Episode Title: The Ring of Wax
Original Airdate: March 30, 1966
I’ve mentioned before how the Riddler was not one of Gotham’s A-list villains when the Batman TV series debuted. However, the producers of the show saw the great potential in this character. In the first season he showed up more times than any other member of the rogues gallery, with 4 stories (8 episodes). This week brings us the start of his third appearance with the creepily titled episode The Ring of Wax.
The story begins at the wax museum of Madame Soleil where a ceremony is being held for the unveiling of a new wax statue of none other than Batman. However, when the curtain opens, the wax likeness is that of the Riddler (as portrayed, once again, by Frank Gorshin). The figure is holding a gun which squirts the audience with red paint. A tape recorder then provides the obligatory riddles. First, “What is black and white and red all over?” followed by, “What has branches and leaves and no bark?” Later at Gordon’s office, it is Robin, as usual, that jumps on trying to solve the riddles. The first seems too easy; a newspaper of course. However the second seems to indicate a library (as books have leaves and there are library branches). So the first riddle answer must have been “book” instead of “newspaper.” The Caped Crusaders decide to head for the Gotham City Library.
Meanwhile, Riddler and his men are at their new hideout – a candle factory. There Riddler reveals that he stole the wax figure of Batman because it was made with a new type of wax, banned in our country, because it is a universal solvent which can eat through the locks of any vault. The vault he has his eye on is the one at the library which houses a rare book on the lost treasures of the Incas. Batman and Robin show up just as Riddler and his men nab the book, and a fight ensues. However, Riddler manages a getaway by using a spray adhesive to glue our heroes’ feet to the floor.
The Dynamic Duo free themselves with a bat laser and head back to the Batcave to analyze the waxy substance Riddler left behind. They find it contains Nitrogen, Uranium, and Sodium; the first letters of each word being NUS…or if reversed, SUN. The French word for “sun” is Soleil. So Riddler plans to strike at Madame Soleil’s museum again! Our heroes head for the museum, but don’t notice Riddler and his men disguised as wax figures of Revolutionary War soldiers. A couple of blow darts fired from a fife knock out the Caped Crusaders. Next thing we know, they are suspended over a vat of hot wax…about to be turned into giant candles. Cue the cliffhanger narration…
Infamy of infamies!!
Can this be the end of our beloved Caped Crusaders??
Will Batman wax serious?
For the sake of our heroes, let’s think positively!!!
But it looks bad, very bad!
How can we wait until tomorrow night…
This episode is proof positive as to why the Riddler is the greatest villain of this series. In this episode alone, Gorshin earns his Emmy nomination for supporting actor in a comedy. He is wonderfully unhinged! He’s so impressed with his clever plan throughout this episode that he simply can’t contain himself. He prances around like a child coming down the stairs on Christmas morning. Then there’s the laugh…which is simply devilish. Oh, and the bit with the wax version of the Riddler is fantastic! The figure is both extremely lifelike and eerily creepy. The creep factor is increased when it shoots red paint out of its gun, which looks a lot like the bright red blood used in Hammer horror movies. There’s also a little bit of fun to be had with his henchmen this time. Their appearance alone is comical as one, Matches, is extremely tall, while other, Tallow (which is the name of a substance once used to make candles), is pretty short. Tallow, by they way, is played by Joe E. Tata, who would later play the lovable owner of the Peach Pit, Nat, on Beverly Hills 90210. Riddler also has a female member of the gang, Moth (Linda Gaye Scott). She wears a strange Barbarella-style costume with wings made of shiny blue fabric.
We get some really fun moments with our heroes in this one as well. For example, as Batman and Robin run into the library to try and thwart the Prince of Puzzlers, the librarian lets out a loud “Heavens to betsy!” Batman quickly reminds her to keep her voice down in the library by gently pointing to the “no talking” sign.” I also love how things are getting a bit more convoluted when it comes to the solutions our heroes come to for the Riddler’s clues. It’s one thing to easily solve the riddle of “what is black and white and red all over,” but the way Batman and Robin figure out the clue about Soleil’s wax museum is a huge stretch…and I love it! Take the first letter in the name of each ingredient of the wax, put them together, reverse the order, and translate into French…perfectly logical.
Before closing this week’s review, I should mention that earlier this week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the premier of Batman. It first rolled out on January 12, 1966 and, as this episode shows, the series is still as entertaining as it was then. But enough of the past, we need to think about the future! Things aren’t looking good for Batman and Robin at the end of this episode. How will they escape from being dipped in wax? Find out next time in Give ‘em the Axe. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Hyper Spectrographic Analyzer