“The Contaminated Cowl” / “The Mad Hatter Runs Afoul”
Written by Charles Hoffman
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 2, Episodes 35 and 36
Production code 9739
Original air dates: January 4 and 5, 1967
The Bat-signal: The Mad Hatter steals seven hundred empty hat boxes from Bonbons Box Boutique. Gordon alerts Batman, interrupting Bruce giving a check to Professor Overbeck at Gotham City Atomic Energy Laboratory to aid in his atomic research.
In his hideout, the Mad Hatter is putting away all his stolen hats. Stealing headgear has lost its allure for him. He just wants to steal one final headpiece: Batman’s cowl. He also plans to hit the Headdress Ball in the Top Hat Room of Gotham Tower, hosted by Hattie Hatfield, who will be wearing a fancy headdress held in place by the Hatfield Ruby. It’s an obvious target for him, which means that the Dynamic Duo eventually figure it out, with help from the Bat-computer.
Disguised as the Three-Tailed Pasha of Panshagoram by wearing a fez with three tails on it, the Mad Hatter crashes the party. Batman and Robin bat-climb up Gotham Tower and also crash the party, hiding under the hors d’oeuvres table until the Mad Hatter steals the Hatfield Ruby.
Once Batman reveals the Hatter’s deception, fisticuffs ensue. (At one point, the Hatter slows Batman and Robin down by throwing salads in their faces. Seriously!) The Mad Hatter keeps our heroes at bay by tossing his three-tailed fez onto the floor as a distraction before hitting Batman with radioactive spray. The Mad Hatter escapes, and Batman’s cowl has turned pink with radiation. (I guess the Mad Hatter uses Pepto-Bismolium…)
The Dynamic Duo return to the Batcave, but all of Batman’s spare cowls are being dry-cleaned. Batman took an anti-radiation pill, which will keep him safe for a bit, but he needs the cowl decontaminated. He goes to Overbeck at the Atomic Energy Laboratory for assistance, but Mad Hatter anticipated that, and is able to steal the contaminated cowl. Mad Hatter and his thugs then put Batman and Robin in the X-Ray Generator Tube and Fluoroscopic Screens, where the Mad Hatter irradiates them.
Mad Hatter returns to the lab to find two skeletons wearing Batman and Robin’s masks, capes, and underwear. When Gordon and O’Hara get the news, they are devastated. (We also find out that Gordon keeps a bottle in his desk drawer.) The news travels quickly around the world—but Batman and Robin are still alive! With Overbeck’s help, they survived, putting the skeletons in their place, dressed with spare uniforms kept in the Batmobile. (How Batman went from having no spare cowls to two spare cowls is left as an exercise for the viewer.)
There was a tracker in Batman’s contaminated cowl, which the Mad Hatter has his thugs drop in a water tower. With the Dynamic Duo out of the way, Mad Hatter plans to steal the ruby on a Buddha statue at the Gotham Art Center.
Unable to stand the worldwide mourning and chest-thumping, Bruce calls Gordon and assures him—and the rest of the world—that Batman is alive and well. He and Robin track the tracer he put on the contaminated cowl to the water tower near the Green Derby. Batman and Robin head over there. Polly, the Hatter’s moll (a hat-check girl, natch), leads them to the water tower, where the Mad Hatter and his thugs are waiting. The wind blows off the Hatter’s mesmerizing hat, and so instead fisticuffs ensue, with our heroes triumphant. O’Hara and his people show up to take the bad guys into custody.
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The best the Bat-computer can do when trying to anticipate the Mad Hatter’s next movie is to spit out a list of types of headwear. However, when Batman flicks the Accelerated Concentration Switch, it provides information about the Headdress Ball.
Batman has anti-radiation pills and carries a Bat-X-Ray Deflector in his utility belt.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! When Batman throws the Accelerated Concentration Switch on the Bat-computer, Robin cries, “Holy handiwork, Batman!” When the Mad Hatter throws his three-tailed fez onto the floor, which then explodes as a distraction, Robin yells, “Holy fireworks!” When Robin forgets that the Batmobile is parked out back, Robin mutters, “Holy memory bank.” When they detect the Bat tracer under water, Robin grumbles, “Holy mermaid.” When Polly expresses surprise that Batman and Robin are, in fact, Batman and Robin, Robin tut-tuts, “Holy hoodwink—or holy naïveté, take your pick.” When he sees how many people are happy to see the pair of them alive, Robin cries, “Holy multitudes!”
Gotham City’s finest. When O’Hara and the other cops arrive at the water tower, the film is sped up so they look like the Keystone Kops. Very fitting, that.
Special Guest Villain. David Wayne returns for his second (and final) appearance as the Mad Hatter, following “The Thirteenth Hat” / “Batman Stands Pat.” By all accounts, Wayne hated the role, and had to practically be put in a headlock to reprise the character. To his credit, this shows nowhere in his performance.
No sex, please, we’re superheroes. At the end, O’Hara announces to Batman that Gordon apprehended Polly himself so he could book her personally. Wah-HEY!
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na
“Who made Batman and Robin famous crimefighters? Criminals, that’s who! You want to show a little respect to the departed, stay crooked! That’s the least you can do!”
—the Mad Hatter justifying still being a bad guy even as Gotham mourns Batman and Robin.
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 36 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Dan Greenfield, creator and author of the 13th Dimension web site.
The Mad Hatter’s hideout in the Green Derby restaurant is a play on the Brown Derby, a famous Los Angeles watering hole.
The various telephone operators all do variations on the phone number Pennsylvania-6-5000, which is famously the number of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York. (The hotel still has this number fifty years later, in fact…) The song “Pennsylvania-6 5-000” was made popular by Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters.
Alfred references his cousin Egbert, whom we met in “The Joker’s Provokers.”
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Hold onto me, Commissioner!” Do you know that if you do an internet search on the title of the first part of this two-parter, the primary hits you get aren’t for the episode, but for what it describes? Apparently there are a lot of pink Bat-cowls out there that can be yours for a small price.
I mention this mostly by way of avoiding talking about this two-parter, because there really isn’t a damn thing to say about this idiocy. Nothing in this story makes any damn sense. The Mad Hatter only seems to steal seven hundred hat boxes so that Batman can know he’s at large again. He goes to all the trouble to steal the Hatfield Ruby, even though it turns out to be a fake. He sprays Batman’s cowl with radioactive spray, which somehow only affects the cowl and not the cape (because that’s still blue). Why does Batman make the world think he’s dead? What purpose does it serve? It’s obviously nothing more than an annoyance to him, based on how he responds to Harriet’s mourning, so why even do it in the first place? Also, why are the skeletons only wearing underwear, capes, and masks? Where’s the rest of the costumes? After making a point of making it clear that Batman has no spare cowls, we then discover that he has two—one in the Batmobile (which goes on the skeleton) and one under the cowl he’s currently wearing. But wait, if he was wearing it under the contaminated cowl, wouldn’t it be contaminated, too, that being, y’know, how radiation works? Also shouldn’t Batman and Robin know more about radiation than they do, what with there being an atomic reactor in the Batcave?
Yeah, I’m done. There is absolutely no evidence to support the notion that any actual thought went into the scripting of this episode. Even Adam West and Burt Ward seem to be phoning it in this time ’round.
The only saving grace is the great David Wayne, who is a delight in the role. But it’s not enough to save this episode, which doesn’t even have the comedy or the satire, at least beyond the entertainment value of Batman’s cowl being pink—but that particular joke wears out its welcome long before it goes away. The whole thing is just going through the motions, boringly.
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Shore Leave 38 in Cockeysville, Maryland this weekend. Among other things, the convention will have the debut of Altered States of the Union, the alternate-U.S. anthology with Keith’s story “We Seceded Where Others Failed.” Other anthology contributors who will be guests at the con: Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Meredith Peruzzi, and Aaron Rosenberg. Other con guests include fellow Trek scribes Christopher L. Bennett, Paula M. Block, Greg Cox, Terry J. Erdmann, Dave Galanter, Jeffrey Lang, David Mack, Larry Nemecek, Marco Palmieri, Dayton Ward, Howard Weinstein, and many many others; fellow Stargate scribes Jo Graham and Melissa Scott; actors Karen Gillan, John Noble, Anthony Montgomery, Zoie Palmer, Michael Trucco, Anthony Lemke, Barbara Bouchet, and Michael Forrest; and tons more writers, artists, scientists, actors, and more. Keith’s full schedule is here.