On March 17, 1966, audiences got their first look at Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Eleven days later, the same network, ABC, began airing The Avengers, the black-and-white season in which Diana Rigg wore a not-dissimilar black outfit. It was a great, great time to sit down and watch beautiful women on television.
Forty-nine years later, and Newmar’s Catwoman is still a gloriously sexy collaboration between her writer, Stanley Ralph Ross, and how the actress carries herself. She’s witty and playful, and the actress seems to be having a blast, moving with a light step in some places and stomping, lashing with petulance when she’s aggravated or bored. I’ve seen some of the Catwoman comic book stories of the forties and fifties; she’s nothing like this. I know the character has a legion of fans from her comic book appearances, but she needs an actress to bring her to life.
Catwoman does what no previous villain has done: she toys with the Dynamic Duo. Everybody else wants to kill them quickly, but she wants to have a little fun. Her deathtraps are fake, not that they didn’t send Daniel scurrying for safety when the spiked walls – revealed as rubber – closed in, and when her henchman Felix drops a phony bomb in the room. Incidentally, I knew I’d seen the actor who played Felix, Ralph Manza, somewhere before. IMDB shows him with an amazing 168 acting credits, so the correct answer is “everywhere,” but specifically, I remember him as the chauffeur on Banacek.
We’re starting to think that Daniel identifies with Robin. The actual cliffhanger this time has Catwoman forcing Batman to play a literal “lady or the tiger” game, and the episode concludes with a real tiger charging our hero when he chooses the wrong door. But before the game, she removes Robin from the room by way of a clear tube that falls from the ceiling and vacuums him up! Our son didn’t like that one bit. Heck, a trap door would’ve been kinder. The sight of Robin being sucked away was heartbreaking.