Thirteen. Lucky for some, very unlucky for others.
The nerve of naming the thirteenth Batman episode The Thirteenth Hat may have been coincidence, it may have been a slap in the face to superstition or it may have been the same sort of madcap decision that had the 42nd episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes being called 42, a number that frequently shows up. But is the thirteenth episode a stroke of bad luck for Batman, or will it prove to be the magic number?
It’s a glorious morning in Gotham City, and a chef is cleaning his food station when he’s ambushed by the Mad Hatter and two henchmen. The Mad Hatter uses a hypnotising beam from his top hat to knock the chef out, and they kidnap him and his toque. Later they kidnap the owner of a sporting goods store and steal his deerstalker too. Then a silver store manager and his homburg. Commissioner Gordon knows that Jervis Tetch, the Mad Hatter himself, is behind it and has no choice but to call Batman in on the case.
Meanwhile, at stately Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne is teaching his youthful ward Dick Grayson the value of sculptures. When Alfred informs them of the call to action, they deftly avoid Aunt
Harriet’s tea-tasting session and race to the Bat-poles so they can get changed into their Batman and Robin costumes and report for duty.
Arriving at police headquarters the dynamic duo agree that nobody in Gotham is safe, and when a phone call is received confirming that the fire chief and his helmet have been taken they wonder what the Mad Hatter is up to. But at the Mad Hatter’s secret lair we see that he’s set up a jury of mannequins that are now wearing the stolen hats. He’s almost done adorning them, and then he plans to steal the most amazing hat at all for the mannequin in the witness box: Batman’s cowl.
Not only that but he’s prepared his hat-making machine to skin and fold Batman into a pulp, while offering his kidnapped victims – his real jury members who convicted him – for ransom. The next step in his plan is to lure the caped crusaders from investigating the kidnapping of the fire chief to Magda’s Millinery, where he kidnaps his 11th juror and her hat.
Batman arrive at the scene of the crime too late to be of help, but the Mad Hatter’s girlfriend Lisa gives them a phony clue leading them to believe sculptor Octave Marbot may be the next target. At the Batcave they consult their giant lighted lucite map of Gotham City and then race off to the rescue. Marbot has indeed become a victim, and the Mad Hatter has donned the sculptor’s smock, goatee, beret and glasses as a disguise.
Since Batman has recently been posing for a sculpture with Marbot, he suspects a ruse. When he’s asked to remove his cowl his suspicions are confirmed, and Batman and Robin finally leap into action and confront the Mad Hatter. A fight breaks out and the villain tried using his mesmerising beam on Batman, who reflects it using his anti-mesmerising bat-reflector… but the beam hits Robin and knocks his sidekick out!
Batman goes to check on Robin but is knocked back by the Mad Hatter, who then pours super fast hardening plaster over the dark knight detective. As a stunned Robin watches helplessly, Batman is totally encased inside the lump of plaster and his death looks certain. Can Batman escape and save the day or is he too plastered? Is his fate set in stone? Find out at the same Bat-time on the same Bat-channel!
The second installment features an unlikely escape from the cliffhanger, a reminder of why it isn’t easy to steal the Batmobile, Alfred going undercover at a bowling alley as they try to prevent the final juror from being kidnapped and Robin being placed in the deadly hat-making machine.
This is one of the smartest plots of the Batman ’66 series, even despite the Mad Hatter’s outlandish mesmerising top hat. He wants revenge, pure and simple, but he wants it to be dramatic and full of poetic irony. It’s hard to imagine Batman posing for a sculpture, but we do see him and Robin doing some detective work in following the clues. The fight scenes are good, the acting and directing is solid and on the whole these are good episodes.
I just wish they’d done more with the hats.
For fans of the comic books, Jervis Tetch is one of the villains who’s surprisingly dangerous on many levels. He’s got his mind-control routine going on here, and thankfully they stopped it at that with no signs of his unhealthy obsession with children that was introduced in comic books later. Bizarrely, Tetch is played with amazing gusto and style by David Wayne, who played a child-killer in the remake of M. Throwing himself into every scene with flamboyant energy he really makes the most of it, and elevates the character into someone who’s highly entertaining and watchable.
Adam West is in good form, Burt Ward is better, and once again Alan Napier gets a chance to shine brightly as Alfred. In fact, there’s very little wrong with these episodes at all and they really stand out. Also we get a good glimpse of the giant lighted lucite map, which always raises a giggle.