The Batman ’66 Episode Guide 1×18: Holy Rat Race
The 1966 Batman television show was one of the most successful and influential adaptations of comic books to mass media of all time. Over the course of three seasons and 120 episodes, the series became a cultural force with its unique combination of tongue-in-cheek humor, thrilling superhero adventure and celebrity guest stars, and shaped the way the public would view the Caped Crusader for the next five decades. Now, in the midst of a well-deserved renaissance of the show, ComicsAlliance is proud to present The Batman ’66 Episode Guide, an in-depth examination of every single adventure, arch-criminal and deathtrap cliffhanger of the series.
This week, False Face reveals his plan... for counterfeit cash!
Episode 1x18: Holy Rat Race
Script: Stephen Kandel
Director: William Graham
Original Air Date: March 10, 1966
Special Guest Villain: ? as False Face
When we last left the Caped Crusaders, they were in what is probably the most dire peril that we've seen in the series thus far: Bound to subway tracks by "quick setting plastic cement" with a train bearing down on them. A train that, admittedly, seems to be taking an awfully long time to get to the point where they are actually going to get run over, but still, it sure felt to me like it was a whole lot more of a threat than strapping a couple of rag-stuffed costumes to a pair of turbines and pretending like they were about to have their skeletons centrifuged right out of their bodies. But again, this pair of episodes is one of my favorites, so I'll admit to being a little biased.
Fortunately for the forces of good, someone in False Face's criminal camp has decided to not leave bad enough alone. As Alfred tends to his duties in the Batcave, which in this case means Windexing the Giant Lighted Lucite Map Of Gotham CIty...
...a message comes over the radio addressed to the "friends of Batman," and in typical fashion, it takes the form of one of False Face's false quotes: "Many are called, but two are chosen. Be receptive." Alfred takes the hint and activates the radio, and when Batman responds by activating his own radio with a conveniently placed switch that he can operate with his mouth, we are all treated to what I can only describe as Adam West's sex face:
This isn't the last time we'll be seeing it either.
Batman tells Alfred to activate the short-circuit lever for the transmitter, which, in addition to raising the question of why Batman bothered to build a lever specifically for the purpose of remotely short-circuiting his radio, gives Alfred a momentary pause. He asks if Batman is actually sure that this is what he wants, and Batman responds with one of the all time greatest exchanges in the show: "Alfred, our relationship has always been one of mutual respect. I cannot disregard my own standards and order you to destroy the Bat-Transmitter, but I am urging you to comply!" Only '60s Batman could be that square and that respectful of his manservant at the same time.
Sure enough, the short circuit is enough to blow through the plastic cement, freeing Batman's hands and allowing him to make short work of the rest of their space-age shackles with what appears to be a black laser, providing a narrow escape:
For those of you keeping score at home, the train had been bearing down on the crimefighters from about forty yards away for about three solid minutes at that point, which, if my math is right, means that it was moving about as fast as a particularly lethargic tree sloth.
At False Face's hideout, Blaze denies that it was her who sent the warning to Batman's unseen ally --- which makes sense, considering that nobody outside of Gordon and O'Hara should know that Batman even has an unseen ally with a crisp British accent, something that'll be a plot point in about two years. The seed of doubt has been planted, however, and Blaze seems like she's in a bit of peril herself.
After O'Hara makes it back from the garbage scow that False Face dumped him on when he stole his identity in the last episode, Batman and Robin try to track down the source of the radio message by heading over to Gotham City Radio, which, interestingly enough, does not get a set of fictional call letters. Answers, however, are in short supply.
PROGRAM MANAGER LEO GORE: Who ordered that announcement? A complete stranger. Anonymous. Frankly, Batman, I assumed it was simply another announcement. When someone wishes a message broadcast like "Many are called, two are chosen," I assume it's religious and that's all.
BATMAN: I don't think we should treat religion lightly, Mr. Gore.
Seriously, the dialogue in this episode is fantastic. Stephen Kandel didn't do much work on Batman --- aside from this, he's only the writer on one other adventure, the three-part "Zodiac Crimes" from 1967 --- but outside of this show, he was a very prolific television writer. His career included the famous Harry Mudd episodes of Star Trek, and an episode of MacGyver that the IMDB describes thusly: "MacGyver is accused of having a fear of commitment by the women in his life. A dream takes him back to the Old West where the women are mail-order brides." AMAZING.
Anyway, Gore eventually remembers that the woman who paid for the announcement was both "staggeringly beautiful" and had green hair, which you'd think would've been the first things to come to mind. Clearly, it was Blaze, and what's more, she made a reference to the check being "false." Clearly a clue, although really, you don't have to be the World's Greatest Detective to suss all this out: Clearly, False Face is planning to break into the bank and replace the genuine money with his own counterfeit bills.
In fact, the plan is already underway. At the bank, False Face, disguised as a guard and wearing what might be the highest-waisted pants of all time...
...is in position. The henchmen are quick to arrive, and owing to one's smaller stature, he's able to slip through the bars, disable the alarm, and allow them to break in for a heist "beyond the dreams of avarice!" But what's this?! When the vault opens, the sight that greets False Face is not a stack of cash, but Gotham City's two stalwart defenders: Batman and Robin have caught the chameleon of crime in a trap built from a false vault!!
It's worth noting here that for an actor whose face is never seen without a thick layer of ultra-creepy plastic over it, Malachi Throne does a pretty amazing job of expressing himself. He's great at body language, and has astonishingly expressive eyes. It's pretty impressive, especially when you consider how much the other villains --- particularly Gorshin's Riddler, who, according to West, would take any excuse to take his domino mask off --- used their faces for their acting. It really makes me wonder why Throne isn't more well-known, although I suppose he did land the role of God on Animaniacs. That's one that'll go at the top of the ol' résumé.
At this point, if you'd gotten familiar with the show's formula over the past nine weeks, you'd probably expect the big climactic fight scene full of BIFFs, BAMs and POWs, even though we've got eleven minutes left in the episode. Instead, we do get a fight scene, but it's literally just Chief O'Hara sitting in a chair and wrestling with a little person.
The first half of this adventure is burned into my brain from seeing it when I was a kid, but this, I had somehow completely forgotten about, and it is without question one of the single weirdest things that happens on the entire show. It's... amazing?
False Face manages to escape in the confusion, disguising himself as a policeman, and takes off with Blaze handcuffed next to him to the Bioscope Studios lot, where he has his hideout "among the crumbling sets and faded false fronts." It's a really neat idea for a villain built on fakery and illusions. Plus, it can't hurt that they were filming a television show on a lot built for filming television shows. It's a win all around.
The idea seems to involve False Face's henchmen trapping the Batmobile with a giant cargo net, which goes about as well as it sounds like it would, although not because it's just a ridiculous plan to begin with. Instead, Batman once again whips out his laser and makes short work of it, which, to be honest, feels like a bit of a cop out, although not the most egregious one of the episode by a long shot.
It's followed by a neat little chase scene through the studio, with False Face luring the Batmobile onto a western set, and right into the crosshairs of his roof-mounted cannon - literally, in fact. In one of the show's better visual gags, there's an actual set of crosshairs painted on the window of his station wagon that appears as he rolls up the window. But when he blasts the Batmobile with all four barrels, all that's left is a wireframe. And if that sounds odd, it should --- the real Batmobile was around the corner. The one that blew up was, according to Batman, "an inflated duplicate that I prepared for just this kind of situation!"
False Face suddenly zooms out of the back of the Dodge on a motorcycle, and when the Dynamic Duo move to give chase, Blaze offers her services. Eventually False Face is cornered on a Western set, and, apparently forgetting that it is in fact a set, attempts to disguise himself as a for real cowboy. It doesn't go well.
False Face's final attempt at trickery is to disguise himself as Commissioner Gordon, which completely fools O'Hara despite the fact that O'Hara himself was a victim of a similar replacement earlier that day. It doesn't fool Batman, though, and False Face is taken into custody.
But there's one more happy ending left in the episode: Blaze, it seems, is fully reformed thanks to the help of the Wayne Foundation, having given up her life of crime and its many wigs for a sensible brunette flip and a new life in New Zealand, taking care of her ailing sheepherder brother.
Okay, "happy" may have been overselling it a little, but a sheep farm in New Zealand is probably better than a nickel at Gotham State Penitentiary, right? Right.
Index of Episode 1x18:
- Short Circuit Lever
- "Holy wigs!"
- Note that despite being the title of the episode, "Holy Rat Race!" is never spoken as dialogue.