Batman S:02 E:55

Episode Title: Black Widow Strikes Again
Original Airdate: March 15, 1967

The comic book character we all know as Black Widow debuted in 1964. Today, the film version of the character is brought to life by Scarlett Johansson, but that’s the Marvel Black Widow. Over in the world of DC characters, the Batman TV series introduced a character known as Black Widow as the show neared the end of its second season. Classic star Tallulah Bankhead plays the villainess in her final screen role in today’s episode, Black Widow Strikes Again.

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As our story begins, Black Widow pays a visit to a Gotham City bank. She sits down to have a chat with the bank manager, but activates a switch on a Cerebrum Short-circuiter. The bank manager then does whatever she tells him, including fetching a few thousand dollars out of the vault. Of course, Commissioner Gordon ends up calling Batman and Robin in to handle the case.

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Our heroes begin by interviewing the distraught bank manager. They use a Brain-wave Bat Analyzer (which is clearly a repurposed beauty salon hair dryer) to find out how the manager was so easily manipulated. Meanwhile, Black Widow pulls off another robbery. Back at the batcave, our heroes pour all the info they have into their many machines, but cannot find out why Black Widow is targeting these specific banks. That is, until they finally realize she’s merely going in alphabetical order according to the bank names (way to use that advanced intellect there Batman). After making this realization, our heroes are able to determine the next banks to be hit. The Caped Crusaders stake out the joint and leap out when Black Widow attempts to pull her tricks on the manager. Since they are wearing Anti-shortcircuiting Brain Bat-electrodes, her little box doesn’t work on them. However, she does spray Batman with some Instant Nerve Paralyzer to make her escape.

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It wears off quickly, though, and our heroes pursue Black Widow’s motorcycle in the Batmobile. She ends up ducking into a secret door in a farm house and then uses some lifelike dummies of an elderly couple sitting in rocking chairs on the porch to throw off Batman. However, later at the Batcave, Batman’s realizes that the old couple must be fake. When they return, though, Black Widow’s men attack. Next thing we know, Batman and Robin are caught in a giant web with two large hungry spiders closing in on them. Cue the cliffhanger narration…

Cliffhanger Narration:
Is Black Widow about to succeed where countless other crooks have failed??
Or can Black Widow’s black widows be stopped before dinner?
For the answer to this and other creepy questions…
Tune in manana, same bat-time! Same Bat-channel!

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I gotta admit, this is not a stellar episode. Black Widow simply does not come across as a very impressive villain. Other than the cliffhanger involving a web and spiders, the whole spider motiff is hardly even used. The villain has no real powers or gimmick. She’s just an old lady with a weird little electronic box she probably bought at Radio Shack. All she does is rob banks! When compared with the other maniacs who like to cause trouble in Gotham City, that’s a bit boring.

I think our villain also fails to resonate in large part due to Tallulah Bankhead’s performance. The actress began appearing in films in the silent era, but this would end up being her very last on-screen performance. She passed away the year after this episode aired. Sadly, this performance is best described as incoherent. Bankhead was known for her husky voice, but she slurs her way through this visit to Gotham in a way that suggests she had a bartender on call during the filming of this episode. I could only understand about half of her lines.

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Strangely, the highlight of this episode is two scenes involving Madge Blake as Aunt Harriet. At the beginning of the episode she shows Bruce and Dick a new pair of black pants she has bought because she plans on “going mod.” She even explains that she had really wanted to buy a mini skirt!?! Later in the episode, she has a nice sequence where a worried bank manager mistakes her for Black Widow. For all the times I’ve found Aunt Harriet to be a completely unnecessary character, she’s one of the few bright spots in this otherwise flat episode.

Perhaps we can get Aunt Harriet to rush in and save the Dynamic Duo. Remember, some oversized spiders are out to get them as if they were a pair of hobbits. Join us next time to see what happens in Caught in the Spider’s Web. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).

Bat Gadgets Used:
Brain-wave Bat Analyzer
Batcomputer
Anti-shortcircuiting Brain Bat-electrodes
Odor Sensitometer Radar Circuit
Bat-Tape Reader
Batmobile Ultrasonic Recorder
Batscilloscope Viewer

Holys:
Holy Nerve Center
Holy Olfactory

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