What’s The Story?

The Joker is committing odd crimes, like just stealing a hairpin from a woman’s hair when in a shop full of furs worth half a million dollars. It turns out he’s collecting parts for a trap he’s setting for the Maharajah of Nympah. He kidnaps the Maharajah, and issues a ransom demand — as part of the ransom demand, he insists that Batman endorse the ransom cheque. But it turns out that he never really kidnapped the Maharajah, who was never really in Gotham. He just disguised himself as the Maharajah, to make Batman endorse the cheque and ruin his reputation.

The Goodies

Batman

“While we may never know who he is behind that mask of his, thank goodness he’s there when a crisis befalls us”

Likes doing jigsaws upside down, to help his visual memory. Takes photographs that look very much like pencil drawings. Refuses to do a U-turn on a golf course because the retro rockets on the Batmobile would damage the green. Points out that Batman has one “t” when the cheque is being written out. Has “dynamic seniority”, meaning he goes first when he and Robin break into the Joker’s lair. Is rumoured, wrongly, to be running for Governor of California.

Robin

Neglects mathematics at school, but will no longer do so after seeing Batman use trigonometry to identify a secret entrance.

Epithets used: “Holy Jack in the box!”, “Holy Taj Mahal!” “Holy Dijon!”, “Holy shrinkage!”, “Holy looking glass!”, “Holy smokestack!”, “Holy impregnability!”, “Holy camouflage!”, “Holy moley!”, “Holy encore!”

The Baddies

The Joker

The Joker’s MO has changed again, and now he is almost a copy of the Riddler, telling bad jokes such as “What are more mink skins used for than anything else? To hold minks together!” and “Did you hear what the maid said when the Duchess asked if she’d given fresh water to the goldfish? ‘No, your highness, he hasn’t yet used what he had yesterday!’” as clues to his next activities.

He’s also, though, developed a rather sinister habit of reciting verse about his enemies when he has them in his power — “Assemble now and intertwine/neatly wrap these guests of mine/No more will they jeer and scoff/I’ll cut their circulation off/If they do not see the joke, pull the ropes and let them choke!”

When he’s pretending to be the Maharajah, he puts on a rather racist fake-Arab accent (and drops all the articles) which keeps slipping into Brooklyn (the Maharajah is, of course, played by a different actor). When told “Oh gee, Joker, you’re perfect!” he replies “Practically.”

The Joker’s Faithful Pilfering Pals

By this point the gangsters have become incredibly generic. Neither the gangsters nor the Joker’s moll (Jill) are given any identifiable characters this time, and other than Jill they’re not named.

The Gadgets

The Joker has all the best toys this week, including a disappearing van (with mirrors on the outside so it blends in with its surroundings) and a “funny ray” which can disable all the gadgets in Batman’s utility belt for an hour. He also has a forklift truck for lifting the Maharajah, because fat people are funny. Ho ho.

Gotham City

Has an oil refinery, and also has a country club with a golf course. Unlike many country clubs in the US in the 1960s, this one allows non-white people (or at least white people in brownface) to play.

What’s New?

Nothing new here.

Review

It’s clear at this point that the people making the TV show haven’t actually thought about the Joker, including him more because of the character’s striking visual than because of his storytelling potential. In his first story, he’s a comedian who’s frustrated that he’s not considered one of the greats. In his second, he’s a generic criminal. And here, he’s simply the Riddler, with “jokes” rather than “riddles”, to the extent that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the script was originally written for the Riddler rather than the Joker.

And so, since this is rather phoned in, let’s talk about that phone call at the end. (Yes, I know that’s an absurd link, but it’s no more so than the ones Batman finds between the Joker’s jokes and the crimes…)

Commissioner Gordon asks if Batman is going to be running for Governor of California, and is told he isn’t, but there’s a reason this joke was put in, and it relates to the stuff I said earlier about race.

Batman was made in Los Angeles, and LA was a city in crisis. A curfew had been put in place to keep teenagers and young adults from going out to clubs, and by the end of the year that curfew would lead to the famous riots on Sunset Strip.

But LA had seen far worse riots the year before — the Watts riots, against police discrimination against black people (a cause whose justice was amply proven by the chief of police calling the rioters “monkeys in the zoo”). The riots had lasted a week, and caused over $40 million — in 1966 money — worth of property damage.

The 1966 gubernatorial race, then, was one which had far more at stake than the average. On the one side was moderate liberal Pat Brown, the incumbent governor who had supported a lot of initiatives to improve the lives of the poor, including black people, but who was seen as soft on crime. On the other was a new Republican candidate, who was pushing a “tough on crime” line that meant, in practice, cracking down on the hippies while making not-so-subtle overtures to the racist vote. The Republican won, and his “tough on crime” stance would have a huge influence on Batman stories in the coming decades.

Adam West’s Batman would have made a far better governor than Ronald Reagan.

Personnel
Cast

Adam West: Batman
Burt Ward: Robin
Cesar Romero: The Joker
Alan Napier: Alfred
Neil Hamilton: Commissioner Gordon
William Dozier: Narrator

Crew
William Dozier: Executive Producer/Creator
Francis and Marian Cockrell : Writers
Richard C. Sarafian: Director

It’s been a while since I did one of these posts, but I’m hoping they’ll be more regular again soon. However regular or irregular they are, though, the people who back my Patreon will always get them three posts ahead. Why not be one of them?

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