Holy caped shenanigans, Gothamites! The Batman Season 2, Part 2 DVD set picks up right where the campy 1960s TV series’ Part 1 DVD set left off (same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!) and is chock-full of enough exciting misadventures, fiendish supervillains and dastardly deeds to satisfy Bat-fans of all ages. The set contains over 12 hours of the Caped Crusaders in 30 completely remastered action-packed episodes featuring many of the franchise’s most popular villains, including The Penguin, The Joker, The Riddler, Catwoman, King Tut, Mr. Freeze, The Sandman, The Mad Hatter, The Puzzler, Black Widow and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds.
You can now order this DVD set from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (they graciously provided me with a review copy early). While it doesn’t contain any bonus features, it does deliver many memorable episodes no self-respecting Bat-fan would want to be without. Here are some highlights:
Villain mashups seem to be common practice this season. Perhaps they thought this would increase the ratings or perhaps the writers were having a bit more fun devising outlandish scenarios involving more than one villain, much like the Batman movie from around this same time period. Regardless the reason, two villains are almost always better than one, but unfortunately Batman always manages to outsmart them both with his unrealistic superior intellect!
There’s a team-up involving The Sandman and Catwoman in “The Sandman Cometh” and “The Catwoman Goeth,” while “The Zodiac Crimes” brings together Penguin and Joker to deliver a series of 12 wacky capers involving the signs of the Zodiac, with each being zanier than the crime occurring before it. Watch a giant, robotic-looking clam swallow The Boy Wonder whole that would be the stuff of nightmares if I were under 12. The only thing more terrifying to me was seeing Black Widow (the eerie but wonderful actress Tallulah Bankhead) attempt to feed Batman and Robin to gigantic, hungry black widow spiders (although they were comically fake-looking) in “Black Widow Strikes Again” and “Caught in the Spider Den.” Holy heart failure, Batman!
“Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend” marks the beginning of a trio of episodes showcasing Penguin and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (The Addams Family’s Carolyn Jones) vs. Batman and The Boy Wonder. I’ve decided Penguin is my favorite ‘60s Batman villain because he’s just so adorable. While the Danny DeVito version in the ‘90s scared the bejesus out of me as a kid, Burgess Meredith’s Penguin is so dapper and refined in his purple top hat, monocle, white gloves (which may or may not be concealing hideously grotesque penguin claws but that’s not something I prefer to think about!) and his suit with tails that one can’t help but fall just a little bit in love with him. In this story arc, Penguin forms his own film production company and coerces Batman and Robin to be his leading actors. Watch for the Dynamic Duo (or the Dynamic Dingbats as Pengy would say) almost being crushed to death in a scrap metal heap and being catapulted all the way across Gotham only to land in a safety net on the Batmobile, which is apparently programmed to track where they will land exactly. How you may ask? You know better than to question how Batman makes his gadgets get him out of every possible scenario by now!
“Batman’s Anniversary” and “A Riddling Controversy” feature John Astin as The Riddler in a rare cameo. Frank Gorshin is so iconic as The Riddler that I had actually forgotten that someone else filled those brightly colored green shoes temporarily this season. Astin is beloved by many, including myself, for his role as Gomez Addams on The Addams Family. I was delighted to see him launch a crime-filled spree that was deliciously more evil than most found on this series. The city of Gotham is celebrating Batman’s dedicated service to protecting its citizens with lots of odd tributes including a golden calf statue from the local dairy farmers’ association and a giant cake that Batman and Robin have to pose on for life-size marshmallow statues to be cast of them courtesy of the Gotham Bakery.
The citizens are also pooling money together for Batman’s favorite charity, the Bruce Wayne Foundation. The Riddler manages to steal $3 million (at least $1 million from the charity money – those poor orphans!) because he wants to buy a moleculizer from a local mad scientist/professor that makes things disappear. How despicable is that? Watch for Batman and Robin to do some quick-thinking when pitted against quicksand in the cake’s icing! Also watch for the best fight scene ever in this enchanting pair of episodes – an underwater fight sequence in a flooded bank vault that manages to look like a perfectly synchronized, albeit slow-motion, water ballet of epic (and comedic) proportions.
Holy crime-fighting crossovers, Batman! Another special treat included in this set is the pair of episodes featuring visiting heroes The Green Hornet (Van Williams) and Kato (Bruce Lee) titled “A Piece of the Action” and “Batman’s Satisfaction.” I never really watched The Green Hornet, but after watching these episodes, I’m tempted to because not only is he better looking than Batman, but he has a more badass outfit, car and sidekick! This episode features Col. Gumm (Roger C. Carmel, with the ultimate villain’s mustache) and a bizarre plot involving the counterfeiting of valuable stamps from the Pink Chips Stamp Factory. My favorite character was factory owner Pinky Pinkston (Diane McBain). From her coiffed pink hair down to her pink ensemble, earrings, scarf, vintage pink handbag and her pink dog, she was the epitome of feminine pink perfection. And she had both crime-fighters – The Green Hornet and Batman – fighting over her affections. Lucky gal!
The Bat Cave feels a bit crowded this season, as Joker, Penguin and Catwoman all find themselves in it, and yet not one of them could tell you its whereabouts! Joker and Penguin were smuggled inside the Batmobile’s apparently spacious trunk (as they also had at least 6 hidden henchmen with them), while Catwoman purred her way in while under a sedative given to her by Batman. And let me talk about Catwoman for a moment. The palpable tension between Julie Newmar’s Catwoman and Adam West’s Batman is on point. In “That Darn Catwoman” and “Scat! Darn Catwoman,” Catwoman develops a drug that puts Robin completely under her spell. She also administers the drug to Batman, but of course he’s already developed and administered himself an antidote so he’s only pretending to be smitten with her – or is he? The ending is heart-wrenching when Catwoman chooses to dive off a roof into the water below rather than surrender to Batman after he refuses to marry her. Also watch for pop star Lesley Gore (“It’s My Party”) guest-starring as Pussycat – she gets a few opportunities to sing and it’s phenomenal. Until next time Bat-fans – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!