Episode Title: The Penguin Goes Straight
Original Airdate: March 23, 1966
A New Year is upon us! A time of resolutions. Well, it would seem that in this week’s episode of Batman, an unlikely person has made a resolution of his own. None other than the Penguin, it seems, has resolved to turn away from a life of crime and become a crime fighter instead!?! How could it be? Let’s find out as Burgess Meredith returns as the waddling criminal mastermind in The Penguin Goes Straight.
As our episode begins, the Penguin is attending a play when during the intermission a masked man with a machine gun charges in to rob jewels from Gotham socialite Sophia Starr. With the help of his bullet-proof umbrella, Penguin is able to foil the criminal. He knocks the crook to the floor with a punch, even getting the word “Pow!” on the screen (usually only Batman and Robin get the on-screen exclamations). Of course, Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara are suspicious of all this and call in the Caped Crusaders.
After a failed attempt to interrogate the crook who pulled the theater job, a report comes in that the Penguin is at the Gotham Millionaire’s Club. Batman and Robin arrive just as the Penguin is stopping two criminals from kidnapping Reggie Rich (related to Richie Rich?). It seems that the Penguin’s career as a crime fighter is really taking off. So much so that he starts the “Penguin Protective Agency, Incorporated.” He has already been hired to protect the priceless jewels of Sophia Starr. This gives our heroes an opportunity. What they need to do is create fake versions of the jewels laced with radiation that our heroes can trace (not unlike what they did to Catwoman in our last episode). The challenge is how to find out what the jewels look like without alerting the Penguin. Of course, they recruit Alfred to pose as an insurance man. He takes pictures of the jewels but almost reveals himself when he attempts to plant a bugged version of the Penguin’s cigarette holder. A detector in the villain’s umbrella handle alerts him to the device. Before Penguin can determine who Alfred is working for, the loyal butler literally pulls the rug out from under the crook and escapes.
However, Alfred did succeed in getting the pictures, allowing the Dynamic Duo to make their fake set. Now, they only have to plant them in Sophia Starr’s safe. Unfortunately, as they try to break into the safe, Penguin and his men burst in…making our heroes look like the criminals. After a fight, the Caped Crusaders escape out the window…but the damage is done. Penguin plants a story in the paper painting Batman and Robin as the crooks. He also alerts Gordon that he’ll be throwing a party at the Gotham Amusement Pier. Batman and Robin show up, but Penguin’s men drop a cement-filled umbrella on their heads. Then, they string the heroes up directly behind the carnival shooting gallery…with Gordon and O’Hara about to unwittingly blow holes in our heroes. Cue the cliffhanger narration…
Batman and Robin…a swinging pair of dead ducks!
What on earth can save them??
Don’t shoot, Commissioner, don’t shoot!!!
Good grief! Good night!
Double funeral tomorrow?
Same bat-time, same bat-channel!
Can YOU see any way out??
When I reviewed the last Penguin story we encountered, I commented on how the Penguin is probably one of the craftier villains of this series. He certainly shows that off in this episode. I mean what other Batman would go to the lengths Penguin goes to in this episode to convince the city of Gotham that he has truly gone straight? At one point, even Robin starts to question the situation and wonders if the tricky bird really has gone legit. Penguin always seems to be a few steps ahead of Batman and Robin and Meredith’s performance really sells that he had every little detail of this caper planned out in great detail. Sure the Joker or the Riddler get the jump on our heroes from time to time, but you always feel a bit like they stumbled into it. Meredith’s Penguin, though, leaves nothing to chance and is more than an intellectual match for Batman.
One thing I loved about this episode were Penguin’s henchmen. Of course, they have odd bird-related nicknames. “Dove” is played by Al Checco, a veteran of many TV series throughout the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. But the real highlight is the great Harvey Lembeck as “Eagle-Eye.” Lembeck is probably best known to 60’s movie fans as the sputtering villain of the Frankie & Annette Beach Party series…Eric Von Zipper. Lembeck’s New-Yawk style accent is perfect for the role of a somewhat bumbling criminal henchman. It’s not a huge role, but it’s a treat to see him. A part of me really wishes that Lembeck had at some point been given a lead villain role on the series. He would’ve been fantastic!
This episode features several other treats! It’s always a lot of fun to see Alfred get involved in the crime fighting. Seeing him literally yank a rug out from under Penguin’s feet before dashing out of the room is a great moment. Though, it does kind of go against what I said about Penguin being clever considering that the wily bird didn’t manage to figure out that Alfred has ties to Batman. Another fun moment, considering what has happened in recent Batman movies, is the interrogation scene. When Gordon and O’Hara can’t get any info out of the Penguin’s man, they shut off the lights and the shadowy figure of Batman appears to scare him into giving info. It’s actually somewhat similar to what Gordon and Batman do with the Joker in the interrogation sequence of The Dark Knight. But, in this case, the criminal passes out of fright.
But now, if there’s any fear, it’s for Batman and Robin. How on earth are they going to get out of this one? And the worst part is…it might be Gordon and O’Hara who unwittingly bring about the end of the Caped Crusaders. Join us next time for Not Yet, He Aint. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Electric Eye Looping Unit
Holy Nick of Time
Holy Knock Out Drops
Holy Bat Trap