To­tal Re­call

Re­mem­ber­ing the Rid­dler from ’ 60s Bat­man.

SFX - - Contents - Nick Setch­field, fea­tures edi­tor

As lean and as crooked as one of his ques­tion marks, Frank Gor­shin’s Rid­dler is my favourite Bat­man vil­lain.

Main­lin­ing the box- set of the ’ 60s se­ries, I’m re­minded how Gor­shin’s brand of su­pervil­lainy ex­ists in a whole other league to his fel­low Bat- felons. So many of the show’s guest stars feel like Hol­ly­wood warhorses plun­der­ing the dress­ing- up box and hav­ing a right old hoot, earn­ing cool points with the grand­kids and bank­ing anec­dotes for Bing ’s next pool party in Palm Springs. Gor­shin’s dif­fer­ent. Gor­shin’s crazy. Just look at him, this de­ranged match­stick man in green tights, scam­per­ing through the day- glo un­re­al­ity of Gotham City. Con­vulsed in hys­te­ria, a vein throb­bing fit to burst on his brow, he’s like a spi­der fry­ing in an elec­tric socket – and lov­ing it. Gor­shin brings such a bril­liant, defin­ing phys­i­cal­ity to the role. No won­der the equally elas­tic Jim Car­rey openly homaged his pre­de­ces­sor in 1995’ s Bat­man For­ever.

You can hear the mad­ness of King Frank in that im­mor­tal gig­gle, too. It’s a con­ta­giously cracked sound, more de­mented than a hyena dosed on laugh­ing gas. But watch how Gor­shin switches in a heart­beat from manic glee to psy­chotic chill. There’s some­thing gen­uinely fright­en­ing in those eyes. He’s the only ’ 60s Bat­man vil­lain you’d be wise to be afraid of ( King Tut? Get out of here).

Gor­shin con­fessed he stole that gig­gle from Richard Wid­mark in 1947’ s Kiss Of Death ( it’s the sound of a man push­ing a wheel­chair- bound old lady down the stairs, ap­par­ently). He first won fame as an im­pres­sion­ist, in fact, and be­came a popular night­club draw, head­lin­ing in Ve­gas. And there’s a def­i­nite pinch of Rat Pack DNA in him. Gor­shin once per­formed a song as the Rid­dler on a Dean Martin TV spe­cial. Sharp of suit, flanked by go- go girls, he reels off puz­zlers be­fore col­laps­ing in de­mented fits. YouTube it. It’s like a lounge act in hell.

There’s a Gor­shin anec­dote I love. One day he stole the Bat­mo­bile. Shoot­ing a scene where the Rid­dler hi­jacks the caped cru­sader’s wheels in a Gotham al­ley, Gor­shin ig­nored the fran­tic cries of “Cut!”, gunned the ac­cel­er­a­tor and kept driv­ing, rock­et­ing into the Hol­ly­wood hills. I’d like to be­lieve he was gig­gling all the way, the lu­natic.

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