TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

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TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

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Leslie Martinson was the director of “The Penguin Goes Straight”/“Not Yet He Ain’t” and “Batman: The Movie.” He was a good friend of Adam West’s (but thought Burt Ward was “adequate”). As a director, how much impact did he have on the Batman legacy? For one thing, he played a big role in shaping the “bomb” scene into a signature scene of Adam West Batman!

The TV Academy’s 2003 interview with Martinson reveals this (especially when we take a look at the movie’s script), as well as some of Martinson’s experiences in making various movies and TV shows - sometimes in front of a stress-inducing live audience. We discuss the interview, dig into Acey Hudkins’ accident on the set of the movie, and ask the question: Is the “bomb” scene camp? (Get your sleeping bag!)

Also, the Steelism version of the theme, a Deja Vu encounter with one Steve Franken, and your mail on … various topics.

https://tothebatpoles.libsyn.com/144-le ... s-tha-bomb
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by Dan E Kool »

Tim said the magic words.

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My tent stays pitched! But you already know that.

Brilliant take on the "Bomb" scene, Paul. Triomphe de la campiness. I am most pleased.

The bomb scene isn't camp nor camping, but it is some darn good straight humor. And that's entirely a result of Leslie Martinson's direction. As Paul said, the way the joke repeats itself - and quickly builds up on itself - is what makes it so funny. I think that's the difference here from the equally slapstick jokes of Season 2. The joke has room to breathe in a feature length film that SRR's jokes don't.

(Arguably, part of that is also because SRR wrote in so many jokes that he suffocated himself.)

The script could have been portrayed in a more "camping" style, had Martison directed it differently. I can imagine a scene more along the lines of the tiger fight scene in the first Catwoman arc. Or the Aunt Harriet cliffhanger at the end of the first Zelda episode. Basically any moment when Gorshin is on screen. Moments equally ridiculous as "getting rid of a bomb" that, nevertheless, don't actively let on how just ridiculous they are. In other words, scenes that take themselves more seriously than the audience is expected to.

Now to where I disagree:
I think that the reason this scene is so well loved is because it's straight humor. Not in spite of it. Straight humor is a lot easier to laugh at. The punchline is obvious.

Lorenzo Semple Jr (MPBUH) said it best - he wrote "smilers."

That is, perhaps, the weakness of trying to write camp on purpose. The audience wonders: Is this good? Is it bad? Should I laugh? How am I supposed to react?

'Intentional Camp' is, by its very nature, an awkward form of comedy.

The 66 Movie, as directed, tells the audience very clearly - THIS IS FUNNY. IT'S OK TO LAUGH.

And I'm sure that was intentional. As I understand it, the movie was made to promote the TV show abroad. If Dozier wanted to sell his idea, especially to foreign audiences with language barriers, he'd probably want to be sure that everyone understood how they should react. The bomb scene needs no explanation. It can be watched on mute and the joke is still understood. Martinson turned Semple's smiler into a belly buster.

Disregard the fact that this was the most available version of 66 Batman for most of its history. I think the 66 Movie is the most iconic and memorable piece of West's portrayal because it tells the audience - in the most clear terms - just how it's supposed to be enjoyed.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by High C »

I wasn't yet on board with the show when you actually reviewed the movie (my bad), thus I will say my piece here. It's a contrarian viewpoint that hasn't gone over well in this space before, but what the heck. I've been a contrarian since the day I joined this board several incarnations of it ago (note my avatar), so why stop now. ;)

I agree with Dan (again, great to have you back, sir) that a large goal of the movie was to introduce the show to foreign markets. But Dozier also was a capitalist and liked making, well, dough. I am too lazy to find them right now, but I know there were interviews afterward in which he lamented the fact that the U.S. box office was merely OK and that he realized after the fact he was trying to make people pay for something they could get for free.

I know many fans love the film, and that's great. Personally, I can take or leave it. It has its moments, but it feels like a TV movie, and not merely because of the aspect ratio (because they needed to insert the Batboat and Batcopter stock footage seamlessly into the show, I suspect). Yes, it's a bit bigger scope, but there's no sense of grandeur. Part of that is the constraints of the budget, part of that is the direction, and part of that, quite frankly, is the cast. Granted, Burgess Meredith was doing supporting roles in films at the time besides TV, and so was Cesar Romero to some extent, but there's no 'Wow' factor.

I realize you guys are all about facts and research and not speculation. I get that. And yes, I understand that if Dozier had left out the 'Big 4' it would've ruffled feathers and bruised egos.

But here comes the contrarian in me. If I had been a consultant at the time trying to maximize the box office, my advice would have been this--scrap the 'multiple villains working together' concept. This is my personal bias, but I think a single villain, if it's the right character and the right performer, always is more compelling than multiple ones, with the Zodiac Crimes being an exception. (The Flint movies are a perfect example. Their villains-by-committee are as limp as yesterday's toast.)

If I could have been Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett and 'Quantum Leaped' into Dozier and/or Semple in 1965-66, my idea would've been for one villain, preferably female. Why? Two reasons. 1. Unfortunately, then as now, actresses came cheaper than actors. Adam was paid $100K. You usually could get a top female star for that much at the time (Elizabeth Taylor being an exception), whereas a top male star would cost more. I'm not condoning it, obviously. I'm just saying that's how it was/is.

2. A femme fatale villainess would've been better for Adam to play off. You could retain much of the Kitka storyline, giving the villainess an alter ego for Bruce Wayne to fall in love with. A top male star is going to crowd out Adam. A top female star is more complementary.

Realistically, my first choice then would've been Lee Remick. FWIW, per imdb, Remick only did TV once from 1963-71--a production of Damn Yankees in 1967 as temptress Lola. If she was willing to do that, I could see her being persuaded to do this.

You see, I don't think the 'Big 4' are as important to the kiddies as Batman and Robin. As long as you've got them, you've got the youth market. But if you want to get the casual moviegoer, you need star power, and no offense, the movie just didn't have it, as much as the fans loved it. I guess that's the crux of what I'm saying. To use an anachronism (in 1966), the movie was comfort food for the fans, but the way it was set up, it wasn't going to attract many people who weren't already into it.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by Jim Akin »

High C wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 4:21 am I know many fans love the film, and that's great. Personally, I can take or leave it. It has its moments, but it feels like a TV movie, and not merely because of the aspect ratio (because they needed to insert the Batboat and Batcopter stock footage seamlessly into the show, I suspect). Yes, it's a bit bigger scope, but there's no sense of grandeur.

...

If I had been a consultant at the time trying to maximize the box office, my advice would have been this--scrap the 'multiple villains working together' concept.

...

A femme fatale villainess would've been better for Adam to play off. You could retain much of the Kitka storyline, giving the villainess an alter ego for Bruce Wayne to fall in love with. A top male star is going to crowd out Adam. A top female star is more complementary.
Great points, HIgh C! They make me wish you were Sam Beckett and could have consulted with Semple and Dozier back in the day. :)

I've only ever felt so-so about the feature film myself. I love the Batboat and Batcopter, but by the time I first saw the movie, I'd already seen those vehicles in season 2 episodes. Penguin's sub is awesome, but the foam-rubber convention gag, the rubber shark and the notion that landbound Commodore Schmidlapp could be duped into thinking he was on the high seas, all struck me as silly even when I was a kid. I think much deep love for the movie comes from fans who discovered '66 Batman when the series wasn't in regular reruns, and for whom the film was the only accessible source.

Shoehorning all the villains into one plot definitely shortchanged them all. Penguin got a little extra to do with the Schmidlapp impersonation, and of course Catwoman got extra screen time as Kitka, but Joker and Riddler were reduced to glorified henchmen. I always felt like Riddler got especially short shrift given his prominence in season 1, and wondered if that was sour grapes over Gorhsin's hard bargaining over payment for returning in season 2. (I'm not familiar with the timing of negotiations, so maybe I'm all wet on that.)

Many others have pointed out the absurdity of Batman being fooled by Kitka, given his long history with Catwoman. I acknowledge that, but I've always managed to ignore it because I think Lee Meriwether's dual role is one of the best things about the movie. Having her or another actress play a femme fatale Batman hadn't encountered before would have eliminated that issue very neatly. (Poison Ivy, who debuted in the comics just a couple of months before the movie's premiere, would seem an obvious choice, assuming Greenway and DC were in communication then, as they would be around Batgirl's introduction a year later.)
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by BATWINGED HORNET »

Another winner, guys.

I appreciated the look at the career of actor Steve Franken, who was SO snobby/funny on Dobie Gillis. Franken also had a brief appearance in Michael Crichton's sci-fi thriller Westworld (1973) as a frightened technician who told Richard Benjamin's Peter Martin character about the few ways he might defeat the senses of the robots...before being shot to death by Yul Brynner's Gunslinger. I love that film!

Martinson painted a very interesting picture of what it was like to work on the movie. As an "outsider" to the Greenway/Greenlawn production house (more or less), he has "no dog in this hunt," so he's freely talking about the production, and not turning it into anything negative.

By the way, the June 1966 issue of American Cinematographer covered the production of the movie. The article was titled "BAT-MATOGRAPHY or Capturing Batman on Film", and I believe you can access the article on the American Cinematographer website.

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Being an article from the era, it--like Martinson's memories--are as straight an account as you are likely to find, free of revisionist history from extreme Batman '66 fans, or those who do not care for the Dozierverse.

BTW, I was never fond of the bomb scene. It went on and on and on, and even if one looks at it through the (worn) lens of "camp" it was too much, and threw the tone off, especially following the great sequence of Wayne's fight and escape from the villains.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

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BATWINGED HORNET wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:29 am By the way, the June 1966 issue of American Cinematographer covered the production of the movie. The article was titled "BAT-MATOGRAPHY or Capturing Batman on Film", and I believe you can access the article on the American Cinematographer website.

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For the curious, here's the article:
https://ascmag.com/articles/wrap-shot-batman-1966
BATWINGED HORNET wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:29 am BTW, I was never fond of the bomb scene. It went on and on and on, and even if one looks at it through the (worn) lens of "camp" it was too much, and threw the tone off, especially following the great sequence of Wayne's fight and escape from the villains.
Yep. THIS. Ditto. Agreed.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

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BATWINGED HORNET wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:29 am By the way, the June 1966 issue of American Cinematographer covered the production of the movie. The article was titled "BAT-MATOGRAPHY or Capturing Batman on Film", and I believe you can access the article on the American Cinematographer website.

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It's always fun to see that American Cinematographer article, Ralph Woolsey is a hero in my book both as a fan and a photographer - especially given that he is largely responsible for the visual language of a show that is widely known for it's...visual language!
BATWINGED HORNET wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:29 am Being an article from the era, it--like Martinson's memories--are as straight an account as you are likely to find, free of revisionist history from extreme Batman '66 fans, or those who do not care for the Dozierverse.
I've read and re-read your remark here a number of times now and i've got to admit that i'm still not entirely sure what you're getting at? Revisionist in what sense of the word?
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by BATWINGED HORNET »

Ben Bentley wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 1:39 pm
I've read and re-read your remark here a number of times now and i've got to admit that i'm still not entirely sure what you're getting at? Revisionist in what sense of the word?
Revisionist in that some present day fans and/or writers will swear the series was a sitcom (another Bat-related board has fans who push that idea), not adventure series with camp elements, but a real sitcom (despite the show never being described as such), that just did not have a laugh track and frame every comment or article with that belief.

Then, there's the kind of fan who will swear the series was always written with more sexual innuendo than actually seen on the show when it was not (skipping over how certain cast members created much of that "history" in interviews / convention experiences in the decades that followed).

It reminds me of Gene Roddenberry spending the post 1960s claiming NBC /censors would not let actresses on Star Trek show their navels, when Nichelle Nichols and Barbara Luna's were never concealed in "Mirror, Mirror", the same with the female guest stars in "The Apple". Roddenberry was laying on his "crusader against the network" story, when in that case, it simply was not true, but fans and various magazines repeated and built on that story for decades to sell ST vs NBC in way that's false, similar to my two Bat-examples.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

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BATWINGED HORNET wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:01 pm
Ben Bentley wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 1:39 pm
I've read and re-read your remark here a number of times now and i've got to admit that i'm still not entirely sure what you're getting at? Revisionist in what sense of the word?
Revisionist in that some present day fans and/or writers will swear the series was a sitcom (another Bat-related board has fans who push that idea), not adventure series with camp elements, but a real sitcom (despite the show never being described as such), that just did not have a laugh track and frame every comment or article with that belief.

Then, there's the kind of fan who will swear the series was always written with more sexual innuendo than actually seen on the show when it was not (skipping over how certain cast members created much of that "history" in interviews / convention experiences in the decades that followed).

It reminds me of Gene Roddenberry spending the post 1960s claiming NBC /censors would not let actresses on Star Trek show their navels, when Nichelle Nichols and Barbara Luna's were never concealed in "Mirror, Mirror", the same with the female guest stars in "The Apple". Roddenberry was laying on his "crusader against the network" story, when in that case, it simply was not true, but fans and various magazines repeated and built on that story for decades to sell ST vs NBC in way that's false, similar to my two Bat-examples.
I mean this with all sincerity; thank you for taking the time to articulate that because not only do I agree with your observation for the most part but I definitely did not think this is what you were alluding to in your initial remark, so i'm glad I asked the question. Would love to have you join in on one of our Video Bat-Chats sometime.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by Dan E Kool »

High C wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 4:21 am I agree with Dan (again, great to have you back, sir)...
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High C wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 4:21 am But here comes the contrarian in me. If I had been a consultant at the time trying to maximize the box office, my advice would have been this--scrap the 'multiple villains working together' concept. This is my personal bias, but I think a single villain, if it's the right character and the right performer, always is more compelling than multiple ones, with the Zodiac Crimes being an exception. (The Flint movies are a perfect example. Their villains-by-committee are as limp as yesterday's toast.)
That's... not a bad idea. But I'll counter your proposal with my own: Just cut the big 4 in half. I say we drop Romero and Meredith in favor of Newmar and Gorshin. The 66 formula is too shallow for a single villain to hold a story for the runtime of a feature film. But if you split the story between 2 antagonists, (as is common in modern Batman movies, too) you might end up with a tighter plot. I say we don't even have them work together as a team. Have Batman solve multiple crimes at once. It've might be interesting to see him distracted by Newmar while Gorshin is loose in the city.

Gorshin would've had to stay because he's the biggest guest star of the first season. And Newmar arguably became the biggest guest star of the second season. If I'm not allowed to pick Newmar's Catwoman because it didn't happen in real life (hey! whose hypothetical is this, anyway?!) then I'll side with you and say we create a brand new female villain.
BATWINGED HORNET wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:01 pm
Revisionist in that some present day fans and/or writers will swear the series was a sitcom (another Bat-related board has fans who push that idea), not adventure series with camp elements, but a real sitcom (despite the show never being described as such), that just did not have a laugh track and frame every comment or article with that belief.
Flipping that description around is a better description of the show in my book. A camp series with elements of adventure.

And I kinda want a version of Season 3 with a laugh track now.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by dell »

I enjoy the film and watch it once in a while, but I agree with High C that having 4 villains dilutes their menace, at least for me. Also, the villains in-fighting makes them seem more of a threat to each other than to the good guys. And the in-fighting between the four doesn’t advance the plot in any meaningful way. It doesn’t interfere with their scheme and they never really turn on each other except in their banter, so all it does is pad the scenes with extraneous dialogue.

But I also think that having one villain makes the movie even more like an extended TV episode; I doubt it would have done better at the box office and could have done worse. I'm not sure what the right answer here is. Maybe two villains (or three) and at least one gets betrayed by a fellow villain and Batman and Robin face that final villain in a more dramatic face-off.

And I never thought that any of the traps were as good as most of the ones from the TV show. Having to incorporate an element from each villain into the traps made them overly complicated and easier to escape than they should have been.

However, there are some great scenes in the movie that I never tire of. One is the admiral being chided by Batman for selling a pre-atomic submarine to someone who doesn’t even leave a full address and in the end the admiral simply replies “Gosh!”
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by High C »

Apologizing in advance for the length of this post.

OK, a lot of replies to get to. Let me begin by addressing the show itself and the Martinson interviews. You guys are right--he talks in circles a bit at times, but that's to be expected from someone who was 88 when this was recorded. I would say it didn't help that, as often was the case with these Television Academy interviews, the interviewer wasn't all that well-prepared. I love the idea of interviewing these people for posterity and for the historical record, but the problem was it seems the interviewers often are reading from an imdb sheet and have little knowledge of the subject.

Granted, some of the WB westerns Martinson directed in the late 1950s and early 1960s weren't in daily rotation then as they are today on the Starz Western channel, where I can watch Cheyenne, Lawman and Maverick five days a week. (Not The Lawman as the interviewer called it. A nitpick by me? Yeah, but it demonstrates he has no idea about the show.) Even more annoying was how a couple of times when he had to change tapes, Martinson was about to tell an interesting story--one time he appeared about to rip Jack Webb--and Freiberger FORGOT to pick up where they left off.

Maddening.

On to the replies. I was happy to see BWH and Scott agree with me. I'll admit I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to say it first. Sorry, Leslie, and Young brothers, I didn't like his change. I've always felt the bomb sequence dragged on far too long. (Although I do enjoy Adam's line reading, so moving it from the stage direction to the dialogue was a good change by Martinson.)

Another point about why Dozier had to be disappointed with the marginal profit the movie made, and this came out on your show, Tim and Paul. Oscar Lilley, the former U. of Wyoming archivist and Dozier expert, noted that something I believe was a myth actually wasn't. Had the movie done very well, especially overseas, Dozier had hoped to leverage it into following the Man From UNCLE blueprint and doing 'Euro movies,' i.e., extended versions of TV episodes with 'bonus footage' made into movies for the European market. I would wager that was the original reason behind three-parters.

(The bonus footage often was of women showing a little more skin, not hard R, mind you, but heaven forbid, bikinis and navels [!] for the coveted Dirty Old Man Market. In fact, one of the UNCLE Euro movies features Yvonne as an UNCLE operative in the office, giving info to Solo, I think, while wearing a bikini under a sunlamp! The scene isn't in the TV version of the episode. A shirtless guy sometimes would turn up too for the female viewers.)

Jim, I don't know if Gorshin was shortchanged because of the contract dispute, but I do know he was paid less than Romero and Meredith (who was paid the most). He got the bad news that his request for more dough was denied on May 9, pretty much the midpoint of the shoot. I think the lack of stuff for Romero to do was a concern throughout in the correspondence between Semple and Dozier and never quite was resolved, obviously.

I agree with you halfway on Lee. I think she was OUTSTANDING as Kitka and did a much better job than Julie would have. I do not think Russian/Soviet was in Newmar's wheelhouse. She was used to doing a Swedish accent whenever she played non-American. But, I must admit, Lee never quite did it for me as Catwoman. I don't know, I honestly felt she was more villainous when she was Kitka while hanging out with the other villains, and romancing Bruce. I kind of felt she was forcing it when she was in the catsuit. Just my .02.

I suspect Poison Ivy would've debuted just a bit too late to be used for the movie. Remember, the script had been in the works for awhile.

Dan, I like your idea A LOT of having two plots at once of having two villains loose. I wish the show had tried it and I think it would have been interesting. I know the season 2 episodes with Newmar didn't do well in the ratings, but I must admit, I would love to see the male demos for those for obvious reasons. I know she was a TV actress by then, and I know some people on the board will disagree, but she had done more movies than Meriwether and I think she had more star power than Lee. (Newmar had a whole show built around her the year before and a backdoor pilot on Route 66 two seasons before that.) Newmar's presence might have helped the box office a bit, although that is merely speculation. (Not to be crass, but the fact Newmar signed for $10K and Meriwether was paid $5.5K gives you some insight into how Dozier viewed them side-by-side.)

Finally, as to dell's post, I agree with everything except my caveat with the one villain was that it be a female movie star. I think being a female film star, rather than a TV star, would signify to potential moviegoers that this was NOT a TV show writ large. I think that was a huge problem. People saw all the stars from the TV show on the poster and maybe felt it was like those UNCLE movies, a compilation with some extra material. They then felt they could skip it and not miss much.

Wow, this was long, even by my standards. If any of you have made it to the finish line, my congratulations and condolences. Thanks for reading. :D
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by dell »

High C wrote: Sun Oct 25, 2020 9:13 am ...

Finally, as to dell's post, I agree with everything except my caveat with the one villain was that it be a female movie star. I think being a female film star, rather than a TV star, would signify to potential moviegoers that this was NOT a TV show writ large. I think that was a huge problem. People saw all the stars from the TV show on the poster and maybe felt it was like those UNCLE movies, a compilation with some extra material. They then felt they could skip it and not miss much.

...
It might have worked if the villainess was a scuba diver and she... On second thought, probably not.

And I like the bomb scene, so there!
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #144: Leslie Martinson: He’s Tha Bomb

Post by High C »

dell wrote: Sun Oct 25, 2020 10:39 am
High C wrote: Sun Oct 25, 2020 9:13 am ...

Finally, as to dell's post, I agree with everything except my caveat with the one villain was that it be a female movie star. I think being a female film star, rather than a TV star, would signify to potential moviegoers that this was NOT a TV show writ large. I think that was a huge problem. People saw all the stars from the TV show on the poster and maybe felt it was like those UNCLE movies, a compilation with some extra material. They then felt they could skip it and not miss much.

...
It might have worked if the villainess was a scuba diver and she... On second thought, probably not.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmm :lol:
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17
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