Stalwart cinematic presence Eli Wallach, most closely identified as the eponymous “Ugly” Tuco of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and the bandit Calvera in The Magnificent Seven, passed away on June 24 at the illustrious age of 98.
Astride the laurels of his diverse and extraordinary career rests the role that, in Mr. Wallach’s words, earned him the greatest amount of fan mail — the 3rd and final Mr. Freeze of the 60’s TV show, “Batman”. He assumed the role of the frigid felon after Otto Preminger, the 2nd Mr. Freeze (assuming the cold character after Mr. Freeze #1, George Sanders, was unavailable), so repulsed the cast and crew with his arrogant behavior that he was not invited to return to the program. I’ll admit Eli Wallach was frigid fun camping it up as Mr. Icy and Iniquitous, but Otto’s devious twirling of his bushy red eyebrows and scurrilous sounding off “Wild, wild!” when his schemes would progress as planned were malevolently memorable.
Now, you know ol’ Kentucky Jay rocks the geekboy status rather hard when his favorite celebs visit ethereal Tinseltown one-way only, so I distracted myself on Wednesday morning to consider the dwindling membership of the 60’s Batman Rogue’s Gallery. Batman, Robin, and yes, the red-wigged shark-jumper Batgirl are still alive. Catwoman #1 and #2 (Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether) are still sharpening their claws. Joan Collins (The Siren), Barbara Rush (Nora Clavicle, the chairwoman of the Ladies’ Crime Club), Dina Merrill (Calamity Jan, beloved co-conspirator of the rootin-tootin criminal cowboy Shame, who was portrayed by Merrill’s late husband, Cliff Robertson), Glynis Johns (Lady Penelope Peasoup), and — Holy Hanging In There, Batman! — Zsa Zsa Gabor (Minerva, the villainess of the final episode of the series) remain vengefully vital.
However, the male membership of this society of sinister schemers & dastardly dreamers has been whittled away to but ONE. Oh, and the galaxies do hand me a peanut-butter-and-irony milkshake upon the conclusion that the one actor still alive, the solitary remaining male super-villain of the TV series, was featured in the first two episodes of “Batman” I ever saw, wayyyy back in 1983, when WNYW Channel 5 ran “Batman” weekdays at 5 PM. Double Whammy: He’s an actor (and a role) I’ve celebrated in a previous post – Congratulations, old bean; I’ll permit the picture to perform the punchline: