Zelda the Great did not exist in the comic books. Eivol Ekdal however did. Based on a Detective Comics December 1965 comic. The strange Albanian genius Eivol Ekdal was partnered not with Zelda but a male magician named Caranado. The change was based on a conversation between Lorenzo Semple Jr and William Dozier.
Among William Dozier's production papers was this memo from Semple to Dozier. "Triggered by your correct remark that we should work in dames where possible; To wit, am changing The Great Carnado into Zelda the Great, a super sexy femme escape artiste and illusionist It’s working fine, and should be a lot more colorful. If Zsa Zsa‘s still alive and not too cronish looking I’m sure she ‘d love to do it.”.
Zsa Zsa Gabor (a long time friend of William Dozier) figures prominently in the Batman show. Almost from the beginning she was considered for this part. but losing out to Anne Baxter. Gabor was later considered for the part of Marsha Queen of Diamonds, but that went to Carolyn Jones. She finally was given the part of Minerva for the final episode of the series, a role originally meant for Mae West.
Anne Baxter a long time Fox contract player during the 1940's portrayed Zelda, a magician and escape artist. Not to take away from abilities, but she wasn't the villain in this episode, she was more the innocent dupe that becomes the villain's moll. Character actor Jack Kruschen as Eivol Ekdal is the real villain here. He runs the show, he hires the gangsters to kill Batman and Robin and it is he who forces Zelda to steal for his inventions. Krauschen who had a long history of portraying comical villains (Abbott and Costello Go To Mars) and comical Brooklyn-type comic relief characters (Angry Red Planet) although he is from Canada. Despite his best efforts, the script gives him little to work with. The magic is uninteresting, and Zelda is not a strong character, Ekdal can't carry the episode by himself. Kruschen last recurring role was on the Webster show as the grandfather.
The only actors of note in this episode were Frankie Darro (who appeared in many a movie serial as was inside Robby the Robot for Forbidden Planet), former movie villain Douglas Dumbrille as the doctor and Victor French, a recurring agent on Get Smart and later Mr Edwards on Little House on the Prairie and Michael Landon's sidekick on Hightway to Heaven as one of the two gangsters who kill each other while trapped inside the mummy cases. Take a close look at the cases after they kill each other, you can see the wires used to pull the backwards.
One point of trivia. This episode was renamed prior to broadcast. It was originally known as Inescapable Doom Trap / Zelda Takes the Rap.
Next The Riddler returns from the dead!