What’s The Story?
The Penguin has just been let out of jail, and strange non-crimes involving umbrellas are happening all over town. Clearly the Penguin is up to something, but why isn’t he committing any actual crimes?

In fact, he has a cunning plan — an umbrella that he gets the Dynamic Duo to take as evidence in fact contains a bug; he’s trying to get them to figure out what crime he’s planning, so he can then use the plan they figure out! “Batman is not only going to pick my crime, he is going to provide me with a blueprint as to how I should pull it off!”

The story is based on Partners in Plunder! from Batman #169.

The Goodies
Batman

“Whoever he may be behind that mask of his, our only hope is the Caped Crusader”

Smokes, or at least carries a cigarette lighter in his Bruce Wayne costume. Chose his costume because “nothing so strikes terror into the criminal mind as the shape and shadow of a huge bat”. Batman also has faith in the US prison system’s rehabilitative abilities — faith which is shown to be wrong, at least in the case of the Penguin. He never lends himself to commercial enterprises.

Robin
Thinks learning French is useless, until told by Bruce Wayne that “Language is the key to world peace. If we all spoke each other’s tongues, perhaps the scourge of war would be ended forever.” Has started using alliterative exclamations starting “holy…”, in this case “Holy haberdashery!”

Alfred
Gets knocked out by the Penguin’s gas when the Penguin invades Wayne Manor. Uses a service elevator to get to and from the Batcave, rather than the batpoles used by Batman and Robin.

Commissioner Gordon
Is proud of his men when they admit their inability to deal with the Penguin.

The Baddies
The Penguin

“That pompous waddling master of foul play, that criminal maestro of a thousand ubiquitous umbrellas”

A character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Batman’s co-creators, in 1941, the Penguin here is played by Burgess Meredith, one of America’s most respected serious theatre actors and directors, who seems perfectly happy to play against type here, hamming the part up marvellously.

The Penguin is a career criminal, dressed in formal dress, with a purple top hat and bow tie, and a monocle in his right eye. He has a ludicrously extended nose and a bird-like “awk” laugh, and plans his crimes around the two themes of umbrellas (he uses modified umbrellas that can shoot gas as weapons) and birds. He has opened an umbrella factory, under the pseudonym K.G. Bird. He uses carrier pigeons as his main means of communicating with his “fine feathered finks”. He wears a domino mask when committing crimes, though he makes no other effort to disguise himself.

The Penguin’s Fine Feathered Finks
Three generic goons in black sweaters and domino masks, with their codenames — “Hawkeye”, “Sparrow”, and “Swoop” — written on the front of their sweaters.

The Gadgets
Batman doesn’t use many portable gadgets in this story — only a batrope attached to a batarang and, later, a “batzooka” used to send a grappling hook to a penthouse floor. However, the Batcave is seen to have a keyboard-controlled microfilm reader, a “hyper-spectrographic analyzer”, a “chemo-electric secret writing detector”, an atomic pile, and a variety of bugging devices, disguised rather unconvincingly as small animals.

The Penguin, however, has trick gas umbrellas, the “batbrella” that he bugs, a roof-top umbrella launcher that can send a gigantic (about forty foot from the looks of it) umbrella into the street, and a clock which has a penguin instead of a cuckoo, and which tells the time speaking clock fashion. Most of all, though, he has a magnet so powerful it sticks Batman and Robin hard to a wall, thanks to the metal in their utility belts.

The Batmobile
Has an “emergency bat-turn lever”, which puts out parachutes with bats on them, allowing the Batmobile to stop quickly and then turn rapidly on the spot.

Gotham City

In establishing shots, this looks like an utterly generic US city. In externals, it still looks like LA, but the clocks on the Batcave wall showing the time in LA, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, and Gotham, clearly situate it on the east coast of the US. Has had three umbrella factories open in three days, only one of them as part of the Penguin’s criminal enterprise, suggesting positively Mancunian levels of rainfall.

The people of Gotham read a magazine called Funboy, which features photographs of fully-clothed women.

What’s New?
This is the first screen appearance of the Penguin, but as he’s played pretty much exactly as he was in the comics, there’s nothing new added to the Batman idea here.

Review
This, oddly, seems to actually be about something, at least in passing. In this storyline, everyone is in a kind of panopticon, with the Penguin videotaped in prison by the “progressive” warder, Batman attempting to plant a bug in the Penguin’s umbrella shop, the Penguin succeeding in planting a bug on Batman and Robin, the Penguin having a closed-circuit TV link between his factory and shop, and the closed circuit TV in Commissioner Gordon’s office. Huge chunks of the story are told by having one character watch or listen to another on some form of electronic surveillance, and even the one-off guest love interest Dawn Robbins (Leslie Parrish), complains about being watched all the time, by the cameras that are part of her work as a film star.

While there’s nothing so strong as an actual point to it, the Penguin’s complaint at the camera in his prison cell being “Big Brother”, and the fact that every attempt at surveillance by a villain succeeds while every attempt by a figure on the side of good fails, seem to point towards a slight level of worry at the idea of being monitored at all times. It’s notable that this story’s playing with narrative, with most of the main exposition being done to cameras or microphones, parallels some of the similar techniques being used around the same time in British series like Doctor Who, The Avengers, and, slightly later, The Prisoner, all of which had a deeply ambivalent attitude at best towards authority.

The mid-1960s were a time when people were becoming aware, for the first time, of TV and cinema as objects of study in their own right, of the media as artifacts. Batman is obviously very much a part of that — it’s constantly lampshading its own nature as a TV show, in things like West’s Batman typing random keys on a keyboard without even making any pretence as to be trying for specific ones — but it’s surprising to see it starting so early to make its form as broadcast media, as something to be watched on a TV set, a part of the narrative.

Personnel
Cast

Adam West: Batman
Burt Ward: Robin
Burgess Meredith: The Penguin
Alan Napier: Alfred
Neil Hamilton: Commissioner Gordon
William Dozier: Narrator

Crew
William Dozier: Executive Producer/Creator
Lorenzo Semple, Jr :Writer
Robert Butler: Director

[These are being published several weeks in advance on my Patreon, where I've just posted the fifth Batman 66 TV series post, which will not appear here until February. If you want to find out what I think about the nefarious crimes of Zelda The Great, sign up to support my writing at $1 per month or whatever you can afford. If you can't afford anything or don't like the idea of me having money, they'll all turn up here for free eventually anyway.]

2 Responses to “Batman ’66: Fine Feathered Finks/The Penguin’s A Jinx”

  1. Zakaria Says:

    ♫ Pardon the way that I stare. There’s nothing else to compare. The sight of you leaves me weak. There are no words left to speak. But if you feel like I feel… ♪

    Then I’m sure you’ll agree that the “Funboy” visual-gag could also be commentary on voyeurism/surveillance.

    The police state is watching…
    you undress.

    ♫ Every breathe you take, every move you make…♪

  2. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Good point — I hadn’t thought of that…

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