Thursday, December 1, 2011

Episode 108: Catwoman's Dressed to Kill

Season 3 Episode 108
Original Airdate: 12/14/67
Special Guest Villainess: Eartha Kitt as Catwoman
Guest Stars: Dirk Evans, James Griffith
Written by: Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by: Gerald Peters

Synopsis: Catwoman is attempting to steal The Golden Fleece, a dress made of gold belonging to the Belgravian Queen Bess. To keep the Caped Crusaders out of her hair, she kidnaps Batgirl and threatens her with a Black and Decker lobotomy. 

PE: Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Eartha Kitt is not Catwoman. Just as Lee Meriwether is not Catwoman, nor  John Astin The Riddler. Julie Newmar is the Catwoman and always will be. Kitt is sexy in her own way but I don't buy her for a minute. A lot of people would automatically assume that Kitt can't be Catwoman because she's African-American but that's hogwash. Newmar had that long lean body and purr-fect voice. Kitt is too short for the role, too old (she was 40 by the time she made this episode) and wayyyy too serious. I get the feeling she's not having a good time giving the Caped Crusaders a bad time.

JS: Kitt went heavy on the purring, and Catwoman was far more than that. The casting could have been worse (Shelly Winters, anyone?), but Newmar's stilettos were going to be impossible for anyone to fill.

PE: Thank goodness Batgirl arrived to help the Dynamic Dopes out of that net that Catwoman's thugs threw over them. It took her about a millisecond to raise it up and release them. It would have been even quicker if Burt Ward hadn't gotten tangled up.

JS: And Bats was nearly in tears when he pleaded that they could fight their own battles.

PE: Burt and Adam continue to show the acting chops they've acquired while on the Batman show when they have to stumble into the ladys' dressing room with their hands over their eyes. This kind of method acting will come in handy for the actors when they're earning their stars on the Walk of Fame: West, with his dynamite turn on Love, American Style ("Love and the Great Catch") and Ward signing his name at comic book conventions.

JS: That's no dressing room—it's a hallowed and forbidden no man's land! I loved how after the models explained they were fully clothed, Robin opened his eyes and did one of his disappointed hand punches.

PE: LOL- dialogue:
Robin: Do you think she'll kill Batgirl?
Batman: Or worse, Robin. Or worse.
JS: I'd have liked to see the "or worse" part.

PE: Subtle anti-war sentiment from Batman (or more likely writer Ross)? When Bats figures out Cats' plan to fleece the Fleece, he says the robbery could cause an international incident:
Batman: Nobody wants war.
Robin: Gee, Batman, Belgravia's such a small country. We'd beat them in a few hours.
Batman: (with a grin) Yes. Then we'd have to support them for years.
JS: To counter that, we're treated to Alfred in his Peace & Love disguise. Topped off with the old smoothy hitting on an unsuspecting Batgirl after saving her life.

PE: More cost-cutting on the set. What would have been an elaborate giant saw with bells and whistles in the first season is reduced to a $14.99 K-Mart Blue Light Special here.

JS: Is Bats getting Alzheimer's? He was back to mentioning that Robin will start noticing attractive women in a couple of years. Um, I don't think Robin has had any issues noticing attractive women since Batgirl arrived on the scene.

PE: I tell ya. That Batman is a confident one. He gets off the phone with Catwoman, who tells him that Batgirl is minutes away from becoming a Dynamic Duo herself and spends a lengthy time calmly telling Gordon and O'Hara what they should do at the embassy. Believe me, if I was the Dark Knight, I'd be worried leaving the Two Left Feet of the Law in charge of anything other than watching their TV sets too, but let's get a move on here. Then he calls Alfred and pawns the job off on him!

JS: Given a choice of preventing an international incident that might lead to war with a third-world country or saving Batgirl... I save Batgirl.

PE: I wonder why Catwoman went to such lengths to establish a ruse by dressing in Queen Bess' dress and holding the fan in front of her face only to give up the truth about ten seconds later.

JS: After the triumphant trio pull the rug out from under the thugs (literally), Batgirl unleashes a psychotic giggle and strikes a Bettie Page cheesecake pose before returning to her normal good-girl self. 

PE: You do have to give Dozier and Company a lot of credit for having the balls to cast an African-American actress in a role previously filled by a couple of very white girls. But deduct one ball for not having the nerve to show Bats and Cats in loving embrace. I guess there were a few things 1967 TV viewers just couldn't handle.

PE Rating:

JS Rating: 

Next up... Olga and Egghead! Same Bat time, Same Bat URL!


  1. John: "Batgirl unleashes a psychotic giggle and strikes a Bettie Page cheesecake pose … ." I prefer to say "perky." Before Katie Couric, there was Yvonne Craig. Perky.

    Aside from Peter's indisputable claim that some characters simply belong to the actors who created them (name anyone besides Peter Falk who could ever "be" Columbo), the thing I miss most in Ms. Kitt's interpretation of the role is Ms. Newmar's sense of humor. Until I re-watched episodes of the series, I had forgotten just how well Julie Newmar played comedy. (Doubtless I was preoccupied by her other gifts.) Her comedy made her sexier, and her sexiness made her funnier. For all their own talents, Mss. Meredith and Kitt simply could not give Catwoman Ms. Newmar's twinkling zest and jest.

  2. Yo, Pete... John Agar as the Riddler? I imagine he'd look awfully strange in a skintight outfit with question marks all over it. Agar was far better suited to the comic book role of Ben Grimm, beautifully realized in 1962's HAND OF DEATH.

    As for Kitt's Catwoman, she was all snarl and hiss, quite deliberately so. Newmar played an entirely different incarnation of this character, the funny/earthy bad girl with a thing for Batman. Racial politics aside, there was no time for romantic plots in Season Three's half hours, because with so many heroes, villains and supporting folk needing to be served, there really wasn't time for anything except a fight or two and a deathtrap. I imagine Batgirl's overdone laugh was requested to call attention to Catwoman's overdone final hiss at her female 'rival'; if, as usual, Newmar had played her signature role, an entirely different relationship/story dynamic would have been employed. I can picture Julie's Cats casually suggesting that Batgirl and Robin pair up, clearing her amorous way for the now somewhat lonely Caped Crusader.

    BTW, I think it's significant that when Catwoman does an upcoming cameo with her villainous colleagues in "The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra" (all of the villains are doubles in long shot), it's the original Newmar/ Meriwether version that serves as the icon, even though Kitt's one-dimensionally nasty take represented the official Season Three incarnation.

  3. Yo Gary!

    I have no idea what you're talking about! John Agar? I very specifically stated in my master thesis above John Astin! That's my story and I'm stickin' to it :>
    I'll never let Scoleri edit these things again.

  4. And here I assumed it was just another one of Peter's exaggerations, or I would have corrected the Agar bit. I keep forgetting he's 50 now.

    Gary, somehow I misread the line, "I can picture Julie's Cats casually suggesting that Batgirl" as "I can picture Julie's Cats casually snuggling up against Batgirl" and... sorry, I lost my train of thought again...

  5. And God Created Yvonne Craig as Batgirl. Amazing what that sassy lass in purple does to us, isn't it?

  6. Somewhere I read, or dreamt, that Larry Storch's signature character was named for Randolph (Scott and John) Agarn(n). Please file this away until F-Troop-a-Day.

  7. I don't usually make anti-Political Correctness remarks, but in a world full of "female actors" and "servers" and so on, it's great to hear there's such a thing as a "crime fight-ress"! "Camp" or not, I find that word inspiring.