After the previous two episodes of Batman ’66, you’d be forgiven for being hesitant about watching more. But there’s always hope, and in this case it’s provided by the catsuit-clad clawed criminal known as Catwoman. Ironic, since this show brought hope for Catwoman too.
In the comic books, Catwoman was one of the earliest Batman villains (originally known just as The Cat). But she’d been absent from comics for 12 years due to fears of censorship after Seduction of the Innocent and the Comics Code Authority appeared. Then the 1966 Batman TV show gave her a new lease on life, and since then it’s hard to imagine the franchise without her.
So it’s time to switch on the atomic pile, ake your bat-phone off the hook and settle in with the latest trip back in time…
It’s midnight in Gotham City, and at the museum a glove with sharp claws is used to cut the glass of a display case containing the gold statue of a cat. The thief steals the statue and the police are baffled, until a box arrives at their headquarters for Commissioner Gordon. Inside it is a kitten and a press clipping showing the cat statue and its seemingly indentical counterpart. Gordon and Chief O’Hara realise that this means the feline fiend Catwoman is up to her old tricks again, and place a call to the dynamic duo for aid.
The call is answered at stately Wayne Manor, where Bruce Wayne is teaching his young ward Dick Grayson the skill of thinking ahead by playing multi-level chess. They respond to the summons and race to the batcave, changing into the heroic team of Batman and Robin once again.
Arriving at police headquarters, the owner of the statues explains that they are a pair and that the second one is at the Gotham City Exposition. Batman realises that Catwoman will strike there soon, and the caped crusaders need to figure out their next step once they return to the batcave. But in the batmobile, Batman refuses to drive off until Robin has buckled up properly, and teaches him about seatbelt safety.
Across town at the fur warehouse where Catwoman has her secret lair, she literally cracks the whip on her henchmen. She has plans to stop Batman and Robin before they stop her, although the statues are just the first step in her scheme. She’s looking for the lost treasure of Captain Manx, and the statues are the map to its location.
At the batcave, Batman prepares a trackable radioactive spray to put on the second statue, just in case Catwoman should successfully make off with it. He and Robin race to the Exposition and even pay to get in, but the man who sells them the tickets is one of Catwoman’s henchmen and lets her know they’ve arrived. As darkness falls, our heroes spray the statue and Batman goes on patrol of the museum while Robin is left on guard.
Once he’s alone, Catwoman sends a cat to attack Robin and the cat scratches contain the knockout drug called cataclaw. Batman races to help him and confronts Catwoman, who toys with him before sending in her henchmen to attack him. In the melee, Catwoman escapes with the statue while Batman focuses on giving Robin the anitdote to the toxin.
Back at her lair, Catwoman expects the arrival of the dynamic duo and she’s right. Tracing the radioactive trail from the statue, our heroes arrive and use the batmobile to cut the booby-trapped door open. But no sooner are they inside the building than they fall down through a trapdoor and into one of Catwoman’s traps. As she taunts them over a loudspeaker, the spiked walls of the room begin to press in and death looks certain.
Or is it? Batman notices that the spikes are merely harmless rubber, and realises they’re being toyed with again. Then she throws a bomb into the room, but instead of exploding it just triggers a sign that reads “MEOW!” These distractions allow her to separate the two crimefighters though, as Robin gets sucked up a giant vacuum tube which leaves Batman alone.
The next game is a potentially deadly one, as Catwoman forces Batman to gamble and choose one of two indentical doors to open. She’s hiding behind one and can be captured, but behind the other is a man-eating tiger. It’s random chance and with no clues, which will he choose? He picks one, but the tiger is revealed. It sees him and starts stalking forwards… Has Catwoman finally got her claws into Batman? Will this be a cat-astrophe? There’s only one way to find out and that’s watch the second part, same cat-time, same cat-channel…
The second part of the story features Robin’s own separate deathtrap (a far more dangerous one), the batmobile fixing its own punctured tyre, Batman wearing earplugs over his mask and one of Catwoman’s henchman trying to get his hands on her chest… of stolen jewels.
After the mess that were the False Face episodes, Catwoman is the perfect antidote. Julie Newmar brings playfulness, danger and sexiness to the role and slinks in and out of every scene perfectly. Her eyebrows may look a little disturbing and the disdain she has for her own henchmen is obvious, but those factors both work to her advantage.
The story is almost pointless, just something that’s been tacked on to give the characters something to do, but the pace moves so quickly it’s almost impossible not to get swept up and go along for the ride. There’s a fair amount of campiness too, and Robin’s constant “Holy…” statements seem over-used here. However, they’re often hilarious and seeing him grapple with a cat and saying “Holy cat!” should make anyone grin.
Moments like Robin’s seatbelt lesson are unfortunate but had to be done due to pressure from “concerned citizens”, which strangely adds to the comedy of the whole thing. On the flip side, the boundaries of family-friendly television are constantly being pushed by Catwoman’s statements about brushing her pussywillows and various other double entendres that give Batman a strange stirring in his utility belt.
Everything being said, these are still two silly but fun episodes that offer a lot of entertainment and prove just why Julie Newmar was Sheldon’s favourite Catwoman in The Big Bang Theory. Give them a chance and she may be yours too.