Batman '66 is a divisive phenomenon. Die hard Bat-Fans tend to either embrace it as an alternative, quaint and comical adaptation, or lambaste it as the damaging of an Icon's reputation. If you've never seen it before, here's 10 of the most absurd stories to check out with the series' first ever home release next week.
Batman '66 didn't just rely on the Caped crusader's huge roster of Comic book villains, but took to creating its own from time to time, and Tallulah Bankhead's Black Widow (not to be confused with Marvel's hero, introduced two years before Batman aired) an interesting one considering the fact that she's both a female villain, but an older woman too. Her two episodes are a camp take on the usual Bank Heist format, involving some Brain washing shenanigans that lead to Batman momentarily turning into a bad guy against his will.
It also features an amazing scene where Batman and Robin are paralysed and accosted by some practically-lifeless fake spiders. Batman silliness at some of its kitschy finest.
Now, most of the episodes on this list are here because they're a camp delight, or because they feature an interesting moment for the villain of the piece, but The Joker's Flying Saucer is here mainly as it's an interesting look at how farcically poor the show had gotten as it progressed into its third season. Batman '66 always trod a fine line between fun and overt farce, but The Joker building a UFO to terrorise Gotham is most definitely not the series' brightest moment.
It does however, feature Joker blurting this line out to Batgirl, after strapping her to a Rocket:
I've thrilled many a woman, Batgirl, but I've never sent one completely into orbit before!
Which... take from that what you will.
Frank Gorshin's final appearance as The Riddler in the show's first season (the character wouldn't return until the third season, as Gorshin wanted a raise) is easily his best one. While most of the show's villains were maniacally unhinged, Gorshin's Riddler was the only one that ever came close to getting across a sense of threat and darkness that made him one of Batman's best opponents.
This weird tale sees the Riddler and a crew of nefarious filmmakers use the front of filming silent films to initiate a series of robberies (including a particularly grand Chaplin homage), and also includes the infamous scene of Robin tied up and about to be cut in half by a buzzsaw, surprisingly one of the most threatening moments in the show. It's balanced out by a bust up at a Temperance party serving spiked lemonade, because why not?
Another made-for villain, the Egghead might just be the best original creation from the show - and that's largely down to the legendarily hammy performance from Vincent Price, as the bald, egg-pun-fascinated villain.
His introductory story certainly has some dodgy tones in it, watching it today - it revolves around Gotham being built on the land of some American Natives, who are willing to give up the rights to it for, err, 9 raccoon pelts - but it's worth watching solely to see Price vamp it up big time. You can tell he's having a lot of fun doing it, and he's a lot of fun to watch.
Cesar Romero, alongside Burgess Meredith as Penguin, was one of Batman's most frequent villains, but as with more on this list, his first is definitely one of his finest. Like many Joker stories over the 75 years of Bat-shenanigans we've seen, it revolves around the Joker attempting to unmask Batman and Robin, but its humorous tone went on to define the nature of the rest of the series to the point it's almost the most iconic episode of the series, perfectly encapsulating what so many people like about Batman '66.
Also, to blow your mind a bit, at one point Joker is disguised as a Clown during a performance of Pagliacci, and if you've seen The Dark Knight, it might look a little familiar.
Ah, the Julie Newmar Catwoman. Although the character was played by three different actresses, Newmar's first take on the character is considered the best of the three, and she hits the ground running in her first story. Batman '66's complete disregard for subtlety is rampant with the insane costumes for Catwoman's henchmen, leopard-print jackets and cat ears abound as she goes on a Cat-themed robbing spree. Robbery is basically the default plot for Batman '66.
This episode is also infamous for a scene where Batman fights (well, let's use the term 'fights' loosely) a Tiger. What more do you want?
As I mentioned earlier, Joker and the Penguin were Batman '66's most prominent villains - so when the two of them team up for a spree of crimes themed around Zodiac signs, it's actually a real treat. The story wasn't just the first three-parter the show did, but one of the first to offer a villain team like this. Batman and Robin aren't even the parts to enjoy from it, it's the Penguin and Joker trading barbs at each other, and it's such a joy to watch Meredith and Romero playing off each other.
Also, one of their planned crimes is to pollute Gotham's water supply... by turning it into Strawberry Jelly. This is the exact sort of ridiculousness that sits at the heart of the show.
Batman was on the way out heading into it's third season, but it's attempts to shore up ratings did give us our first on-screen Batgirl in Yvonne Craig. It's a welcome presence for a female hero on the show - especially after plenty of female villains - and although it's not a particularly heroic outing for Barbara Gordon (she gets kidnapped by the Penguin pretty much instantly), it's great to see Barbara finally turning up.
It's a classic plot - Villain purportedly turns good, Heroes framed for crime - and surprisingly clever for Batman '66 (and shades of which will feature in Burton's Batman Returns, oddly enough). It's Burgess Meredith's finest appearance as The Penguin, and actually features one of the show's most sinister cliffhangers, which considering the sometimes absurd nature of the show, is a rarity, as Batman and Robin are left hanging behind a shooting gallery about to be shot by Chief O'hara and Commissioner Gordon. Even with that though, there's still some of that good ol' fashioned goofiness in there too.
Okay, so I'm slightly cheating with this one as it's not from the TV show, but Batman: The Movie is pretty much the microcosm of what everyone either loves or hates about Batman '66 - it's the ultimate thing to watch if you want to dip your toes into some Batusi-fuelled madness. With the show's best villains coming together for one big caper against Batman and Robin, it was designed as a sort of extended advert for the series to international viewers (it didn't need it, the show was an instant success and sparked a wave of Bat-Mania. Between Beatlemania and Dalek Mania, what the hell was it with the 60's and pop culture manias?). It's also perhaps the part of the show most people are familiar with, mainly because unlike the rest of the series, it's been available on Home release for a while - Which means it's best gags are the ones that you've seen on the internet everywhere, from Bat-Shark Repellent (and the infamous 'Batman fighting a shark' scene that's spawned countless in-jokes), to yes, the fantastic and ridiculous Bomb disposal scene:
Classic. If you watch anything from this list, it should be this. It's everything about Batman '66 distilled into 100 minutes of camp delight.
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