Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch, Batman! “Fine Feathered Finks” / “The Penguin’s a Jinx”

“Fine Feathered Finks”/ “The Penguin’s a Jinx”
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Directed by Robert Butler
Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2
Production code 8703
Original air dates: January 19 & 20, 1966

The Bat-signal: Three guys in black suits and bowler hats start giving out umbrellas outside a jewelry store, the House of Ali Baba, with the promise of possible prizes inside. The umbrellas all then open on their own inside the store, spraying gas, blowing fireworks and confetti, and making horrible noises and spitting out gas and comedy snakes. At police HQ, O’Hara says it’s like a fingerprint—the Penguin, who has an umbrella fetish, and he was just released from prison three days ago. Gordon picks up the Bat-phone.

At Wayne Manor, Dick is struggling with his French lessons. Bruce reminds him that language is the key to world peace. Dick allows as how that’s true, but his attempt to conjugate French verbs is interrupted by the Bat-phone. After telling Aunt Harriet that they’re going fishing (didn’t they use that cover story last week?), they head off in the Batmobile to Gotham City.

Batman finds it curious that there was no actual robbery, even though the umbrella thing was a perfect setup for one. Curious as to the Penguin’s state of mind before being released from prison, Batman interviews Warden Crichton, a progressive thinker on reforms in prison. For the week leading up to inmates’ release, they’re permitted to wear civilian clothing, and the warden also surreptitiously videotapes them in their cells during that period. They play the tape in Gordon’s office, and it’s clear that Penguin is completely unreformed—he’s been spending his time in prison trying (and failing) to come up with a plan for a new caper.

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Penguin’s henchman (also in his civvies including, hilariously, his domino mask) contemplates how totally awesome it would be if Batman was also a criminal. That prompts Penguin to come up with an idea involving umbrellas—but the henchman discovers the hidden camera before he can speak his plan out loud.

Batman checks the city records to find any new umbrella factories that have been opened in the past few days—they find three, one of which was opened by “K.G. Bird,” a.k.a. “cagey bird,” a.k.a. Penguin.

At the K.G. Bird & Co. umbrella factory, Penguin explains his plan: nothing. He’s going to keep doing crazy umbrella-related stunts with no actual crime, and wait for Batman to “deduce” his next move, and use that as his caper. His next umbrella giveaway is at a bank. Batman and Robin show up and collect all the umbrellas under an asbestos pad (really a normal moving pad, but whatever) to protect everyone from the pyrotechnics.

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The Dynamic Duo head to K.G. Bird & Co. to confront Penguin, but they’re frustrated by the fact that he hasn’t committed an actual crime yet.

After they leave, Penguin’s henchmen launch a giant orange umbrella onto the street, which has a normal sized umbrella dangling from the handle. Batman climbs up to retrieve it, and it’s got a plaque on it: a special Batbrella. They take it back to the Batcave to examine it, but they find nothing. So Batman decides to take a spider-shaped bug and visit the umbrella shop as Bruce Wayne and leave the bug there so they can eavesdrop on his plans.

Bruce takes his father’s old umbrella in for repair, and tries to plant the bug—but he sets off an alarm. Penguin throws a net on him and gasses him with his umbrella. Assuming it’s industrial espionage by a rival umbrella factory, he has his thugs throw Bruce into the furnace.

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The heat of the furnace causes Bruce’s shoes to smoke, which wakes him up. He has a cigarette lighter, which he tosses into the furnace. The butane in the lighter causes the furnace to go boom and allow Bruce to escape. Penguin lets him go, as he believes Bruce to be a criminal himself. Bruce returns to the Batcave, and he and Robin continue to muster their brainpower to try to figure out what the (nonexistent) clue is in the Batbrella.

At 6pm, Penguin activates the listening device in the Batbrella. (Why he waited this long is anybody’s guess.) Batman and Robin are studying the Batbrella. At first, the Dynamic Duo think that the colors symbolize the colors of a jeweled meteorite, but the museum where it’s housed is impenetrable.

They look at the Batbrella some more, and Robin notes that the colors look like a beautiful dawn. Then it hits Batman: Dawn Robbins, the actress, is in town filming a picture called The Mockingbird, produced by Ward Eagle, and she’s staying at the penthouse of the Pelican Arms—it’s the perfect Penguin ornithological crime (a turn of phrase not actually used in this episode, more’s the pity)!

Batman tells Robin how easily Penguin could kidnap her, and Penguin and his henchmen are taking notes. Heroes and villains each separately head out toward the Pelican Arms. Batman and Robin head up to her penthouse (which is a relief to the bored actress, who is weary of her life as a starlet because nothing exciting ever happens) to protect her.

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Across the way, Penguin and his thugs use a Penguin Rope and umbrellas to rappel into the penthouse and gasses Robbins and her manager. Batman and Robin ambush him, wearing gas masks, but then Penguin activates the Penguin Magnet, which attaches the pair to the wall via their metal utility belts. Penguin escapes with Robbins, and asks for a ransom of $200,000, to be delivered in the front hall of Wayne Manor. Batman and Robin intend to hide in the two suits of armor in that hall and ambush the Penguin once Robbins is safe. However, Penguin hears all that over the bug in the Batbrella.

Penguin’s thugs gas Alfred, and then Penguin himself gasses both suits of armor, rendering Batman and Robin both unconscious. They leave Robbins (still sedated) next to Alfred on the couch. They repair to the K.G. Bird factory to divide the loot—but then Batman and Robin ambush him. Penguin used the same words Batman did when he kidnapped Robbins, so Batman realized that Penguin had been eavesdropping. They put dummies in the armor and waited back at the factory to take him down.

After a particularly goofy umbrella-swordfight, they’re taken down, and are sent back to Crichton.

Bruce holds a society gathering in the mansion. Gordon is among the guests—as is Robbins.

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Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! When the penthouse proves too high to throw the Bat-a-rang, Batman uses the Batzooka to shoot the Batrope up. (One of Penguin’s thugs instantly recognizes the sound of the Batzooka, which makes you wonder how often he uses the fershlugginer thing.) The Penguin, not to be outdone, has his own gadgets, all named after himself.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! Upon seeing the Penguin in his civvies while in prison, he cries out, “Holy haberdashery!” (The Penguin is wearing his hat.) When they “discover” that Penguin’s scheme is to kidnap Dawn Robbins, he cries out, “Holy popcorn!” And when Penguin activates his Penguin magnet, Robin’s responses are “Holy lodestone!” and “Holy flypaper!”

Gotham City’s finest. As with last time, Gordon asks for volunteers to tackle the Penguin, but O’Hara tells him to stop being silly, and just call Batman already. However, Gordon anticipates Batman’s desire to speak to Crichton, and flies him in by helicopter. He makes up for this rare burst of competence by it never occurring to him that Penguin would rent an umbrella factory under an alias.

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No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Dawn Robbins is doing a photo shoot for Fungirl magazine. She thinks Batman is “sorta cute,” and later is quite melancholy at Bruce’s party, as she has fallen for Batman, whom she’ll probably never see again. It is never revealed whether or not Bruce decided to try to comfort her in her misery…

Special Guest Villain. Burgess Meredith debuts his role as the Penguin. He’ll be back in “The Penguin Goes Straight” / “Not Yet He Ain’t” later this season. Ernest Borgnine was apparently considered for the role.

Na-na na-na na-na na-na na. “What a stupid thing to say.”

Robin’s apt and regretful utterance upon being reminded that prisoners actually are supposed to get released after their sentence is over.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 2 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Paul K. Bisson.

The story was based on the 1965 comic book story “Partners in Plunder” in Batman #169 by Ed Herron, Sheldon Moldoff, & Joe Giella.

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We actually get the standard explanation of why Batman chooses to dress like a bat—because the form of a giant bat is scary to the cowardly criminal mind—but we get it from Gordon at the party, not Batman (or Bruce).

Penguin mentions a hideaway in Alaska, a rare occasion when any regular character on the show admits to the possibility of being away from Gotham City.

In addition to Penguin, this episode marks the debut of David Lewis’ Warden Crichton, who will continue to manage Gotham State Penitentiary through all three seasons.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “The baleful bird is about to chirp!” What I particularly love about this episode is the same thing I liked about the Riddler lawsuit angle last time, only this time the twist on the expected hero-stops-villain dynamic is actually followed through on. Penguin doesn’t need to come up with a scheme, he just has to leave Batman with a sufficiently multifaceted clue—an umbrella of many colors—and his deductive powers combine with his vivid imagination (not to mention his ability to jump to absurd conclusions) to provide him with the very crime he is trying to prevent.

It’s kind of amusing that the oh-so-lawful Batman actually considers the illegal wiretapping of a private citizen. Keep in mind that at this point, Penguin is not a criminal; Batman himself said that he’s paid his debt to society, having served his sentence. At this stage in the game, he hasn’t actually committed a crime, certainly not one that warrants a warrantless eavesdrop. And then Penguin uses the exact same thing to actually commit his crime.

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Burgess Meredith is far less broad in this first appearance—his trademark “waugh! waugh!” is nowhere to be heard, and his waddle is less pronounced when he walks. His sneering tone, aided by the cigarette holder that is perpetually held together by his teeth, is quite familiar, though, but the characterization is more aristocratic, befitting the character’s costuming.

You also have to wonder if writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. was indulging in a bit of social commentary on prison reform, with Crichton’s constant references to his progressive policies—policies that are abject failures with the Penguin. The decade prior to this episode being aired was when U.S. prisons first attempted a greater emphasis on corrections and rehabilitation rather than punishment.

 

Bat-rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido is at New York Comic-Con this weekend at the Javits Center in NYC. He’s at Booth 1157 on the main floor, selling and autographing books alongside his friend Megan H. Rothrock, author of The LEGO Adventure Book series. Come on by and say hi!

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