I know there are many critics of the show that feel that the series “demeaned” Bob Kane’s legendary “Black Knight,” by being a bit too campy, but as a kid growing up watching the reruns after school on a daily basis, I was an admitted fan, and I still find the program entertaining, with that great scoring by Nelson Riddle's orchestra. It is genius!
I’ve heard conflicting stories about why there is no DVD release of the series, but at least The Hub is currently running episodes Monday through Thursday at 11:30pm Eastern and for you Gotham City Night Owls at 3 and 3:30am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday overnights, so big time fans can DVR it! And this weekend is the perfect time to start, as they're taking you from episode 1, in order.
In case you didn’t know, the ABC Television Network action/adventure series starred Adam West in the dual roles of Millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne and his heroic guise as the titular star of the program. He is assisted by Burt Ward who played both his youthful ward, Dick Grayson and The Boy Wonder, Robin. And they were aided by Neil Hamilton who portrayed Police Commissioner Gordon and Stafford Repp, his ever-present Chief of Police O’Hara.
Now, before I begin to tell the tale of the episode I have in mind, I must note that the biggest WTF moment in the series occurred a bit earlier, when Batman and Robin were doing their famed “Batclimbs” along the side of a Gotham edifice during the series’ second season. Werner Klemperer, Colonel Klink from “Hogan’s Heroes” turned up during one of these window cameos, in character!
What didn’t make sense was that A) “Hogan’s Heroes” was on CBS and wasn’t a part of 20th Century Fox/Greenway Productions, so there was no clear reason for him to appear (aside from the fact that everyone wanted to be a part of the Bat phenomenon as it was happening). But also B) World War II's European Theater ended in 1944, and the contemporary “Batman” series was set in 1967. Not to mention having a "Nazi sympathizer" in an American city, being acknowledged by our two righteous and straight shooting heroes is questionable at the very least, but I don’t wish to belabor the point. I would like an explanation for it, someday... though I might have a better chance of seeing this series on Blu-Ray before that happens!
But now, back to our WTF episode!
With a comic book bent, it’s quite easy to say that all one hundred and twenty episodes of this series are filled with WTF, but there is one that I think outdoes them all. The title of the episode is “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” with Special Guest Villainess Barbara Rush. Right away, we’re faced with a whole bunch of WTF in the title because: Who is Nora Clavicle? Every other bat villain had some catchy name like The Joker, The Penguin, Catwoman, King Tut, Mr. Freeze and on and on. Nora Clavicle? Sounds like some kind of anatomy lesson! And really, it seems it was, as it could have been a play on famed feminist Gloria Steinem, because her last name sounded like a similar bone, Sternum.
The episode begins with an establishing shot of Gotham City, using the intersection of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue from the southwest corner, right by the main branch of the New York Public Library. For this alone, it’s great to catch a glimpse, just for the historic look into a sliver of what NYC was like at the time, followed immediately by a shot of Dick Grayson sitting at a dais, sipping what appears to be milk from a champagne glass (WTF?)
The camera pans down the dais, where Bruce Wayne, Chief O’Hara, Commissioner Gordon and his daughter Barbara (played by 3rd Season regular Yvonne Craig, who, of course, also plays the dual role of Batgirl), and two empty seats for Mayor Linseed and his wife are situated. The Commissioner was being honored at a luncheon for 25 years of service to the GCPD. (WTF? Batman and Robin weren’t invited to this event?) After some brief praise of Gordon, O’Hara asks what happened to Mayor Linseed who was supposed to present the Commissioner a special award. Just then, Dick notices the Mayor and his wife arriving, and Mrs. Linseed was clearly giving her husband an earful about something (WTF? A public display of lack of affection?) Mrs. Linseed ordered her husband to go to the dais. He clearly didn’t want to do it, but he does kowtow.
Mayor Linseed presented Commissioner Gordon with a 24 karat gold watch (WTF? That’s what you give to someone who is retiring!) and then he fires Commissioner Gordon (WTF?! Now we know why the gold watch)! Immediately, he announces Gordon’s successor: Miss Nora Clavicle. Barbara said “I didn’t know her crusade for women had gone that far.” (WTF? This is a Women’s Rights crusader? That only makes the title of this episode that much more WTF!) Miss Clavicle’s assistants march in with drums and fanfare and cover the “Congratulations Commissioner Gordon” sign with “Congratulations Commissioner Clavicle!” (WTF? Did they go to the same sign maker to have the matching lettering done?)
Commissioner Clavicle intended to prove that women can run Gotham City better than men, as part of her continuing crusade for Women’s Rights. And her first official act was to appoint Mrs. Linseed as the new Chief of Police. (WTF?)
Later, the only ones left at the luncheon are Bruce, Dick, now Ex-Commissioner Gordon, Ex-Chief O’Hara and Barbara, all looking to Mayor Linseed for some explanation of what this is all about. Why would he fire Gordon and appoint Clavicle? The answer is simple. Linseed’s wife was a staunch supporter of Clavicle’s crusade. As such, she refused to cook, clean or wash the Mayor’s shirts until he agreed to appoint her Commissioner (WTF?!) He hadn’t had a decent meal in weeks! He hadn’t changed his shirt in days! (WTF?! Can’t the Mayor of a major metropolis like Gotham City find food, like maybe going to a restaurant, or sending the shirts out to the dry cleaners? Or how about figuring out how to use the kitchen and laundry yourself? WTF!!) Bruce says he understands (WTF? Bruce has no woman around to take care of those things! Of course, he's got Alfred.) And even the former Commissioner forgives him (WTF? This is a perfectly understandable explanation to any rational person?)
Later, Commissioner Clavicle calls Batman on the red phone to tell him there will be no more need of his services (WTF?) and instead of hanging up, she snips the wire to the phone (WTF?) Batman notes that he thinks something strange is happening but there’s no telling what it might be. Robin wants to investigate but there’s nothing to investigate yet. However, Batman does think a cruise around Gotham wouldn’t hurt. Apparently Batgirl had the same idea, as she got out her Batgirl Cycle and also started roaming the streets.
Chief Linseed had fired every man from the Gotham City Police and replaced them with women (WTF? An all female police force would have been historic, but it’s sort of a non-issue here). Then, as she goes off to inspect her troops (WTF? O'Hara never did that!), she turns back to Commissioner Clavicle and blows a kiss (WTF?)!
With Linseed out of the office, Nora is then free to get her henchwomen to take care of “Operation: Ransack” while she prepares “Operation: Disaster Insurance.” But they do need to dispose of the Terrific Trio in order to properly pull off the caper. So they plan to set a trap.
Clavicle’s Crime Club Ladies go to rob the Gotham National Bank. The female police officers are too busy applying makeup and focusing on department store sales to notice (WTF? How did they get hired for the job?) But Batman, Robin and Batgirl all get there, interview the Bank Manager and use the portable Batcomputer to determine the thieves’ hideout: a warehouse filled with knitting needles (WTF? Stereotyped "women's work" hideout for our Women's Libber?).
As our do-gooders enter the warehouse, Clavicle grabs Batgirl, points a razor sharp knitting needle at her jugular vein and captures all three, tying them into a Siamese human knot (WTF? How did the three of them, all experts in self-defense, let three women tie them into a knot? - That moment occurred off camera. And as an aside WTF, how does Nora Clavicle not comment on the fact that it’s BatGIRL not BatWOMAN? Some feminist she is!)
Apparently, one wrong move would cause the knot the three of them have been tied into to grow tighter and tighter, effectively killing them. The quote from Batman: “This is torture at its most bizarre and terrible!” (WTF? Of course there were more than a few guys watching that would have liked to have been tied up with Batgirl!)
In the grand tradition of Super-Villains, Clavicle has to spill her plan before leaving: to destroy all of Gotham City (WTF?) She has taken out a ten million dollar insurance policy on Gotham and plans to cash in when her plan is complete. (WTF? How is this related to feminism?) Clavicle then heads off to finish the job, leaving our three "knot" very happy.
Outside, Clavicle and her assistants unpack boxes of mechanical mice, wind them up and start putting them on the ground. Each mouse has a small quantity of a high explosive charge and with enough mice, would create a massive explosion, effectively destroying the entire city (WTF? Wouldn’t running Gotham City properly be a better way to prove the feminist’s viewpoint than this money grab? Not to mention when the insurance company investigated this claim, I'm fairly certain they would have figured out what happened.)
Back with the Terrific Trio, Batman remembers the secret to escaping the Siamese Human Knot. He wiggles his ears (WTF? He had to tell us he was wiggling his ears under his cowl), while Robin needed to bend the fourth finger on his left hand. (WTF? Batgirl didn't have to do anything?) It worked! And they escaped their "bizarre and terrible" torture!
Back on the sidewalk, Batman, Robin and Batgirl have to figure out just what Clavicle plans, and they spot a couple of police officers hanging off of a lamp post, trying to avoid a mouse running around it. (WTF?) Batman grabs the mouse, to the relief of the cops and examines it. Then, he immediately knows everything. Batman asks Robin to call Chief Linseed to get the police force to gather up the mice. But none of them will help. They’re too scared of the mice to touch them! (WTF? They’re not REAL mice!) Chief Linseed and her assistant both faint. (WTF?)
The quote from Batgirl: “I might have known. You can’t get PoliceWOMEN to help you catch mice.” (WTF?) Batman rushes over with three flutes, and hands them to his colleagues. (Robin himself practically says "WTF" to this!) Batman then plays a tune on the flute and a few of the mice come rolling towards him. He instructs them to play the same tune and go through town, meeting back up at the docks.
The mice follow along, and with seconds to spare, the army of mice trail them right to the docks where they fall into the river, effectively diffusing them, except for one last mouse that seemed reluctant to go in and required several more toots of Batman’s flute to take the plunge. (WTF?) Batman then explained that he determined the guidance systems in the mechanical rodents was built around the principles of high frequency RADAR, so by hitting the right notes, he could coax them to follow the sound.
Suddenly, a truck backs up: Nora Clavicle and her henchwomen in the back of the flatbed, being held, by Alfred (WTF? How did HE get involved?) at umbrella point (WTF? Is that one of Penguin’s Umbrella Guns?)! Gordon and O’Hara got out of the truck to greet the others. Batman suspected Clavicle and cronies wanted to make a quick exit from Gotham City and asked the O’Hara to stand by near the route out of town. Apparently, they were speeding, so they took them into custody. (WTF? How did they pull them over, by standing in the road?) When Clavicle says they have no authority to arrest her, O’Hara shoots back “Citizen’s Arrest.”
And one final WTF: this was the only episode in the series that had no Batfight. Of course, Batman would never hit a woman, so that makes some sense, but it just made for an even odder caper than usual.
Still not convinced? Have a look at this episode, yourself!