Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend” / “Penguin Sets a Trend” / “Penguin’s Disastrous End”

“Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend” / “Penguin Sets a Trend” / “Penguin’s Disastrous End”
Written by Stanford Sherman
Directed by James B. Clark
Season 2, Episodes 42, 43, and 44
Production code 9741
Original air dates: January 26 and February 1 and 2, 1967

The Bat-signal: Batman and Robin are on their way to a lecture on crime prevention when they discover Penguin directing an armed robbery. Except it turns out he’s literally directing it—he’s actually directing a movie. The Dynamic Duo showed up and beat the crap out of the “thieves” while totally missing the camera crew that was filming the whole thing. (Those masks really need to provide better peripheral vision…)

Penguin even has a permit, which O’Hara provides, and he intends to sue the police and have Batman and Robin arrested. However, Penguin is willing to forego the suit and pressing charges if Batman and Robin are willing to sign a contract to be in his picture.

After heading to GCPD HQ, Batman admits that he knew it was fake and saw the camera crew the whole time. (Robin, though, didn’t, which is why he’s the sidekick, I guess.) But he wanted Penguin to “blackmail” them into being in his movie so he and Robin can keep an eye on the old bird. (What he would have done if Penguin decided to just press charges is left unsaid.)

At the offices of Penguin Pictures, Penguin verifies an order of 24,000 gallons of milk for Scene 12, and then he’s joined by Marsha Queen of Diamonds. He needs her help to finance the studio, which is a front for a huge caper. In exchange, she wants to be the leading lady in his picture—getting a love scene with Batman being the main incentive.

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In the Batcave, the Dynamic Duo are reading over the script, and they get to Scene 12 and realize that the Gotham City League of Film Decency might have an issue with it. They proceed to the studio where they’re ready to film Scene 12, which takes place in a milk bath and involves Marsha wearing only her diamonds. (It has also now transmogrified into 23,000 quarts of milk.) Also at the studio is Harriet, who is, naturally, the head of the GCLFD, and to whom Batman sent the script. Penguin reluctantly cuts the scene, and instead gets ready to film Scene 43, which has Marsha and Batman kissing (though Marsha remains fully clothed). Marsha is wearing lip gloss from her aunt Hilda that’s supposed to have a love potion on it. Batman is able to resist the potion, and they return to Wayne Manor musing on why Penguin wants to film a scene at the Gotham City Museum. Batman took the precaution of putting bat-homing devices on all the art in the museum.

Marsha goes to Hilda for a stronger love potion, but she’s out of old toads. (She also has a new pet, a monster named Mortimer, who appears to have mutated in her cauldron from a frog or something.)

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They’re ready to film at the museum, only to discover that their priceless collection of 15th-century armor is missing. Turns out it’s made from a unique alloy that interferes with the bat-homing devices. Realizing he’s been caught, Penguin starts the scene early, and fisticuffs ensue.

The Dynamic Duo triumph over their Roman-armor-dressed foes, but then Penguin shines a spotlight in their faces, blinding them long enough to be netted by the thugs. Penguin puts them in a catapult that will send them across town—while Penguin films it, of course, with cameras strapped to their ankles. Despite the fact that they could just roll off the catapult at any time, Batman instead goes to the trouble of calculating their trajectory and remote controlling the Batmobile to put it in the position to catch them in the net that happens to be in the trunk.

PenguinDiamond03Somehow, this works, and they head to GCPD HQ. They can’t arrest Penguin yet, as they need to locate the armor first, so Batman and Robin offer to go back to work for Penguin. However, Penguin doesn’t buy it, and kicks them out. Outside the office, Batman makes sure that the intercom to Penguin’s office is on and he goes on a rant about how he’s been bitten by the showbiz bug and is desperate to get back into the acting biz. Penguin takes pity on him, and puts them back in the film.

In Gotham Central Park, Marsha and Hilda seek out old toads, while Batman and Robin return to the Batcave to read the second part of the script.

The next day of filming sees the Dynamic Duo put in suits of armor—though they’re not among the suits stolen from the museum. Penguin then attaches them to a giant magnet and heads off with a bunch of troops dressed in the 15th-century armor in order to attack the Hexagon. He gets in via a meeting with a general who wants to be in the motion picture business. Penguin is willing to offer the general a five-year contract as soon as he retires. In exchange for that, the general lets him film the next scene in Room X—but that gives them access to Room Z, which Penguin and his troops burst into in order to steal state secrets. The armor is impervious to bullets (impressive for 15th-century armor), and so they get away scot-free.

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Batman and Robin manage to extricate themselves from the magnet and drive to the Hexagon, still in the suits of armor. They arrive just as Penguin gets away. Giving chase, our heroes are aided by the laden-down van of Penguin’s blowing a tire from all the extra weight of the armor. Penguin holds off the armored Dynamic Duo with barrels while his thugs take the secrets back to the hideout. After knocking them over, he gasses them with his umbrella and has them tossed into a garbage can (the santiation engineer believes them to just be empty suits of armor).

They’re brought to the hydraulic scrap crusher, which has three settings: tamp down, crunch thoroughly, and smash flat. Luckily, Batman and Robin keep air tanks in their utility belts for the Batmobile’s tires, and were able to use them to counteract the hydraulic pressure and create a safe cocoon of air.

Penguin, meanwhile, has to hide in Hilda’s basement, as he’s now a fugitive. His plan is to rob the sub-treasury, but he needs Hilda’s love potion. Unfortunately, Hilda’s lizards have gotten loose—which is handy for our heroes, as O’Hara mentions the sightings of weird lizards, which prompts the Dynamic Duo to head for that neighborhood, eventually winding up in Hilda’s basement. They see a thug trying to break into the vault and put the bat-cuffs on him. The thug doesn’t squeal, but he does say that Penguin said that after this caper Gotham City would be in the soup. Our heroes deduce that it’s a play on bullion, and that he’s after the gold bullion in the sub-treasury.

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Without the lizards to make the love potion effective, Marsha goes for plan B for distracting the guards: the dance of the seven veils. She dances for the guards while Penguin’s thugs steal the gold from the treasury—and makes it all the way to the sixth veil before Penguin’s done emptying the treasury.

Batman and Robin arrive, but the bad guys all go into the vault and close it. Gordon and O’Hara show up, and our heroes intend to wait them out. But after three days, they’re still in there with a portable stove and plenty of tanks of air. (Why nobody just opens the vault door to get them is left as an exercise for the viewer.)

It turns out that Penguin stole the plans for a solid-gold tank, which his thugs then spent the previous three days constructing from the gold in the sub-treasury. They break out with it and ride through the streets of Gotham—running over O’Hara’s radio car as they go, with the chief only surviving due to a conveniently open sewer cover.

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The Dynamic Duo give chase in the Batmobile, with Robin whipping out the Bat-zooka, taking out the tank in one shot. And then Bruce, Dick, Harriet, and Alfred watch Penguin’s movie, which is being donated to the Wayne Federation of Boys Clubs, which probably violates several laws related to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Batman puts bat-homing devices on every work of art in the Gotham City Museum, which can be detected from the Bat-scope in the Batcave, but can also be blocked by the magnetic properties of a unique 15th-century alloy. Batman has a fully programmable remote control of the Batmobile on his wrist, while Robin keeps a Bat-sound amplifier on him—which is, basically, a stethoscope. And both of them keep air tanks (which are labelled as torches for some reason) in their utility belts. Plus we get the triumphant return of the Bat-zooka!

Meanwhile, Penguin has a Penguin-mobile to get around the studio.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! Upon seeing the camera crew at the staged robbery, Robin cries, “Holy cinescope!” Upon learning what roles he and Batman are playing in the film, Robin mutters, “Holy miscast.” Upon Penguin arriving at the studio on a hastily thrown-down red carpet, Robin grumbles, “Holy movie mogul!” As they’re in the catapult, Robin on-points, “Holy cliffhanger!” As they fly through the air from the catapult, Robin cries, “Holy sub-orbit!” Upon realizing that the second part of the film takes place in the Middle Ages, Robin says, “Holy history.” As Penguin marches out with his soldiers to attack the Hexagon, Robin complains, “Holy catastrophes!” When Batman hits the lamp, which shorts out the fuse and deactivates the magnet, he cries, “Holy bull’s eye!” When Penguin bursts out of the treasury in a gold tank, Robin yells, “Holy armadillos!”

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Gotham City’s finest. O’Hara, in an impressive moment of heroism, if not brains, puts his radio car right in the path of the tank. The car is promptly squished, and doesn’t even slow Penguin and Marsha down.

Special Guest Villains. Like the last three-parter, this is a two-villain team-up, though in this case, both villains appear in all three parts: Burgess Meredith, fresh off that last three-parter as the Penguin, and Carolyn Jones, making her second and final appearance as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. Jones is listed as an “Extra Special Guest Villainess,” though she’s only in one scene in “Penguin Sets a Trend.”

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Dick is very enthusiastic when he declares that, after the kissing scene with Marsha, Bruce will never want to kiss a girl ever again.

Meanwhile, Marsha’s primary purpose in the storyline seems to be as a sex symbol, as we see her nude (covered by a towel borne by two assistants) in one scene and her dancing the seven veils in another.

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

“What could that mangy creature be doing in there?”

“I wish I knew, Chief.”

“And what’s he doing for food?”

“I wish I knew, Commissioner.”

“And what’s he—”

“I wish I knew, Robin.”

–O’Hara, Gordon, and Robin all asking Batman questions he can’t answer, and Batman losing patience by the time it’s Robin’s turn.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 39 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum Ben Bentley, co-moderator of 66batman.com.

The Army officers at the Hexagon are played by well known voice actors: Major Beasley by Bob Hastings, who would later go on to voice Gordon in Batman: The Animated Series and several other DC animated thingies; General MacGruder by Allan Reed, probably best known as the voice of Fred Flintstone.

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In addition to Carolyn Jones, Estelle Winwood returns as Hilda.

Veteran character actor Andy Romano is one of the security guards, which I mention only because he’s always been a favorite of mine, particularly for his recurring role on Hill Street Blues and his supporting role in Under Siege.

The Hexagon is obviously a play on the U.S. military headquarters in the Pentagon, though that building is in Washington D.C., rather than New York/Gotham City.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Never counter Penguins before they’re latched.” It’s obvious that the producers decided that, since the movie featured a villain team-up, and since they needed a way to stanch the hemorrhaging viewership, more team-ups were the way to go. The problem, however, has been in simply awful execution each time. Catwoman was unconvincingly crowbarred into an existing Sandman story, Penguin’s role in the Zodiac three-parter was minimal to nonexistent, which holds true here also, as Marsha serves very little practical purpose in the storyline, almost completely absent from the second part, and doing little in the first and third beyond looking hot and saying, “darling” as often as Burt Ward says, “holy.”

Having said that, the three-parter definitely has its moments. Batman and Robin driving around in the Batmobile while in full suits of armor is epic, the Hexagon robbery is so completely ridiculous as to be hilarious (with the added goofiness of the voice of Fred Flintstone being the idiot general), Batman and Robin’s disgust at the very concept of a love scene with a girl is eye-rollingly droll, for some reason I find the notion of 15th-century armor that’s bulletproof to be delightful, Carolyn Jones’s dry wit provides a nice dose of vinegar amidst the silliness, plus of course there’s Burgess Meredith is having a grand old time as usual. I particularly love how often he uses the director’s megaphone (which is purple, and comes with a tiny umbrella).

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Plus in general, the Penguin’s plan is an entertaining one. The crimes actually progress nicely from one to the next, and it all fits in with Penguin’s common MO of creating the veneer of going straight as a cover for the latest scam.

By the way, I don’t buy for a second that Batman knew all along that the Penguin was filming a scene in the opening of the first part, mostly because subsequent scenes display quite obviously that he’s not that good an actor. He was just BSing Gordon and O’Hara and Robin to save face. Luckily, all three of them are extremely gullible.

Also, these are two of the lamer cliffhangers in the show’s history with awful resolutions. The first is an unnecessarily complicated (and risky) solution to a problem that would have been more easily handled by rolling off the catapult once Pengy and the gang went off to their better vantage point. They couldn’t possibly have been secured to the catapult, since it wouldn’t have worked very well at catapulting them if they were bound to it. And the second is just overwhelmingly silly and complicated, and happens entirely off camera, which is always most unsatisfying. (Amusingly, there’s another deathtrap that doesn’t bridge two episodes that was actually much more effective, to wit, the duo escaping from being stuck on a magnet.)

The ending seems anticlimactic, but I actually kind of liked it, because the fact is, a gold tank would be disastrous. Gold is far too soft a metal to be effective as the building material for a tank, and I had no trouble believing that Robin could take it out with one Bat-zooka shot. (There’s a reason why it was a plan so far buried the Army wasn’t even sure what it was.) I was more confused as to why they didn’t just open the friggin vault door to get at the gang.

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Bat-rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido has never set a trend, nor has he yet met with a disastrous end.

citation

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