Episode Title: The Curse of Tut
Original Airdate: April 13, 1966
I have two big memories from the year 1977, when I was six years old. First, of course, was going to see Star Wars. Second was seeing the Treasures of Tutankhamun at the Field Museum in Chicago. The King Tut exhibit was a cultural phenomenon in its own right. Millions of people lined up to see the exhibit. In fact, the first time my parents and I went to go see the exhibit we had to turn back because the line was out the front door of the museum and down the block. I even had a T-Shirt with a picture of the famous gold Tut mask that said “Tut Nut.” It turns out, though, that a decade before King Tut took over Chicago, he tried to take over Gotham City in today’s episode of Batman…The Curse of Tut.
Our story begins as a giant gold sphynx statue appears at a peaceful Gotham park and begins proclaiming that the king of the nile will claim his kingdom. At first, Commissioner Gordon figures it is a publicity stunt of the Gotham Museum, which is about to open a new exhibit of Egyptian antiquities. However, when he calls museum board member Bruce Wayne to protest, he learns that it is not a stunt. Gordon then calls Batman who quickly determines that the villainous King Tut (Victor Buono) is responsible…even though everyone thought he had perished in “that warehouse fire.”
It seems that Tut was once a Yale professor who was struck on the head during a student riot. Ever since, he has believed himself to be the reincarnation of King Tut, and that Gotham is the new Thebes. He seeks to reclaim his Kingdom. Batman and Robin decide they need to examine the sphynx at the park to try and get some clues. While there, the statue speaks once again. The voice is being provided by Tut’s main squeeze, Nefertiti (Ziva Rodann), broadcasting from a nearby phone booth. The Dynamic Duo find what appears to be a door handle on the statue, but it’s really a booby trap, which they spring without harm. When they confront Nefertiti, they are attacked by Tut’s sword wielding goons.
The Caped Crusaders easily deal with Tut’s men and then figure that this was just a distraction. Tut will surely strike at the museum’s Egyptian exhibit. Batman heads for the museum, but as Bruce Wayne (remember, he’s a board member). As he gives a tour to some reporters, he displays a mummy…which then suddenly opens it’s eyes and tumbles out of the coffin. Of course, it’s Tut. An ambulance arrives to take the body to the hospital…but the paramedics are Tuts men. They gas Bruce Wayne to knock him out and then kidnap him. Now Tut uses the sphynx to announce that he has captured Bruce and will soon give his ransom demands. However, as Tut’s men escape in the ambulance, with Bruce tied to a gurney, Gotham’s favorite millionaire manages to kick the rear door open. This sends him rolling on the stretcher down the mountain road. He may have escaped the bad guys…but he’s still strapped down and rolling toward a 300 foot drop off. Cue the cliffhanger narration…
Bruce Wayne hurtling toward an awesome abyss!!
What will be his fate?
How can he possibly be saved this time?
Be in front of your Bat-sets tomorrow night.
Same time. Same channel.
One hint: the most horrendous is yet to come.
The character of King Tut is a villain original to this series. He has no origin in the Batman comics. Who would’ve thought that such a character would be at the center of what may be one of the most wonderfully nutty episodes of this classic series’ first season. Victor Buono is a real treat as the portly and pompous Tut. Buono had a long career in both TV and movies. He appeared on dozens of classic shows and was even one of the mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but this is probably the role he is most remembered for. His overly dramatic delivery in this episode is pitch perfect. I love the almost Shakespearean way the words roll off his tongue as he tells one of his henchmen, “You’re a twit.” Later he tells Nefertiti with great dramatic flair, “I must proclaim my reincarnation to the faithful!” He then shifts his tone slightly and adds, “Gimme the telephone.” Buono’s comedic timing is a joy to behold in this episode.
I also really love the costuming and production design associated with this villain. Tut has an elaborate hideout, filled with artifacts and decorated in hieroglyphics. Tut’s costumes are just as impressive. He wears flowing robes, gold bands, and a cape made of garish blue feathers. He also has multiple outfits, which is a nice change from the lack of variety in the fashion choices of baddies like the Joker or the Penguin. Speaking of the other villains, usually they have a gang of lackies and one lovely female follower. Tut, though, is quite the player! He’s got not less than five beauties waiting on him hand and foot. Though, apparently Nefertiti has grown somewhat tired of the life of luxury Tut provides. One of my favorite scenes is where she eats a hot dog because she’s grown tired of figs, dates, and pomegranates. When she offers Tut a bite he hisses and exclaims, “Unclean!”
This episode has many very funny moments from both heroes and villains alike. The dialogue is funny and clever, and the story itself goes in some very original directions. I mean Batman and Robin get involved in a fencing match with Tut’s henchmen! Beat that! The script by Robert C Dennis and Earl Barret is simply brilliant. The two only wrote two stories (4 episodes) of this series. The other set of episodes being Tut’s season 2 appearance…which I am even more anxious to watch now. First we have to get through part 2 of this story, though. Poor Bruce Wayne is rolling toward his death. Find out what happens next time in The Pharaoh’s in a Rut. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).
Bad Gadgets Used:
Holy Cliffhanger (spoken by the narrator)