Batman S:02 E:45

Episode Title: Batman’s Anniversary
Original Airdate: February 8, 1967

I’ve said many times that the highlight of Batman season one was Frank Gorshin’s performance as The Riddler. He took this, at the time, relatively minor Batman comics villain and turned him into one of the top mischief makers in the Gotham rogues gallery. Have you noticed that 44 episodes into season two we have yet to see the Prince of Puzzlers? Well, Gorshin was unavailable to continue the role during season two. We’ve already seen where the producers reworked Riddler into a new villain. Remember the Puzzler? Well, eventually the producers decided to bring the character back, but they would have to use another actor. Enter John Astin of Addams Family fame in today’s episode, Batman’s Anniversary.

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As we begin, Bruce Wayne is helping Dick Grayson with some homework when they are interrupted by the Batphone. Whatever is going on is so serious that Commissioner Gordon feels it best to not discuss it over the phone. He instructs the Caped Crusaders to head to a ballroom at a local hotel. Turns out there’s no criminal activity, rather a surprise anniversary party for Batman. The community leaders even present Batman with a golden calf filled with thousands of dollars which will be presented to his favorite charity. The festivities are interrupted, though, when the room fills with green smoke. Firefighters show up instantaneously, but it’s really the Riddler and his men. Batman and Robin pursue, but loose the villains.

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Of course, Riddler left a clue for our heroes which takes them to the crossword puzzle in the daily paper. They find three words that interest them: Banquet, Basin, and Street. It just so happens that another banquet to honor Batman is about to take place at the Basin Street Hotel. But then, Commissioner Gordon calls up on the Bat Phone with news of a strange event where a local bank has been flooded. Batman then realizes the clue is not a “Banquet” but a “Bank Wet.” When our heroes arrive at the bank, they find Riddler and his men in scuba gear, and an underwater battle ensues. Once again, the baddies escape.

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We then learn that Riddler is trying to gather funds to purchase a device so terrible that the Gotham City officials will give him anything so he won’t use it. Later, back at the Batcave, Alfred delivers news to our heroes that they are due at an appointment. The Gotham City Baker’s Guild has prepared a large cake in their honor and they are needed to pose for the lifesized marshmallow statues that will top the cake. When they arrive, they are lifted to the top of the cake, but when they stand on the top they find they can’t move their feet. Not only that, they are sinking. The Riddler is, in fact, behind the cake, which is made of quicksand. Soon our heroes will drown in a mountain of pink sand. Cue the cliffhanger narration…

Cliffhanger Narration:
Can this be true?
Batman and Robin caught in a quicksand cake-mix?
Is the party really over?
Will Happy Anniversary be an epitaph for the Dynamic Duo?
To see if they sink or swim, tune in tomorrow.
Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!!!

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Okay, let’s start with the elephant in the room. How does John Astin do filling Frank Gorshin’s shoes. This is no small task, mind you. Gorshin received the series’ only Emmy nomination in an acting category, after all. Having a role replaced is not unusual for this series. We’ve already seen two Mr. Freeze’s, and we’ll get a third in a few weeks. The next time we see Catwoman she’ll be different, too. But Gorshin’s Riddler is so iconic. Astin does a perfectly fine job, but with a very different approach. Gone are Gorshin’s cackling acrobatics. Astin’s Riddler is more theatrical and wild-eyed, whereas Gorshin is just plain manic. In the end, Astin’s biggest problem is that he does a solid job, but has an awfully big shadow blocking him.

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Where this episode really succeeds, though, is with some truly looney scenarios. First, the episode does something unusual with the opening by not revealing who the villain is until after the opening credits. Usually the reveal happens in the prologue. As we move on we get one of the craziest sequences in the history of the series…an underwater fist fight. The effect is done with some wavy lighting and by photographing the scene through a water tank. Turn on the slow motion and it (kinda, sorta) looks like everyone is underwater. Plus, instead of graphic cards ready “Biff” or “Pow,” we get things like “Blurp” and “Bloop.”

I gotta admit, too, that this might be my favorite device for trying to kill Batman and Robin. A giant pink cake made out of quicksand! It’s absolutely genius! I can hardly wait to see how they get out of this one. Join us next time for A Riddling Controversy. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).

Bat Gadgets Used:
Bat Respirators
Bat MO and ID Computer

Holys:
Holy Cryptology
Holy Trampoline
Holy Fork in the Road

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