“The Purr-fect Crime” / “Better Luck Next Time”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross and Lee Orgel
Directed by James Sheldon
Season 1, Episodes 19 and 20
Production code 8721
Original air dates: March 16 and 17, 1966
The Bat-signal: It’s midnight at the Gotham City Art Museum, which is labelled only with the word “MUSEUM,” nothing else. Catwoman robs the place, using a cat to distract and attack the security guard while she makes off with a golden cat statue. She delivers a kitten to Gordon’s office, which has a newspaper clipping attached to its collar. It’s a picture of Mark Andrews, the owner of the cat statue, and he has another such statue at the Gotham City Exposition. Realizing that Catwoman is the perpetrator of the crime, Gordon hands the kitten off to O’Hara and calls Batman.
The Bat-phone interrupts Bruce and Dick playing four simultaneous games of chess piled on top of each other. They head to GCPD HQ, where Batman agrees that the museum job is but the first of many cat-related crimes to come from Catwoman.
We cut to Catwoman’s hideout at the Gato & Chat Wholesale Fur Retail Co., where Leo, one of her henchmen, has picked up the multivolume History of Gotham City, while Felix confirms the delivery of the kitten to Gordon. Catwoman then reads up on the lost treasure of Captain Manx, a pirate from the early years of Gotham City.
Batman and Robin return to the Batcave. Alfred and Robin do maintenance on the Batmobile while Batman plays with his chemistry set. Hilariously, he puts rubber gloves on over his costume’s gloves in order to work with the radioactive chemicals. The plan is to spray the cat statue with a tiny bit of radioactivity so they can trace it, in case Catwoman succeeds in stealing the statue.
They arrive at the Exposition. The ticket taker—actually Leo—tries to let them in for free, but Batman insists on paying just like any normal citizen, the sap. (On the other hand, Bruce can dang well afford the admission cost…) After the place closes, Batman sprays the radioactive gunk on the statue. At almost midnight, Batman goes to check the perimeter, leaving Robin with the statue. Batman promises to be back in three minutes and twenty seconds, which is a bizarrely precise interval.
Catwoman enters the room through a sarcophagus, along with her cat, who attacks Robin. The Boy Wonder manages to get off a radio message to Batman before falling unconscious. Batman runs back to the gallery to see Catwoman trying to make off with the statue. Fisticuffs ensue, but Batman is distracted when he finally notices Robin’s unconscious form, and Catwoman, Felix, and Leo escape with their ill-gotten gains.
The Dynamic Duo trace the residue to the Gato & Chat warehouse. Robin recognizes the name as being the words in Spanish and French for “cat,” and when Batman expresses his admiration for his knowledge of foreign languages, which come in handy in fighting crime, Robin actually says with a straight face, “si, si, Batman.”
They enter the warehouse, only to find that it’s a trap: Catwoman was expecting them. They fall through a trap door into an enclosed room, which has spikes on the walls. Those walls start to close in on them—but they soon discover that the spikes are just rubber (though not until after Batman tries and fails to keep the walls apart with his bare hands). Felix then leaves a bomb through a cat door, but the explosion is harmless, and when Batman picks it up, a small flag that says “MEOW!” and a recording of a cat’s meow startle both of them.
Then a tube encloses Robin and sucks him up into the ceiling, leaving Batman alone. Catwoman then gives him a classic lady-or-the-tiger choice, where he actually has to choose between one door, behind which is her (a lie, as she’s upstairs), or the other door, behind which is a tiger.
He picks the door on the right, behind which is the promised “Batman-eating tiger.” Batman fends off the tiger long enough to pull out bat-magnets from his utility belt and climb the wall. He then puts in his bat-earplugs (outside the mask, so how much good can they really be doing?) and then reverses the polarity on the communicator in his utility belt buckle to create a sonic wave that causes the tiger distress and makes him lie down. Batman then leaves through the very same door the tiger came in through.
Catwoman taunts Robin for a bit—including informing him that they’re wrong that her plans are to steal all of Andrews’s collection—before having Felix and Leo lower him into a pit with two tigers while covered in catnip. She buggers off before the job is finished, with other business, but luckily Batman finds Robin in time to save him, using the batarang to swing to his rescue. Fisticuffs ensue, and the Dynamic Duo win, though Leo manages to escape. He meets up with Catwoman, who is not pleased that Batman and Robin are still alive, nor that they recovered the cat statues. However, she puts “alternate plan B” into effect.
Robin checks in with Gordon, assuring him that the statues have been recovered, at least, while Gordon says that there’s no sign of Catwoman at the Andrews estate. An examination of the statues reveal markings on the bases—but the two cats have different markings, which is odd, as they’re supposed to be identical. Batman then looks up the Captain Manx story, and learns that one of the pirate’s treasure chests was never recovered. It turns out that the markings, when put together, form a map of Gotham City as it was in Manx’s day, complete with the location of the booty.
Robin hits on the notion of tracing Catwoman via the radioactive gunk, which would have transferred to her from fondling the statue.
Catwoman finds the treasure in a cave, thrilled at the wealth beyond dreams of avarice—and she’s unwilling to share, so once Leo packs it in a bag, she gasses him, so she can keep the loot for herself. She also had Leo mine the road to the cave, but the Batmobile’s armor resists the explosions.
Batman and Robin show up before she can make her escape, and she leads them on a merry chase through the cave. She tries to jump across a chasm, but she’s too weighed down by her loot. Before Batman can save her, she falls into the chasm, unwilling to let go of the treasure. The Dynamic Duo search the cave, but don’t find her—only her cat.
Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred tries to help Dick play chess—only to have Bruce win anyhow—while Aunt Harriet is frustrated by Catwoman’s erstwhile cat, who keeps stealing things.
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The Batmobile makes an annoying buzzing sound at one point because Robin hasn’t fastened his safety bat-belt. (Oddly, Robin says they’re only going a few blocks, but they actually head straight from there back to the Batcave, which is—as the sign reminds us most every episode—fourteen miles away. Anyhow, it’s just an excuse to let Batman lecture about motor safety. Also, Robin isn’t yet old enough to drive, apparently.) They use the Bat-o-meter to trace the radioactive gunk on the statue. The universal antidote pills make another appearance, curing Robin of the neural toxin on the cat’s claws. They use the bat-beam to set off any booby traps in the entrance to Gato & Chat. Batman escapes from the tiger using a mess of bat-devices: magnets, earplugs, and polarity-reversed communicator. While roaming the catacombs of Catwoman’s lair, he uses sparkly gold Bat-logos to mark his trail. They use the spectrascope and the metal analyzer on the cat statues. Batman keeps the History of Gotham City set on the Bat-research shelf. The Batmobile has armor to protect it from landmines, and it also has automatic tire repair.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! While playing four games of chess at once, Dick cries, “Holy Reshevsky!” a reference to Samuel Reshevsky, the chess champion. Robin utters, “Holy trickery!” when he and Batman discuss Catwoman’s plans. Before being attacked by Catwoman’s cat, he really and truly says, “Holy cats, a cat!” When he sees the spiky walls, Robin cries, “Holy icepicks!” When Batman tells Robin that they never recovered one of Captain Manx’s treasure chests, he cries, “Holy felony!” Upon realizing the cat statues have a map of old Gotham City, he says, “Holy geography!”
Gotham City’s finest. When O’Hara offers police aid against Catwoman, Batman declines, saying a large police presence will only create confusion, which is a remarkably polite and considerate blow-off, all things considered, especially since he heavily implies that the GCPD is completely incompetent and would just get in their way.
Special Guest Villainess. Julie Newmar makes her debut as Catwoman, the first of three women to play the role. This is her only appearance in season 1; she’ll appear half a dozen times in season 2. Eartha Kitt will take over the role for season 3, while Lee Meriwether will play Catwoman in the 1966 movie.
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“It’s a pity I can’t stay and watch, but you know how I hate the sight of blood. TTFN!”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Ta-ta for now.”
–Catwoman breaking one of the Evil Overlord Rules and then quoting Tigger (while observing Batman in a deathtrap with a tiger).
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 10 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum Clay Dugger, prolific podcaster.
The voiceover for the cliffhanger promises Part 2 tomorrow, “same cat time, same cat channel.”
Catwoman was the one of the first villains to appear in Batman’s eponymous comic that started being published alongside his adventures in Detective Comics in 1940. In Batman #1, she was simply called “the Cat.” She has gone on to become one of Batman’s most popular recurring antagonists, though she’s been portrayed as more of an antihero than an out-and-out villain over the past twenty years or so.
Newmar is the first person to play the role in another medium—the character was never used in any of the previous adaptations—but Catwoman has since been played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, Maggie Baird and Camren Bicondova in live action on film and television, and portrayed in every animated version of Batman that’s been done, voiced by (among many others) Adrienne Barbeau, Eliza Dushku, and Gina Gershon.
Catwoman’s jumpsuits were designed and sewn by Newmar herself.
The original airing of “The Purr-fect Crime” was interrupted by a news bulletin about a near-fatal situation on Gemini 8, as NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott were almost killed. ABC was flooded with calls, not concerned about Armstrong and Scott, but pissed that Batman was interrupted.
This episode is the one and only time we actually see Bonnie, Gordon’s secretary. She delivers the kitten.
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “There’s more than one way to skin a cat, woman!” This is, in many ways, the perfect Batman two-parter. You have an incredibly worthy villain in Catwoman, who is magnificently played by Julie Newmar. It’s obvious the producers didn’t think of her as one of the A-listers initially. While Joker, Riddler, and Penguin all made multiple appearances in the inaugural season, Catwoman only showed up the once, no more or less than Zelda the Great, Bookworm, King Tut, False Face, the Mad Hatter, and Mr. Freeze.
But she obviously made an impression, as she’ll be back quite a bit in season 2, and be part of the roster for the between-seasons movie along with the Big Three male villains, with good reason. Her plans are straightforward, she stays a step ahead of Batman and Robin by anticipating their tracking her down and setting traps for them, and if the traps are a bit too elaborate, well, that’s true of every villain on this show. Besides, trapping Batman in a room with a hungry tiger is probably the most direct method of trying to kill the Dynamic Duo anyone’s come up with.
Newmar herself is superb. She has the same physicality that Frank Gorshin brings to the Riddler, but it’s more low-key and very effective, combining with her imposing presence and sultry voice to create a most memorable villain.
On top of that, you’ve got tons of gadgets, the standard GCPD incompetence, and terrible cat puns. Face it, this two-parter has it all!
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest work of fiction is Thor: Dueling with Giants, Book 1 of the Marvel’s Tales of Asgard trilogy, which will be available as an eBook next Tuesday, to be released as a print book in spring 2016. You can preorder the eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or iTunes. Coming soon are Books 2 and 3, Sif: Even Dragons Have Their Endings and The Warrior’s Three: Godhood’s End.