Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “Catwoman Goes to College” / “Batman Displays His Knowledge”

“Catwoman Goes to College” / “Batman Displays His Knowledge”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Robert Sparr
Season 2, Episodes 49 and 50
Production code 9747
Original air dates: February 22 and 23, 1967

The Bat-signal: Catwoman, currently incarcerated at Gotham State Penitentiary (and still in costume, albeit with her prisoner number on a sticker over her heart), is brought to Warden Crichton’s office to meet with the warden and Bruce to be informed that she’s been granted parole on the condition that Bruce be her parole officer. She then declares that she owes her career as a criminal to her being a dropout, so she enrolls in Gotham City University.

Not long after she matriculates, three guys steal the life-size statue of Batman that’s on campus. Gordon wouldn’t normally bother Batman with what’s probably a prank, but given that it’s the Caped Crusader’s graven image, they call, and he answers.

While it might be a prank or a hazing ritual or some such, Batman fears a more sinister motive, as the statue is made from a cast of Batman’s body and the costume an exact plaster replica of his. (Why Batman allowed such a thing is left as an exercise for the viewer.) The only clue to the perpetrator is the first-year beanie left behind. It’s not much of a clue, as there are 5700 male first-years at GCU, and 3127 of them wear a beanie of that size. Batman finds a strand of red hair in the beanie, one totally missed by GCPD’s forensics team. He takes it with him to the Batcave.

Catwoman meets with the three Bat-statue thieves in the basement of the Eta Beta Lotka sorority house. Using the statue as a guide, Catwoman has sewn a Bat-costume, and one of her henchmen can do a perfect impersonation of Batman. He tries on the Batsuit, and even fools Catwoman for a moment. (Though none of them notice that he’s put on the utility belt upside down…)

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Batman and Robin are guest lecturers for the Elementary Criminology class, which both Catwoman and the henchman who lost his beanie attend. They say that they catch more criminals in the bat-lab than they do in the field (which is categorically not true), and Batman provides the findings on the strand of hair they found in the beanie: it belongs to a man who is six feet, one and three-quarter inches in height, is 36 years old, has flat feet, a deep voice, and hay fever—in other words, a perfect description of the henchman. He legs it, and Catwoman causes the bell to ring prematurely. Nobody comments on the fact that the class is only two minutes long (at first, anyhow—Robin mentions it later), and then Catwoman contrives to get a moment alone with Batman. They share a milkshake in the school cafeteria, and she says she wants to work alongside Batman when she graduates.

Their cat-a-tete is interrupted by Batman’s arrest for robbing a supermarket (actually committed by the Bat-disguised henchman). He’s arrested by Captain Courageous (really!), an L.A. cop in Gotham on an exchange program, who doesn’t realize that Batman is (a) a superhero and (b) a close personal friend of Courageous’s new boss. He has Batman call the law firm of “Alfred and Alfred,” and the butler shows up in the prison cell as “Serge Tort,” who specializes in felonies, misdemeanors, and overtime parking tickets. While they pretend to have a lawyerly conversation, they trade clothes and make Bruce up to look like Alfred.

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Bruce heads home and leaves Alfred behind. Courageous gloats to Gordon about the joker named Batman that he threw in jail, and Gordon tears him a new one. Meanwhile, O’Hara has informed Gordon of a spontaneous sit-in being planned in Chimes Square by a bunch of GCU students, led by Catwoman. Gordon informs Bruce, as Catwoman’s PO, and then calls Batman to let him know—but, of course, he already knows, which Gordon, being particularly stupid, chalks up to Batman’s brilliance rather than he himself informing the guy he just talked to on the phone with the same voice a few minutes earlier.

According to the bat-calendar, there are half a dozen cat-related events, any one of which could be her ultimate goal. They attend her protest, and keep the craziness at bay, so Catwoman heads to the roof of the Chimes Building. Batman and Robin follow, and fisticuffs ensue on the roof. The henchmen are taken care of, but Catwoman pretends to cry as cover to gas them with her atomizer.

There’s a mechanical ad for Crespies Coffee on the roof, which pours coffee into a cup every minute. Catwoman has replaced the coffee with sulfuric acid—let’s see if they can taste the difference!

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Our heroes escape by taking advantage of the first few drops of acid that trickle down before the gush to burn through Batman’s ropes, then he uses his batarang to hit the master switch and turn the ad off.

(As they’re escaping, Robin expresses amazement at all these life-threatening scrapes they keep getting into and getting out of, almost as if someone was dreaming up the scenarios and controlling their destiny. Batman poo-poohs this as something that only happens in the movies. “This is real life.”)

Catwoman robs the sale of a selection of Batagonian catseye opals, which is exactly what Batman planned. The villain herself goes to French Freddy’s Fencing Academy and meets in the back room (helpfully labelled with a sign that reads, “BACK ROOM”) to meet with the proprietor, Freddy Touché, who is a fence. (Get it?????) But the catseye opals are too hot, Freddy won’t touch them.

Our heroes also go to Freddy, as he’s the most likely fence for the opals, but he claims he’s out of the game. (Batman also totally kicks his ass in a duel.) Freddy goes to Catwoman to let her know that Batman’s alive. Catwoman herself has had no luck fencing the opals, so Freddy suggests turning them in for the reward—but then Freddy examines the opals and discovers they’re fakes—which is why Batman was okay with Catwoman stealing them, as he’s the one who had them replaced with fakes.

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Catwoman sends a message saying she’ll surrender herself, but only to Batman at a suburban real estate development. She tries flirting with him, which almost works, until she suggests killing Robin. And, of course, it was all bullshit (catshit?), as she was wearing deadly perfume. But Batman suspected she’d try that and wore noseplugs. So Catwoman goes for Plan B, which is to sic her henchmen on him. But then Robin shows up, so the odds are a bit more even, and fisticuffs ensue. Our heroes are victorious, and Catwoman goes back to prison, having destroyed Crichton’s faith in his rehabilitation methods.

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Batman keeps a pair of tweezers (which, surprisingly, have no chriopteric accoutrements) in his utility belt. He also has an electronic hair bat-analyzer that is more sophisticated than anything in the GCPD lab (or, indeed, anything that exists even now five decades later…). Alfred brings the Bat-makeup kit which is able to make Bruce look just like Alfred. The Bat-calendar provides punch cards that give out salient information on happenings of the day that relate to their crime fight du jour. The Bat-syllable device creates phonemes in Bruce’s voice when Alfred types them in, allowing “Bruce” to talk on the phone with Gordon while Batman is also in Gordon’s office. The Well Known Criminals File provides information on, er, ah, well-known criminals…

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Holy #@!%$, Batman! When Captain Courageous identifies himself as being from Los Angeles, Robin grumbles, “Holy Hollywood.” When Bruce knows the bat-phone is going to buzz with the news of the Chimes Square sit-in, Dick utters, “Holy crystal ball!” When they’re trapped in the coffee ad, Robin cries, “Holy caffeine!” Upon learning of the theft of the catseye opals, Robin yells, “Holy bijoux!” (Batman helpfully informs the audience that “bijoux” is French for “jewels,” so we can all see how really clever Robin is.) When Freddy offers Batman fencing lessons, Robin sneers, “Holy Zorro, don’t you know that Batman is the finest fencer in the country?” When Batman predicts that Catwoman will deliver a message to Gordon two seconds before that message arrives, Robin cries, “Holy hypotheses!”

Gotham City’s finest. While hair analysis was still a burgeoning field in the late 1960s, it was established enough that any competent cop or police scientist would have seen the red hair in the beanie and taken it for analysis. However, as we all know, Gotham City has no competent cops or police scientists….

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They’re also doing an exchange program with Los Angeles, with LAPD Captain Courageous working for the GCPD. (I’d love to see O’Hara sent to L.A.) Oh, and Gordon apparently has had his suspicions that Batman is really Bruce, but after hearing the incredibly convincing and not at all robotic and awkward Bat-syllable device pretending to be Bruce and not at all Alfred typing, Gordon happily declares that theory to be ludicrous. As always, whenever Gordon is being dense, O’Hara has to double down and be even denser, as he scoffs at the very notion of a millionaire playboy being Batman.

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Catwoman tries to use her feminine wiles on Batman, and it almost works. In a rare bit of good sense, Robin follows Batman in secret, holding himself in reserve in case Batman succumbed to Catwoman’s charms. Robin himself is immune, as he proudly declares himself to be too young for that sort of thing.

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Special Guest Villainess. Julie Newmar makes what turns out to be her final appearance on the series as Catwoman, but also her tenth and eleventh appearances in the second season, making her most prolific villain of the middle portion of the show’s run. Even with only two first-season episodes to her credit and not appearing in the third season, Newmar’s thirteen total episodes makes her the series’ third most prolific villain, following Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith with 23 and 22, respectively.

Just as her unavailability for the movie saw her replaced with Lee Meriwether, her unavailability for the third season, due to filming the movie Mackenna’s Gold, would lead to her being replaced again, this time by Eartha Kitt. However, Newmar will return to the role in voice form in the forthcoming animated special Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (which will also feature Adam West and Burt Ward as the voices of Batman and Robin, and which will be reviewed by your humble rewatcher, worry not).

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

“Commissioner, the Batman’s escaped! Tied up a lawyer and walked out in disguise!”

“Ha ha ha, good old Batman! No jail can hold him, not even ours. He’s probably at the Batcave already.”

–Courageous being shocked and Gordon being appallingly blasé about an alleged hero breaking out of jail, especially since his arrest was perfectly kosher.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 42 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, “View from the Longbox‘s” Michael Bailey.

The window cameo is Art Linkletter, looking for subjects for his People are Funny show, but he’s having trouble finding anyone in Gotham City who is strange, ha ha ha.

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Captain Courageous is played by Stanley Adams, probably best known as Cyrano Jones in the historic Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” (as well as the animated sequel, “More Tribbles, More Troubles“). Amber Forever, the woman selling the catseye opals, is played by Whitney Blake, who would go on to co-create the classic sitcom One Day at a Time. The hay-fever-suffering henchman is played by Sheldon Allmann, who is better known for his musical talents, having composed the theme to George of the Jungle, as well as music for Space Patrol, Let’s Make a Deal, and Masquerade Party, and he was also Mr. Ed‘s singing voice. And David Lewis makes his final appearance of the season as Crichton; he’ll be back in another Catwoman story, her team-up with the Joker in “The Funny Feline Felonies.”

Catwoman’s henchmen are named Cornell, Penn, and Brown, all names of universities.

The New York references are fast and furious in this one: Chimes Square (Times Square), Gotham City Square Garden (Madison Square Garden), Avenue of the Armenians (Avenue of the Americas), Spay Stadium (Shea Stadium), and Norchester (Westchester).

Bruce mentions that he has met Catwoman, which seems to be a reference to the movie, which is the only other time Catwoman has interacted with Bruce.

The model house where Batman and Catwoman have their final interaction is the same set used for Brit Reid’s home in The Green Hornet.

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Pow! Biff! Zowie! “I can give you more happiness than anyone in the world.” A disappointing swan song for Julie Newmar that is only watchable because of her. A lot of good ideas are thrown against the wall here, but the script doesn’t even wait around to see if they stick or not. The idea of a fake Batman is an intriguing one that almost nothing is done with. Batman breaks out of jail, and not only are there no consequences, no reluctance, no moralizing, but Gordon actually laughs about it!

Catwoman going to college would seem to provide an opportunity for some hijinks—and possibly some Horse Feathers-style satire, to lampoon college life the way “Hizzoner the Penguin”/”Dizzoner the Penguin” lampooned politics or “Penguin Sets a Trend” lampooned the military—but, again, nothing is done with it once the premise is thrown out there. And Robin lampshading the repetitive nature of the cliffhangers does nothing to make the cliffhangers less repetitive in general, nor anything to make this one less lame in particular.

There’s a lot of unkosher behavior from Batman here, starting with his using his influence to get himself assigned as Catwoman’s parole officer, a maneuver that also has no effect on the plot whatsoever, then his breaking out of jail despite being legally arrested, and then his almost succumbing to Catwoman’s fake flirting. Speaking of that fake flirting, it’s almost the exact same thing we got at the end of “Scat! Darn Catwoman,” down to Batman almost being willing to go along with Catwoman’s proposal (ahem) until she casually mentions killing Robin.

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The one thing Stanley Ralph Ross’s script does right is give Newmar ample opportunity to work her charm, her wit, her slink, her gestures, and her superb comic timing. Points also to the Eta Beta Lotka sorority (I think everyone should eat a better latke), to the superb comedic work by Jacques Bergerac as Freddy the Fence (the visual gag of him using the fencing mask to strain his pasta is epic), and to Stanley Adams for making us wish they’d cast him as O’Hara instead of Stafford Repp.

Bat-rating: 4

Keith R.A. DeCandido is one of the two Author Guests of Honor at EerieCon 18 in Grand Island, New York this coming weekend, alongside Victor Gischler. Other guests include authors Erik Buchanan, Sèphera Girón, Derwin Mak, Michael Martineck, John-Allen Price, Darrell Schweitzer, Shirley Meier, and Mason Winfield; scientists David DeGraff and David Stephenson; poet David Clink; game developers Lynn Merrill and Alex Pantaleev; and many more. Keith will be doing a Q&A, various panels and presentations, and a reading. Keep an eye on his blog for the full schedule.

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