Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “The Londinium Larcenies” / “The Foggiest Notion” / “The Bloody Tower”

“The Londinium Larcenies” / “The Foggiest Notion” / “The Bloody Tower”
Written by Elkan Allan and Charles Hoffman
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 3, Episodes 11-13
Production code 1711
Original air dates: November 23 & 30 and December 7, 1967

The Bat-signal: We open with a shot of the Tower Bridge shrouded in fog as William Dozier insists it’s another “crystal-clear” day in Londinium, the capital of the Old World, then cut to the queen’s private museum in Chuckingham Palace, where Lord Marmaduke Ffogg of Ffoggshire and his sister Lady Penelope Peasoup are stealing Her Majesty’s collection of priceless snuffboxes (conveniently labeled, “HER MAJESTY’S PRICELESS SNUFFBOXES”), covering their tracks with fog created by Ffogg’s pipe.

Back in the U.S., Gordon is taking a phone call from the president himself (he stands while on the phone, and O’Hara takes his hat off), who is passing on a request from the first minister to have Batman come to Londinium to solve these fog-bound robberies. Gordon’s heading to Londinium in any case for an International Police Commissioner’s Conference. (No doubt leading a panel called, “Upping Your Clearance Rate By Letting an Unpaid Vigilante Do All Your Work For You.”) He’s invited Barbara along, but she evinces no interest—until her father mentions that Batman’s supposed to come along, at which point, she agrees to accompany him.

Gordon picks up the red phone, which interrupts Dick’s drumming practice (to Bruce’s very very obvious relief) for the Boy Scouts Vaudeville Show (which he’s doing in a Beatles wig). Bruce accepts the first minister’s invitation, probably to spare himself more drumming (and that wig).

Apparently, the need for assistance with the robberies is so urgent that the Gordons are travelling to Londinium by boat. (It generally takes the better part of a week to travel from New York to London by ship.) Bruce, Dick, and Alfred are also on board, allegedly to take care of Wayne Foundation business (which is also obviously not all that urgent if they’re traveling by boat…). Bruce brought along a gigunda crate, which he claims to Barbara contains everything Dick needs to keep up with his studies: a thousand key works of literature, biological specimens, and his desk. (Which is the exact same size as the Batmobile…)

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O’Hara sees them off with flowers and champagne, and they head off in an incredibly leisurely manner toward Londinium. While their ship slowly crosses the ocean, Ffogg and Peasoup commit another robbery, this time of Easterland House to steal Lady Easterland’s precious horde of jeweled Russian Easter eggs (conveniently labeled, “LADY EASTERLAND’S JEWELED EASTER EGGS”). The next day, Peasoup reads in the paper that Batman is slowly wending his way across the pond to stop them. But Ffogg announces that they only have one caper left: the Crown Jewels in the Tower of Londinium. After that, they can retire.

Alfred has set up a secondary Batcave in a dungeon under a country manor house that Bruce has rented, complete with Bat-computer and Batmobile. They drive to Ireland Yard (Alfred gently reminding Batman to drive on the left-hand side of the road) and meet up with Superintendent Watson, along with Gordon and Barbara.

Batman asks to visit Ffogg Place—not, he reassures an outraged Watson, that he suspects a respected aristocrat of these crimes, but only to gather his thoughts, and also compare Ffogg Place’s famous aftergrass lawn with that of Wayne Manor’s (owned by his “good friend” Bruce Wayne, cough cough). Barbara goes along, ostensibly to check out Peasoup’s girls’ finishing school (run by Ffogg’s daughter Lady Prudence, actually a cover for more criminal activity).

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Prudence shows Robin around the grounds, while Peasoup shows Batman and Watson the finishing school. Barbara begs off joining the latter, asking to use their telephone to call some local friends. Ffogg himself is pretending to be laid up with gout, his right foot in a large cast.

The Ffogg butler Basil leads Barbara to the phone, and she tracks down Alfred and has him fetch her Batgirl outfit and bring it to her, which he does in a cab he’s borrowed from his second cousin Cuthbert. She tells Peasoup that she’s being picked up by a friend and that she’ll call later to discuss the faculty position Peasoup has offered her at the finishing school.

While touring the grounds, Peasoup shows Ffogg’s collection of African death bees to Batman and Watson, while Prudence confesses to Robin that the finishing school is a front for training criminals.

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Watson, Batman, and Robin head out, only to find a roadblock, which stops them long enough to be ambushed by Ffogg’s servants. Fisticuffs ensue, with Batgirl joining the fray, Barbara having changed clothes behind a nearby bush. In the melee, one of the thugs places a gas bomb in the Batmobile vent.

Our heroes are triumphant, and they recognize some of them as Ffogg’s staff. They head back to their Londinium Batcave, and the gas bomb goes off when they arrive, though they manage to extinguish the foggy gas before it takes them down.

They reconvene with Watson and Gordon in the former’s office. Watson remains outraged at the very notion of accusing Ffogg and Peasoup of these crimes. Before the discussion can continue, Barbara arrives with a package that was delivered for Batman—which then starts to smoke! Batman declares that it’s about to explode—

—and then the five of them just stand there and do nothing while it smokes and then nothing happens and then they open it to find three silver bells. Yeah, okay.

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There’s a pub on the docks called the Three Bells—Watson used to bend his elbow there before the hippies took over—and there’s a ship going out that day with clothes being sent to their dominions.

Ffogg’s plan is to have Peasoup and her students steal the shipment, and also trap Batman and Robin, who will be at the Three Bells thanks to the clue he sent. Meanwhile, Barbara shows up for her interview with Peasoup—but now her ladyship has to rob a boat, so she leaves Barbara in Prudence’s hands.

The Batmobile arrives at the docks (where there is, I kid you not, a pub called “Chez Shakespeare”) locating both the Three Bells and the ship (labelled “LONDINIUM FASHION FRIGATE”). Batman can’t let Robin go into the pub, as he’s underage—Robin argues that it’s been taken over by hippies and the mod set, but Batman points out (rightly) that Robin isn’t very mod, and most hippies are much older than him. (I’m thinking mostly he wants to get away from the little twerp, as he’s still smarting over the drumming thing, but whatever.)

Batman enters to find Ffogg and his three thugs, and fisticuffs ensue. However, Batman’s alone, since Robin’s stuck out at the Batmobile, and Batman is defeated. For his part, Robin decides to cut the frigate loose so it can’t be robbed, which happens just as Peasoup and her students arrive. They capture Robin easily, since he’s too chivalrous to hit a woman (or five women).

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At Ffogg Place, Barbara ends her interview with Prudence, who takes her everywhere except for the Cricket Pavilion (only Ffogg and Peasoup are allowed there). She also hints to Barbara about the finishing school’s less savory aspects, and then Barbara meets up again with Alfred to obtain her Batgirl costume. She changes clothes and sends Alfred to get a message to her father saying she’ll be late, and also to alert Batman and Robin to the shenanigans at Ffogg Place.

Batgirl breaks into the Cricket Pavilion to find the Count of Claremont’s coin collection, the Duchess of Desborough’s diamonds, and the snuffboxes and Easter eggs. Prudence—who seems to be playing both sides—turns on the paralyzing gas via a valve labeled, “CRICKET PAVILION PARALYZING GAS GAUGE! EMERGENCY USE ONLY!” and gasses Batgirl, leaving her paralyzed.

Ffogg has Batman tied up in the Three Bells and he uses a device that erases his memory. He zones out, and when he comes to, the pub is empty. He struggles out of his bonds and stumbles out onto the docks, completely amnesiac. Alfred shows up, intending to deliver Batgirl’s message (having tracked down the Batmobile), and drives him back to the auxiliary Batcave and gets his memory back. Batman immediately calls Watson, who is meeting with Gordon and O’Hara, who flew over to pick up the minutes for the conference to hand-deliver to Mayor Linseed on Gordon’s behalf and to justify paying Stafford Repp’s salary for the episode. Apparently solving a crime wave isn’t of sufficient moment to take an actual plane across the ocean, but hand-delivering conference minutes is. Sure. (Though I do get that Gordon doesn’t trust international mail, particularly in 1967…)

Meanwhile, Peasoup now has both Batgirl and Robin prisoner; she sends Batgirl down to the dungeon, but Ffogg has a much nastier fate for Robin: tying him to the winch that controls Tower Bridge, and he’ll be killed when the next boat sails under it and the bridge rises. Batman and Alfred arrive, having been sent there by a clue from the Bat-computer, and save him.

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Just as Batman unwinds Robin from the winch, Ffogg and his thugs return, and fisticuffs ensue. Our heroes are triumphant, but Ffogg uses his pipe to create a fog that covers their escape.

Batgirl is still in the dungeon, having finally shaken off the paralyzing gas just in time for Ffogg and Peasoup to toss fatal fog pellets into the dungeon to kill her.

Batman and Alfred go to Ffogg Place in Alfred’s cousin’s cab, while Robin drives over in the Batmobile. The latter arrives to find Batgirl’s suitcase that she kept her costume in, then he hops the fence and goes in. He moves quickly through the grounds, only to trip over the Death Bee Beehive Tripwire, despite the fact that—contrary to the very reason for a tripwire—it’s clearly labelled “DEATH BEE BEEHIVE TRIPWIRE.” The world’s fakest looking bee pokes her head out. Prudence arrives to taunt Robin even as the queen bee lands on his glove.

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Alfred and Batman arrive in Cuthbert’s cab, where they find Batgirl’s suitcase also. Batman resists the temptation to look in the suitcase to see if he can learn her true identity, and sends Alfred to the city to fetch Gordon. (If that was what he was going to do, why have him drive separately to Ffogg Place in the first place????) Batman hops the same fence and enters the grounds.

Ffogg sends the thugs after Batman, but he’s disappointed to see that his lethal fog pellets have gone stale, and Batgirl is still alive. As they go to fetch a fresh bunch of them, Basil calls to inform them that Batman got away from them and is coming to the Cricket Pavilion. (Earlier, Peasoup said that Ffogg is the only person who knows the number to the Cricket Pavilion, which raises the question of how Basil can be phoning them there…) Ffogg angrily fires Basil and then he and Peasoup hide. Batman arrives and goes to the dungeon to rescue Batgirl. Ffogg and Peasoup sneak up behind Batman and toss him down the stairs, and this time use a fresh batch of lethal fog pellets. Prudence then leads Robin in, announcing that he’s been bitten by the African death bee, and it’s only a matter of time before he perishes. Triumphant, Ffogg and Peasoup go off to the Tower of Londinium to steal the Crown Jewels.

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Batman and Robin are able to escape thanks to the stuff in their utility belts. Peasoup’s students are smitten with Robin, and they waylay him, while Batman is able to free Batgirl from her chains.

Alfred (who was last seen being told by Batman to go back to Londinium, yet here he is still there) forces open the very same gate that Batman and Robin couldn’t get through. Take that, Sean Pertwee! He enters the grounds, and overhears Ffogg and Peasoup gloating over the three heroes’ deaths, and also over their plan to steal the Crown Jewels and escape to Argentuela, which has no extradition treaty.

Robin jumps out of the girls’ dormitory, and meets up with Alfred at the Batmobile. Robin has Alfred call Gordon to warn them about the planned theft of the Crown Jewels, while Batman and Batgirl escape by using an Indian rope trick to climb out of the dungeon. (Don’t even ask…) They’re reunited with Robin, and they head off to stop Ffogg and Peasoup and their students.

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At the Tower of Londinium, the bad guys are about to steal the Crown Jewels when Batman, Robin, and Batgirl arrive and fisticuffs (and swordplay) ensue. Ffogg tries to use his pipe, but Batman stops him, and then Watson and some constables show up to take them all away.

Back in Gotham City, the president calls Gordon to thank him and Batman, and also to invite Batman and Robin to a Texas barbecue he wants to hold in their honor, but Batman politely declines. And then Bonnie buzzes Gordon to tell him that Catwoman just made off with some policewomen’s uniforms…

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The Dynamic Duo bring the Bat-computer, the Batmobile, the Batmobile Bat Tracker, and the Recollection Cycle Bat Restorer on their trip. The Batmobile comes equipped with a General Emergency Bat-Extinguisher and an Anti-Mechanical Bat-Ray (which is stored in the bat-glove compartment), and Batman always keeps some Anti-Lethal Fog Bat-Spray, a bat-file, and a Pipe of Fog Bat-Reverser in his utility belt. For his part, Robin’s utility belt is well stocked with anti-African Death Bee antidote pills.

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Batgirl has an anti-eavesdrop plug that she puts on the Ffogg phone (which is good, as Ffogg, Basil, and pretty much the entire household staff is eavesdropping on the conversation).

 

Holy #@!%$, Batman! When Watson first mentions the fake fog, Robin grumbles, “Holy haziness.” When Prudence informs him that the finishing school is teaching the girls to be criminals, Robin on-the-noses, “Holy contributing to the delinquency of minors!” When they hit a roadblock, Robin again on-the-noses, “Holy roadblocks!” When Batgirl shows up, Robin once again on-the-noses, “Holy show-ups!” (Really! He said that!) When the gas bomb goes off in the Batmobile, Robin coughs, “Holy surprise parties!” When Watson decries the notion that Ffogg and Peasoup could possibly be criminals, Robin utters, “Holy gullibility!” When they open the gift of three silver bells, Robin literary references, “Holy tintinnabulation!” (This is officially my new favorite “holy” utterance, mostly because I love the Edgar Allan Poe poem in question, which actually isn’t one of his best, but what I love about it is the use of “tintinnabulation” in order to make the meter work, so the fact that Robin references it is awesome. Obviously, Poe’s poetry is one of the thousand works of literature he allegedly brought with.) When Watson tells them that there are hip clothes from Barnaby Street being shipped out that day, Robin intones, “Holy rising hemlines!” When the girls insist that their mistreatment of Robin was merely a scholastic exercise, Robin complains, “Holy homework.” When Batman tells Robin that he and Batgirl escaped via an Indian rope trick, Robin says, “Holy levitation.”

Gotham City’s finest. Gordon is in Londinium for a conference of police commissioners. Meanwhile, Watson is about as effective as his Gotham counterpart, more’s the pity, though at least we know it’s probably at least in part because he likes to hoist a few at his local. Oh, and he has a red phone in his office for no obvious reason, though apparently Batman can call it from a red phone he brought from the U.S., something that cannot possibly have worked in 1967.

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Special Guest Villains. Rudy Vallee plays Ffogg, while Glynis Johns plays Peasoup. Vallee was making a comeback on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (also starring in the film version that came out the same year as this episode), though it’s not clear why, on a show that was never afraid to cast Brits in other roles (including the female half of this duo), an American was cast. Then again, I’m still trying to figure out what they were thinking casting Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. The girls at the finishing school are ga-ga over Batman and especially Robin.

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

“These surroundings have a familiar feel.”

“Yes, Batman, décor in a police department varies little the world over.”

–Batman and Gordon lampshading the fact that Watson’s office is a redress of the set for Gordon’s.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 57 by host John S. Drew with special guest chums, Jim Beard (Gotham City 14 Miles), Andrew Leyland (Hey Kids, Comics! podcast), and Ben Bentley (66batman.com).

Madge Blake makes her final appearance as Harriet in “The Bloody Tower.” She only appeared onscreen twice more—in an episode of The Doris Day Show and the TV movie Hastings Corner—before she died in 1969 of arteriosclerosis.

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Maurice Dallimore returns as Watson, having previously played Sir Sterling Habits in “The Bat’s Kow Tow” and the UK delegate in the feature film.

The first draft script was by Elkan Allan, a Brit and also a producer of Ready Steady Go! This was his first work for American television, and script editor Charles Hoffman took a stab at it, probably to make it more Batman-ish.

Just as Gotham City is a riff on New York and New Guernsey a play on New Jersey, Londinium is a play on London—though London was allowed to be London in “The Cat’s Meow” / “The Bat’s Kow Tow.” Chuckingham Palace, Ireland Yard, the Tower of Londinium, Barnaby Street, and Bleet Street are plays on Buckingham Palace, Scotland Yard, the Tower of London, Carnaby Street, and Fleet Street, respectively.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Cool it, Ringo.” Most of the time, I don’t subscribe to the so-bad-it’s-good theory of viewing things. I mean, some things are so bad that they have entertainment value, and some things are deliberately absurd for its own sake.

Batman ’66 dances all over the line on that particular score, never more so than in this three-parter. Ultimately, though, it winds up failing, mostly because the absurdities aren’t there for the fun of it or for satirical purposes or for camp purposes, but because they decided they were going to do a London—sorry, Londinium story, and dammit, they were going to make it work no matter how many contortions they had to twist themselves into.

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And hoo-hah, do they twist themselves. We have to have the Batmobile, so we have our heroes go over the ocean on a ship to help solve the crimes—a process so slow that another crime takes place while they’re en route! And the only reason to go by ship is so they can contrive an excuse to get the Batmobile across the pond. And then when they finally arrive, we get a bunch of obvious Southern California locations and redressed sets, with absolutely no feeling that we’re in the Old World except for some bog-obvious stock footage. The somewhat surreal feeling that the obvious sets provide actually kind of works in Gotham, which is so completely fictionalized (for all that they’re playing at being New York), but this storyline shatters that illusion because Londinium is just as fake, even though it’s a much more direct analogue to a real place (one with far more history, too).

So much doesn’t make sense here. Why does Ffogg use his pipe to cause fog after they’ve broken in to cover their escape? Besides the fact that there aren’t any witnesses in general, wouldn’t it make more sense to cover their breaking and entering as well as their escape? Why does Prudence play both sides? That never pays off. Neither does Ffogg’s fake gout, which barely survives the first part, and is hardly mentioned after that (though it makes for a dandy alibi, at least until he stupidly abandons it). How is stealing a bunch of clothes bound for export going to give Ffogg and Peasoup control of London’s fashion industry? (Probably the same way winning a surfing contest would lead to Joker ruling the world…) We won’t even go into the Indian rope trick…

The pacing in this three-parter is appalling, with the odd decision not to end individual episodes on proper cliffhangers made all the stupider by having actual mid-episode cliffhangers that would have been much better suited to bridging the week between episodes (like Robin tied up in the Tower Bridge winch). I mean, it’s not as lame as Batman answering the phone at the end of “The Sport of Penguins,” but it’s still pretty weak-tea stuff.

On top of that, we’ve got the cutesy-winky bits regarding what Charles Hoffman thinks British dialogue and culture is like (for example, the need to use every bit of clichéd Cockney slang whenever Ffogg’s thugs are speaking) and the sledgehammering of Batgirl into a story for which she is utterly unsuited and unnecessary—unlike the other stories this season, Batgirl doesn’t actually accomplish much of anything. Worse, on three separate occasions, Barbara says, “I’ll explain later” with regards to how she accomplished something, and she never actually explains any of it.

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At this point, the contrivances to keep the three heroes’ identities secret have cut off the air supply to my disbelief. I just find it impossible to credit that nobody even suspected that Batman and Robin aren’t actually Bruce and Dick, who happen to be going to Londinium at the same time as Batman and Robin on the same ship (ship!!!!!) as Gordon and Barbara and oh yeah, they have a Batmobile-sized crate in cargo. Not to mention Batgirl showing up at the same time as Barbara, and also Batman now knowing that Alfred has a relationship with Batgirl.

 

From all accounts, Rudy Vallee was a chore to work with on the set, which makes the decision to cast him even more incomprehensible, especially since he’s pretty dreadful in the role, providing about as much excitement as equally somnabulent performances from Art Carney and Van Johnson and Michael Rennie. Which is all the more unfortunate because Glynis Johns is magnificent as Peasoup. Her daffy charm works perfectly in the role. Pity it’s wasted here. Apparently, stretching this to three parts was a way to amortize the considerable cost of having both Vallee and Johns on the show. They should’ve just stuck with Johns and done this is as a single episode or a two-parter. Sheesh.

Bat-rating: 1

Keith R.A. DeCandido was last in London in 1999, and he really wants to go back.

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