Tuesday, November 1, 2011

71, 72 & 73: The Zodiac Crimes/The Joker's Hard Times/The Penguin Declines

Season 2 Episodes 71, 72 & 73
Original Air Dates: 1/11/67, 11/12/67, 1/18/67
Special Guest Villain: Cesar Romero as The Joker
Extra Special Guest Villain: Burgess Meredith as The Penguin
Guest stars: Terry Moore, Hal Baylor
Written by: Stanford Sherman and Stephen Kandel
Directed by: Oscar Rudolph

Synopsis: The Joker plots the ultimate series of crimes in Gotham City—one for each sign of the zodiac. A crime spree of this scope calls for some backup, for which he enlists the Penguin. Despite knowing their signs of the zodiac, the dynamic duo have a heck of a time keeping up with the pair of super-villains.

PE: From the title of this first episode, I was hoping to see a really good serial killer episode but, alas, just The Penguin and The Joker.

JS: I was really hoping to see Dick go down the Batpoles with the Tuba.

PE: What a crappy life this kid has. When he's not out risking his skin for wishy-washy Gothamites (Is that Penguin a good guy? Is Batman a bad guy?), he's on all-night campers with grown men, imitating state birds, learning Portuguese, or practicing the five different musical instruments Bruce Wayne signed him up for. Mark my words, one day all that pent up frustration is gonna blow

JS: Dick has come a long way since Bruce expressed concern about him being a wallflower. At the first sign of music, Robin's getting jiggy with it.

PE: The Caped Crusader seems to surround himself with brains. When Batman finds the special two-way spy device Joker has planted in Gordon's office, Robin asks, "You mean, he could be listening to us at this very moment?" Not one to be left out of the "who's the dopiest one in the office" race, Gordon lets out an astonished "That's him" when The Joker's voice comes from the microphone.

JS: I hope Batman hangs on to that wig—it may come in handy the next time they have to put up squirrel pelts to buy off the native american owners of Gotham.

PE: With that cowboy hat on, The Joker is darn near unrecognizable. He fools "Gotham's Finest" later on when he dons a cop hat and barks orders. About that wig though. How the hell does Bats know it's "98%  human hair backed up by the finest silk" let alone the location of the only wig shop in Gotham that carries a high-end wig like that? The machine tells him this with a bunch of pretty colors? I'm not sure I buy this far-fetched notion.

JS: One has to wonder if the Penguin's absence from part two of our first three-parter was purely a budgetary decision. I was surprised The Joker actually appears in all three, which begs the question if he got a larger paycheck this time out.

PE: Another Gotham museum full of priceless treasures laid to waste. Is there anything left for the snooty millionaires of the city to take their wives to on a Sunday? Further on, in episode two, we see the senseless destruction of The Platter-Porium, a wonderful music store (doubtless owned by one of Bruce Wayne's millionaire friends) that seemingly catered only to The Joker's henchmen.

JS: Lest it seem like criminals only steal the Batmobile, the Joker makes off with a run-of-the-mill squad car. And apparently all he needed was an officer's cap. Rest assured, the Batmobile is not overlooked in this episode. In fact, it's the first time we see that it has the trunk of a clown car, after Joker, Pengun, and four henchmen pile out in the Batcave.

PE: Once again, we can see where Christopher Nolan got his inspiration for The Dark Knight
JS: Bats is clearly intrigued by Venus. He was flirting with her long after he would have dismissed the advances of the average moll.

PE: This chick is the typical female. She wants Batman dead. She doesn't want Batman hurt. She helps The Joker trap Batman and then pleads with the villain to show mercy. Over and over and...  I think maybe Batman digs this in a woman. Witness his fascination with Catwoman as well. 

JS: Notice that while Robin ignores Batman's amorous ways, he makes it look like he's helping the downed millionaire. Or is he just checking to see if the guys watch works before making off with it.

PE: Quick-thinking Robin tries to resuscitate millionaire Basil Bowman by furiously patting the man's wristwatch. This is what happens when Bruce Wayne has his ward learning the frickin' tuba instead of taking CPR classes.

JS: Terry Moore is an odd duck. Almost 18 years after her starring turn in Mighty Joe Young, she alternated between very attractive (such as her introduction as Venus), and at other times she's somewhat plain. Regardless, her charms were working on Batman like nobody's business.

PE: When she's not straightening her hair, murmuring her lines, or sighing "Batman!" she has an almost "deer in the headlights" look to her. Not my idea of a bat-babe.

JS: Note to Robin: If a gelatinous substance comes out of the water tap, drinking it may not be the ideal way to determine what it is. And when it comes to the Joker's strawberry jelly plot, the one thing I can't believe we were asked to endure was a jellied Chief O'Hara. Can you imagine tuning into that scene out of context? Looks more like "Pigeons From Hell" than Batman.

PE: PETA members want to skip episode two altogether when The Joker kidnaps a rare fish and leaves it dangling in his net. But then there's Batman's simply unnecessary and gratuitous kick at the clam, who's an innocent party to all the law-breaking here, in episode 3. So maybe animal lovers should skip the whole magilla.

JS: So let me get this straight. The Penguin thinks that if can clear his name in the Bat-Computer, no one will remember his storied life of crime that came before?

PE: I'd like to know why the producers started pumping out three parters. It must have played hell with viewers since one week you'd get Parts 1 and 2 and the following week you'd get Part 3 and Part 1 of the next arc. I'm confused just thinking about it. Was it cheaper to film three of these things at the same time? Did the writer make the same amount of money for a three-parter as a two? Knowing Dozier by now, I have to believe that the decision was a financial one. Or maybe I'm being pessimistic and the creators simply thought there was too much story here to be enclosed in a 45-minute package. Any feedback on this one, Joel?

JS: I had a wonderful childhood flashback while watching this triple parter. I probably hadn't thought about it in the last 30 years, but the minute the stalk-eyed monster clam showed up on screen, I remembered it vividly. That crazy puppet monster pushes this into the above average category in my book. I'd sure like to think that big guy is living in Bob Burns' basement.

PE: Funny you mention this. I remembered this clam thing scaring me right out of my Batman jammies as a kid. When we passed through Season One without nary a sign of the critter, I chalked it up to fragmented nostalgia. Good to see there was still something to watch during the second season. The biggest laugh of the arc comes at the beginning of episode 3 when our announcer tells us that Robin has just been swallowed and asks if Batman will "provide the clam with his next course." As if Bats can hear the narrator, he gives a very assertive shake of his head. With no explanation, Batman suddenly becomes Superman and breaks his chains!

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

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


  1. Most importantly, your description of Dick Grayson's life made me laugh and cry at the same time. It isn't all Batclimbs and bobbysoxers for Dick.

    I like this one a lot. It has story problems by the end, but it hangs together better than most and the zodiac theme is a rich vein of material. Romero and Meredith are very funny separately and together. Romero's turn as the Texas millionaire is as funny as any scene he has in the series and Meredith's seduction of Venus is a delight.

    I'm sure Joel will have more details, but my understanding is that the three-part teamup was simultaneously a first anniversary celebration, a hoped-for ratings boost, a publicity aid for ABC's "second season."

  2. Plus, I assume Romero got $1250 more than Meredith. But it will all even out two weeks later when Penguin appears in all three parts of his Marsha teamup.

  3. Peter and John: I want you to gentleman to know how much I appreciate your starting my day with belly laughs. Nobody does it better.

    Butch Romero's performance as a whirligig, strapped to the end of a Chapman crane, was Emmy bait. I'd like to have seen Lord Olivier try that.

    Here's my guess on the three-parter mystery: Dozier was hoping to cash in by editing a feature out of this one for release in Tanganyika. Little known fact: Tanganyikans revere the giant clam, paying homage to all crustacean life with Sousaphones.

  4. I can't believe that Gothamites were stupid
    enough to accept the Joker as a cop!

  5. The last time The Emergency Bat-Turn was used on the series.