Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “The Sandman Cometh” / “The Catwoman Goeth”

“The Sandman Cometh” / “The Catwoman Goeth”
Written by Ellis St. Joseph and Charles Hoffman
Directed by george waGGner
Season 2, Episodes 33 and 34
Production code 9715
Original air dates: December 28 and 29, 1966

The Bat-signal: The Sandman, who’s in Gotham from Europe, has teamed up with Catwoman on a scheme to relieve J. Pauline Spaghetti of her great fortune. They each intend to betray the other as well. However, the GCPD was actually on the ball, for a change, having embedded an undercover detective in Catwoman’s gang. Unfortunately, Policewoman Mooney’s cover is blown by Catwoman just as she’s reporting in. Now Mooney’s in trouble, so Gordon calls Batman.

But Bruce is off in the back country with Dick and a bunch of other young boys. I’m sure there’s nothing at all suspicious or weird about that. Alfred says that Batman is out of town, prompting Gordon and O’Hara to remark that even Batman deserves his privacy. Two seconds later, O’Hara suggests using the bat-signal. So much for privacy.

Bruce sees the bat-signal, but he’s with a half dozen young men who don’t know he’s Batman. So Bruce and Dick stay up in the mountains, not risking their secret identities.

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Catwoman, dressed in a nightgown, goes to sleep in the display window for Morpheus Mattresses. Then one of Sandman’s henchmen comes and takes her away. The cops are confused, as there was supposed to be a woman in the window, but not until later in the day. Gordon and O’Hara figure the Sandman is behind it, given mattresses and sleeping being involved. Catwoman then shows up on a local news station, still in her nightgown, saying that she had been having trouble sleeping until she was treated by Dr. Somnabula. The reporter tries to get her back on track to the abduction, but she wanders off instead.

Sandman and Catwoman meet in a run-down factory, which we know because there’s a sign over the door that says “RUN DOWN FACTORY.” (Said sign has white space on either side of it, indicating that it used to have a much bigger sign before the producers absconded with it for filming…) As Sandman had hoped, they attracted the attention of Spaghetti, who calls, offering $10,000 if Dr. Somnabula will make a penthouse call to her. (Catwoman does a wonderful job as the bored nurse over the phone.)

Having met with Gordon and O’Hara, and with very little to go on, Batman and Robin return to the Batcave to try to figure out the criminals’ next move. They figure that his target is a rich person with sleeping trouble, hence placing the “Somnabula” name on television. Robin comes up with some famous insomniacs, but for some reason only lists people who are long dead. Despairing of his sidekick growing a brain, Batman turns to the Bat-computer, which tells them it’s Spaghetti.

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The Sandman makes his penthouse call. Spaghetti has gotten almost no sleep since she made her first billion dollars. She dozed off at a rock and roll concert once, but that was it.

While “examining” her, the Sandman sprays sleeping powder on her, which causes her to sleepwalk and be susceptible to Sandman’s every word. She gives him a ton of cash, jewelry, and her financial journal (labelled “VAST SPAGHETTI RESOURCES”). He takes pictures of the journal, then puts it all back. Spaghetti wakes up and is eternally grateful to “Somnabula” for curing her insomnia.

Batman and Robin have climbed up the wall and arrive to accuse the Sandman of thievery—but nothing’s stolen. Sandman leaves, and Spaghetti kicks the Dynamic Duo out, pissed that they scared away her shiny new doctor before she even had a chance to pay him.

They go next to a display room for the Morpheus Mattress Company (a room curiously bereft of any displays), and find Sandman and his henchmen. Fiticuffs ensue (with a lot of busted pillows, flying feathers, and “sproing” noises that represent mattress springs).

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Robin winds up being sprayed with Sandman’s powder while Batman is overcome by mattresses. Sandman leaves Batman to be sewn inside a mattress while the mesmerized Robin is taken away by Sandman and his henchmen to Catwoman via the Batmobile, who is thrilled at the gift. She puts Robin in a maze—the same maze where she put Mooney. Catwoman also turns on the electric shock switch (conveniently labelled “ELECTRIC SHOCK SWITCH”), which electrifies the fences that make up the maze walls. Eventually, he finds himself at the center of the maze, alongside Mooney. Catwoman said that once you reach the center, you can never get out.

Batman escapes by using his utility belt as a lasso after the button-maker cuts through one of his bonds. He checks in with Gordon, telling him to put men on Spaghetti in case Sandman tries to visit her again, then takes the subway to Wayne Station (he has his own station! it’s good to be rich!) and Bat-walks the rest of the way to the Batcave. He and Alfred track the Batmobile to the run-down factory and go there on the Alf-cycle. They arrive just as two cops have also found the Batmobile, the younger one threatening to give him a ticket and citation. Batman, hilariously, is actually willing to go along with whatever the rookie wants to do, but the older officer points out that Batman has pull with Gordon and O’Hara and to stop being an idiot.

Sandman goes to Spaghetti’s penthouse, uses his sleeping powder on O’Hara and his men, and goes off with her to the bank to withdraw funds so they can elope. “Dr. Somnabula” also tells the head of the bank to call Gordon and provide him with Catwoman’s address to give to Batman.

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Gordon passes it on, and Batman confronts her with Sandman’s betrayal. Catwoman is willing to help Batman get back at the Sandman—but is reluctant to admit that she has Robin and Mooney trapped in her maze. She sends Batman into the maze to retrieve them—but before Catwoman can turn tail and run, Gordon, O’Hara, and other cops take her in.

Batman frees Robin, because of course he can solve the maze that Robin and an undercover cop are too dim to get out of, and they take the Bat-boat to J. Pauline Spaghetti Island. Sandman and Spaghetti are already there, the latter showing the former the plaques memorializing her previous four husbands—all of whom also had the last name Spaghetti, and all of whom died in freak noodle-related accidents. (Sandman starts looking and acting notably apprehensive after hearing about his predecessors as Mr. J. Pauline Spaghetti…)

The Dynamic Duo arrive before the wedding commences, and fisticuffs ensue. Spaghetti falls asleep during the fight…

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Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The Bat-computer’s method of informing the Dynamic Duo that Spaghetti is who they’re looking for is not to provide a punch card like usual, but to ooze bits of pink spaghetti out of a port in the computer. This makes you wonder what else the computer is stocked with to provide hints to our heroes…

Batman and Alfred track the Batmobile via the Batmobile Tracking Map, which looks a lot like the Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City. Plus we’ve got the triumphant return of the Alf-cycle and the Bat-boat!

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Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy alter ego!” is Robin’s cry when they deduce that Dr. Somnabula is the Sandman. “Holy voltage!” is his utterance when electrified by the fence in Catwoman’s maze. “Holy sedative!” is what he cries when they discover that Spaghetti fell asleep while they were fighting.

Gotham City’s finest. We actually get some competence from GCPD, with an undercover cop successfully infiltrating Catwoman’s gang, done in only because she said she was going out to get fresh catnip late at night, after the stores were closed. Plus Hogan and Dietrich are both conscientious officers, though the former is a bit too eager-beaver and the latter a bit too cynical, but at least we see them do real policework (and Batman admits that his car violates a few ordinances after Hogan threatens to write him up). And the cops actually are the ones who catch Catwoman.

Of course, we can’t have the cops being completely competent. We can always count on O’Hara to muck things up, as he utterly fails in protecting Spaghetti from the Sandman.

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Special Guest Villains. A team-up this time, the first time the series had two billed villains. (Well, okay, technically, there was Jill St. John getting billing as Molly alongside Frank Gorshin in “Hi Diddle Riddle”/”Stuck in the Middle.”) Not only does Julie Newmar return as Catwoman, but Michael Rennie appears as the Sandman. While Rennie got the usual “Special Guest Villain” credit, Newmar was listed as “Extra Special Guest Villainess.”

This is Rennie’s only appearance in a role originally intended for Robert Morley. Newmar will be back three stories hence in “That Darn Catwoman” / “Scat! Darn Catwoman.”

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Catwoman once again hits on Batman when they are face to face, though it’s short-lived, especially since Batman himself is more concerned with Robin’s fate.

Also, seriously, what was Bruce doing in the mountains with a bunch of young boys in sleeping bags?????

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

“Now I must get to the Batcave as fast as possible!”

“Let me send a police car for you.”

“A needless waste of taxpayers’ money, Commissioner. Gotham City’s transit line is the world’s most rapid.”

–Batman expressing the need for speed, then declining an actual speedy option in favor of mass transit to the suburbs. Good thing Robin’s life wasn’t in danger or anything…

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Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 35 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Robert Greenberger, author of The Essential Batman Encyclopedia.

Ellis St. Joseph’s original script only involved the Sandman. According to St. Joseph, producer William Dozier called him up and told him it was the best script he’d ever seen for the show. However, there was apparently a need for an additional Catwoman episode, and so story editor Charles Hoffman rewrote St. Joseph’s script to bring Catwoman in.

The title for Part 2 was originally “A Stitch in Time,” and in fact title cards were filmed for the second half hour with both titles, and they were used interchangeably in reruns.

Robert Morley was originally cast as the Sandman, but he quit when the script was rewritten, as he didn’t sign on to be a second banana. David Tomlinson refused the role for similar reasons, and the part went to Rennie.

J. Pauline Spaghetti was a play on J. Paul Getty, the industrialist. In St. Joseph’s original script, it was a male part, J. Paul Spaghetti, written for John Abbott. Instead, the female version was played by Spring Byington.

Sandman’s henchmen Nap and Snooze, played by Richard Peel and Tony Ballen, were a deliberate riff on Laurel & Hardy.

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Derwin Alley was named after second unit director Bill Derwin.

Having played an armored truck driver in a previous Catwoman story (“Hot Off the Griddle” / “The Cat and the Fiddle“), James Brolin returns as the overzealous Officer Hogan.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “I am only interested in my own problems, nobody else’s.” Two weeks ago, I said that the presence of Julie Newmar can cover a multitude of sins, and this two-parter proves that wrong. Newmar is, of course, delightful, and once again not only plays Catwoman superbly, but also takes on, in essence, two other roles, as the “sleeping beauty” who is kidnapped from Morpheus Mattresses and as “Dr. Somnabula’s” nurse answering the phone for Spaghetti.

Nonetheless, Catwoman has very obviously been sledgehammered into this episode to no real good end. Yes, she’s fun on screen, like she always is, but if you remove Catwoman from the plot, nothing of consequence changes.

Well, that’s not true, as apparently we could’ve gotten Robert Morley and a script that was a riff on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Instead, we got this mess.

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It’s not all bad. Spring Byington is a delight as Spaghetti, Michael Rennie brings a certain charm to the Sandman, and the story is generally well populated with capable women, much more so than we usually see in a show that tends to embrace the sexism of its period with both arms. But overall, the story is a mess. It’s unclear what Catwoman brings to the table that necessitates the team-up. If the Sandman’s plan is to marry Spaghetti, why bother taking pictures of her ledger? Why set up Batman trying to gain Catwoman’s cooperation if they don’t need it and will just arrest her in any case? The deathtrap resolution is utterly predictable. Plus so much happens off-camera: Batman and Robin’s first meeting with Gordon, Batman solving the maze, Batman riding the subway (which would’ve been hilarious), Sandman stopping O’Hara and going to the bank with Spaghetti.

And here’s the biggie: at the very end of the episode, what exactly do they nail the Sandman on? Best they can do is a minor count of fraud for pretending to be a doctor, but even that’s iffy, because he actually did what he said and allowed Spaghetti to sleep for the first time in years. That’s as nothing compared to what Batman and Robin did at the end: trespassing, reckless endangerment, assault. But that’s it. Everything else that happened was above-board.

Bat-rating: 4

Keith R.A. DeCandido urges everyone to support the Kickstarter for Humans Wanted, an anthology edited by Vivian Caethe based on a nifty tumblr meme by “iztarshi.” Keith and Jody Lynn Nye will contribute to the anthology if funded.

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