Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “The Funny Feline Felonies” / “The Joke’s on Catwoman”

“The Funny Feline Felonies” / “The Joke’s on Catwoman”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 3, Episodes 16 & 17
Production code 1715
Original air dates: December 28, 1967 & January 4, 1968

The Bat-signal: Joker, having been paroled—his parole approved by the chairman of the parole committee who is, of course, Bruce Wayne—says his goodbyes to Bruce and Warden Crichton while wearing a very dapper—and very gray—suit. Crichton gives him a $10 bill, and Joker offers him a cigar in return. (Bruce declines, as he doesn’t use tobacco in any form.) To Crichton’s relief, the cigar doesn’t explode.

He’s picked up at the gate by Catwoman in her Catmobile, who holds a gun on him and makes him get in—except, of course, it’s for show, as this was Joker and Catwoman’s plan all along.

While Crichton sends his people out after Catwoman (something he doesn’t even think of until Bruce suggests it), Bruce calls home and has Alfred plug the line into the Bat-phone, so he can answer it when Gordon calls—which, of course, he does and he promises to be right there. (How “right there” he can be when he has to go from the Gotham State Pen to Wayne Manor and then get from there to GCPD HQ is left as an exercise for the viewer.)

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Catwoman and Joker are holed up in a sleazy hotel that’s actually called The Sleazy Hotel, and which is across the street from police HQ. She uses her cat gun to fire a bullet into Gordon’s office, complete with a taunting note saying that the next one will be between his eyes. (Joker asks if Catwoman is going to kill Batman and she says no, but provides no good explanation, since she can’t actually say, “Because he’s the star of the show.”) Batman figures out which room the shot came from via math, and entering that room, he finds the suit Joker wore when he was released on parole and smells Catwoman’s perfume. The only other physical clue is a scrap of paper—which Batgirl palms when she flounces in offering to help, which happens shortly after Barbara arrived in Gordon’s office. Batman sees her do so, but lets her get away with it because he’s a condescending prick.

Catwoman brings Joker to their hideout, which is filled with cats and harlequins, as well as two henchmen, one dressed in Joker’s traditional henchgarb of a peaked hat and red vest, while the other is in the cat-outfits favored by Cat-henchmen.

She has a line on a cache of a million pounds of gunpowder that was hidden near Gotham during the French and Indian War, the hints from a piece of poetry written by the thief, the original manuscript of which she stole from Gotham City Library. The map to the treasure can be found on an antique nightshirt and a small cradle. Catwoman deliberately left a bit of the manuscript behind in the hotel, which Batgirl purloined. Barbara quickly discovers that the manuscript is missing, but the library keeps a backup on microfilm.

Batgirl sneaks into Gordon’s office and uses the Batphone, urging Batman and Robin to meet her at Little Louie Groovy’s place. (At one point, while Bruce is still on the phone, Dick says, “Gosh, Bruce, I’ve always wanted to meet him!” which Batgirl could probably hear, so she now knows Batman’s real given name. Good job, Dick!)

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Little Louie owns the antique nightshirt, and Joker, Catwoman, and their henchmen break in and take it right off his back—but then the Dynamic Duo arrive, and fisticuffs ensue. Our heroes are triumphant. Since Batman and Robin don’t know about the nightshirt’s value as a treasure map, Joker concocts a cock-and-bull story about how Catwoman wanted to play a prank on Little Louie. Joker insists he was duped by Catwoman, and he’s seen the error of his ways and offers to shake their hands. Because they’re saps, our heroes comply, and are zapped with buzzers that will kill them.

Batgirl finally shows up after the bad guys have left, and gives the boys an antidote pill. (She was late because of rush hour traffic and because she wouldn’t run red lights. Batman admires her law-abiding spirit, though the results nearly got them killed.) She also reveals why they stole the nightshirt. Their next target would be the cradle, which is in the possession of Karnaby Katz.

When they arrive at the Katz mansion, they’re too late, as the cradle has already been stolen. The heroes go their separate ways, but it turns out that Joker and Catwoman hadn’t gone far, and they took the Batgirl-cycle’s spark plug (which, as we know from last week, is radioactive…). They ambush Batgirl and tie her up with cat’s whiskers that will strangle her before long. However Batgirl manages to roll over to the sprinkler system and turn it on, the water causing the cat’s whiskers to expand rather than contract, and she’s free.

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She calls Gordon and tells him to tell Batman to meet her at Grimalkin Novelty Company, which is the bad guys’ hideout. They work through the clues that will lead them to the gunpowder. Batman, Robin, and Batgirl follow along, leading them to the Phony Island Lighthouse. They unearth the two-century-old gunpowder, but then our heroes stop them. Catwoman hires Lucky Pierre to be their lawyer.

Batman is once again allowed to play prosecutor. He calls tons of people to the stand, but Lucky Pierre doesn’t cross-examine any of them, even though they all lay Catwoman and Joker’s crimes bare. He doesn’t sum up, either. The jury doesn’t even bother to deliberate—and they find the defendants not guilty.

The judge is appalled, but then the foreman’s fake mustache starts to come off, and Batman recognizes him as a former thug of Catwoman’s. (Why he didn’t recognize him during voir dire is left as an exercise for the viewer.) Batman moves for a mistrial on the grounds of a prejudicial jury, and then the foreman whips out a machine gun. Batman gets rid of the gun with his batarang, but then fisticuffs ensue with the jury, and our heroes are triumphant. Catwoman and Joker are led off to prison.

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Back at Gordon’s office, Robin muses on how at least they got to meet some colorful characters on this caper. Gordon calls Barbara’s office and she reveals that Louie the Lilac just showed up at the library…

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Batman and Robin bat-creep across the floor of Gordon’s office on what look like bat-skateboards. He uses a bat-fingerprint kit to dust the windowsill of the room in the Sleazy Hotel, which is a waste of time, as both Catwoman and Joker wear gloves. Batman tunes the bat-radar on the Batmobile to pick up the vibrations of the Catmobile’s motor. He carries anti-blast bat-powder in a handy aerosol can in his utility belt.

Batgirl has created her own antidote pills, probably from the chemistry extension courses she took in library school.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy special delivery” is Robin’s frightened response to the note in the bullet. “Holy return from oblivion” is Robin’s relieved response to them not blowing up.

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Gotham City’s finest. The GCPD’s response to a bullet being fired into the commissioner’s office is—um, nothing. They lay on the floor a lot. Oh, but O’Hara does manage to restrain Catwoman in the end and hold her.

Special Guest Villains. Eartha Kitt and Cesar Romero return as Catwoman and the Joker. It’s Kitt’s second (and third) and final appearance as Catwoman after “Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill,” while Romero will return one final time in “The Joker’s Flying Saucer.”

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. To save time, Batman suggests that the three of them drive to Phony Island in the Batmobile, leaving the Batgirl-cycle behind for the nonce. Batgirl smiles and says, “Cozy,” which makes Batman uncomfortable and Robin a bit nauseous.

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

“Karate isn’t effective unless accompanied by yelling.”

–Catwoman showing her ignorance of martial arts. Luckily for her, Little Louie Groovy’s subsequent moves prove that he is equally ignorant.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 60 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Michael Falkner, host of The Weekly Podioplex.

This was written to be Eartha Kitt’s debut as Catwoman, but it was decided to let her fly solo first in “Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill.”

Later in 1968, Kitt made cutting anti-war remarks at a White House function in front of Lady Bird Johnson, the First Lady, which led to her being more or less blacklisted and exiled, so not only was this her final appearance on Batman, it was her final appearance in an American production for a decade. For the next ten years, she worked mostly in Europe and Asia, before being welcomed back to the States by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 and her appearing on Broadway in Timbuktu! in 1978.

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Lucky Pierre was played by Pierre Salinger, former press secretary to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, an interim U.S. Senator from California for four months, and friend of William Dozier’s. The role was written specifically for him, complete with digs at his political career in the tag.

Little Louie Groovy was based on Phil Spector. He was played by Dick Kallman. Years after playing a character whose antique nightshirt was stolen, Kallman would become an antiques dealer and be shot and killed during a robbery of his store.

Joe E. Ross, best known for his roles on The Phil Silvers Show, Car 54 Where Are You? and It’s About Time, and for his trademark “Ooh! Ooh!” makes an uncredited cameo as Little Louie Groovy’s agent.

Catwoman’s green car is a reuse of a car from a 1964 episode of Bewitched. The car was also seen in a commercial in Star Trek‘s “Bread and Circuses” (where it was called the “Jupiter 8”).

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The script originally called for a good-old-fashioned deathtrap cliffhanger bridging the two parts, but it was scrapped—either because of the no-cliffhangers philosophy of the third season or because the budget wasn’t there for an elaborate deathtrap (accounts are split on the subject, though both are likely, given how the third season was run). However, Joker’s expression of surprise in the lighthouse that the heroes are still alive after escaping said deathtrap wasn’t cut, thus making that line of dialogue particularly nonsensical, even by this show’s low standards.

Phony Island is another fractured New York location, in this case Coney Island.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “That’s the first time I ever heard a cat purr in French.” As is far too often the case with villain team-ups not in a feature film, this really only works for one half of the pairing. Joker serves absolutely no function in this episode except as Catwoman’s dumb-but-loyal sidekick. This is good for Eartha Kitt—she’s actually magnificent in this two-parter, slinking her way wonderfully through all of it—but a waste of Cesar Romero’s talents.

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Still, this is an amiable throwback to the show’s earlier days, with silly bat-gadgets, tons of earnest moralizing, goofy guest stars, and a fun caper—at least until the anticlimactic climax followed by a truly bizarre courtroom scene. Writer Stanley Ralph Ross either doesn’t know or conveniently forgets that a judge has the power to vacate a verdict if he or she feels that the verdict is contrary to that which is presented by the evidence, and that certainly could have happened here.

(By the way, this is the second time Batman has prosecuted a case, and the second time he’s lost, as in “The Bird’s Last Jest,” he couldn’t convince a judge to arraign Penguin even though he admitted to the crimes he committed right there in front of everyone. Ol’ Bats should, perhaps, leave the lawyering to the professionals…)

It’s funny, but prior to this rewatch, if you’d asked me how many times Eartha Kitt appeared as Catwoman, I’d have said she probably appeared in about half as many episodes as Julie Newmar, so it’s rather a shock to realize that she’s only in a quarter as many. It’s to Kitt’s credit that she created that much of an impression in only three episodes—and not three of the show’s best, at that.

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Still, even with the courtroom scene, the neutering of the Joker, and the obvious sops to the reduced budget (the sets are just getting more and more sparse), I’m favorably inclined toward the episode, mostly because of Kitt. (It’s also nice to see Batgirl get out of her own trap.) The visual of Catwoman, Joker, and the henchmen exaggeratedly stepping through Phony Island in single file is hilarious, Mr. & Mrs. Keeper’s vaudeville act is diverting, and while the satire of the music biz with Little Louie Groovy isn’t as biting as the show’s previous stabs at straight-up satire (notably “Hizzoner the Penguin” / “Dizzoner the Penguin,” “An Egg Grows in Gotham” / “The Yegg Foes in Gotham,” and “Pop Goes the Joker” / “Flop Goes the Joker“), it’s still fun.

Bat-rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at Farpoint 2017 in Timonium, Maryland this weekend, both as an author and as a performer, the latter with both Prometheus Radio Theatre and the Boogie Knights. Other guests include producer/director Nicholas Meyer, actors Sam Witwer and Enver Gjokaj, authors Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, David Mack, Marc Okrand, and Howard Weinstein, plus tons more authors, performers, podcasters, artists, and scientists. Keith’s schedule can be found here.

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