Monday, November 7, 2011

Episodes 81 & 82: The Joker's Last Laugh/The Joker's Epitaph

Season 2 Episodes 81 & 82
Original Air Dates: 2/15/67 & 2/16/67
Special Guest Villain: Cesar Romero as The Joker
Guest stars: Phyllis Douglas, Lawrence Montaigne
Written by: Lorenzo Semple, Jr. from a story by Peter Rabe
Directed by: Oscar Rudolph

Synopsis: Funny money has been spreading around Gotham, courtesy of The Joker, who has replaced a teller at Gotham National Bank with one of his new android henchmen. To get to the bottom of the nefarious scheme, Batman goes undercover as Bruce Wayne to infiltrate The Joker's plan. This backfires bigtime on the millionaire when Joker tricks Bruce into an engagement with hot little moll Josie. Can Batman come to the aid of his alter ego before he's subjected to a wedding night of pure bliss?

PE: Nothing gets past Chief O'Hara. He notices right off the bat that the counterfeit money has something strange about it. And when The Joker's trademark maniacal laughter rings out  in  Gordon's office, O'Hara puts on his strained look and squeezes out: "Commissioner, I have a terrible feeling we've heard this laughter before." I almost thought, for a moment, he could hear me through the TV set.  How is it that O'Hara didn't go on to partner with Lew Erskine in The F.B.I.? A small miracle that.

JS: I was amazed he noticed the counterfeit bills were correct on one side.

PE: Dick's studying economics this week. You can see the tuba on the patio with flowers in it. Way to go, Dick! Did The Riddler have a garage sale before he went up the river last episode? That's the only explanation I have for that hideous couch. It's either that or Dozier had to start auctioning off the nicer pieces of the set first. The question mark pillows are rather becoming.

JS: If you thought that by saying this I would go back through and re-watch older episodes to see if this was in fact different furniture than we've seen before, you were wrong. But since I know how to use Google, I was able to find several couch shots in our King Tut episode review. It sure looks like the same couch that held the Bruce Wayne dummy and that Batman subsequently did a dive into (maybe it's because I've switched from the old black and white set. -PE).

PE: Robin tunes in the Bat-detector for "Super laugh track sensitivity." Semple missed a tailor-made laugh when he had Alfred climb the side of the building without meeting any celebrities. 

JS: I would have enjoyed his running in to his cousin Eggbert while in costume.

PE: So, I want to see the director's cut of this episode where we get to see how The Joker got his "receiving antenna" into Gordon's trousers. The Commish comes up with some baloney about an ugly fella rubbing up against him in the subway that morning but I think we all know that Gordon is a lady's man. Draw your own conclusions.

JS: "Now I remember, Batman, there was someone else in my pants this morning..."

PE: Did I hear that The Joker runs Penthouse Publishing, "formerly purveyors of mirth"? One could make an argument that, even after The Joker sold the business to Bob Guccione, the mirth continued.

JS: No wonder Batman was so anti-Joker. He was just preaching about being a decency crusader (albeit a caped one).

PE: Joker's henchmen are androids, a convenient way to explain away the acting abilities of the extras employed for this show. But I didn't laugh at Batman's "super funny joke" either, does that make me an android? Don't answer that. Mr. Glee reminded me of one of our old friends.

JS: I wonder if a young David Cronenberg was inspired by this episode. When the android popped it's top, I immediately thought of Scanners.

PE: This is just what we needed on Batman after such a long dry spell. A great script? No. Wonderful performances? Hardly. An ingenious cliffhanger? Oh come on. I'm talking about Phyllis Douglas' cleavage, of course. The rest of her ain't too bad either. Definitely a step up the Bat-Babe ladder from what we've gotten lately.

JS: Didn't Heather Graham wear that same outfit in the Austin Powers movie?

PE: This episode sees the debut of the Bat-Spot Analyzer, probably never to be seen again, and The Joke-Mobile, a fabulous little buggy with surfboards for seat backs.

JS: The George Barris designed Joker-Mobile currently resides in the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. A contemporary photo of it can be seen in Brett Hampton's flickr photostream here.

PE: Eagle-eyed viewers will see why 96.8% of all of Burt Ward's scenes were filmed with a stunt double. In one of the only examples of Ward doing a "stunt" (he jumps down from a window sill), in the scene with Bruce Wayne at The Joker's lair, the "junior half of the Dynamic Duo" clearly gets his cape caught and wrestles with it.

JS: I thought the mini-Batcave was a stroke of genius. How did it take one and a half seasons before we encountered that for the first time? Oh, that's right. All of the major villains have already been to the Batcave.

PE: I have a feeling that we were hearing Bill Dozier's sentiments at the end of Episode One: "Indiginity of indignities... Robin printed into a comic book." Clearly, nothing could be more humiliating this side of being accused of pedophilia.

JS: I was curious if Robin would be getting printed in a DC book, a Marvel book, or something more appropriate, like Sad Sack.

PE: Alfred gets plenty of screen time as the Caped Crusader this arc, chicken legs and all. At least John is happy.

JS: Tell me that's not the most haunting image of Batman (or the Batsuit) that we've ever shown. How would that convince anyone who has ever seen Batman before?

PE: I had to grimace when Bruce took his tumble out the back of the police wagon thanks to Robin zeroing in on his partner's strait-jacket buckle with the super-powered bat-magnet. Ouch! "Good thinking ol' chum" indeed!

JS: Holy payback, Batman!

PE: The most intriguing aspect of this episode to this vintage paperback collector is that Lorenzo Semple, Jr. based his teleplay on a story by ace crime fiction writer Peter Rabe (1921-1990). Rabe wrote several classic novels for the paperback  publisher, Gold Medal, in the 1950s and 60s, including Stop This Man! (1955), Kill the Boss Good-Bye (1956), Blood on the Desert (1958), Anatomy of a Killer (1960) and The Box (1962). Rabe's Murder Me For Nickels (1960), about the jukebox rackets of the '50s, is in my Top Twenty crime novels of all time. For obvious reasons, when those of us who celebrate the old-time writers get together, Rabe's work on Batman never comes up.

JS: Do you think Rabe is responsible for that classic knee slapper when a doctor checks Bruce's reflexes and he does the exaggerated kick? Frankly I didn't know Adam West had done time with the Rockettes.

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

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


  1. I'll rise to a soft defense of this episodic pair. The story twists more nicely than most by this time, and there are some jeweled lines: "the small Batcave improvement loan,"

    "Don't dip your oar into this sordid sea, Dick."

    "Bless my steamer!"

    "Bruce Wayne may be a crooked embezzler, but he's not a killer." "Nicely phrased, Dick."

    Something tickles me about Oscar Beregi's 60s frames without temple pieces, and the bank customers' strolling nonchalance as a teller's head bursts into flames.

    Wit struggles against Witlessness to no avail, but still Wit is trying.

  2. Ever notice (or even care) how Semple's scripts tend to offer more play for BW and DG? These must be "the open, false identities" since BM refers to them, caped, as their "secret true identities." Two other nice things about this episode. Don't ask me why I'm trying so hard.

    Notice the upstage entryway into the hideout atop Penthouse Magazine HQ: it's a series of playing card symbols (diamond, club, spade, heart.) When we hit S3 there'll be no scenery at all, except for Yvonne Craig.

    I love it when Bats extracts enough cable from Gordon's trousers to stretch from his office to the Batcave. "Exhibit B."