What’s The Story?

Madame Soleil’s wax museum is unveiling a model of Batman — but when the figure is unveiled, it’s not a wax dummy of Batman, but the Riddler, in the flesh!

The Riddler has stolen the figure, because it was sculpted from wax from the Cognac district of France, which when heated becomes a universal solvent that can dissolve literally any substance. The Riddler uses this to break into a library vault, to steal a rare book on the treasures of the Incas.

The treasure he is after is in a sarcophagus on display at the Gotham museum, but Batman and Robin solve the riddle “What has four legs, runs day and night, but never gets anywhere?”:

“The famous lion fountains in front of the Gotham city museum”

“Gosh Batman, I think you’re wrong. The lion fountains aren’t running at all. The water shortage, remember?”

“That’s what that cheating devil wants us to think, Robin.”

The Riddler is sent back to prison, and the Incan treasure remains unmolested.

The Goodies
Batman

“We may never know the identity of the man behind the mask, but he’s the only one who can cope with the Riddler”

Knows the capital of Peru, because “if we don’t know all about our friends to the South, how can we carry on our good neighbour policy?”. Batman never gambles. He believed that the world would be better if the Riddler’s inventive mind could be channeled for good.

Batman has a great mind for chemistry — he can recognise the chemical formula for candle-wick treatment based on only part of the formula, and on analysing the solvent and discovering it contains uranium, nitrogen, and sodium, he not only realises that it’s a universal solvent, but also that the initials of those elements, when rearranged, spell “sun”, thus providing a clue that the Riddler is attacking Madame Soleil.

When confronting the Riddler, who Robin has previously told that Batman is dead, tells him that “A little white lie is excusable when dealing with the likes of you, you black-hearted scoundrel.”

Believes that more people should appreciate that the Incans “gave us the white potato and many varieties of Indian corn.”

Robin

Believes, wrongly, that Lima is the capital of Ecuador. Is generally better than Batman at solving riddles, but not when they involve French.

Epithets used: “Holy iodide!”, “Holy paraffin!”, “Holy smoke!”

The Baddies

The Riddler

Believes that riddles are the main point of committing crimes. Currently hiding out beneath a candle factory. Has taken to misquoting Shakespeare (on melting down the wax Batman: “Oh, if this were only the real Batman! It is a consummation devoutly to be wished! Oh that his too, too, solid flesh should melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!”) and claiming authorship himself.

The Riddler’s Goons

Two bog-standard goons, named Matches and Tallow (though if Tallow is named on screen, I missed it). The blonde moll this time is called Moth.

The Gadgets

The Riddler has a couple of new gadgets here — Dr Riddler’s Forever-Stick Invisible Wax Emulsion, which he uses to stick Batman and Robin to the floor, and a Candlescope for watching Batman and Robin being dipped into boiling wax.

Batman, meanwhile, uses a laser gun, a bat-communicator, and a bat-ram for battering doors down.

The Batcave contains an ultrasonic indicator and “homing TR&R”, as well as a hyperspectrographic analyser.

Gotham City

The fad in Gotham for labelling everything seems to have reached its peak. While everything in the Batcave has always been labelled, and it’s normal for the villains to have their gadgets labelled (so the Riddler’s enormous candle dipper is labelled “enormous candle dipper”, and the remote for it is labelled “remote control for enormous candle dipper”), and it makes sense for the Gotham City Museum to label their ancient Incan sarcophagus (although visitors may want more information than just “ancient Incan sarcophagus”), Gotham City Library having a shelf labelled “Rare Old Books On The Treasures Of The Incas”, with a single book on it, seems a little overkill.

What’s New?

Nothing. This is a pure formula exercise, with nothing new to it.

Review

This is a popular story among those who wish the series were a little more serious, because of its straightforward, linear, plot, which almost makes sense. It’s not a particular favourite of mine, and for much the same reasons. The linear plot has little of the absurdity which allows the best episodes of Batman to sing, but isn’t a strong enough plot to work wonderfully on its own terms.

More importantly, it doesn’t seem especially suited to the Riddler — the entire plot is themed around wax and candles, and almost all the gimmicks are wax-based. It seems likely to me, though I have no proof, that the story was originally written for another character and rewritten to be fit a popular character instead.

So let’s talk about US foreign policy in the 1960s instead.

One of the minor themes in the story is the US’ “good neighbour” foreign policy towards Latin America. This is a real thing — but it’s a real thing from the 1930s. It was a policy of the pre-war Roosevelt administration which (to quote the International Relations Center) “constituted a public repudiation of imperialism, cultural and racial stereotyping, and military interventions and occupations.”

The idea was that rather than sending in US troops to “protect US interests” in Central and South America, the US would instead try to be a good neighbour to those countries, build trade relations with them, and promote a positive image of them. It was first mooted by isolationist Republicans (Herbert Hoover was the first to use the phrase), but became (other than World War II) the defining foreign policy of Franklin Roosevelt in the way that the New Deal was his defining domestic policy.

The “good neighbour” policy ended with Roosevelt, however, and by 1947 it was gone, with Latin America having become a key battleground in the Cold War — the wishes of its people of far less importance than the strategic interests of the USA and the USSR. The final nail in the policy’s coffin came a little under a year before the broadcast of this episode of Batman, when the USA invaded the Dominican Republic, whose moderate left-wing secular government had been overthrown by a Catholic militarist right-wing junta, and ensured that the next leader would be a right-wing ex-underling of the former dictator Trujillo.

That conflict was still going on, and a major news item, when this story was broadcast, and in that context it’s hard to see the references to the “good neighbour” policy as anything other than bittersweet nostalgia. This version of Batman lives in a world where the Cold War isn’t a problem, where realpolitik hasn’t reared its ugly head, and where all countries can be friends.

It may be the most unrealistic thing in the entire series.

Personnel

Cast
Adam West: Batman
Burt Ward: Robin
Frank Gorshin: The Riddler
Alan Napier: Alfred
Neil Hamilton: Commissioner Gordon
William Dozier: Narrator

Crew
William Dozier: Executive Producer/Creator
Jack Paritz and Bob Rodgers: Writers
James B Clark: Director

This post first appeared on my Patreon as all these posts do. Each Batpost gets posted here four posts behind there.Thanks to my patrons’ generosity, a podcast version will be up on my podcast tomorrow — all my posts will be podcasted, as long as my Patreon donations remain over $100 per month.

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