Episode Title: The Zodiac Crimes
Original Airdate: January 11, 1967
We’ve made it through 70 episodes of Batman, and so far they’ve all followed the same basic two-part story format. Producers decided to do something a bit different, though, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the show. Which brings us to the first of two three-part stories that would air during the show’s second season. For that, one villain would not be enough. So here come Special Guest Villain the Joker (Cesar Romero), as well as “Extra Special Guest Villain” the Penguin (Burgess Meredith) in The Zodiac Crimes.
As our story begin, Chief O’Hara is showing Commissioner Gordon the police force’s new Rare Art Map, which will help them keep track of valuable works of art around the city which theives may want to steal. Enter the Joker, who promptly steals the map and promises a string of twelve crimes. When called into action, Batman quickly determines that the Clown Prince of Crime is planning a series of crimes based on the signs of the zodiac. In fact, stealing the Rare Art Map was the first such crime. “Rare Art Map,” R-A-M…as in Aries the Ram.
Meanwhile, back at his lair, the Joker receives a large package. Inside is none other than the Penguin, who has just busted out of prison. Joker then calls Batman at Gordon’s office to drop a clue which points Batman to the zodiac sign of Gemini…the twins. Batman and Robin decide they need to go check out the singing duo known as “The Twins.” Turns out they are really members of Joker’s gang in disguise. They are surprised, though, when Penguin shows up on the scene. This is just a diversion, though. At the same time, Joker is stealing a pair of diamonds, known as “The Twins,” from a local diamond shop.
After examining some evidence, our heroes end up at Joker’s lair and encounter the girl of his gang, the lovely Venus (Terry Moore). She agrees to take them to the scene of Joker’s next crime, an opera performance by Leon Crustash (as in Crustacean…the crab). A fight against Joker, Penguin, and their goons breaks out in the middle of the performance. When all is said and done, Penguin is captured.
A short time later, the police receive a photo of a valuable statue on display at a Gotham museum. Joker must be planning to steal it…fitting the bill for the Virgo part of Joker’s zodiac crimes. The Caped Crusaders show up at the museum and a fight breaks out with Joker’s gang, including some disguised as statues. Also disguised as a statue is Venus, who uses some knock-out gas on the heroes. Next thing we know, Batman and Robin are tied up under a giant meteor which will drop on them when the rope supporting it burns through. Cue the cliffhanger narration:
Can it be?
The Dynamic Duo crushed to death by an eight ton meteoritte??
Will the Joker’s prophecy come true??
Are their horoscopes canceled??
Is this their last star…??
Tune in tomorrow!
Same time! Same channel! Same peril!!
One thing that is strange to consider with this episode is that just about two years after this episode aired a string of murders by a still unknown killer dubbed the Zodiac Killer began in California. The David Fincher film Zodiac was based on these events. Though the crimes in this episode are definitely more lighthearted, the actual Zodiac crimes do cast a bit of a shadow over this episode.
If for no other reason, this episode is worth a watch just for the joy of seeing Cesar Romero’s Joker and Burgess Meredith’s Penguin together. Of course the two had shared the screen in the Batman theatrical film the previous summer, but it’s great to see them together again. Both brought to life the definitive versions of these villains for a generation. Both expertly handle their roles and show off their comedic skills. Penguin does kind of get relegated to more of a supporting role in the whole plan, though. This doesn’t necessarily fit considering that in previous episodes the Penguin always came across as a bit craftier than Joker. Pengiun does get some good moments, though. At one point he uses his umbrella to snag a banner hanging over the street from a moving truck just as Batman and Robin are about to nab him.
The fight sequences in this episode are pretty nuts, as well. One happens on stage during an opera as the singer continues with the performances despite all that’s going on around him. The other in the art museum is also wild. At one point Joker and Batman duel with giant spears. Probably the craziest thing in this episode, though, is the sight, and sound, of Bruce Wayne’s youthful ward, Dick Grayson, struggling to learn how to play the tuba in the opening moments of the episode.
Sadly, the marching band might not get to benefit from Dick’s musical abilities. Being crushed by a giant meteor would kind of put a damper on that…don’t ya think? Join us next time to see how they get out of this one in The Joker’s Hard Times. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadget’s Used:
Bat Bug Detector
Bat Fire Extinguisher