Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “Hot Off the Griddle” / “The Cat and the Fiddle”

“Hot Off the Griddle” / “The Cat and the Fiddle”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Don Weis
Season 2, Episodes 3 and 4
Production code 9706
Original air dates: September 14 and 15, 1966

The Bat-signal: Late one night, a burglar breaks into Lacey’s Department Store and steals a store catalogue, dropping it via parachute to Catwoman. Another thief steals a catamaran from the nautical society and another steals three mittens from the apartment of a rich person named Andrew S. Kitten, both of which are also dropped to Catwoman with a parachute. Gordon and O’Hara realize that it’s Catwoman who’s responsible—even they could figure it out from those clues—and they call Batman, interrupting a session Dick is having with a powerful telescope. (Dick also mentions an impending eclipse. This will be important later.)

The Dynamic Duo sally forth to GCPD HQ and they plan to lure Catwoman into a trap by planting an item in a gossip column. Batman calls the columnist, Jack O’Shea, who “works” out of a phone booth in Glob’s Drugstore (“Where show business greats spend their unemployment checks”), and asks him to say that a rare species of canary will be exhibited on the twelfth floor of the Gotham City Natural History Museum. O’Shea agrees.

Turns out these thefts were auditions for cat burglars. Catwoman explains to the three who made the cut that she’s planning a major heist, and she only wants the best. She’s even teaching a course in cat burgling to them, which includes Principles of Window-Jimmying, Safe-Cracking for Fun and Profit, Essentials of Cat Burgling, and Mugging Made Easy.

O’Shea turns out to be in cahoots with Catwoman, and he lets her know about Batman’s trap.

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Batman and Robin head off to the Natural History Museum, though Alfred considerately packs them a snack to take with. They arrive and capture one cat-burglar. Said thief tries a sob story on them, which distracts them long enough for Catwoman to arrive with the other two unnoticed. Fisticuffs ensue, but the fight ends when Catwoman pulls two dart-guns on the Dynamic Duo, which paralyze our heroes for a few minutes.

Catwoman has the thugs throw them out the window, but they had set up large nets to catch anything she might toss out the window via parachute like she did in the previous crimes, so Batman and Robin survive the fall.

The next day, O’Shea’s gossip column rips Batman and Robin a new one for their failure to stop Catwoman, and O’Hara brings in one of the cat-burglars, whom the GCPD managed to actually apprehend. He sings like a canary (ahem), but the only thing he can say about Catwoman’s HQ (he’s blindfolded when he’s brought there) is that he can always hear rock and roll music in the background, with feet stomping on the ceiling, and cats meowing when the music stops. He also says whatever her endgame is, it happens tonight.

Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Dick walk in on Aunt Harriet dancing to the latest craze, a song called “The Catusi.” She says it became popular at a place called the Pink Sandbox. Batman and Robin show up at the place, where lots of kids are dancing, the staff all dress in cat-themed outfits, and all the food involves some manner of cat pun.

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But before they can order, the table they’re sitting at suddenly whirls around and dumps them into a closed metal room. The floor turns red hot, and Batman and Robin suddenly have to do an Irish step dance in order to keep their feet from burning. (Aren’t the soles of their boots bulletproof, with a spring between it and their feet? Shouldn’t they be fine?) An attempt to use a water pipe to cool it down backfires, as it’s filled with the same stuff that’s on her darts, and our heroes are paralyzed.

Catwoman has them tied to grills with tin foil under them greased with margarine. She then puts giant magnifying glasses over each of them, which will fry them alive. Having set up this production of Bat on a Hot Tin Roof, Catwoman buggers off to enact her master plan.

Lucky for them, the eclipse hits, which gives them a respite. Their feet can reach the magnifying glass, allowing them to rotate them each 14 degrees, so the lenses will focus the sun’s rays specifically on the bonds on their left hands. They’re quickly able to untie themselves.

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Catwoman mentioned an assault on “Mount Gotham” (which doesn’t actually exist) before she left, but Batman assumes she’s referring to an artificial mountain, to wit, a skyscraper. The tallest building in the city is the Gotham State Building, so they speed there in the Batmobile.

According to the building manager, the only special event going on today is in the penthouse: Mr. Zubin Zucchini, an eccentric millionaire, has rented it in order to sell his two Stradivarius violins (Stradivarii?) to Minerva Matthews, another eccentric millionaire. The top floor of the building is the only location in Gotham with the right conditions in which to inspect the violins, which haven’t been out of their cases in 35 years.

Elsewhere, Catwoman goes to Matthews’s house and gasses her, then disguises herself as her. Two different armored trucks do pickups, one of Zucchini at his stately mansion (ahem), the second of Matthews (really Catwoman), wherein we discover that Zucchini only takes cash, as he hasn’t trusted banks since 1929. En route, Catwoman learns that Batman and Robin survived.

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Both armored trucks arrive at the Gotham State Building. Zucchini arrives carrying two violin cases and mouths off at the building manager, then Catwoman arrives with the money that the armored truck has previously picked up from Matthews’s bank.

Batman, Gordon, O’Hara, and a bunch of cops arrive at the Gotham State Building. The manager insists that there’s no sign of Catwoman, just a sweet little old lady, but Batman is sure that Catwoman is after the violins—eight strings of catgut!

Catwoman has disabled the elevators, so Batman uses his experimental bat-jets to manually send the elevator up the hundred and two flights. Meanwhile, Catwoman tests the violins, while Zucchini complains that there’s only $499,000 (she tipped the driver a thousand bucks). Catwoman then reveals her true face—but so does Zucchini. Turns out it was Robin in disguise the whole time (and he does a much better job of going undercover than he did the last time…). But the thugs (and O’Shea) get the drop on Robin.

They plan to throw Robin out the window and then make their escape on a large purple getaway rocket (helpfully labelled, “GETAWAY ROCKET”). Luckily, Batman arrives in time to save Robin from falling to his doom, and then fisticuffs ensue. (At one point, our heroes are dangled out the window, with the street very obviously a lot closer than a hundred stories. At best it’s thirty stories…)

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Seeing that the fight is going badly for her side, Catwoman goes out on the ledge, carrying both violins and the bag of money. At first she says she’d rather die than be captured, but after almost slipping on the ledge (never go out on a 102-story ledge in heels!), she changes her mind and allows Batman to rescue her with the bat-rope. Robin also tells her to drop the violins (they’re phonies anyhow) and the money, with no consideration for the fact that two fake violins and a sack of money will hit the ground really really hard after falling at an acceleration of 9.8 meters per second per second and probably kill anyone standing under them.

O’Shea wakes up long enough to try to interfere, which results in Batman also falling out the window, though he catches the same rope, forcing Robin to pull both Batman and Catwoman up. Catwoman, who is grateful that Batman saved her life, is hauled off to prison.

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The Batcave has a self-dialing phone—once you look up a number in the Bat-index, it dials the number automatically, thus predicting future cell phone usage. Batman has created bat-jets to put on the Batmobile, which he uses on the busted elevator.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! When one of the cat-burglars says that Catwoman is behind them, Robin scoffs, “Holy cliché,” amazed that he’d think they’d fall for that old trick; of course Catwoman actually is behind them…

When Catwoman pulls out her dart guns, Robin first cries, “Holy weaponry!” and after he’s shot, he groggily puns, “Holy Dart-agnan!” (which Batman follows up with, “You made your point”). After hearing the specials at the Pink Sandbox, Robin mutters, “Holy epicure.” When Catwoman confesses to being attracted to Batman, Robin says, “Holy lovebirds, I think she’s sweet on you!” When Catwoman heats up the floor, burning their tootsies, Robin cries, “Holy bunions!” When Catwoman reveals that the trap has been greased with margarine to make them fry better, Robin mutters, “Holy oleo” (prompting Catwoman to say, “I didn’t know you could yodel”). Upon realizing he’s never heard of Mount Gotham, Robin, assuming it’s a defect in his studies, cries, “Holy alps, I’d better study up on my geography!” When Batman chides him for not wanting to bother putting money in the parking meter, Robin laments, “Holy taxation.”

Gotham City’s finest. The cops actually catch one of Catwoman’s three cat-burglars without any assistance from Batman! It’s a Christmas miracle! Of course, O’Hara happily lets Batman interrogate him…

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Special Guest Villain. Returning for only her second appearance after the first season’s “The Purr-fect Crime” / “Better Luck Next Time” is Julie Newmar as Catwoman (though the character also appeared in the movie, played by Lee Meriwether). These are the first two of eleven episodes in which Newmar will appear in the second season (counting an uncredited cameo in “Ma Parker”), which will make her the most prolific villain of the season (Penguin will come very close, appearing in ten episodes, with Joker in nine).

Newmar also appears as the real Minerva Matthews.

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Catwoman admits that Batman is the only man she knows who’s worthy of even the possibility of her love, and after Batman saves her life at the end, she goes ahead and propositions him. She admits that she turned down dates with the Joker (doesn’t like the green hair) and the Penguin (too short). She’s also got the hots for the armored truck driver, and is very disappointed to learn that he’s happily married with three kids.

Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.

“You can’t get away from Batman that easy.”

“Easily.”

“Easily.”

“Good grammar is essential, Robin.”

“Thank you, Batman.”

“You’re welcome.”

–Robin taunting Catwoman, and Batman taking time out of the confrontation to impart an irrelevant lesson about grammar.

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Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 20 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Robert Greenberger, author of The Complete Batman Encyclopedia.

At the Gotham State Building, Gordon and O’Hara see the two cat-burglars up on the roof from the street and initially ask if they’re birds or planes, a play on the old “Look, up in the sky!” bit used to open several dramatic Superman adaptations.

In a rare bit of episode-to-episode continuity, Gordon states that Catwoman is alive, since she was last seen on the TV series falling into a bottomless pit at the end of “Better Luck Next Time.”

An impressive collection of guest stars in this one: Bart Maverick his own self, Jack Kelly, plays O’Shea. A young James Brolin appears as the armored truck driver. And Edy Williams, an actor and model probably best known for her work with Russ Meyer (to whom she was also briefly married), appears as the server at the Pink Sandbox (she’ll be back in “The Devil’s Fingers” / “The Dead Ringers” later this season as Rae).

While Julie Newmar also plays the woman she impersonates in “The Cat and the Fiddle,” Burt Ward does not play Zubin Zucchini, who is instead played by David Fresco (albeit with his face hidden, so if you want to believe that Ward was a good enough actor to pull it off, you can fool yourself).

“The Catusi,” an amusing variation of the Batusi, is played by a band called Benedict Arnold and the Traitors, a play on the popular contemporary band Paul Revere and the Raiders. The latter group will appear in “Hizzoner the Penguin” later this season.

Glob’s Drugstore is a play on Schwab’s Pharmacy, the eatery in Hollywood which was also used as the “office” of gossip columnist Sidney Skolsky in the 1930s. Skolsky was the person who popularized the nickname “Oscar” for the Academy Awards.

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Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Maybe you can bully an aging mogul, but not me, Catwoman!” This two-parter is worth it just to watch Julie Newmar in action. She loses herself delightfully in the part, enjoying every slink, every meow, every raking of her claws. The entire sequence where she taunts the Dynamic Duo while they’re getting a hotfoot is worth it all by itself.

Having said that, this is a case where the two parts of the episode seem almost disconnected. The entire Stradivarius heist isn’t even hinted at in “Hot Off the Griddle” and the entire thing with Catwoman recruiting cat-burglars and training them in thievery has no kind of payoff in “The Cat and the Fiddle,” since the only thing the henchmen are good for in the second half is to get beaten up by Batman and Robin. Catwoman’s heist doesn’t require the henchmen in the least.

It’s nice to see that this episode actually embraces Catwoman’s role as a potential love interest for Batman, something that has been dealt with on and off and in many varying ways in the comics since she first appeared in Batman #1 in 1940. (True, the movie did it as well, but that interest was solely in Catwoman’s assumed persona of Kitka—as soon as Batman realized Kitka was Catwoman, all interest was gone.) Newmar flirts so outrageously, and it plays so well off Adam West doing his straightest-straight-man-in-the-universe act.

We’re also seeing more signs of the show’s self-consciousness, whether it’s Batman’s endless moralistic lessons for Robin (the parking meter, good grammar, not staring directly into the sun for fear of burning one’s retinas, etc.) or attempts to capture the zeitgiest of what the kids are into with the go-go dancing and “The Catusi” at the Pink Sandbox.

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Still, just as with a weak Riddler episode, so too with a weak Catwoman episode: Newmar can cover a multitude of sins…

Bat-rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido is pleased to see that his Thor novel Dueling with Giants (Book 1 in the Marvel’s Tales of Asgard trilogy) is now available in print form! The book should be available at finer bookstores everywhere (and crappy bookstores, too, no doubt) soon, and you can order it in print or eBook form various online dealers.

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