Episode Title: The Joker Goes to School
Original Airdate: March 2, 1966
This week Batman’s arch rival returns to Gotham City for a new scheme. Only a criminal as sinister as the Joker could conceive of a plot to corrupt the good, decent, teenagers of Gotham. Caesar Romero returns as the mustachioed version of the Clown Prince of Crime in this week’s episode, The Joker goes to School.
Our story begins at Woodrow Roosevelt High School. During a break in cheerleading practice, head cheerleader Susie (Donna Loren) and the other girls try to get a refreshing milk from a vending machine. Instead, the machine hands out silver dollars, like a slot machine. Of course, everyone starts to try and get in on the action, except for student body president Dick Grayson. When Commissioner Gordon finds out, he immediately deduces that this must be a plot of the Joker, who was just recently released from prison. Batman is called in immediately.
Now it turns out that upon his release, the Joker purchased control of the One-Armed Bandit Novelty company. When a report comes in from the school that a candy machine in the library is now handing out negotiable stocks and bonds, it becomes clear that the Joker is behind all this. Batman rushes off to the high school for a meeting with the student council, including Dick Grayson. During the meeting, the Joker himself puts in an appearance, but with no evidence Batman can’t nab him, not even on a loitering on school grounds charge. It turns out, though, that the Joker was just setting up an alibi. While he was at the school, one of his jukeboxes in a local bar opens up to reveal a shotgun. This holds the patrons at bay while the Joker’s men, known as the “Bad Pennies,” rush in to empty the register.
Later, at the Joker’s lair, we learn that the sweet cheerleader Susie is actually a part of Joker’s gang. She has managed to snatch some exam papers for the next part of his plan. Meanwhile, the Caped Crusaders decide to return to the school to investigate. Susie spots them, though, and alerts the Joker. As our heroes examine the rigged milk machine, they are hit with some of the Joker’s knockout gas. They awake to find themselves in the back of a truck sitting in electric chairs. The chairs are rigged to a slot machine. If the machine hits three lemons, 50,000 volts will be sent through their bodies. Cue the cliffhanger…
Horrors! One Lemon!
Double Horrors! Two Lemons!!
And if it’s a third…
Instant and inescapable 50,000 volts!
Close your eyes!
Who dares to see it??
Try us tomorrow!
It’s great to see Caesar Romero back as the Joker! Though, you’ve got to wonder what’s wrong with Gotham City’s prison system that the Joker would actually be released from prison!? The more I watch Romero’s take on the character, the more impressed I am with how well he balanced the comical and sinister aspects of the character. In this episode we don’t know the full extent of his scheme just yet, but we do know that he’s essentially after the souls of Gotham’s youth. He’s handing out free money, presumably to turn them into slackers who think life should give them handouts…thus making them more susceptible to a life of crime. Come to think of it, the whole handing out money plot device was used by the Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman flick, as well.
I also love that the Joker’s device for trying to kill off Batman and the Boy Wonder is both silly and gruesome all at the same time. I mean come on…electric chairs hooked up to a slot machine! It’s brilliant! Of course, when Batman finds out about his predicament he informs the Joker that he “doesn’t approve of gambling.”
This episode also features a fantastic addition to the lovely ladies of Gotham club in the form of Donna Loren as Susie the cheerleader. I actually had the great pleasure to interview Miss Loren earlier this year for an episode of my podcast. She appeared in several iconic 60’s TV shows. In addition to Batman, she also appeared on The Monkees, Dr. Kildaire, and was a regular on Shindig. She also appeared in many of the Beach Party movies from American International Pictures. She proves herself to be one of the best of the villain’s female gang members we’ve seen on the series so far. Part of that is that she leads a double life. She’s sweet Susie, the head cheerleader Dick Grayson seems to have a crush on…but she’s also a scheming and crafty villain who is tougher than the other henchmen and even seems to be pulling the Joker’s strings in one sequence. She’s a great addition to this episode. Today, Donna Loren still makes appearances with Adam West and Burt Ward at various Batman events, even still wearing her cheerleader outfit from time to time. This episode makes it clear why her character continues to be a fan favorite.
This is a great episode…but we still have a little problem of lemons to deal with. Two have come up already, and with a third it’s ZAP for our heroes. Be sure to join us next time for part two…He Meets His Match, The Grisly Ghoul. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero)
Bad Gadgets Used:
Holy Ball and Chain
Holy Las Vegas
Holy Fruit Salad