Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Batman, Episode 1 - Hi Diddle Riddle (1966)

Batman, Episode 1 - Hi Diddle Riddle (1966)
50 years ago today...
"Batman" premiered on ABC TV, January 12th, 1966.  The series quickly became a cultural phenomenon.  Children were able to watch it as a straight adventure series, while adults could appreciate it's camp sensibilities and dead-pan humor.  The series had a colorful pop art style that was unlike anything else on TV.  The series also had a huge impact on sales of Batman comics, as well comic books in general, and helped launch Batman into his current status as the most popular comic book character of all time.

Pow!  Bif!
The series was originally intended to be an hour long, but ABC only had two half-hour time slots available, so the episodes were split in two.  The first half would air on Wednesday, and end on a cliffhanger, usually Batman or Robin in some inescapable death trap, echoing the endings of movie serials from the 1940s.  The second half would air the following day.

Each pair of episodes would typically feature Batman and Robin squaring off against a super villain and his or her henchmen.  Frank Gorshin starred as The Riddler in the first episodes, and set the tone for all the villain actors to follow with his manic, giggling performance as the Prince of Puzzles.

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed."

This series, more than anything else, is the reason I became a huge fan of comic books, superheroes, and fantastic fiction in general.  I thrilled to the show as a child when it aired in syndication every day in the 1970s.  I vividly recall running around in my living room with a towel or sheet tied around my neck as a "cape," singing along to the theme song.  I took the adventures of Batman and Robin deadly seriously as a child and it practically killed me if I missed an episode, and didn't know how The Dynamic Duo escaped from their latest death trap.  Soon, I found myself seeking out every other superhero show I could find on TV: Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, The Super Friends...

Then one day, I must have been no more than three years old,  I accompanied my mother on a trip to the grocery store, and saw a spinner rack filled with colorful magazines covered with cartoon drawings of all of my favorite heroes from TV!  "What are these," I exclaimed!  They were comic books, and I insisted my mom buy me one even though I didn't yet know how to read.  And then I learned to read, because as much as I loved all of the exciting pictures of superheroes in the comics, I just had to know what they were saying in the word balloons that appeared above their heads.  And that's it.  I was done.  From that point on I was doomed to be obsessed with the most colorful and ridiculous elements of pop culture.  Comic books.  Rock and Roll.  Science fiction.  Action figures.  Robots.  Video games.  Monster movies.  Pop art.  Happily doomed, I might add.  It all began when Adam West and Burt Ward slid down their Batpoles, and magically emerged on the other end costumed as the most colorful and exciting characters I had ever seen... and probably ever will see, as impressions like that only happen once in a lifetime.

Frank Gorshin as The Riddler

Plot Synopsis for "Hi Diddle Riddle"
The episode begins at the Gotham City World's Fair, when a cake explodes at the Republic of Moldavia exhibit.  Inside the cake is a clue; a riddle that reads, "why is an orange like a bell?"  Police Commissioner Gordon, Chief O'Hara, and other assorted law enforcement officials gather together to discuss the matter.  They quickly realize that this is the work of the criminal mastermind The Riddler, and that they are not equipped to handle him.  Using the red "hotline" telephone in Gordon's office, they phone The Batman for help.

Meanwhile at Wayne Manor, millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne is meeting with some members of one of his charities at his home, when he is interrupted by his butler Alfred, letting him know that he has a phone call on his hotline.  Wayne, along with his teenage ward Dick Grayson, retreat to Bruce's study and speak to Commissioner Gordon on the phone.  Then they tilt back the head of a bust of William Shakespeare on Wayne's desk, and press a button hidden within.  This activates a secret sliding panel behind a book case revealing two firefighter's type poles.  Bruce and Dick slide down the poles and emerge below in the Batcave as Batman and Robin.

Their investigation of The Riddler's clue leads them to an art gallery where they discover The Riddler pointing a gun at a man's head.  They quickly capture The Riddler, only to find themselves being photographed in the act by paparazzi.  Furthermore, they find that the "gun" was actually a lighter, and The Riddler was merely lighting the man's cigarette.  They realize they have fallen in to a clever trap by The Riddler, who is now pressing charges against Batman and Robin for assault and false imprisonment -- which means Batman and Robin would have to unmask to testify in court, effectively ending their crime fighting careers.

Later, while contemplating their dilemma, Batman and Robin find a clue in The Riddler's legal documents that leads them to the "What A Way To Go-Go" nightclub.  Because he is underage, Robin is forced to wait outside in the Batmobile while Batman goes in alone to investigate.  Inside the club, Batman orders an orange juice, then dances the "Batusi" with Molly, a pretty girl who is part of The Riddler's gang.  Too late, Batman realizes his orange juiced has been spiked with a sedative.  As Batman struggles to return to the Batmobile, Robin, left alone, is kidnapped by The Riddler.

As the episode ends, Batman is inebriated and helpless.  Meanwhile, Robin finds himself strapped to a table in The Riddler's lair, as The Riddler leans over him with a tray of scalpels, and the narrator intones:
"Will Robin escape???
Can Batman find him in time?
Is this the ghastly end of our Dynamic Duo???
Answers... tomorrow night!
Same time, same channel!
One hint -- the worst is yet to come!"

Will Robin Escape???
As for you, please tune in tomorrow, same bat-time, same bat-blog, when I'll be writing about episode 2 of Batman, "Smack in the Middle!"

More screencaps after the break...

Exploding Moldavian Friendship Cake

Why is an Orange Like a Bell?

Grim Officials
Hotline Bling

"Batman residence. Batman's butler speaking?"

"Hello?  Is Batman home?"

"To the Batpoles!"
Dick and Bruce Slide Down Their Poles


Arriving in the Batcave

2F-3567 Gotham 1966

The Batcave

Batman and Robin Solve the Riddle

Crashing Through a Window!

Is the Riddler Holding That Man at Gunpoint?

Robin is Ready to Punch!

Bemused Riddler

"Holy ashtray!"

Batman on the News

Batman and Robin Use Their Batcomputers

Unhappy Crimefighters

The Batmobile!

What a Way to Go-Go!

The Batman and Molly

Batman Looking Tough

Molly Looking Lovely
"You shake a pretty mean cape, Batman!"

Sneaky Riddler

"Why... my drink... DOPED!"

Unconscious Robin at the Mercy of The Riddler

The Bat-Signal!

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