Let Frank Gorshin impersonating Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Batman and Robin make your day!
Not much about the camp 1960s Batman TV show can be regarded as definitive — when Liberace guest stars and is one of the more mundane parts of the ensemble, that’s saying something. But Frank Gorshin’s portrayal of the Riddler is still everyone’s mental image of that character, whether in a book or on a screen. (Jim Carrey’s take, the most recent screen iteration, was pretty much Gorshin’s version thirty years later.) The manic movements and cackling laugh he brought to the table belonged in that outlandish setting, with the written sound effects and relentless alliteration. The Riddler fit right in. More precisely, Gorshin’s Riddler did. And transcended.
Audiences of today might not be familiar with his broader body of work, apart from his memorable turn as a half-back, half-white bigot in Star Trek’s blunt allegory, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” But he was a noted comedian and stage performer over the course of his long career, known for spot-on impressions of contemporary celebrities. The above clip represents the moment when all these worlds collided: when Gorshin took a moment on Dean Martin’s variety show to ponder what it would be like if Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas guest-starred as Batman and Robin. His Lancaster is, apologies to the X-Men, uncanny.
He would have made a great Clayface, too.