The Batman 66 Episode Guide 1×27: The Curse Of Tut
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, we meet the greatest of the show's original arch-villains... the felonious pharaoh, King Tut!
Batman 1x27: The Curse of Tut
Script: Robert C. Dennis and Earl Barret
Director: Charles R. Rondeau
Original Air Date: April 13, 1966
Special Guest Villain: Victor Buono as King Tut
Y'all. For real? I love King Tut. A few years ago, when I briefly interviewed Adam West about the series --- the same interview where he called me "Christian" instead of "Chris," something our own Betty Felon likes to bring up virtually every time I talk to her --- we got on the subject of the special guest villains. I imagine this is something that he's talked about quite literally thousands of times over the past fifty years, but when I brought up Victor Buono, he had a genuine smile on his face when he said "Victor Buono was amazing." He was not wrong.
The show had its share of original villains that were created just for the small screen, but with the exception of Egghead, none of them even come close to being as fantastic and engaging as King Tut. Even his backstory, something that we almost never get on the show --- I don't think we even hear about the Joker going into the vat of chemicals, probably the most famous villain origin in the history of superhero comics --- is loaded with goofball satire. He's great, and not only that, but he's great from the second he steps onto the screen.
Then again, I think we'd all be great if we were preceded by "a rather good imitation of the 4th Dynasty Sphinx at Giza."
It's worth noting that this episode has what has to be the longest cold open of the series. We get a full five minutes of setup before we hit the opening credits, and it all starts when a quiet afternoon in Gotham --- "the deceptive quiet of the jungle!" is interrupted by a golden sphinx appearing in the middle of a public park. So, you know. Just another Tuesday in Gotham. Even the hardened Gothamites of the mid-60s have to take pause when the thing starts talking, though, issuing a pronouncement of the impending resurrection of "a great king of the Nile."
This is, of course, reported to the police, but unlike the usual setup, they don't immediately make the call to Batman. In fact, they don't even initially think it's a criminal act at all, instead believing it to be a publicity stunt advertising an upcoming exhibit of Egyptian artifacts at the Gotham City museum. Again, you'd think that a solid fourteen weeks into this, the cops would recognize that even having an exhibit of ancient Egyptian artifacts is really just an exercise in waiting to see who announces their intent to rob the place first, but it's all worth it to hear Commissioner Gordon grumpily asking "is there no limit to the brazen effrontery of the press agent?!"
Suitably miffed, Gordon and O'Hara do make a call, but not to Batman --- at least, not knowingly. Instead, they make a phone call to the stately residence of Bruce Wayne, treasurer of the museum's board of trustees, chastising him for befouling the park with a giant sphinx. Once Bruce tells them that he has no idea what they're talking about, though --- and rather rudely hangs up on the Commissioner in the process --- "this phenomenon takes on new dimensions... Strange and sinister dimensions!" Dimensions which require the intervention of the Caped Crusader!
No sooner has Batman arrived than he correctly identifies the culprit as King Tut, surprising Robin, who claims that "everyone thought he died in that warehouse fire," which, for this show, is pretty dark.
It's also here that we get King Tut's origin story, which is basically amazing: Once a professor of Egyptology at Yale University --- he'll eventually have the name William McElroy, but it's not used here --- "he was struck on the head during a student riot, and awoke with a strange double delusion." It seems he believes that he is the reincarnation of King Tutankhamun, and that Gotham, not New Haven, oddly enough, is his Thebes. As such, he's one of the few arch-criminals that Batman expresses genuine and overt sympathy for, even as Commissioner Gordon is ready to lock him up and throw away the key.
Incidentally, while it's not usually named, later depictions of Batman's origin story use Yale as the alma mater where Bruce Wayne studied criminology --- Yale even claims Bruce Wayne on their list of famous fictional graduates. We're definitely into headcanon territory here, but if that's the case, then it's entirely possible that Bruce was himself a student of the gentle, mild-mannered Professor McElroy at one point. Or at least, it would be possible if Victor Buono wasn't actually ten years younger than Adam West; Buono made a career of playing characters that seemed a whole lot older than he was, and at the time of this episode, he's only 28. Twenty-eight!
Anyway, this scene also gives us some choice #OHaraFace:
As Batman and Robin head off to take a look at the Sphinx, we move to a hidden lair, situated in the "bizarre remnant of last year's Gotham City Exposition," and again: Even having a Gotham City Exposition is asking for trouble.
It's here where we get our first look at King Tut, complete with his booming voice, over-enunciated stage accent, and that beard. That beard!
SCRIVENER: Why dip that hunk of rock in the park and tip off the suckers to what we're gonna do?!
KING TUT: You're a twit.
I love King Tut so much.
Tut refers to the Sphinx as a "snick-snack-snare," an elaborate trap meant to lure the Dynamic Duo to a quick and certain doom, getting them out of the way so that he can conquer Gotham City unhindered. Sure enough, when Batman and Robin arrive at the statue to examine it, they're greeted with another prophecy in the voice of "Nefertiti," Tut's primary henchwoman, claiming that any who oppose Tut will be struck down, particularly Batman and Robin.
It turns out that they're a little too cautious for Tut, though. Despite the presence of an inviting handle that Robin initially attempts to pull, Batman's too smart to go for the obvious, tying a Bat-Rope to it instead. Good thing, too.
The close shave does not sit well with Nefertiti --- played by Palestinian actress Ziva Rodann, who also starred ten years earlier in, wait for it, Pharaoh's Curse --- who uses a mirror to flash a message back to King Tut...
...who receives it in one of the greatest vehicles of all time:
I know everyone loves the Barris Batmobile, and with good reason, but man, why can't that be the car that shows up at every comic book convention?
The news of the Dynamic Duo's survival throws Tut into a rage, and when Batman and Robin spot Nefertiti walking across the park in full costume, they find themselves lured into a trap. She uncoils a decorative asp from her wrist and throws it on the ground, revealing it to be a rather elaborately shaped flash-bang grenade. The whole thing's a distraction so that Batman and Robin can be ambushed by a quartet of Tut's swordsmen, but, well, I think we all know by now how well a fight scene in the first half of an adventure is going to go for the bad guys.
Rather than chasing after the henchmen, though, Batman correctly susses out that it's all one big plot to lure them away from Tut's real target --- the museum and its exhibit of Egyptian artifacts! But Batman and Robin know something that King Tut doesn't: They're very close to the treasurer of the board of trustees, who has just volunteered to lead the press on a tour of the artifacts.
While the exhibit includes an ancient and priceless crown, the centerpiece is a 3500 year-old mummy of a king from the 14th Dynasty. And as is so often the case with these things when they come to Gotham City, the tour from the press involves the mummy waking up and falling out of his sarcophagus.
But what's this?! Plot and counter-plot! When Bruce Wayne checks on the mummy --- after a bellowing "Is there a doctor in the house?!" --- the paramedics who arrive to attend to him turn out to not be paramedics at all. They're Tut's henchmen, who gas Wayne and cart him away in the ambulance, gagged and bound to a stretcher!
The mummy, of course, is Tut himself, staging the "resurrection" of his prophecy, and launching the next phase of his plan. From there, it's back in the truck, where he gets very grumpy at Nefertiti, referring to her as an "abandoned wench" for the rather unqueenly act of eating hot dogs instead of dining on ambrosia and nectar:
You do what makes you happy, Nefertiti. Don't let him tell you not to eat hodos if that's what you want.
The miraculous resurrection is, of course, reported in the press as proof that the Sphinx's prophecies are real, leading to the people of Gotham crowding once more in the park for another glimpse at the future. But it's not the future that they're getting at all - instead, it's merely Nefertiti reading from Tut's cue cards in the back of that gold-plated truck that the cops can't seem to find:
With Nefertiti performing hype-man duties, Tut takes the microphone himself, announcing that he has kidnapped Bruce Wayne and is holding him for ransom, threatening to kill him if Batman and Robin interfere. Little does he know that Batman can't intefere, since --- and apologies if I haven't made this clear before, I kind of thought everyone already knew this --- Bruce Wayne is Batman!
Robin and Alfred are momentary worried, but as Robin points out, "Batman is... well, Batman!" And sure enough, as the false ambulance (which is basically Ecto-1), careens around the curves on the highway, Bruce uses the momentum to break out! The problem, of course, is that he's now on a steep mountain highway tied to a stretcher on wheels, heading straight for a 300 foot drop!
And that is this week's cliffhanger --- not really a deathtrap, but one that I vividly remember seeing in my childhood, largely because it seemed so real --- never mind that the "Bruce Wayne" strapped to the stretcher that pops out of the back of the ambulance is clearly a dummy. I think it actually loses its head on the bump. Even so, it's in the same ballpark as the Penguin's attempt to burn Bruce Wayne alive in a casket from back in Episode 3 in terms of being memorable and pretty horrifying. Maybe it's the lack of costumes that make it seem so real, or maybe it's just that, you know, falling off a cliff is a much more relatable fear than being blasted with a freeze ray.
Either way, be here next week, readers --- the worst is yet to come!
Index of Episode 1x27
- "Holy whiskers!"
- "Holy masquerade!"
- "Holy asp!"
- "Holy cliffhanger!" (Note: Spoken by narrator Desmond Doomsday and not Robin, the Boy Wonder)