Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [Blu-ray]
THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, CATWOMAN, DOOMSDAY, BANE. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics' hallowed Rogues' Gallery of infamous evildoers.
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Originally Aired: November 13, 1994
Directed by Lorraine Senna
Written by Gene Miller and Karen Kavner
John Pleshette as Dr. Emil Hamilton
William Devane as Al Capone
Robert Clohessy as John Dillinger
Joseph Gian as Clyde Barrow
Amy Hathaway as Bonnie Parker
Sal Viscuso as Bobby Bigmouth
Ray Abruzzo as Detective Wolfe
Shelly Lipkin as Jacque the Caterer
Jimmy and Perry admire a vintage car in Perry's garage. A private collector has loaned it to the Daily Planet for a big anniversary party celebrating a milestone birthday for the newspaper. A man appears in the garage claiming the car is his. Sporting a tommy gun, the man forces Jimmy and Perry into Perry's other car and turns on the gas while he flees with the car with another woman. Perry remarks that they look like Bonnie and Clyde. Perry and Jimmy nearly suffocate on the fumes from the gas, but luckily Jimmy manages to reverse them out of the garage, saving their lives.
Perry gets Lois and Clark to investigate the mysterious Bonnie and Clyde dopplegangers. Lois mentions the robbery of a collection of antique weapons and that it might be connected to some sort of themed crime gang. Lois and Clark go to a lookalike agency hoping to get some answers as to who these people are. The lookalike agent tells them that some weeks ago a professor named Emil Hamilton rented a collection of gangster costumes. A lookalike Superman enters the room and Lois is astonished by the likeness. Clark hears a bank robbery happening a few blocks away and leaves to go into action as Superman.
Superman corners the goons, one of whom claims to be John Dillinger. When Dillinger unveils a stick of dynamite, Superman saves the day by leaping on top of the bomb. The Man of Steel is about to chase the villains, when one of the security guards has a heart attack and Superman prioritizes the guard's safe delivery to the hospital.
Jimmy finds out that some months previous, Emil Hamilton dug up the bodies of Bonnie, Clyde, John Dillinger and Al Capone for the sake of science.
Al Capone explains to Professor Hamilton that he is going to take over Metropolis. Capone tries to bribe Perry, but Perry (believing Capone to be a fraud) refuses. Jimmy later informs Perry that a fax came over stating that the fingerprints of Capone and the other gangsters match the originals exactly and that Perry just stood up to essentially the real Al Capone.
Lois and Clark get information from their source Bobby Bigmouth who informs them that the gangsters are indeed a lab experiment gone wrong. Also, Capone is planning to take over an illegal gambling club currently run by a mobster named Georgie Hairdo. Lois and Clark go undercover posing as patrons and manage to get into the club. Lois finds out that Georgie Hairdo is dead. Bonnie hits on Clark who tries to get information. Clyde spots Clark and pushes him away. Capone steps into the club and announces he has taken over the club from Georgie Hairdo. Dillinger makes a pass at Lois and Clark defends her. Angrily, Clyde shoots Clark point blank in the chest. Clark is forced to play dead, much to the devastation of Lois. The mobsters escape and dump Clark's body on the side of the road.
The next day, the newsroom is sullen at the loss of one of their greatest reporters. Perry contemplates postponing the anniversary party, but then decides to go ahead in honor of Clark's memory. Detective Wolfe speaks to Lois about the murder. The detective receives a phone call and writes down an address on a piece of paper on Lois' desk. Lois follows the address afterward, which leads her to Hamilton's lab. She tries to rescue the captured Professor, but Capone catches her in the act. He reveals that he plans to crash the Daily Planet anniversary party and threaten the lives of all the influential people that will be attending, in order to strengthen his stranglehold on the city.
Superman tracks down John Dillinger and finds out what Capone is planning.
Capone gives Lois and Professor Hamilton a cement bath, saying that he'll find another "egghead" to help him assemble an army of cloned criminals, based on Hamilton's notes. Superman saves Lois and Hamilton. Clark "comes back to life" by claiming that Superman used a procedure developed by Professor Hamilton of freezing the damaged tissue and repairing it with cloned tissue in order to bring him back to life.
Capone crashes the party as Perry makes a speech. Superman saves the day, confiscating the weapons of the criminals. Jimmy angrily punches Clyde for killing Clark. After all of the criminals have been subdued, Clark makes his return to the newsroom, much to the delight of everyone.
Wolfe doesn't press charges against Hamilton, as it was an error in judgement rather than any actual lawbreaking. Lois tells Clark that when she thought he had died, she realized that maybe they could be more than just friends. She turns to find that Clark has fallen asleep and realizes that maybe she was wrong.
Review Rating - 2 (out of 5): What a ridiculous episode. What a ham-fisted, bone-headed, dribblingly silly episode.
Nevertheless, while the episode is certainly silly and lacking in any real writing quality, it's still FUN, which is why it just barely scrapes the 2/5. Unlike snoozefests like "The Source," I was at least entertained throughout, even if the episode was really silly and one of the most kiddy pandering episodes since "Smart Kids". This is absolutely an episode more in-line with the Silver Age of comics complete with its astounding lapses in logic. In the Silver Age, Superman would regularly find himself fighting revitalized versions of heroes and villains from bygone eras (Alexander the Great, Frankenstein's monster and so on) and this is obviously the same kind of thing. In theory, the idea of Lois and Clark going up against cloned villains is acceptable enough (God knows it became a pretty prominent threat later in the series), but it's absolutely laughable that Al Capone would magically be able to gain any hold over the city in such a short amount of time, with no knowledge of the city's infrastructure and with only a similarly clueless band of miscreants wielding ancient weaponry, under his command. I'll accept clones and clone gestation chambers and birthing matrices or what have you - those are simply fantasy staples of the genre. Pseudoscience is fine by me. What isn't fine is when pseudoscience becomes a magic wand that apathetic writers use to explain away hokey story lines and one-dimensional cartoon villains like the ones in this episode.
The episode paints Capone as some sort of supernatural creature when really, Al Capone was just an incredibly resourceful organized criminal. The idea that he'd be able to wake up in 1994 and cast a vice-grip over a completely alien city in a matter of days is silly. And please - don't respond with any of those "We're talking about a show where a man can FLY" strawman arguments. Internal logic and verisimilitude are still essential, even if there are fantastic elements within the show. Why didn't the clones of the gangsters need to be "schooled" like Vatman/Bizarro in "Vatman"? Did they just pop out of the chamber with their memories intact? If so, why wouldn't Hamilton factor this rather massive problem into the equation? What in God's name was even the point of the entire experiment? Detective Wolfe (played by a ridiculously surly-looking individual) doesn't arrest a grave-robbing, unethical monster-creating mad scientist because he "simply displayed an error in judgement"?! Nope. Don't buy it. Lazy, lazy writing.
It's also disappointing that Emil Hamilton was shoehorned in with such little aplomb. His lack of impact here may have led to the quiet abandonment of his character in favor of "Dr Klein". Nevertheless, I believe Hamilton did appear once more in the series as a proto-Dr. Klein (the resident Man of Science character that Lois and Clark use when the science of the plot goes over their heads). The other significant first-appearance in this episode was Sal Viscuso's "Bobby Bigmouth" character. I believe I've voiced my disdain for this character in the past. Yes, maybe it's an interesting shtick that Lois and Clark have an informant who they have to bribe with food, but it's difficult to accept Bobby as a person with any kind of access to the criminal underworld. It also becomes kind of repulsive watching him stuff his face during his every appearance.
Knots Landing veteran William Devane looks nothing at all like the real life Al Capone, and while that should hardly discredit his performance, it is a little bit irksome that such an iconic figure of the 20th Century (I'm from Ireland and even I know exactly what Al Capone looked like) is represented in such a completely different way physically. Nevertheless, he's fine as the generic, hammy 1940s gangster archetype. He's even a bit menacing at times. Robert Clohessy is similarly over-the-top as John Dillinger, but he's also basically fine. Matt LeBlanc lookalike Joseph Gian is rubbish as Clyde Barrows. The only one of the gangsters who's genuinely interesting to watch is Amy Hathaway (any relation?) as Bonnie Parker.
I should probably mention the similarity between this episode and "The Late Mr. Kent" an episode of "Superman: The Animated Series" often touted to be the very best of that series. Both episodes feature Clark Kent getting "killed" in the eyes of the outside world, while we the viewers know that because of his invulnerability, he survived. It's a classic Superman conundrum. Personally, I think that the Animated episode is over-rated and is only considered to be so good because it is one of the few episodes of that entire series to not only feature Clark Kent and his complicated relationship with Lois Lane prominently, but also because it is more of a human detective/investigation story (a sad majority of "Superman: The Animated Series" is made up of boring action sequences - in stark contrast to "Batman: The Animated Series"). Both of these elements are widely featured throughout "Lois & Clark" (more so in the first two seasons) and it's disappointing that the series is overlooked in that regard. Ironically though, "That Old Gang of Mine" is a pretty bad episode that doesn't really have a whole lot of the tight scripting and strong characterization and development that we've seen in better episodes of the show. Clark gets 'killed' and is resurrected within ten minutes and while a few tears are shed, I don't think we ever really worry that he's going to figure out a way to explain to everyone how he Got Better. The eventual resolution to this in "That Old Gang of Mine" is suitably ridiculous in keeping with the rest of the episode (basically, Superman was able to heal Clark's gunshot wound BECAUSE SCIENCE). The resolution in "The Late Mr. Kent" is admittedly a lot more complex, even though as a whole, there are comparably better episodes of "Lois & Clark".
I can't say next week's episode is any less ridiculous than this one, but I also can't pretend like it wasn't one of my absolute favorites watching the series as a child. Next week we meet William Wallace Waldecker a.k.a. Resplendent Man in "A Bolt from the Blue". You won't want to miss it!