Batman 1.33 – Fine Finny Fiends

Normally, I have to brace myself a little bit when we get to the end of part one of a Batman story. Daniel just plain does not like the cliffhanger deathtraps. He’ll either hiss or grumble or hide his face or, once in a sad blue moon, cry a little. But this story, the third to feature Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, confounded my expectations completely.

In the story, the Penguin’s goons abduct Alfred, who has, bizarrely, been sidetracked on his shopping by a handbill advertising cut-price caviar. I can see how he might want to watch his pennies because he needs twenty pounds of the stuff for a multi-millionaire’s dinner, but really. Penguin brainwashes Alfred so that he’ll forward him the address of this dinner once the location is decided. Caged in the Penguin’s waterfront headquarters, Alfred is stiff-upper-lip defiant, but Daniel was nevertheless very worried about him, and hid his head under his blanket (which is called “Bict,” by the way).

So Alfred’s brainwashed and then released, but Batman knows something is up, because Alfred has (a) developed a bizarre twitch, and (b) he does not recognize a photograph of the Penguin. Actually, the show doesn’t draw attention to that, because American teevee programs in the sixties cared very little for episode-to-episode continuity, but Alfred met the Penguin on both of his previous appearances. But there’s no time for that, because there’s a rehearsal dinner for the multi-millionaires, during which time Aunt Harriet boasts that Bruce Wayne’s great grandfather founded Skull & Bones at Yale. Well, there’s something you didn’t know.

Anyway, since Alfred’s imprisonment bothered Daniel a lot, I was worried about the cliffhanger, but I needn’t have been. Our heroes are locked in a vacuum chamber and the baddies are pumping out the air. The room is full of balloons that pop as the air grows thinner. It’s actually a really grisly way to go – man, the Penguin’s traps don’t mess around, they’re all sick in the head – but it was, mercifully, a little above my son’s head, and he was bemused by the odd room of popping balloons. It didn’t bother him at all!

As for the other guest stars, Julie Gregg, who later played Sonny Corleone’s unfortunate wife Sandra in The Godfather, is the dame-of-the-week, and the most blatant one to date. She spends her time in the Penguin’s hideout wearing a one-piece swimsuit, practicing to be a “bathing beauty.” Victor Lundin was a regular face in ’60s television, and would be back in a different role in season three. This time, he’s the Penguin’s goon “Octopus,” and he does a remarkably silly little dance when Batman catches him in the back with a fishing pole in the fight scene.

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