Episode Title: Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend
Original Airdate: January 26, 1967
A few weeks ago we had our first ever three-part story of Batman. When the episodes originally aired, that would’ve set off the show’s broadcast schedule. Usually it would’ve been part one of the story on one night, part two on the next. But our last two episodes aired a week apart. So, another three-parter was needed to get back on the right schedule. And just like last time we get not one, but two villains. Here come Burgess Meredith as the Penguin and Carolyn Jones making her second appearance as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds in Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend.
As the episode opens, Batman and Robin are on their way to deliver a lecture for the Crime Prevention League when they must go to stop an armored-car robbery in broad daylight. Penguin and his men appear to be the culprits. Of course, fists fly but it turns out that Penguin is actually shooting a movie. He has a permit and everything. Rather than risk being sued, the Dynamic Duo end up signing a contract agreeing to be the stars of Penguin’s movie.
Later, Batman reveals that he knew it was a movie shoot all along, but figuring Penguin was up to no good, he figured this would be the best way to keep an eye on him. Uh-huh, you just keep telling yourself that, Batman. As for Penguin, he is in need of some serious capital to fund his film. The movies is an expensive business, after all. Enter Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. She agrees to fund the project, which is really a front for more criminal activity, as long as she gets to be female lead opposite Batman.
On the first day of shooting, Batman is due to shoot Scene 12 with Marsha. A scene which Batman thinks is in poor taste and which involves Marsha wearing nothing but her diamonds and taking a milk bath. Enter the Gotham City League of Film Decency, which Batman has alerted and which happens to be led by Aunt Harriet. Due to their protests Penguin switches gears and shoots a different scene, which still involves a passionate kiss between his two leads. Ever the perfectionist, the Kubreckian Penguin declares he’ll shoot the scene 100 times if needed to get it right.
On the next day they are due to shoot at a local art museum. Figuring Penguin intends to steal some of the art, Batman places homing devices on every item in the museum. On the day of the shoot, though, nothing is missing. That is, until the curator tells Batman that some chain-mail suits of armor are gone. Turns out, Penguin’s men are using them for the movie. Penguin films a fight between them and the Caped Crusaders, which the heroes easily win. But when Penguin shines a studio lamp in their eyes, the henchmen capture them. Next thing we know, our heroes are strapped to a giant catapult to be launched across Gotham…and Penguin plans to film the whole thing. Cue the cliffhanger narration…
The Caped Crusaders to end smashed flat?
While Pengy’s cameras record the splat?
Et tu, Pengy?
Friends, Romans, countrymen, find out next week!
Same bat-time, same bat-channel!!!
Being such a big movie fan, I found this episode completely irresistible. This episode is actually quite astute in pointing out the ridiculous excesses of Hollywood. This primarily plays out in a sequence where we see Penguin at work at his studio. He has a cavernous office with so much space between the door and his desk that Marsha has to ride on his “Pengy-mobile” to get to him. He also struggles with his large telephone, pushing buttons to try and talk with the prop department. By the time he finally reaches them, he’s forgotten why he wanted to talk to them. There’s even a moment where Marsha expresses interest in winning an Oscar, which disgusts Penguin. “You don’t want one of those!!” exclaims Meredith, who had yet to get an Oscar nomination himself at this point.
One thing I really appreciated about this episode was that Marsha comes off as a much stronger character than she did in her previous story. Carolyn Jones was a fine actress, not just for her work as Morticia on The Addams Family, but she didn’t leave a big impression on me in her first go-round as Marsha. Here she turns up the steam a bit and delves a bit more into Julie Newmar’s Catwoman playbook. It really works well. On a side note, Marsha does have a strange scene which I assume must be setting up something for one of the next few episodes. She pays a visit to her Aunt Hilda, the witch, once again played by Estelle Winwood. In Aunt Hilda’s cauldron is a strange puppet creature called Mortimer? Not sure why he’s there but I’m waiting for the payoff.
One problem I have, though, is with the cliffhanger. It kind of feels like there shouldn’t be a cliffhanger for this episode. After all, if Penguin’s plan involved having the Caped Crusaders in his movie, why is he trying to splat them on the streets of Gotham with a catapult? Other than that, this is a gem of an episode. You’ll have to wait until next week, though, to see how Batman gets out of this one. Join us next time for Penguin Sets a Trend. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Bat Homing Device
Holy Movie Moguls