“Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Sam Strangis
Season 3, Episode 14
Production code 1717
Original air dates: December 14, 1967
The Bat-signal: Gotham City’s ten best-dressed women are being announced at Le Chat Maison by Rudi Gernreich, and he also presents a special award to Batgirl for being the best-dressed crime-fightress. Catwoman shows up with her two thugs, Manx and Angora, to protest Batgirl winning anything when she’s around. She tosses a hair-raising bomb at the ten women, and it makes their hair go all poofy.
Gordon and O’Hara are present to accept the award on Batgirl’s behalf and they proceed to do nothing but thumpher while Catwoman does her thing, and then they head straight to the Bat-phone, because heaven forfend they do their jobs.
Bruce and Dick are actually in town shopping for a tuxedo when Bruce’s pen beeps, indicating Gordon’s call. They change clothes in Bruce’s limo and leg it to GCPD HQ, where Barbara is visiting her dad. She suggests using Batgirl as bait, but Batman patronizes her, tells her not to worry her pretty little head, and says to leave the crime-fighting to the men. It’s possible something was said after this, but I was too busy throwing up at the misogyny.
Catwoman’s hideout is an abandoned loft in the heart of the garment district (conveniently labelled with a sign that just says “ABANDONED” across the door). Her target is the Golden Fleece, a dress made of 24-karat gold owned by Queen Bess of Belgravia, who is visiting Gotham City.
She sends a taunting telegram to Gordon, saying she plans to hit the annual fashion show at Fashionation Magazine’s showroom. He shares this with Batman, who urges Gordon not to tell Batgirl, as it might be a trap for the latter. However, Barbara is visiting Gordon, who tells her, since she’s not Batgirl (har har).
Catwoman does indeed hit the fashion show, and so do the Dynamic Duo—who are stopped by a net Manx and Angora throw over them—and Batgirl—who pulls the net off them. Catwoman escapes to the women’s dressing room, knowing Batman and Robin won’t go in to that hallowed and forbidden no-man’s land (a phrase used by both Catwoman and Robin). Batgirl can go in safely, though, but she is immediately ambushed and kidnapped by Catwoman.
When Batgirl’s been in over a minute, Batman and Robin bite the bullet, cover their eyes, and enter. They stumble around the room for quite a while before the models take pity on them and say they’re fully clothed.
Catwoman plans to steal the Golden Fleece at three o’clock when the queen is scheduled to have an audience with Batman—but Batman will be too busy rescuing Batgirl to be with the queen, so Catwoman is free to steal the dress. She ties Batgirl to a platform and sets a pattern-cutter on her.
Batman and Robin figure out that Catwoman’s target is the Golden Fleece, and they head out to GCPD HQ to meet up with Gordon and O’Hara for their audience with Queen Bess. Catwoman then calls to provide the address where Batgirl is trapped. They send Gordon and O’Hara ahead to the Belgravian embassy, then use the Bat-phone to have Alfred rescue Batgirl (which he does while disguised as the world’s oldest hippie, done to preserve Batman and Robin’s secret IDs), then head to the Belgravian embassy, where Catwoman has already subdued the queen and her entourage and taken the golden fleece.
To Catwoman’s chagrin, not only do the Dynamic Duo show up, but so does Batgirl. Fisticuffs ensue, and Catwoman is taken away. As an added bonus, Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Gordon, and O’Hara are awarded with the Royal Order of the Belgravian Garter for recovering the Golden Fleece and rescuing Queen Bess from the closet Catwoman had locked her in. But they’re interrupted by Bonnie, who urges Gordon to turn on the TV, which shows that Egghead and Olga are back in town.
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Bruce has a pen that lights up and beeps if the Bat-phone is called and nobody’s home.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy Robert Louis Stevenson” is Robin’s literary utterance when they discover that Batgirl’s been kidnapped. “Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods” is Robin’s theory as to what Catwoman’s next crime might be. “Holy dilemma” and “Holy crucial moment” are Robin’s on-the-nose proclamations when they’re on the horns of a dilemma and when they arrive at a crucial moment, respectively.
Gotham City’s finest. When presented with the lady-or-the-tiger dilemma of stopping Catwoman’s theft or rescuing Batgirl, it never occurs to anyone that the police could, perhaps, handle one of the two items, a pretty damning indictment of the GCPD’s competence.
Special Guest Villain. With Julie Newmar unavailable due to being on location to film Mackenna’s Gold, the role of Catwoman once again had to be re-cast, this time with the magnificent Eartha Kitt. She’ll be back, teamed up with the Joker, in “The Funny Feline Felonies.”
No sex, please, we’re superheroes. With the mixed-race Kitt now in the role of Catwoman, all sexual tension between her and Batman is drained from the scripting, since we can’t have a white guy flirting with a black woman…
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“In any comparison between Batgirl and myself, she runs a poor third.”
–Catwoman talking smack.
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 58 by host John S. Drew with special guest chums, Michael Falkner, host of The Weekly Podioplex.
This episode was actually produced after Kitt’s subsequent appearance in “The Funny Feline Felonies” / “The Joke’s on Catwoman,” but was aired first.
Rudi Gernreich, a major player in the fashion industry and one of the most innovative fashion designers of the time period, appears as himself.
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “She may be evil, but she is attractive.” Let’s get this out of the way—Julie Newmar is, has, and always will be perfection in the role of Catwoman. There is no denying her place atop the pantheon of women who have played the role over the years. She was, in fact, the first to do so, and remains in many ways the Platonic ideal.
But that doesn’t mean that others can’t also put their stamp on the part, and what I like about Eartha Kitt’s portrayal is that she totally makes it her own. Lee Meriwether was pretty much doing Newmar’s shtick only less slinky (she was actually much more interesting as “Miss Kitka” than she was as Catwoman), but Kitt does her own thing. Where Newmar is a sleek tabby who pretends to be affectionate right before she claws you, Kitt is a feral cat who claws at you right away.
Kitt’s performance is a delight, and she lights up the screen whenever she’s on it. The glee she takes in being evil is refreshing and fun, and it’s great to watch.
A pity the rest of the episode’s a disaster. I think it’s hilarious that Batman singles Catwoman out for having an ego because she gloats of her crime ahead of time—how is it more egotistical to come out and say what her crime is, as opposed to leaving some kind of abstruse clue about it like most of the other folks in his rogues’ gallery? And the sexism is poured on thick and heavy in this one, from the most horriblest thing ever to be done to ten fashion models is to ruin their hair (to make matters worse, it’s not phrased as a bad thing to do to models, but a bad thing to do to women overall, because of course, all women are vain and self-centered…), to Batman’s patronizing exhortation to Barbara to leave the crime-fighting to the men, to Batgirl’s inability to get out of the deathtrap herself (though it does give another chance to see Alfred in disguise—take that, Sean Pertwee!). Though at the very least they also give us the doofier side of chivalry in the Dynamic Duo’s idiotic stumble through a dressing room.
Kitt is enough to make the episode watchable, but not much beyond that.
Keith R.A. DeCandido loves cats.