“The Ring of Wax” / “Give ’em the Axe”
Written by Jack Paritz and Bob Rodgers
Directed by James B. Clark
Season 1, Episodes 23 and 24
Production code 8725
Original air dates: March 30 and 31, 1966
The Bat-signal: At Madam Soleil’s Wax Museum, they are unveiling a new wax likeness: Batman. Except when Soleil opens the curtain, it reveals instead a wax statue of the Riddler, complete with a tape recorder that plays a riddle: what’s black and white and red all over? And it’s “red,” not “read,” because the statue is holding a rifle that squirts red paint all over the visiting dignitaries. The recording has a second riddle: what has branches and leaves but no bark?
Soleil calls Gordon and Gordon calls Batman, as he’s the only one who can cope with the Riddler. The bat-phone interrupts a game of capitals among Bruce, Dick, and Aunt Harriet (Dick thought Lima was the capital of Ecuador rather than Peru), and our heroes slide down the poles and head to GCPD HQ in the Batmobile (which strangely goes around the construction barricade rather than over it when it falls down like usual).
They all know the answer to the first riddle (red paint at the scene notwithstanding): a newspaper. But it could also be a book, as they realize when they dope out the second riddle, which is a library (leaves in a book, lots of branches). They figure Riddler will hit the Gotham City Library, so the Dynamic Duo heads there.
The Riddler’s hideout is in a candle factory, where his henchmen are melting down Batman’s wax statue. Riddler didn’t just steal it for the joy of melting down a likeness of Batman—though he does enjoy that—but he also smuggled something in the statue: in a universal solvent that can dissolve anything.
They head to the library. Riddler uses a gimmicked candle to distract the guard on the rare-book vault. He applies the solvent to the vault lock and melts the wax, which also melts the lock. Riddler enters and looks for a book on the treasures of the Incas, which one of his thugs finds on the shelf with the incredibly convenient label: “RARE OLD BOOKS ON THE TREASURES OF THE INCAS,” the only shelf in the entire vault that’s in any way labelled, and said shelf only has one book on it.
Batman and Robin enter the library and ask the woman at the reference desk if she’s seen the Riddler. She doesn’t recall, but she sees lots of people every day. (I’m the child of librarians, and also worked a reference desk for two years in college, and I can assure you that this is actually completely realistic. With the parade of people that tramp by a reference desk every day, they all start to blend, even if one of them is wearing green tights with a big question mark on the chest and back.)
Riddler is over the moon, as now he has the book that will lead him to the lost treasure of the Incas. When the reference desk librarian leads Batman and Robin to the vault, they are ambushed by Riddler and his two henchmen (they were warned by Riddler’s moll, Moth, that they were on their way up).
Riddler claims he is checking out a book. Robin sees the title, and wonders what Riddler would want with a book called The Lost Treasures of the Incas, and Batman has no idea, as who can understand the mind of the arch-criminal? (Right, guys, how could you possibly figure out why a guy who steals stuff would be interested in a book about treasures?)
Fisticuffs ensue, but Riddler ends the fight by using his own super-sticky stuff to glue Batman and Robin’s feet to the floor. He then casually tosses the glue can aside—right onto the alarm. He leaves behind another riddle: the more you take away, the larger it grows.
Our heroes escape using the bat-laser gun, and find that Riddler escaped through a hole in the wall (a hole being the answer to the riddle). But there was no explosion. Batman takes some of the waxy substance in the wall to the Batcave, where they determine that the wax is made of sodium, uranium, and nitrogen. The first letters of those three elements spell “sun,” which is the English word for “soleil,” so obviously the Riddler will strike the wax museum next. Sure.
The Dynamic Duo go to the wax museum. They don’t see Madam Soleil—and they don’t see that four of the wax statues are the Riddler, his two henchmen, and Moth. Riddler drugs Batman and Robin and stashes them in his van. He also steals the Batmobile—having learned from the last time, he disables the Bat-security, allowing him to drive it to the candle factory, along with his van.
Batman and Robin are secured to a chain that hangs over an enormous candle dipper. We know this because it’s labelled with a sign that says, “ENORMOUS CANDLE DIPPER.”
As they’re lowered, Riddler reveals that the book he stole has an old Incan riddle that reveals the location of the lost Incan treasure. Batman derides this plan, as the lost treasure is a legend, but Riddler insists that it’s very real.
The fumes start to get to the bad guys, so they head out to watch on the candlescope. (Yes, that’s what Moth calls it, even though it’s an ordinary periscope. What a periscope is doing in a candle factory is left as an exercise for the viewer.) Batman spies a barrel of the solution they use to treat candle wicks, which is explosive when it comes into contact with heat. Batman angles himself so a shaft of sunlight will reflect off his highly polished belt buckle (for those of you wondering what Alfred does all day) and heat up the barrel. It works (and also occasionally blinds Riddler and his henchmen when they look in the scope), but while it gets them out of immediate danger by blowing them off the hook and away from the candle wax, it leaves them unconscious on the floor.
Riddler mistakes them for being dead, and he immediately calls Gordon to taunt him and give him another riddle. Moth wonders why he’s wasting time with all that, and he says that the riddles are the whole point of the crime. Without that, there’d be no point.
Gordon is, of course, devastated at the news of the Dynamic Duo’s demise, as he might actually have to do his job now, and then the Riddler hits him with this: what has four legs, runs day and night, but never gets anywhere?
Batman and Robin wake up to see that the Batmobile is still there—Riddler said it would be too conspicuous where they were going—and they call Gordon, who’s relieved that the heroes are alive.
They deduce that the clue relates to the lion fountain in front of the Gotham City Museum. They head there. We cut to the front of the museum, which has the candle factory van parked in front of it and absolutely no sign of a lion fountain. (In other news, the set designer has been sacked. Mind you, there are two lions, but no evidence that they have any kind of fountain-y function. Robin has a line about a water shortage in an attempt to cover it up, but it’s lame.)
While the henchmen keep an eye out for the cops, Riddler and Moth search the storage room—which is full of medieval torture chambers that Riddler finds awesome and Moth finds creepy.
The Dynamic Duo arrive to see a sign that says that the Hualpo Cuisi sarcophagus will be on display soon. They figure that’s where the Riddler believes the treasure to be.
The museum is locked, but there’s a window open near the top—but the opening’s only big enough for Robin. So he climbs up and goes in—but he’s jumped by Riddler’s henchmen. Fisticuffs ensue, and they manage to capture Robin.
Riddler is devastated to see that Robin is alive. Robin cleverly says that only he survived, that Batman is actually dead. Riddler puts him on the rack.
Not having heard from Robin, Batman goes around to the back of the museum and slams the freight entrance open.
One of the henchman finds a crate that says “ANCIENT INCAN SARCOPHAGUS—DO NOT EXPOSE TO AIR!” (Apparently if it’s exposed to air, it’ll disintegrate.) But before he can open it, Batman arrives and fisticuffs ensue. But there’s a ticking clock, as a candle is heating the solvent wax around the lock on the sarcophagus crate. Batman disposes of the bad guys and puts out the candle just in time. (He actually tries to save Robin first, but the Boy Wonder reminds him of his more important duty.) O’Hara shows up, and the bad guys are all arrested.
Once the exhibit opens, Bruce, Dick, and Aunt Harriet go see it, including the priceless jewels they found in a hidden compartment in the sarcophagus. So the Riddler was right…
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The bat-laser gun frees Batman and Robin’s feet from the Riddler’s super-glue. They examine the universal solvent wax with the hypospectrographic analyzer.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! When Riddler glues the Dynamic Duo’s feet to the floor of the vault, Robin cries, “holy mucilage!” When he realizes that they were poisoned by the Riddler, Robin mutters, “holy iodine!” As they’re lowered into the candle wax, Robin says, “holy paraffin!” When he reminds Batman that maybe saving the priceless artifact is more important than freeing him just at the moment, Robin says, “holy smoke!” All in all, a fairly weak holy week.
Gotham City’s finest. Batman calls for backup, but when Gordon tells O’Hara to go to the museum, he thought he meant the wax museum, so by the time he shows up, it’s all over.
Special Guest Villain. Back after “When the Rat’s Away, the Mice will Play” is Frank Gorshin for his third story of the season. He’ll be back for a fourth appearance in “Death in Slow Motion.”
No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Moth thinks that Batman is dreamy, though Riddler has to remind her that being an arch-criminal means hating Batman not drooling over him. At the end, Moth tries to say that she’s reformed, and Batman, surprisingly, does not lecture her or take pity on her as a young girl who’s just a victim of the jet-setting villain lifestyle, but instead he dismisses her and has her arrested with everyone else. (What, no Bruce Wayne Foundation for Wayward Women Who Wear Ridiculous Purple Capes?)
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“Oh, if only this were the real Batman! Oh, ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.”
“Oh, Riddler honey, that’s beautiful!”
“I wrote it myself.”
–Riddler taking credit for Shakespeare’s work.
One of Riddler’s henchmen is named “Matches,” which is an alias that Batman himself has historically used in the comics. “Matches” Malone is a low-level thug whom Batman has disguised himself as in order to get information.
The show was featured on the cover of the issue of TV Guide for the week this episode was aired.
Madam Soleil is a play on Madam Tussaud, the famous wax statue maker.
Joe E. Tata, who plays one of the thugs, and Elizabeth Harrower, who plays the librarian, will both return, the former as a different thug in “Hizzoner the Penguin”/”Dizzoner the Penguin,” the latter as Drusilla in “Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin.”
Frank Gorshin’s role was sufficiently iconic that he actually recorded a song called “The Riddler,” which he performed live on The Dean Martin Show.
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Two weeks out of jail, and he’s up to his old tricks.” You know, we’re at the point in the season where you really have to wonder about the judges in Gotham City. I mean, robbery, assault, attempted murder, kidnapping of a head of state, and Riddler’s already out of jail?
Anyhow, not much to say about this one that isn’t just geebling about how delightful Frank Gorshin is. I like the copious use of Shakespeare quotes in his verbal repertoire. As usual, if Riddler had just shut up and not dropped hints, he never would’ve been caught. But he himself provides his rationale: he only got into crime so he could do the riddle thing. Plus, he deserves bonus points for trying to stick around and watch Batman die instead of leaving him alone to escape the trap, and only failing to do so because of the fumes. (Mistaking unconsciousness for death is kinda sad, but whatcha gonna do?)
My only significant disappointment in this episode is that we never found out what the Incan riddle was that would enable the Riddler to find the lost treasure, nor did we learn how it was later discovered.
Keith R.A. DeCandido wishes Batman a happy 50th birthday! He has something, er, interesting planned to celebrate the joint 50th anniversaries of his two rewatches, Batman and Star Trek The Original Series. (Cue diabolical laughter.)