What’s The Story?
The Riddler is carrying out crimes with a silent comedy theme – dressing up as Charlie Chaplin and robbing a silent cinema’s takings, robbing a bakery using custard pies laced with “sleeping cream”, and so on. Each time, he is filming the crimes, and no-one knows why.

No-one, that is, except eccentric millionaire Mr Van Jones, who is a silent film collector and has commissioned the Riddler to make the first great silent comedy in nearly forty years, for a payment of $100,000. Mr Van Jones is impressed with the film, but less impressed when he realises that the Riddler only made the film so he could get access to Van Jones’ vault, where he keeps the only print of an otherwise-lost film that would be worth millions to the right collector.

Luckily, Batman and Robin save the day.

The story is based on The Joker’s Comedy Capers from Detective Comics #341 (July 1965), written by John Broome and drawn by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.

The Goodies

Batman
“The nemesis of crime!”

Even though he’s a duly deputised officer of the law, Batman is more than happy to take an arrested prisoner (Pauline, the Riddler’s moll du jour), who is in custody and harmless, refuse her a lawyer, gas her, take her to his Batcave, strap her into a truth-detecting mask, and then extract information with implied threats of death, before gassing her again. But he brings Commissioner Gordon along to make sure the information thus extracted would stand up in court.

He finds it shocking that the Baker St branch library is closed on Wednesdays due to lack of funds, and believes “The horde of diplomats in our city is a small price to pay for world leadership.”

Robin
Owes his life to good dental hygiene – at one point he’s falling and has to grab a batarang, attached to a batrope, in his teeth. Is generally rather better than Batman at guessing the Riddler’s clues, and “digs” musicians’ slang – he knows that “bread” means “money”, for example.

Epithets used: “Holy triple feature!”, “Holy headache”, “Holy kindergarten!”, “Holy smoke!”,

Commissioner Gordon
Spends much of the story under the influence of various drugs – either Batman’s bat-gas (applied to him along with Pauline so neither of them see where the Batcave is) or the Riddler’s temper tonic. When under temper-tonic influence, he is mostly angry at Chief O’Hara.

Appears to think that kidnap, drugging, and threats of torture and death are perfectly constitutional ways of extracting information – which may suggest why so many villains in Gotham get out of prison so quickly.

The Baddies

The Riddler
The Riddler can do a pretty good Charlie Chaplin impersonation, but is notably less manic here, instead sticking to a complicated plot without any of his capering or mood swings.

The Riddler’s Felonious Filmsters
Two of the three goons have names – CB and Von Bloheim. Von Bloheim speaks with a generically foreign accent. For a change, the goons have multiple costume changes, as they play the part of Keystone Cops or comedy bakers, or whatever else the Riddler’s film needs.

Pauline, the Riddler’s moll, is, according to Batman “a frustrated would-be actress, a star that was never born, venting her disappointment on society!”

The Gadgets
Not many new gadgets. The Riddler seems to have gone in the direction of mood-altering drugs, between his “sleeping cream” applied to custard pies, and the “temper tonic” he puts in the lemonade at Mr Van Jones’ temperance evening.

Riddler also has a perfectly lifelike Robin mannequin, that he ties to a table with a buzzsaw between episodes (at the cliffhanger, Robin is definitely in peril, but by the time Batman arrives, he’s somewhere else and the mannequin is in place).

He also, to judge from the screened film footage and the fact that he only had one camera, appears to have invented a camera that can film from multiple angles at the same time, and automatically cut between them, onto a single roll of film. This may just be me nitpicking however.

Batman, meanwhile, has batwake spray to counteract the effects of his knockout batgas. He’s also invented a truth detector – a mask which, placed over the victim’s (I’m sorry…over the criminal’s) face, collects their breath so it can be analysed for its oxygen content. If the vicriminal is lying, their metabolism will be different, and the oxygen content will be less.

Gotham City
Has a “new palace of the arts” called Washington Center, which includes a small cinema that holds a silent film festival. Is underfunded enough that some library branches have to close on Wednesdays.

What’s New?
Commissioner Gordon makes his first ever visit to the Batcave.

Review
There’s not much to say artistically about this – except that from a story perspective it would have made sense to have this remain the Joker story it was in the original comic, as the Joker believes himself a great comedian, unlike the Riddler.

So, as usual, let’s talk about what this says about society.

This story, in which a criminal is denied her legal rights, and at least arguably tortured, happened right in the middle of one of the biggest upheavals in American legal history with regards to criminals’ rights. This story was broadcast on the 27th and 28th of April, 1966. Miranda v Arizona was argued in front of the US Supreme Court on February 28th and March 1, and the final decision was handed down on June 13.

In the Miranda decision, the Supreme Court ruled that after arrest, a suspect must be informed of their rights, both the right against self-incrimination and the right to a lawyer, and that they must understand and waive those rights for any confession to be used: “The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him”

This may seem like an uncontroversial position (although it’s one that has at least partly been reversed in subsequent Supreme Court decisions, sadly), but it was one that had never been explicitly made part of US law before those dates – the rights to which the court ruling referred are now known in the US as “Miranda rights”. And one can imagine how well the authoritarian right law-and-order types took the decision. In a dissent, Supreme Court Justice White said “In some unknown number of cases, the Court’s rule will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets and to the environment which produced him, to repeat his crime whenever it pleases him. As a consequence, there will not be a gain, but a loss, in human dignity.”

It was, clearly, political correctness gone mad.

So once again, Batman seems, at least obliquely, to be commenting on current events. Batman seems extremely concerned that any evidence he gathers from Pauline will stand up in court, so much so that he brings Commissioner Gordon to the Batcave (Gordon agrees to be gassed so that the information about its location can’t later be tortured out of him), but Pauline is denied a lawyer even when she asks for one, is not told any of her rights, and the information she gives can in no way be said to be given voluntarily.

So is Batman saying that the Miranda case had no merit – that these evil criminals don’t need those protections when lives are at stake? Or is it satirising the ridiculous nature of “voluntary” confessions extracted in circumstances no-one could argue were free of coercion?

It’s hard to tell, though my instincts go toward the latter. But it’s interesting that once again, in apparently throwaway moments (the Gordon/Pauline/Batcave plot seems mostly just to be there to pad out the episode a few minutes), Batman is actually commenting, however obliquely, on the most polarising issues in society at the time.

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
Dick Carr: Writer
Charles R Rondeau: Director

As I’m now a full-time writer, these should be happening again. 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?

2 Responses to “Batman ’66: Death In Slow Motion/The Riddler’s False Notion”

  1. LondonKdS Says:

    A really geeky question based on the tags of the Tumblr post on which you announced this one – am I the only British person who without ever seeing the actual show frequently heard/read the theme rendered as “dinner dinner dinner dinner BATMAN!”, and was surprised to discover that they were actually “na na na”s? And is this just a British thing or was it true in America as well?

  2. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Definitely a common thing in Britain, as in the “what does Batman’s mum say when she calls him in for his food?” joke (and fellow Mindless One Gary Lactus has a very good comedy routine based around that, incidentally).
    But in the case of this, I think what’s being rendered as “dinner” isn’t the “na na” bit at the end (the only time the vocalists sing anything other than the word “Batman”), but the chugging guitar part at the beginning.
    I just checked with my USian wife if that was true in America, and she says she’d never heard it before moving over here, and that it probably wouldn’t work in the same way because most US accents have a harder “r” than UK ones, so it’d be more like “dinnerrr” than “dinnah”.

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