Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Family That Commits Crime Together Does Time Together

This is my entry in the Shelley Winters Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Poppity Talks Classic Films

Batman, the 1960's camp TV series had just about everyone in Hollywood banging on the door to be cast as a supervillain, if the hype can be believed.  You can't help but love some of the takes that some of those Hollywood stars that got lucky enough to get the nod took with their roles.  My personal favorite of these second tier villains would be Vincent Price as Egghead.  (Note: by 'second tier" I'm not impugning their status as actors.  I just consider the quadrumvirate of The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman to be "first tier" because they were such frequent guest villains.)

Shelley Winters got her chance to battle the Dynamic Duo in the second season of the show, as Ma Parker, a sort of parody of the real criminal Ma Barker (a character she actually played in Bloody Mama, a Roger Corman flick from 1970.  She may or may not have gotten the role in that movie in part due to her stint on Batman.)

Batman (TV series) "The Greatest Mother of Them All"/"Ma Parker" (original air date: Oct. 5-6, 1966)

What constitutes a great criminal? Is it the ingenious way he/she commits their crimes?  Is it their willingness to go to great lengths to their illicit gains?  Or maybe its just their ability to somehow outwit the local gendarmes when engineering their escapes.

"Ma" Parker (Shelley Winters) and her family of three boys, "Pretty Boy" (Richard Biheller), "Machine Gun" (Peter Brooks)  and "Mad Dog" (Michael Vandever) and her daughter "Legs" (Tisha Sterling) have managed to make a mockery of every major city in the nation and have ow set their sights on Gotham City.  No, Chief O'Hara, Ma Parker has not avoided Gotham because of the legendary derring-do and capabilities of the intrepid police force of the city.  She has been avoiding contact with Batman and Robin.

But now Ma and her brood have descended on Gotham, with a nefarious plan that even the quick-witted  Batman could never have deduced.  After all, why would the world's most notorious family of thieves intentionally get themselves arrested?  Which is what they proceed to do, but only as a matter of being "foiled" in their attempts at escape.

First is a shootout at the hideout of the Parker clan, in which Ma and the boys escape (only "Pretty Boy" is captured.

Next is a robbery of a charity event at a theater.  Ma escapes in an a truck, but "Machine Gun", having dropped his violin case, is left behind and captured.

Next, a armed robbery of a drugstore ends with the capture of "Mad Dog".

Batman, using his supercomputer, can't locate the whereabouts of Ma Parker, but the usually slower witted Robin observes that the best place for an old lady like ma to hide out would be an "Old Folks Home".  (Hey, don't blame me.  That's what they call it.  This show was made B.P.C. "Before Politically Correct")

Sure enough, Ma and her daughter are captured making it a family reunion in the prison.

(Note: "Legs" prison # is 35-23-34!  "Holy measurements, Batman!")

But now Ma can put her real plan into action.  You see, for months she has been surreptitiously replacing the guards at the prison with her own henchmen, thus making it possible for her to take over the prison.  And with Batman and Robin out of the way, it will be a piece of cake.

(Did I mention that one of the prison inmates installed a block of dynamite in the engine of the Batmobile, designed so it would set off when the car went over 60 MPH?  Of course, since Batman obeys every law, and the speed limit is only 55, Ma's plan is foiled...)  [and so much for those "atomic engines to power, turbines to speed" that Robin is so often saying after jumping in to the Batmobile]

After Ma takes over the prison, she has the perfect hideout for criminals.  After all, who would look for escaped criminals inside the prison....

Ma and an entourage of criminals escape from the prison and go on an armored car robbery gig.  Batman and Robin show up but are unable to capture any crooks.  They do come away with a piece of a sleeve, however.  Which the intrepid bat computer determines can only be from a prison uniform.  (I guess the prison must have an exclusive contract with J. Crime or something like that)

So the Dynamic Duo head back to the Gotham Pen, only to be captured by Ma and her boys.  They are hooked up to electric chairs where they will be turned into fried appetizers on the stroke of midnight.  Ma and the boys leave. leaving poor Legs to watch them.  Batman manages to use the girl's sense of insecurity to send he running to see what the boys are doing, and manages to make the electrocution plans go out like a light.   And this time Ma and her boys are thrown into prison for real.

The "Holy..." radar doesn't go off for very many of Robin's usual "holy..." exclamations in these two episodes.  "Holy Edison" has to be the lamest (said after it is revealed that Batman had telegraphed Alfred through his bat-belt to have the power shut off at the prison just before Ma can throw the switch to electrocute the duo.)  But I kinda got a kick out of "Holy Werner von Braun" when Ma tired to escape from the pair in a rocket powered wheelchair...

Well, folks, time to go visit mom.  She's living the life of Riley in an old folks home.  (Albeit one with bars on the windows, never understood why...)  Drive safely folks.



  1. Loved this affectionate look at a Batman villainess- and love to read your thoughts on Vincent Price's character one day too. Thanks for bringing Ma Parker to the blogathon along with her family.

    1. Do a Vincent Blogathon and I'll put that in as one of my entries. (Im sure I'd do at least two if not three...) Thanks for reading.

  2. Quiggy, your wonderful post brings back so many memories of this entire series. Some of Hollywood’s all time great stars were among the Guest Villains, and Shelley is one of the very best!

    1. So good to have you back in the fold, Chris. I miss having your input. Thanks for reading.

  3. It is easy to forget just how clever the series was, and such a treat for movie buffs.

    1. Its also a treat for those of us who love blatant over the top acting. Thanks for reading.

  4. I have such fond memories of watching Batman (by then already in syndication) just before supper in my early youth. And the villains were the best part. Thanks for reminding everyone of one of baddies that is often forgotten.

    1. I didn't get to watch Batman in prime time either. (I was only 6 or 7, and watched mostly cartoons.) Thanks for reading.

  5. Ahh... Adam West's Batman... sorry Chris Nolan fanboys, West rules! ;)


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