).  Bernie is dead, but he still has quite an adventure in Weekend at Bernie’s. Jack Palance plays a wonderful bad guy in Tango and Cash and the Griswold’s host Christmas in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And I can’t forget to mention that Doc Brown and Marty McFly return in Back to the Future II (which some people hate because it goes back and forth from time to time – but that’s what I love about it! That, and the fact that they reshot original scenes from Part I and then had the characters interact within that scene.)

Two films that really stand out from 89 are not comedies, but adventure movies.  The runner up for my favorite is Tim Burton’s Batman.  As a fan of the 1966 Batman, I was excited to see how this film would be portrayed.  Michael Keaton played Batman and I thought he did ok.  Jack Nicholson as the Joker was amazing!  I loved his interpretation of the character (though I still believe Cesar Romero is the best).  It was really well done.  This brings me to my favorite film of 1989 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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In the Indiana Jones series, I always felt this was the strongest of them all.  Harrison Ford is again great as Indy, but his father, played by Sean Connery, steals the scenes.  I can easily see my dad and I fighting with each other like these two do if we ever were off on an adventure like this.  I just love their interactions with each other.  They are both just perfect in this film.  The final scene is also just a picture perfect ending!

So with that, let’s ride into the sunset.  When we return, let’s dive into the 90’s, ok?

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Thanks for reading!

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Holy Batman Day!

After a few serious blogs, I decided I needed to write about something a little bit less … deep.  This is about a silly and campy a topic as I can come up with.

Depending on the source, either September 15 or September 21 was National Batman Day.  Either way, I missed it.  It was to celebrate 80 years of the Caped Crusader.  Batman first appeared in the comics in 1939 and has been keeping the folks of fictional Gotham City safe from the onset.

Yes, there have been many different versions of Batman throughout the years, but for me, the version that will always remain my favorite was created in 1966.

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I was not yet born when it first aired on TV, but I watched it faithfully with my brother in reruns.  To be honest, as a kid watching this show, I had no idea just what the show did to pop culture in 1966.  It was HUGE!  Radio stations used the infamous Neal Hefti theme song for their jingles.  People were using onomatopoeias in every day conversations, along with “Holy” catchphrases!  Batman was everywhere!

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The phrase “Same Bat Time.  Same Bat Channel.” were used in everyday language.  It was a reference to the fact that the first episode would end with our heroes caught in a trap.  Certain death awaited the Dynamic Duo.  The cliffhanger episodes ended telling veiwers to tune in tomorrow to see IF they can escape (which they always did!).

The 1966 Batman was quite different than what had been seen on screen or in the comics.  The producers of the show did it with a campiness that was at times, just plain silly.  One has to wonder if the cast had been different, would it have worked?

Adam West played Batman (and Bruce Wayne) and Burt Ward was Robin (and Dick Grayson).

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The Commissioner Gordon of 1966 is SO unlike the Gordon of Fox’s Gotham.  He is played by the great Neil Hamilton.  Chief O’Hara is played like the stereotypical Irish cop from so many movies and radio shows by character actor Stafford Repp.

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In the comics, Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, had been killed off before the show began.  Needless to say, his death was reversed.  He is played to perfection by Alan Napier.

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Aunt Harriet Cooper was played by Madge Blake, who many will remember from Leave it to Beaver.  Blake fell ill during the show and appeared less and less.

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In season 3, the two day back to back episode format was abandoned and the character of Batgirl (who was really Barbara Gordon, daughter of the Commissioner) was introduced.  She was played by the amazing Yvonne Craig.

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Outside of the campiness of the show, I think what made it such a hit was the villains.  Batman in the comics introduced readers to many of the Batman “staple” villains and so they were known to Bat-fans already.  Personally, I need to give kudos to whoever did the casting of the villains for the TV show!  In all honesty, it is hard for me to imagine anyone else playing these characters (although some have done quite well).

When you watch the show, you will notice that when a villain is on screen, the camera always shoots them at an angle.  The reason is that it was to convey that the villains were a bit off kilter or “crooked”.   By the end of the first season, Batman was such a big hit that celebrities were lining up to be villains.  Many stars just wanted to be ON the show (which explains some of the cameos).  While there are many villains, here are some of my favorites:

Cesar Romero – The Joker. Romero was known for playing romantic Latin lovers in many movies.  When asked to play the Joker, he refused to shave off his trademark mustache.  The cast him anyway and they painted the makeup over his mustache!  Look at the picture below and it is clearly visible.  His over-the-top performance as the Joker and his amazing laugh made the character so much fun to watch!!

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Frank Gorshin – The Riddler.  Gorshin had starred in over 20 films by the time he was cast in Batman as the Riddler.  Those included That Darn Cat, Where the Boys Are, and The George Raft Story.  He was popular in night clubs and on TV and was an amazing impressionist (He did one of the BEST impressions of Burt Lancaster!).  As the Riddler, he was like a cat high on catnip!  He was all over the place!  His laugh was perfect for the role.  The laugh was supposedly inspired by Richard Widmark’s character in 1947’s Kiss of Death.

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Burgess Meredith – The Penguin.  Burgess was called “one of the most accomplished actors of the century” and I would tend to agree.  There is very little that I have seen him in where he is not amazing to watch!  He and Cesar Romero are tied for the most appearances on Batman.  As the Penguin, he is just marvelous!  Penguin trivia:  Burgess had stopped smoking prior to taking the role.  He developed the “quack”ing to hide the fact that he wanted to cough because of the smoke.  Word is that he was so popular on the show, the producers ALWAYS had a Penguin script waiting for him.

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Catwoman – Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt.  Hands down, Julie Newmar is my favorite!  Her sultry voice fits the character.  The way she flirts with Batman, you can tell there is something there, but it can never be because one is good and one is evil.  Julie was a star on Broadway (and Tony Award winner) before Batman. She did many guest appearances on TV too (F-Troop, Route 66, Columbo, and more).  Her Catwoman costume is in the Smithsonian!

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Eartha Kitt makes my list because her take on Catwoman is SO different from Julie’s.  Her growl and the way she rolls her “r’s” is reason enough for her to be mentioned.

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Notice: Julie raised the belt on the costume a bit – so it enhanced her figure.

David Wayne – The Mad Hatter.  I always liked David Wayne as an actor.  He appears in one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes and was in many movies by the time Batman cast him.  He appeared in four films with Marilyn Monroe and also appeared with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap.  Like the other villains, Wayne is over-the-top is his portrayal of the Mad Hatter.  His exact pronunciations of words with such great diction makes his performance that much more believable. How can you not dig his crazy hat with the eyes that pop up to hypnotize his victims to steal their hats?!

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Vincent Price – Egghead.  Vincent Price was a star!  He was the Saint on radio, he had appeared in who knows how many movies, and narrated Michael Jackson’s Thriller!  Egghead was a villain that must have been created for the show, as I don’t know that he ever appeared in a comic book.  He was a super intelligent villain, maybe the smartest.  His language consisted of “eggy” puns.  He was just fun to watch.

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Rudy Vallee – Lord Marmaduke Ffogg and Glynis Johns Lady Penelope Peasoup.  I really don’t know why these two make my list.  They only appear in Season Three of the show and it does not take place in Gotham City.  The episodes take place in the fictional town of Londinium.  The entire Gotham crew, including Batgirl, are there (yet no one connects the fact that Batman shows up at the same time Bruce Wayne is visiting!).  I remember these episodes for a couple things – the fact that his pipe can fog up an entire town (or so it seems) and Robin is almost stung by this huge, and obviously fake, bee.  Watching Vallee in this role, you can see (like almost all villains) that he is having a lot of fun with the character.

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Shelley Winters – Ma Parker.  Here is another example of an actor/actress who just is amazing in anything she plays (check her out in Night of the Hunter).  Shelley Winters is brilliant as Ma Parker (an obvious parody of the real Ma Barker and her crime family).  She’s crazy and shows a wide range of emotions throughout her stint on Batman.  I really wish they had brought her back for more!

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Honorable Mentions – Mr. Freeze was played by three different actors – all very differently.  George Sanders, Otto Preminger, and Eli Wallach all took turns in the role.mr freeze

Milton Berle – Louie The Lilac – Uncle Miltie as a bad guy?  Yep.

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Victor Buono – King Tut.  Talk about an over-the-top performance!  Victor is said to have loved playing this role.  He said it gave him the ability to have fun and just be silly.

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Ethel Merman – Lola Lasagna.  What?!  Ethel Merman!?  Yep.  Bonus – she’s in an episode with the Penguin.

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Liberace – Chandell and Harry.  This one is just silly, which is why I love it!  Chandell is a criminal (known as “Fingers”), but only a criminal because he is being blackmailed by is evil twin brother Harry.  Liberace alone is enough, but Liberace playing a dual role – LOL!!!

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There were many other celebrities who played villains on the show – Art Carney, Cliff Robertson, Van Johnson, Carolyn Jones, Joan Collins, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Roddy McDowell, Ida Lupino, and SO many more!  All were great, but really only good for one stint.  The villains really made the show fun to watch.

The wait was long for the show to finally make it to DVD/Blu-Ray, and when it was released, I ran out and bought it!  As silly as it is, I still will watch it and love every minute of silliness!  Happy Belated Batman Day!

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