Joan Collins, darlings, and not a swimming pool in sight.
As we’ve talked about before, Hollywood lined up to guest star on the Batman TV show, and one of the favored few was Joan Collins, who played a wily woman known as the Siren. She was fresh off an appearance on Star Trek and not well-known to American audiences, so Batman was another stepping stone for her.
Anyway, the Siren is an expert at bending men to her will and can hit high notes that might make Barry Gibb and Mariah Carey envious if she didn’t sound like a carbon monoxide detector.
Collins appeared on two episodes of the series’ third season. By this time, the show’s production values were considerably tighter. There were no more reminders to tune in tomorrow night, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel because audiences only got one episode a week. Instead, the producers decided to piggyback upcoming episodes by introducing the next week’s villains at the end of every show. Sets were also simpler, with props and doorways often set up against plain black backgrounds in lieu of full sets.
It was a relatively austere environment for Collins, considering her later work, but she still made her presence felt.
Collins’ debut episode was “Ring Around the Riddler,” first broadcast on September 21, 1967. It was the last appearance of Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, who, as always, played the role to the hilt. This time around, the Riddler attempts to impersonate famed boxer Mushy Nebuchadnezzer and win the Gotham Square Garden prizefight. He plans on putting the real Mushy out of commission by having the Siren, also known as Lorelei Circe (Joan Collins), belt out a shrill two octaves above high C. Riddler thinks he’s got an ace in the hole, but when Batgirl (Yvonne Craig) infiltrates his lair and Riddler trots out the Siren, Batgirl stares blankly, mystified but not at all hypnotized. Oops.
Her usefulness limited, the Siren sashays off sorta-stage right, but she’ll be back. She’s got prizefighters to charm and Commissioner Gordon to subjugate. Her own moment in the spotlight is imminent.
In “The Wail of the Siren,” first aired on September 28th, we begin where the last episode leaves off. Commissioner Gordon meekly agrees to infiltrate the Batcave and find out Batman and Robin’s true identities, and while Batman and Robin are visiting Barbara Gordon in her apartment he hides in the Batmobile’s trunk.
Back in her lair, the Siren daydreams about being like Lady MacBeth, Mata Hari, and Lucretia Borgia. “I just want to be evil,” she sighs. Meanwhile, her poor henchmen have to keep earmuffs handy in case the Siren decides to break into song, which she does frequently.
So far the Siren’s plan seems to be coming off swimmingly. Once in the Batcave, Commissioner Gordon dazedly stumbles out of the Batmobile’s trunk while Batman and Robin are upstairs in the study eating sandwiches, and right away he recognizes butler Alfred (Alan Napier). Alfred gives the Commissioner a good whiff of Batsleep, so at least he can’t run off and tell the Siren what he knows.
The Siren’s next move is to hypnotize Bruce Wayne, have him sign away his family fortune, and then jump off the roof of the Wayne Foundation Building. It all seems too easy, except that Robin and Batgirl are hot on her trail.
The Siren is one of Batman’s minor villains. Most of the others featured have much more complicated plots and schemes with maybe a red herring or two. The Siren doesn’t get any of that. She doesn’t even devise a trap for Batman, Robin and Batgirl to bust out of, because she only wants them sidelined as opposed to deceased. Instead, the Siren sets her sights on being rich and evil. That’s it. No backstory. Nothing over the top. If anything, she’s cliched. Controlling men’s minds? Trying to learn Batman and Robin’s secret identities? Nah, none of that was ever done before.
Oh. Wait. 😉
I also wish the Siren’s singing had been more tuneful–when I was watching the episodes my husband thought there was an alarm going off. Who knows if that was purposeful on the part of the filmmakers or not. Maybe they wanted the Siren to sound menacing.
That might be why the Siren is one of the least-talked about Batman villains: No one wants to listen to that singing any more than absolutely necessary.
That’s not to say Collins didn’t have seme great moments on the show. What’s fun is how much she seemed to enjoy herself. She got to look beautiful and seductive. She purred the lines like she’s Catwoman’s cousin and twinkles around the set, playing the campiness with a dazzling smile and gleefully calling the shots. Like in one scene when the Siren tells Chief O’Hara to go jump in a lake and then laughs maniacally, Collins can’t stop beaming. She’s wonderful in the role even if she doesn’t have much to do, and she gives the Siren her greatest wish: To be evil
For more of the legendary Joan Collins, please see Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews. Thanks for hosting this, Gill–hope you can bring it back. Thanks for reading, everyone, and see you soon…
Eisner, Joel. The Official Batman Batbook. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1986.
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