“Batman’s Anniversary” / “A Riddling Controversy”
Written by William P. D’Angelo
Directed by James B. Clark
Season 2, Episodes 45 and 46
Production code 9745
Original air dates: February 8 and 9, 1967
The Bat-signal: Bruce is helping Dick with geometry homework involving cutting up a pie, but it’s interrupted by the Bat-phone. Gordon’s news is so bad he won’t even discuss it over the phone—or in his office. He insists they meet at the Gotham Plaza Hotel—which turns out to be a surprise anniversary party for Batman.
Mayor Linseed says that the proceeds for this luncheon will be given to Batman’s favorite charity, which is placed in a golden calf and presented on a tray. However, green gas explodes in the room, and several firefighters show up instantly to put out the nonexistent fire—it’s all a cover, of course, for the Riddler, who steals the golden calf full of money earmarked for charity and makes his escape in a fire department van.
The Dynamic Duo give chase in the Batmobile, but they lose him. Batman gets a copy of the Gotham Herald, which Riddler hinted would have the clue to his next crime. The Sons of Balboa are holding a banquet at the Basin Street Hotel, but a water main explosion under the Gotham City Bank, flooding their vault. Batman and Robin realize it’s a bit of word play: a bank wet. Sending Gordon to the Basin Street Hotel just in case, they hie in the Batmobile to the bank.
Wearing breathing gear, Batman and Robin find Riddler and his goons in scuba gear, robbing the bank. Very slow, languid underwater fisticuffs ensue, but Riddler and his gang escape by pulling out Robin’s breathing mask, thus keeping Batman busy saving Robin, and allowing their egress.
We cut to Riddler’s hideout which is on the site of the soon to be opened Noman Jigsaw Puzzle Factory, which we know from the sign that says, “ON THIS SITE, SOON TO BE OPENED, THE NOMAN JIGSAW PUZZLE FACTORY.” The loot from the bank and the golden calf is half of what Riddler needs to buy a weapon so awesome that he’ll be able to blackmail the city. The creator of that weapon, Professor Charm, is looking forward to Riddler using the weapon, but he insists on the three million bucks for it.
Batman and Robin have failed to solve Riddler’s latest clue, left at the bank—”When is a man drowned but still not wet?”—so they attend to their appointment to pose for the marshmallow figures that will be atop the giant cake in Batman’s honor that has been baked.
But once they get on top of the cake, they discover that the cake is made of quicksand. Riddler goes off to Gotham Park to steal the rest of the money being given to Batman’s favorite charity for the anniversary. Belatedly, Robin realizes that quicksand is the answer to the riddle, as you drown in quicksand but never get wet.
They manage to calm themselves enough so that they “float” in the quicksand, then activate the rockets in their boots. But they’re too late to stop the Riddler from robbing the charity funds, which happens off camera.
Riddler’s latest clue is about an eagle’s nest, and Batman, Robin, Gordon, and O’Hara eventually figure out that he’s after Anthony Aquilla, a South American dictator living in exile in Gotham City, and who has a million dollars in his wall safe. Riddler could also be targeting a club called the Aerie, where many of Gotham’s elite wine and dine. Sending the cops to the Aerie, Batman and Robin proceed to Aquilla’s penthouse apartment. They arrive to find Riddler’s emptying the wall safe.
Fisticuffs ensue, but while the Dynamic Duo are triumphant, the Riddler has Aquilla in a deathtrap. Batman and Robin are forced to let Riddler escape while they save Aquilla.
Riddler gives the three million to Charm, who hands Riddler the demolecularizer—which looks like a cheap-ass flashlight, but can in fact disintegrate pretty much anything. Turns out he needs the three million to fund the creation of the remolecularizer, which will reverse the effects of what he just sold the Riddler.
Riddler instructs Gordon and Batman to meet him at the statue of Marshal Coley, one of Gotham’s war heroes, which Riddler then disintegrates to show off his new weapon. He threatens to make GCPD HQ disappear next, unless Gotham is declared an open city with all criminal statutes.
Another riddle is left with the ransom demand, which somehow Batman and Robin trace to the Noman Jigsaw Puzzle Factory. How almost doesn’t matter (it involves solving a riddle that every college student knows the answer to, yet it takes our heroes the better part of an hour to nail it, as well as assigning numbers to letters). Batman then orders Gordon to send 400 pounds of sodium dichloride—a nonexistent compound, by the way—to the Bat-copter. Meanwhile, Gordon has his bomb squad search the building for the means by which Riddler will destroy the building. They don’t find it, but Batman used the sodium dichloride to seed the clouds over Gotham to make lightning strike at GCPD HQ, thus shorting out the demolecularizer. Batman and Robin show up at the Noman Jigsaw Puzzle Factory where fisticuffs ensue.
After it’s all over, Charm returns the money, unable to stand having stolen charity money on his conscience.
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! We get both the Bat-copter (once again using recycled movie footage) and the Bat-cycle, as well as Bat-breathing apparatus for the underwater fight. Oh, and supposedly Batman and Robin have rockets in their boots. This along with the springs and the bulletproof soles…
Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy cryptology,” is what Dick says when Gordon is all mysterious about why he calls. “Holy trampoline!” is what Robin on-the-noses when Riddler lands on a Gotham City Fire Department trampoline, decorated, of course, with a question mark. “Holy fork in the road,” Robin grumbles when they lose the Riddler’s escape vehicle. “Holy Titanic,” Robin puns as they sink into the quicksand. “Holy Houdini,” is what he cries when Riddler makes the Coley statue disappear.
Gotham City’s finest. Twice Batman comes up with two alternative answers to a Riddler conundrum. Twice, he sends Gordon and his men to one while he and Robin take the other. Twice, the one Batman goes to is the right one. Having said that, O’Hara manages to capture Riddler’s moll, Anna Gram, though not before she kicks Robin in the shin—which, don’t get me wrong, is fantastic.
Special Guest Villain. Frank Gorshin insisted on $5000 per one-hour episode, rather than the $2500 William Dozier was willing to pay, especially in the more budget-strapped second season. Having arrived at an impasse with Gorshin, they tried rewriting a Riddler script for the Puzzler, but that proved less than efficacious, so they instead re-cast the role with the former Gomez Addams, John Astin—having already cast his Morticia, Carolyn Jones, as Marsha Queen of Diamonds twice before this season.
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“We know that the caked crusaders are defunct, departed, demised, dead!”
–Riddler being convinced that his quicksand cake killed the Dynamic Duo and also showing his love of alliteration.
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 40 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum Jim Beard, editor of the essay collection Gotham City 14 Miles.
The Riddler flooding a bank and robbing it in scuba gear was inspired by the character’s very first appearance in Detective Comics #140 by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang.
Byron Keith returns as Mayor Linseed, last seen in front of the camera in “Deep Freeze.” He’ll be back in the third season’s “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club.”
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “You want me to pay three million dollars for an eighty-nine-cent pencil flashlight?” I try very hard not to hold this episode against John Astin. It’s really not his fault that he had to fill Frank Gorshin’s silly purple boots, and that’s just asking too much of anyone. Had Astin been cast as the Riddler from jump, his sardonic turn as the prince of puzzles might have worked, but coming after Gorshin made such an indelible mark on the part, practically redefining it forevermore, there was just nothing he could do. It didn’t help that he played Riddler more or less the same way he played Gomez Addams, which just made it even more frustrating.
It additionally didn’t help that the script—the only one by line producer William D’Angelo—just goes through the motions. The whole thing with Batman’s anniversary celebration starts out promising, but it’s just the excuse for a bunch of heists. Having the thefts all be of money people are giving to Batman’s favorite charity should make the stakes more personal for the Caped Crusader, but that never even seems to affect Batman. Hell, we never even find out what the charity is!
It’s funny, “The Puzzles are Coming” / “The Duo is Slumming” feels like a hastily rewritten Riddler episode, and this one feels like a hastily rewritten Puzzler episode. They’d have been better off either (a) creating another new villain for Astin or (b) having Astin be the new Puzzler or (c) just bringing Maurice Evans back. I get wanting to use the Riddler, given that he was the most popular villain in the first season and movie, but it isn’t the character that made villain popular, it was the actor, and the story suffers without him.
Not that there isn’t plenty of suffering to go ’round. Deanna Lund is wasted as Anna Gram, Riddler’s moll, who has nothing to do until the very end, when she kicks Robin in the shin—which, I say again, is fantastic, but it’s too little too late. The underwater fight scene in “Batman’s Anniversary” is a good concept, but the execution falls apart—slowing down the theme music doesn’t do it any favors, and the amusement value of the languid underwater punches and kicks (not to mention the sound effects that float up to the surface) wears off after about four and a half seconds.
And you have to wonder what it is about villains stealing money to buy things when they should just steal the thing. We saw this with Catwoman and now again with the Riddler. It’s just silly.
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be appearing at Intervention 7 this weekend, alongside actors Rene Auberjonois, Robert Axelrod, Gigi Edgley, Todd Haberkorn, Alex Kingston, Juliet Landau, Jon St. John, and Dwight Schultz; fellow authors David Gerrold and John Peel; musicians Thomas Dolby and Ego Likeness; director Rachel Talalay; and tons more, including cartoonists, filmmakers, bloggers, bellydancers, etc. Keith will have a table where he’ll be signing and selling books, and will also be doing lots of programming, including an Author Spotlight Sunday at 9am where he’ll be reading from one of his upcoming works of fiction. Check out his full schedule here.