Wednesday, September 21, 2011

19 & 20: The Purr-fect Crime & Better Luck Next Time

Season 1 Episodes 19 & 20
Original Air Dates: 3/16/66, 3/17/66
Special Guest Villainess: Julie Newmar as The Catwoman
Guest stars: Jock Mahoney, Ralph Manza
Written by: Stanley Ralph Ross and Lee Orgel
Directed by: James Sheldon

Synopsis: The Catwoman steals a pair of cat statues that she hopes will lead her to Captain Manx's lost treasure, if the dynamic duo doesn't get in her way. She's prepared to make them cat food if they try.

JS: Before we launch into today's installment, let's just get this out of the way. MEEEOOOWWW! Julie Newmar's Catwoman owns the title Queen of the Bat Babes, hands down. She wastes no time establishing herself as a top-tier villain.

PE: No argument from me, but further, I think she's the best villain since Frank Gorshin's The Riddler. I don't sense Newmar chewing the scenery like most of the other actors. She's becoming the part. To be fair to other guest villains, I've seen most of them in other roles. They're all very good actors. Not to say Newmar's not a good actress in other roles. I just haven't seen her in anything else. It doesn't hurt, of course, that she's gorgeous in that outfit. My younger self would have ranked her in the Top 5 TV babes (Elizabeth Montgomery, Diana Rigg, Barbara Eden and Barbara Feldon being the other four) of the 60s.

JS: From the very opening, it's established just how sharp those claws are as the primarily off-screen Catwoman uses them to cut glass! That paw makes another cool cameo appearance reaching out of a sarcophagus in the museum.

PE: Are these the sarcophagi we saw back in the Penguin episode (minus the gun holes)?

JS: In an interesting change of pace, we actually get a POV shot from the Batmobile as it exits the Batcave.

PE: That's an odd but very cool shot but do we really need to know that the Dynamic Duo wear pink seat belts?

JS: Catwoman's henchmen wear perhaps the most ridiculous henchmen costumes in the series. The Flintstones-like top and folded back Mickey Mouse ears are just plain silly. That said, to get that close to the Catwoman, I imagine it's pretty easy to get used to.

PE: Yeah, but look at the henchmen. These aren't your typical muscle guys. Actually, one of them is. Jock Mahoney, who played a certain jungle man in two flicks, Tarzan Goes to India (1962) and Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963), is the big guy, Leo. The other goon, Felix, is Ralph Manza, who has one of those "I've seen this guy before" faces and, chances are, you have seen him as he made hundreds of appearances on TV shows such as Perry Mason, Laredo, Get Smart, Barney Miller and Banacek (where he had a recurring role).

JS: I had to laugh when Batman, in full costume, donned another pair of gloves in the Batcave. If safety was his number one concern, you think he might have done a better job teaching Robin how to refuel the Batmobile. Something tells me that yellow smoke leaking out isn't healthy.

PE: What exactly is Batman doing transferring that radioactive material into an open aquarium and then plopping it into another container? He's got gloves but no facemask. With all the radioactive material in Gotham, I'm surprised we don't get mutant villains. And what exactly is 17-Triple-O-KW?

JS: Did anyone stop to think that spraying rare collectible artifacts with a radioactive substance might not be good for them?

PE: He's got gloves on so I'm sure it's on his mind.

JS: After nearly destroying all of the artifacts on display in the gallery, at least the dynamic duo prevented the theft of the second cat. Oh wait, they didn't. And that was somehow the plan?

JS: Batman dances with a Tiger in what seems like a legitimate threat, for a change.

PE: The tiger looked like we was ready for a nap. Where in the world did the producers find a tiger trainer who looked like Batman?

JS: When we first see the Bat-o-meter, it's pointing every which way, and Robin declares that it's functioning perfectly. A few minutes later, when behaving exactly the same way, he says it's going crazy. I don't think he even knows how the Bat-o-meter is supposed to work.

JS: Best Bat-dialog:
Robin: You were right again, Batman. We might have been killed... 
Batman: Or worse!
PE: Best Catwoman dialog: You can brush my pussywillows. 
JS: This episode has a couple of great nods to Saturday afternoon cliffhanger serials, my favorite being the room of closing spikes that Batman manages to hold back with his arms.

PE: It seems to me that Batman is taking his sweet time saving Robin from falling into the tiger pit. By the end of the episode, this nonchalant behavior has spread to Robin as well. The Duo stand around and gape as Catwoman falls to her seeming death.

JS: I believe that by the time I saw this episode as a kid, I had already seen enough of the other Catwoman episodes to know that she didn't die in the caves, but I can't imagine how it played to you youngsters watching the original broadcast. I think I would have been heartbroken at the thought of losing the lovely Catwoman after just one pair of episodes... 

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

Next up... The Penguin! Same Bat Time, Same Bat URL!


  1. Never before connected my favorite Tarzan with those stupid cat ears, until the above frame grab.
    He might as well be wearing his step daughter's Flying Nun outfit -- yeesh.

    Isn't this the episode immortalized by View Master? I seem to remember some styro-phoney looking rocks, in 3-D.

  2. Indeed, this was the episode used for that view master release... which led Topps Chewing Gum to insist on getting scenes from the show itself for its bubblegum cards; the company had commissioned "Mars Attacks" illustrator Norm Saunders to do original, rather breathtaking paintings for their previous BATMAN card releases when the rights to live-action images weren't available at first.

    Funny you should mention that brand new POV shot in the Bat-tunnel. This happens to be exactly where the show was interrupted for an ABC news flash concerning a legitimate cliffhanger -- our Gemini 8 astronauts were in trouble. Apparently countless phone calls flooded the network as a result of this abrupt cut-in, which occurred smack in the middle of that new POV shot... we saw the Batcave entrance opening up ahead, and then we suddenly CUT TO the ABC News telop, with the network update. Because this POV shot was new and rather exciting, it seemed especially heartbreaking to be pulled so unceremoniously away from it. Of course, in retrospect, it was pretty shameful to consider news about our imperiled astronauts to be annoying or enraging because the viewing of a BATMAN episode was interrupted. But that gives you a pretty good idea of how powerful Batmania was at this juncture.

    Newmar's Catwoman scores as a playful, unique creation, the tall girl who takes crap from no one, but remains a disappointed child in the end. This made her rather lovable, which is why the producers seemed to enjoy "killing" her more than the other Bat-villains -- it was a play for audience sympathy, and us kids got that. Still, we kinda knew this precious Catwoman would always be back to bedevil our hero... she was simply too strong a character for the show to abandon.

    Loved your lineup of '60s megababes, boys... But we mustn't forget BATMAN's very own Yvonne Craig, who took that sexy body stocking thing to the next unforgettable level during Season Three.

  3. Gary!

    Arggghhh! Barbara Feldon may be calling you later about being bumped out of the #5 slot by Yvonne Craig. Good call that.

  4. According to TV historian Gary Grossman, Jock Mahoney was practically Tarzan in real life: a primo stunt artist. He took 47-foot dives into 6-foot water-tanks, jumped 25 feet across buildings, and threw himself headfirst through leaded-glass windows. Along the way he loosed or fractured all his ribs, split his kneecaps and broke his nose on several occasions, and took a sword through his leg in a filmed duel. His colleagues called him an "antelope" and "fearless"; Guy Madison said that his vaults would "damn near break the Olympic record." In old Hollywood there was a saying, "If Jocko walked away from a stunt, no one else wanted a part of it."

  5. I personally cannot wait for Yvonne Craig's arrival in Season 3... but until then, I think Newmar reigns uncontested.

  6. Crap, I'm still waiting for that call from Barbara Feldon!

  7. Catwoman was always my favorite adversary of Batman. She's certainly one tough kitty. She's so ruthless, she's willing to dispense with her only remaining henchman in order to keep the loot for herself. Her dominatrix outfit, with cat o' nine tails, juxtaposed with the emasculating outfits her henchmen wear, conveys her absolute authority, and implies that the guys who work for her are expendable once they've served her purpose.

    When she's crying for help from Batman while clinging to the cliff at the end of the episode, it's obvious that it's just a ruse. Everyone knows that cats always land on their feet.

    Incidentally, 17-Triple-O-KW is the cool way to say 17000 kW (kilowatts), and would indicate the unrealistic power output of the Batmobile's engines. It's clearly not fuel efficient, and probably responsible for an incredible amount of air pollution in Gotham City. Holy Global Warming!

  8. Christine!

    Thanks for the explanation about 17-Triple-O-KW. I wonder how many six year-olds got that reference back in 66. I assumed it was some "ding-dong-daddy-O" dialog excised from the Batusi scene.

  9. At your service, Peter. I am fluent in techno babble. You're not supposed to understand it, so that you will think something super scientific is happening. You may have also noticed Batman used "reverse polarity" on his communicator to subdue the tiger. Brings back fond memories of The Borderland from the Outer Limits.

  10. Catwoman appeared about 13 times {3rd behind Joker and Penguin} {In the MA parker episode shw had a cameo; In the Ida Lupino that part of Catwoman as all the super Villains was played by a stunt double. Inceidently in the 1966 Batman movie the part of her black cat Heacte-was that the same kitty that appears in these episodes? Why did Batman put cat into a rubber boat at the end of the movie? Inceidently in all her apperances Catwoman only died Twice-once falling down the bottowmless cliff and once off a building into a river