Friday, November 11, 2011

89 & 90: Black Widow Strikes Again/Caught in the Spider's Den

Season 2 Episodes 89 & 90
Original Air Dates: 3/15/67 & 3/16/67
Special Guest Villainess: Miss Tallulah Bankhead as Black Widow
Guest stars: Don Berry, Michael Lane
Written by: Robert Mintz 
Directed by: Oscar Rudolph

Synopsis: The Black Widow arrives in Gotham and proceeds to rob all the town's banks in alphabetical order. Using a mind-controlling device, she's able to add Batman to her crew, much to the dismay of Commissioner Gordon!

JS: While it's hard to get excited about the presence of Tallulah Bankhead in an episode of Batman, I did like the Black Widow symbols they adorned the sets, props and costumes with.

PE: I remember with Thriller, this used to happen every day. At least she's not bedridden.I gotta say however that I had problems understanding the old bag the grand dame at times. And where was the make-up artist that week. Bankhead's as white as a sheet. I assume Bette Davis was demanding too much? 

JS: We learn that Aunt Harriet doesn't have the face for a mini-skirt. Ain't that the truth!

PE: Oh, but my word, does she have the hips. Heavens to Betsy! Harriet gets way too much screen time in this one for my tastes. We get the mental image of the octogenarian in a mini-skirt (a thought as appetizing as a deep-fried twinkie wrapped in bacon (even less so, to some -JS)) and then the "Is she the Black Widow?" bank scene. Were some of those infernal Nielsen sheets coming back with "More Harriet!!" written in the margins or what?

JS: When the Commissioner tells Batman to guess who was in town, I  thought we were in for the long-haul before he'd get around to guessing The Black Widow. I was actually disappointed when Gordon cut him off after several incorrect attempts (for the record, both the Joker and Mr. Freeze were right around the corner, so the caped crusader's Bat-sense wasn't completely off).

PE: I thought it was actually interesting that Gordon hinted in the intro that Black Widow was an old villain (I don't mean age), backed up by the blank look on O'Hara's face (ignore that last part). Wouldn't it have been an intriguing pathway to take if this had been a villain Batman had fought a long time ago, pre-Robin? Why do we, the viewers, see cooler angles than the writers of these things?

JS: We didn't see the dynamic duo carry their Bat-brain hair-dryer in from the Batmobile, so we'll have to assume it was stored in Batman's utility belt.

PE: I think you should re-watch the last 88 episodes just to prove it isn't actually in that spot all the time!

JS: We get a nice, long establishing shot of Black Widow's lair. I have to wonder if that was the intention, or if the cameraman just wasn't clear where he was supposed to be pointing the camera.

PE: Yeah, that set is gonna look so great when this show comes out on Blu-Ray. 

JS: Batman can't tell the Commissioner quickly enough that the best idea would never involve Chief O'Hara.

PE: This is O'Hara's time to shine. Not only does he utter the classic lines, "Pardon me ignorance, Batman..." but when Bank Manager Cash comes out of the Bat-Hyper Brain Digital Atomizing Analyzer, the Chief takes one look at the old man and exclaims "Incredible!" I saw nothing different about Cash but this guy is the Police Chief after all. His powers of observation are razor sharp. But the cherry on the top of this delightful man's coming-out party would have to be when he looks skyward (well, the sky would be there if he wasn't in the Commissioner's office... but maybe there's a skylight?) and utters the mind-numbing, Hemingway-esque "Hmm... me men are clever, goodness knows, but where the human brain is concerned... they're just not equipped." Truer words were never spoken.

JS: One must wonder why Black Widow didn't just use her nerve paralyzer on Robin as well as Batman. The poor kid is going to develop a complex.

PE: This one must wonder why Batman and Robin watched as The Black Widow reached into her purse, drew out the Venomous Spray, lit a cigarette, read a book, and then sprayed Bat-Brain. Oh, what a surprise! She's armed! The Bats is paralyzed but gets behind the wheel of the Batmobile! Holy Bad Driving Habits!

JS: I assume they used master puppeteers to shake life into those spiders...

PE: Where did you see life? The legs didn't even move. Roger Corman could have made these spiders more realistic. (Notice the shaking, Peter, the shaking. -JS)

JS: How many banks needed to get robbed before the alphabetical pattern would have been spotted by, say, anyone who reads the local Gotham paper?

PE: My question would be how long before Black Widow ran into an alphabetical problem with the banks? According to Scrabble, J, Q, X and Z may pose a problem.

JS: That grandpa dummy is pretty creepy—even more so when dressed as Batman! But the real creepiness comes from the boy wonder himself. Just look how far he's come! He started off portraying Jill St. John in the Robin outfit and now, almost 90 episodes later and he's graduated to the late Tallulah Bankhead as Robin (although to be honest, I thought he gave more with his JSJ performance). (Well, he had more "equipment" to work with! -PE).

PE: Do you find it slightly ironic that it takes a villain's potion or gas to make Batman cool? This is, what, the 53rd episode when Bats feigns hip?

JS: Once again, Commissioner Gordon issues an APB for the dynamic duo, and again, if somewhat reluctantly, makes it clear that dead or alive will do. 

PE: Well, he is relieved later on that they've shot the wrong man. Imagine all the work Gordon and O'Hara would have to do without Batman around.

JS: Ah yes, the thrilling scene in which one of Gotham's finest manages to blow Batman away at point-blank range. You don't need Lee Harvey Oswald skills to make that shot.

PE: That cop was well within his rights to shoot. The Caped Crusader had parked in a red zone.

JS: Robin plays a card out of the Outer Limits playbook and—POLARITY REVERSE—Batman is back to normal. Might want to double check his hands...

PE: Speaking of cards, my favorite scene in this would have to be when Bats is being harassed while playing Solitaire. "Red six on a black seven" screams one of Black Widow's henchmen. Batman smiles: "I certainly don't wish to be rude, but normally the game of Solitaire requires only one player." Later Robin frees himself, messes with Black Widow's gizmo and approaches his boss:
Robin: Batman?
Batman: Who untied you?
Robin: I untied myself.
Batman: Was that wise?
Robin: Yes. Now I want you to do me a favor.
Batman (looks up from his card game): What?
Robin: Sing a song for me. Loud!
Batman (jovially, rising from his chair): All right! How about some Gilbert and Sullivan?
It's taken me a long time to realize but sometimes Adam West is brilliant at comedy. When you see my rating below, bear in mind it's adjusted for inflation due to this scene alone.

JS: Commissioner Gordon and Batman's telephone service (since Gordon clearly cannot discern that Bruce Wayne's butler answers regardless of who he calls) have the longest exchange in the history of Gotham City. And when Gordon realizes there's a chance Batman is alive, he's so excited he doesn't stop to think who the poor bastard was that his officer shot and killed.

PE: Nor does he stop to try to figure out how a supposed corpse drove away in the Batmobile.

PE: Why do Batman and Robin always resort to fisticuffs with their enemies? Don't they know that violence begets violence? How about an episode where they all sit down and discuss their differences? No BAM! or BIFF! or POW!
JS: I'd sure like to be a fly on the wall when the Commissioner gets around to explaining to Batman how it was just a misunderstanding that led to the officer shooting the Batman lookalike...

PE: I think it's great that Batman and Robin have adopted the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest  course of criminal rehabilitation rather than the outdated Warden Creighton method. Nothing like a lobotomy to keep the natives from getting too restless.

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

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


  1. Don't you love old Hollywood's nod to its female royalty of a certain age? "Miss Tallulah Bankhead." "Miss Barbara Stanwyck." All standing beside "Miss Natural Resources."

  2. Though that isn't completely restricted to veteran actresses. The credits of The Waltons used to have "MISS Michael Learned." Though in her case, it was probably to avoid confusion about her first name more than anything else.

  3. How about that ending? Holy Doc Savage, Batman!

  4. Judgment is misspelled on the brain analyzer. Batman should know better!

  5. One thing interesting I noticed about this one last night, Gordon's clearly met Black Widow before but O'Hara has not. Batman knows of her but they have not met and Robin is oblivious. The idea of a villain who came to Gotham decades ago and then patrolman Gordon met would have been an interesting idea but the series really seemed too stuck on formula by the end of season one to explore such ideas.