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, it's the return of the Batusi when Batman goes undercover to foil King Tut's plan... disguised as Bruce Wayne?!

 

 

Batman 1x28: The Pharaoh's In A Rut

Script: Robert C. Dennis and Earl Barret
Director: Charles R. Rondeau
Original Air Date: April 14, 1966
Special Guest Villain: Victor Buono as King Tut

 

When we last left off, Bruce Wayne --- millionaire philanthropist and secretly the alter-ego of Batman --- was being driven through the surprisingly mountainous highways outside of Gotham City by kidnappers working for King Tut. The good news is that the kidnappers are unaware of Batman's secret identity, but the bad news is that when Bruce manages to get free from the ambulance the crooks are driving, he quickly finds himself strapped to a gurney heading downhill towards a 300-foot drop.

Which brings up an interesting question of geography. After the show made a reference to Batman being asked to head out west and run for Governor of California, one reader of the Episode Guide mentioned that they thought the TV version of Gotham was actually meant to be in California, rather than the comics version's long-established status as a stand-in for New York. It makes sense that it would be, too --- there are, after all, not a whole lot of mountainous highways outside of New York City, and as we'll get to when we hit season three, there's an entire episode about the Joker trying to win a surfing competition that only even comes close to making sense if it's set in California. Plus, that's where the show was filmed, which they take exactly zero steps to disguise.

But despite all this, the answer is no, TV Gotham is still meant to be a stand-in for New York. In the movie, it's established that the United World is headquartered in Gotham, just as the real-life United Nations is in Manhattan, and in a later episode, we'll find out that Gotham is just across the river from "New Guernsey." There just happens to be a whole lot of distinctly Californian landscapes out there. And surfing. And drive-in restaurants.

Anyway, after crashing feet-first through the sign warning him about the drop, Bruce is able to free his hands at the last minute, grabbing onto a rather convenient yellow pole and saving himself from a long fall and a sudden stop.

 

 

It's one of the show's most memorable cliffhangers and one of the best stunts, and it's pulled off really well. Aside from the setup of Bruce being kidnapped by crooks dressed as Egyptian scribes after being surprised by the resurrection of a false mummy, it's something that would feel right at home in a Bond movie.

Back at Tut's headquarters, everyone is sitting around a faux-Egyptian palace, lounging on cushions and watching a demolition derby on TV. No, really.

 

 

Tut grows weary of exploding cars, a feeling I find it difficult to empathize with, and switches to the news just in time to catch a broadcast from Commissioner Gordon's office, where Batman is introduced to confirm that he has rescued Bruce Wayne from the kidnapping. Tut is, of course, frustrated, but Nefertiti responds with a rousing, "Batman! He TURNS ME ON!" And that, it seems, is the last straw for her relationship with Tut. The next time she speaks, she's hauled off by Tut's torturers to be sealed up in an oversized canopic jar, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

What matters right now is Batman's announcement. In order to discover the true root of the strange occurrences --- the prophetic "Sphinx" showing up in the park, the mummy's mysterious resurrection --- he's heading to Alexandria in Egypt, leaving Commissioner Gordon in charge of keeping Gotham safe. Which basically means that he's just going to let King Tut (and whatever other Arch-Criminals are lurking around waiting for the next exhibition of rare and valuable books/cats/flowers/umbrellas/clocks/whatever) do whatever he wants in the meantime.

This is, of course, a clever ruse on the part of the Caped Crusader. If he thinks Batman's not going to be around to interfere and rescue him, he can get back to his original plan of kidnapping Bruce Wayne. This time, however, there's going to be a little wrinkle in that plan: Instead of kidnapping Bruce Wayne, Tut will be kidnapping Batman!

Who actually is Bruce Wayne.

So he's actually going to be kidnapping Bruce Wayne, dressed as Batman, disguised as Bruce Wayne. This is an amazing plan.

In order to fully complete it, Batman and Robin bust out a shockingly lifelike dummy of Bruce Wayne that they just happen to have laying around, presumably for innuendo purposes, and leave it on the couch while they literally just stand in a nearby corner, not actually hiding behind anything. Sure enough, a cop shows up affecting an even more over-the-top Irish accent than O'Hara's --- which is saying something --- and reveals himself to be one of Tut's goons by gassing Alfred and making a grab for Wayne.

 

 

When he goes out to ready his getaway car, Batman and Alfred make the switch, with Adam West pulling an amazingly stiff jump onto the couch that ends with him just flopping into the blankets. It is, I think, the only thing I have ever seen Batman do in the endless fight against crime that I think I could actually pull off myself.

The blanketed Batman gets hauled off by Tut's men, but the ruse doesn't quite go off as planned. While Batman's being transported to Tut's hideout, the pharaoh's Scrivener decides to take the extra precaution of just braining him with a gigantic wooden club:

 

 

With that, the blanket is pulled back to reveal the thoroughly concussed Batman. By the time he wakes up, he's been safely secured in Tut's torture chamber, sealed inside one of those massive jars next to Nefertiti, who has been driven insane by an endless stream of tiny pebbles hitting her in the head.

 

 

This, as Tut explains, is "the ancient Theban pebble torture," which, after a thousand pebbles, drives its victims insane to the point of "smashing herself to pieces trying to tear herself out of the jar." Batman attempts to reason with Tut, trying to appeal to whatever shred of Professor McElroy may remain, but alas, it's no good. The torture continues until Batman appears to have been thoroughly broken.

As Tut demands a million-dollar ransom for Batman to be delivered by Bruce Wayne, an impossibility, Batman and Nefertiti are broken out of their jars and ordered to dance. And, once one of the henchmen puts on a record of Tut's demanded "Bat-Music," dance they do.

 

 

I'm not sure what kind of shooting schedule Batman was on or how far ahead of time they were filming these episodes, but I have to imagine that the show's first episode, which aired in January, had to have been on TV by the time they were getting to the ones for April. There's no way that this episode was shot by people who hadn't seen the reaction to Batman's "Batusi" dance number in the pilot, and they clearly decided that if it worked once, it would work again.

So to that end, we have an extended scene of Batman and Nefertiti dancing, with Batman going straight to his go-to move, busting out not only the signature Sailor Moon eye-fingers --- I have no other way to describe that move other than just "Batusi" --- but taking it to the next level with a flying leap, all to the delight of King Tut.

Tut is slightly less delighted, however, when Batman turns his improvised dance moves into a full-on fight scene:

 

Click for full size

 

It's nice to see that we're almost all the way through the first season, and we're still getting new sound effect cards for the fight scenes. "Touché" probably had pretty limited uses --- Batman and Robin duel against the guards using swords here --- but it's a really nice touch that spices things up quite a bit.

It turns out that Batman resisted the insanity of the Pebble Torture by "reciting the multiplication tables backwards," which raises a pretty interesting question, for certain values of "interesting.". If you're going backwards, you're presumably planning to end up at 1 x 1 = 1, but where do you start? Numbers are infinite! Or is the "table" he's referring to the one commonly taught in schools that only goes up to 12 x 12? Either way, it seems like a dubious way to keep one's sanity.

Even with his henchmen mopped up, Tut's not quite finished yet. He bolts from the "palace" and, in an increasingly common element of the show, steals the Batmobile, leaving Batman and Robin to give chase in his golden semi truck. Even if it wasn't weighed down with all the golden decorations, the truck would still be no match for the Batmobile. Tut easily outstrips his pursuers, leading Batman to attempt to remotely operate the ejector seats, a plan that fails.

Tut, however, isn't content to merely get away, throwing the Batmobile into reverse and attempting to destroy them with the Batbeam, only to inadvertently activate the Ejector Seat himself. 

 

 

He ends up landing on the hood of the truck and then taking a punch in the face from Batman, two of the most grievous head injuries that it's possible to receive. Which actually ends up having a positive effect: It was a blow to the head that caused Professor McElroy to think he was Tut to begin with, and while Gordon laments that mental hospitals are overcrowded and "the taxpayers are blind to our pleas" (gettin' a little too real there, folks), Tut wakes up with Batman's fists of justice having restored his personality to the meek Yale professor that he once was.

Incidentally, I don't usually read the comments, but I did notice that someone in last week's column mention that they thought there was a striking resemblance between me and Victor Buono. First of all, gee thanks for saying that I look like Batman's most rotund villain. Second of all, not gonna lie...

 

 

I can see it.

 

Index of Episode 1x28

Exclamations:

  • "Holy travel agent!"
  • "Holy taxidermy!"

Bat-Gadgets

  • Homing Device and Batscanner Reciever
  • Tiny Utility Belt Transmitter
  • Remote Control Batmobile Circuit (via the Batcave Relay Link)