Episode Title: The Minstrel’s Shakedown
Original Airdate: September 21, 1966
Throughout its three season run, there were some pretty big stars that showed up on Batman as villains. In our episode today, one time matinee idol Van Johnson shows up as a villain original to the series, the Minstrel. Sadly, not all guest villains resonated with the show’s audience, so these next two episodes mark the only appearance of this villain. Let’s jump in with part one of the story, The Minstrel’s Shakedown.
Our story begins with trouble on the Gotham City Stock Exchange. The stock prices going across the wire have gone nuts. Some are too low, some are too high. Just as the brokers start to wonder what’s up, a mysterious figure calling himself the Minstrel breaks into a local TV station signal. While strumming his lute, he declares that he can put everything right again if all the brokers pay him $1,000 per week. Of course, Batman is called into action.
First, our heroes head to the exchange to check out the transmitter that delivers the stock prices. Of course, they notice the tampering that’s been done by the Minstrel. Obviously the Minstrel is an electronics genius. Our heroes decide to create their own tiny microphone and stakeout the exchange. When they do encounter the Minstrel, he sets off a number of flares which blind the Caped Crusaders and allow him to escape.
Later, the Dynamic Duo use a drone to track down where Minstrel’s TV signal is coming from. They find that he is hiding out in an old warehouse. Of course, they head to the scene and scale the wall with their bat rope. When they burst into the hideout, a fight with the Minstel’s henchmen breaks out. After easily taking care of them, our heroes seek out Minstrel. However, they end up falling into a trap. Next thing we know, they are both tied to a spit…slowly roasting over heat. Cue the cliffhanger narration.
Can this be true???
Is the melodic fiend finally cooking the duo’s goose???
Check the thermometer on your radar grill…
Be here tomorrow.
Same hot time, same hot channel…
This episode ends up being a pretty straightforward one, without a lot of the little moments of craziness that we’ve gotten from several of the other more recent episodes. There’s no goofy situation that our heroes are put into or crazy gadgets. In fact, the coolest gadget that Batman uses in this installment is one that has become pretty commonplace in our 2016 world…a drone. Batman doesn’t even lecture Robin on good citizenship, hygiene, or safety. About the closest thing we get is the first (that I can remember) appearance of the close-up shot of our heroes buckling their seat belts around their waists as they get into the Batmobile. This shows up several more times throughout the series.
Van Johnson is pretty decent as the Minstrel, but the villain doesn’t really have much of a gimmick. He’s not exactly an extreme personality like Joker, or Penguin, or Riddler. He’s an electronics expert who sings little songs and dresses funny. We never really get a good idea of what Minstrel’s M.O. is in this episode. Hopefully we’ll learn more next time. I will say that I did think the little song Minstrel serenades the Caped Crusaders with as we head toward the cliffhanger:
(To the tune of “Rock-a-bye Baby”)
Batman and Robin, rotate and revolve
As the heat grows, your bodies dissolve
When it’s still hotter, then you will melt
Nothing left but your utility belt
One other note about this episode is that it does feature a strange cameo, though not during the sequence where our heroes climb up the wall (as is often the case). While trying to find Minstrel at the stock exchange, Batman and Robin run across a cleaning lady. At first it seems like it could be one of minstrel’s gang…but it’s just the cleaning lady. When Batman approaches her she turns around to reveal she’s played by comedian Phyllis Diller.
But there’s no time for getting caught up in celebrity cameos…our heroes are roasting like a pig at a luau. Oddly enough, this is the second adventure in a row where the cliffhanger involves Batman and Robin being cooked to death. I doubt an solar eclipse will save them this time. Find out what happens next week in Barbecued Batman? Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City
Holy Hot Spot