Episode Title: The Joker’s Hard Times
Original Airdate: January 12, 1967
When we last left Gotham City, Batman and Robin were tied up underneath a giant meteorite that is just about to drop and squash them into pancakes. Meanwhile, Joker is out continuing his string of zodiac-themed crimes. Let’s see what happens next in part two of this three part story, The Joker’s Hard Times.
The rope holding the meteorite is dangerously close to burning through. But, Batman manages to wiggle his Batarang out of his utility belt. He times his throw precisely and knocks the flame away from the rope just long enough to cut the rest of the ropes. He and Robin leap away from danger just as the meteorite starts to fall. That was a close one! While all this is going on, Joker commits his next zodiac crime. Connecting with Libra (scales) he steals a valuable statue of Justice from right outside city hall. He then escapes in a police car, even using the radio to give false instructions to the other pursuing cops. Batman joins the pursuit, though, and warns the police of Joker’s trick.
Joker has more zodiac crimes to pull off, though. He sends his lovely, and morally conflicted, henchwoman Venus off to steal a jeweled scorpion for his Scorpio crime. Next on the list is Sagitarius, the Bowman. Batman figures the Joker must be planning to kidnap millionaire (and good friend of Bruce Wayne) Basil Bowman. Batman and Robin make it just in time to rescue the millionaire. Joker makes his escape by holding a knife at Venus’ throat, knowing Batman would never let harm come to a woman. After ending up in Batman’s arms, Venus agrees to help the Dynamic Duo catch Joker.
First Venus leads them to a record shop where Joker’s men are holding the opera singer kidnapped in the last episode. They all fight by throwing records at each other. She then clues them in to Joker’s Pisces crime…stealing some rare fish from a Gotham fountain. A chase with Joker ensues and our heroes are led back to his hideout. Joker was counting on that, though. He springs a trap on our heroes, and nabs Venus as well. Now, all three are chained up in a large water tank with a giant monster clam ready to swallow them whole. He even gulps up Robin right before the cliffhanger narration.
Are our eyes deceiving us??
Has the giant clam really swallowed Robin??
With beautiful Venus next on his monstrous menu??
Leaving the Joker free to confuse, confound and control Gotham City??
Find out next week!
An interesting thing to note about this episode’s cliffhanger is that audiences would have to wait a lot longer to find out what happens. Batman aired two episodes a week on consecutive nights, so viewers only had to wait 23 ½ hours each week to find out if our heroes survived. This time, with a third part of the story, they’d have to wait a whole week! What makes it even better is that we actually see Robin slurped up by the clam. One leg is even left flopping out of the side of the creature’s mouth! The clam is fantastic looking, by the way. It actually bears a bit of a resemblance to Audrey II from the musical Little Shop of Horrors.
Even a monster clam, though, can’t pull off stealing scenes from Cesar Romero as the Joker. I found myself really appreciating his performance in this one, even more so than in last week’s episode. He comes across as much more sinister this time. As he’s giving the obligatory speech before the cliffhanger, his delivery becomes quite dark. It actually succeeds in giving some dramatic weight to a sequence that is about to feature big green hairy clam with razor sharp teeth. The moment where he threatens Venus with a knife is also very effective. I’ve said before how Romero doesn’t get enough credit for his Joker performance. Too many are quick to categorize his take on the character as a cackling buffoon, but moments like these show that he did give his Joker a sinister edge, as well.
This episode’s most memorable moment, though, comes when Venus ends up in Batman’s arms after being discarded by Joker. She stares up at him and asks to help catch Joker with a breathy voice. You can practically see the steam seeping out of Batman’s cowl. He clenches his teeth as he tells her, “A crooked path can often be STRAIGHTENED, Venus.” Oh my!! The sequence is actually way more suggestive than any of the moments Batman has shared with Catwoman in previous episodes.
But there’s no time for love Dr. Jones! Robin’s already gotten a close-up view of that giant clam’s tonsils. Batman and Venus are next! Find out what happens next time in The Penguin Declines. Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel (Superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Emergency Bat Turn Lever
Holy Mashed Potatoes
Holy Sonic Booms
Holy Red Snapper