What’s The Story?

The Penguin is free from prison, and has taken up a new career — as a crime fighter! Not only that, he’s started protecting rich people’s jewels from criminals. Batman and Robin are convinced that the Penguin plans to steal the jewels, but when they try to replace them with fakes in order to catch him, they’re caught themselves, and become wanted criminals!

With the help of Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara, they fake their own deaths until they can find out what the Penguin’s really up to. It turns out he’s planning to marry the beautiful actress Sophia Starr — or rather, he’s planning to skip the wedding with all the presents but remain a bachelor.

The Goodies
Batman

Believes precision is the key to success, in life as well as sports. When Robin points out that they might get arrested themselves for switching the jewels, he replies “That’s a chance we have to take Robin. In our well-ordered society, protection of private property is essential”, but in this story at least he genuinely seems to believe he’s above the law — he did break into someone else’s property and attempt to steal their jewels, without a shred of evidence of wrongdoing, and he hides out from the police rather than give himself up.

Robin
No real character development in this one — Robin exists mostly to call things “Holy” in this story. Those things include “Holy nick of time!”, “Holy knockout drops!”, “Holy jackpots!”, “Holy leopard!”, “Holy hotfoot!”, “Holy nightmare!”, “Holy mush!”, and “Holy Romeo & Juliet!”

Alfred
Goes undercover again, this time posing as an assessor for the insurance company “Floyds of Dublin”, and like his employers adds assault to his other crimes when caught by the Penguin, in order to get away. His cover stories for getting Bruce and Dick away from Aunt Harriet are getting flimsier — this time he merely tells them that they have a phone call from “Mr K Rime”.

Batman and Robin don’t bother to tell him that their deaths are only faked, and he seems quite distraught when the news of their deaths is announced on TV.

The Baddies
The Penguin

“That waddling, pompous, master of foul play!”

While the Penguin at first appears to have gone straight, this turns out to be an act. He sings gleefully about being a bachelor, and chooses prison over marrying a beautiful, rich, woman who loves him. He hangs around in saunas with semi-naked men, but claims to hate the heat — when Batman asks him why he would do that if he hates heat so much, he replies “I ask you, is that an ethical question between crimefighters? Competitors, you might say?”

There may…there just may…possibly be a little subtext in this. A smidgen.

The Penguin also eats what are claimed to be sardines (but look more like spaghetti in mayonnaise) out of a gigantic jar, by the handful.

The Penguin’s Fine Fluffy Finks
Generic goons again, this time called Eagle-Eye and Dove. They have these names written on their tops even when performing robberies for the Penguin to foil.

The Gadgets
We see the Batcycle for the first time — a slightly modified 1965 Harley-Davidson with a sidecar for Robin.

Batman and Robin both have bulletproof soles on their shoes. The other major gadget is what sounds like an “electric ion loop control” (though West mumbles the line so much it could be literally anything) used to disarm an alarm.

The Penguin has trick umbrellas including, amongst other things, a bulletproof umbrella, a dry ice shooter, a “high powered demagnetiser coil”, a bug detector, and umbrellas full of cement for dropping on his enemies’ heads.

The Batmobile
Becomes the Birdmobile, temporarily, as the Penguin steals it after the Dynamic Duo’s “deaths”, not knowing that as well as the new bulletproofing they’d installed, it also has a remote control that allows Batman to eject passengers, open the doors, and steer the car, as well as a spy camera sending footage of everything the Penguin does back to Batman.

What’s New?
We get several new things in one interrogation scene — the first time Batman goes into a darkened police cell and uses his shadow to intimidate a criminal, the first time we see the police threaten physical violence (Chief O’Hara being the bad cop, held back by good cop Gordon), and the first use of “You guys must read too many comic books!”

Review
The story starts with a masked armed robber using a machine gun to carry out a plan put together by one of the top Batman villains. Batman goes into a darkened police cell to intimidate a prisoner who’s just been threatened with violence, and who faints in terror after Batman scares him so much. The Gotham police department are willing to cover up for Batman’s crimes, and to help him fake his own death, which is announced on live TV after a car chase and shootout. Even Alfred believes Batman is dead. Batman switches from using his Batmobile to a sleek two-wheeled vehicle…

This isn’t one of the Nolan films, this is the 1966 series, and yet many of the elements of this story, both major and minor, are the kind of thing that recur time and again throughout Batman’s appearances in film and TV.

Unsurprisingly, this story is co-written by Lorenzo Semple jr. More than anyone else involved in the TV series, he understood that what made the series work was a careful control of the level of absurdity. Many of the other writers just string a bunch of absurd situations together with no thought as to basic plot logic, leading to something which isn’t camp, just lazy, and is only saved by the performances of the main cast.

Semple, by contrast, writes what could easily be perfectly straight adventure stories (once you get past the fact that the villains are all bizarre characters interested in low-stakes themed robberies, anyway), but which have one eyebrow very slightly raised. The humour in Semple’s stories comes not from people saying “look, we’re doing something rubbish!”, but rather from taking a single absurd situation and playing it all absolutely straight, as if it was deathly important.

This is the series at its peak — fresh, clever, and funny, for adults, and with a knowing subversive element (the hints at the Penguin’s homosexuality would have been terribly close to the bone for 1966), but with enough blood-curdling chills and death-defying escapes to appeal to the children. As good as it gets.

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. and John Cardwell: Writers
Leslie H. Martinson: Director

This post first appeared on my Patreon as all these posts do. Thanks to my patrons’ generosity, you can also hear it as a podcast — all my posts will be podcasted, as long as my Patreon donations remain over $100 per month.

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