The Batman 66 Episode Guide 1×20: Better Luck Next Time
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, Catowman reveals the real target of her crime spree: The lost treasure of Captain Manx!
Episode 1x20: Better Luck Next Time
Script: Stanley Ralph Ross and Lee Orgel
Director: James Sheldon
Original Air Date: March 17, 1966
Special Guest Villain: Julie Newmar as Catwoman
When we last left our heroes, Catwoman had lured them into the warehouse of the Gato & Chat Fur Company, where they were faced with not one deathtrap, but an entire series of them, each deadlier than the last. It all culminated in Batman being confronted with two doors and given a literal choice between the lady and the tiger, and choosing wrong. All of which is to say that this is an episode of television that opens with Batman fighting a tiger, which is without question the best possible way for anything to open, ever.
And while it's obvious, it's worth noting that that it's a real tiger. I mean, yes, it's obviously a trained and likely declawed animal being supervised by someone standing just off-camera, I'm sure, but that's still Adam West - or a stuntman who sure looks a heck of a lot like him when you freeze-frame - in a fistfight with an actual tiger. That is completely bananas, and completely awesome.
To deal with the situation, Batman produces a pair of "tiger claws" of his own so that he can scale the otherwise sheer wall, ninja style:
Once he's up there, narrowly avoiding what appears to be the curiosity of a deadly but somewhat disinterested predator, Catwoman taunts him before signing off with a "T.T.F.N.," a bit of slang that the Caped Crusader seems wholly unfamiliar with. But after she signs off to go about rigging up a similar fate for Robin, Batman pulls out a pair of Bat Ear Plugs - applied over his cowl, of course, although sadly not on the ears of the costume and sets about his escape.
According to our narrator, Desmond Doomsday (actually show producer William Dozier), he does this by "calling on his fantastic storehouse of audio engineering knowledge," which raises the question of just how many fields Batman actually has knowledge of. I considered adding Batman's canonical areas of expertise to the index for each episode, but when you get right down to it, it's all of them. Batman knows everything. If there's one thing this show wants you to take away, it's that he is truly the greatest of men.
With earplugs firmly in place, Batman "reverses the polarity on his communicator" in order to create an ear-piercing sound that would drive the tiger back into its cell. Now, you may be wondering how loud this sound is. Desmond Doomsday tells us, and when he provided the number, I went to look it up to see if there was any comparable sound. Just to give you an idea of what we're working with here, most of the charts I could find topped out at around 160 decibels, which is roughly equivalent to standing next to a jet engine or shotgun going off right next to you. The loudest sound in recorded history, the explosion of Krakatoa in 1883, was measured at a staggering 170 db from a hundred kilometers away from the source, and it's thought that it would've instantly deafened anyone within ten miles. It was heard three thousand miles away, and the sound of it actually traveled around the world four times before it finally dissipated, changing air pressure. From what I can gather, most people agree that it would've been over 320 db at the source. The launch of the Saturn V rocket was measured at 220 db, which, from what I've read, is loud enough to literally melt concrete.
Batman's sonic attack in this episode is, according to the narration, twenty thousand decibels.
Amazingly, this bit of overkill doesn't completely obliterate Gotham City and/or the planet Earth, instead just driving the tiger back and leaving Batman himself completely unharmed. All things considered, it's a pretty fantastic advertisement for Wayne Industries Brand Ear Plugs™.
Anyway, while I've been reading about Krakatoa and rockets, Batman has managed to enter into a maze of passages behind the "lady or the tiger" doors, and has set about marking the walls with glittering bat-symbols from his utility belt so that he won't get lost:
I always thought that was fantastic when I was a kid. I just love the mental image of Alfred sitting in the cave with a glue stick and a bottle of glitter, making sure Batman won't get lost. It's the most adorable thing in the world.
Catwoman, meanwhile, has set about condemning Robin to a similarly tiger-based demise. For him, though, it's an even more elaborate trap: A plank suspended over a tiger pit, balanced only by an hourglass full of sand - 132 pounds and 10 ounces of it, if you're curious about Robin's canonical weight - that's quickly running out.
Last year at San Diego, Burt Ward mentioned during a press conference that this wasn't trick photography or special effects either, claiming that he was actually on a narrow wooden plank suspended only a few feet above a couple of very hungry tigers. Now, I'm not in the business of contradicting the Boy Wonder, but at the time, I did think it seemed a little unlikely that they'd try such a risky stunt with one of their stars. Then I remembered that this episode opens with either Adam West or the stuntman who drew the short straw literally boxing an actual for real tiger, and it seemed a whole lot more likely.
It's also in this scene that we get one of the best lines of the series, when Robin, confronted with an amazingly elaborate deathtrap that will result in him being torn apart and eaten by tigers, simply says "Catwoman, you are not a nice person." So true, Boy Wonder. So true.
Fortunately for the forces of niceness, Batman is able to make his way through the labyrinth, swinging in to rescue Robin and triggering the guitar riff that inevitably signals a fight scene:
Batman and Robin make relatively short work of Leo and Felix, but while the latter is captured and held for the police, the former gets away. And what of Catwoman herself? She slipped away in the confusion, leaving Batman and Robin to investigate her lair to discover her true motive and recover the cat statues that can now be returned to Mark Andrews.
That Catwoman left the cat statues at all is perplexing, since they seemed to be her initial target, but when they notice some markings on the pair of cats, it all falls into place. Thanks to a bit of research...
...they're able to suss out that those "funny markings" are actually a map, carved into them by their previous owner, Captain Manx - a map that points to the location of the pirate's priceless plunder.
Catwoman, however, is two steps ahead of our heroes, and is already hot on the trail of the treasure's location: A cave just outside the city, where she lays still more traps for the Caped Crusader's inevitable arrival.
Thanks to the radioactive spray applied to the catue, Catwoman herself is still mildly radioactive (yikes), which, combined with the map, allows Batman and Robin to pinpoint her location to McElroy Point. Before long, they're on the trail, but it seems that they're too late. Not only has the delay allowed Leo to mine the road leading to the cave, but Catwoman already has the treasure - and the motivation she needs to dispose of Leo with a bit of knockout gas.
Thanks to a combination of an armored undercarriage and an Automatic Tire Repair Device that fixes a flat through the uncanny ability to reverse footage, though, the mines don't stop the Batmobile, and the two heroes arrive at the cave just in time to catch Catwoman before she skips town with a bag full of booty. There's a chase through the caverns that culminates at what's described as a "bottomless pit," with Catwoman attempting to jump it rather than give herself up to the law.
Alas, she's not quite as nimble as her namesake. Despite Batman's best efforts to keep her from falling in, Catwoman refuses to let go of her loot, plunging downwards to an apparent death. It's not, of course. Catwoman, and Newmar, will eventually return in Season 2 for an episode where she'll try to murder the Dynamic Duo by cooking them on an oversized griddle. For now, though, it seems like a bitter end, done in by her own greed.
After a brief aside about Catwoman potentially having nine lives - something that would explain her tendency to show up unharmed after falling from great heights - it's back to Wayne Manor for a round of quadruple-decker chess, where even Alfred and Dick combined aren't enough to beat Bruce.
Truly: The greatest of men.
Index of Episode 1x20:
- Bat Ear Plugs
- Glittering Bat Symbols
- Metal Analyzer
- Bat Research Shelf
- Bat Armor
- Automatic Tire Repair Device
- "Holy geography!"
- Hourglass see-saw over a tiger pit
- Actual tiger