"The Joker Is Wild/Batman Is Riled" (S1/E5 & 6) Author: Sean Gerber (Follow @MODERNMYTHMEDIA)
Date: November 25, 2014
1) The Joker escapes after a prison baseball game and attacks Batman and Robin at a museum and at the opera. Batman and Robin are caught and The Joker makes a move to unmask them. 2) The Joker escapes after a fouled attempt to reveal Batman's true identity. At the S.S. Gotham's christianing, Joker recaptures Batman and Robin only to be foiled by the Dynamic Duo.
"The Joker Is Wild/Batman Is Riled" was written by Robert Dozier and directed by Don Weis. They were first broadcast on Wednesday, January 26, and Thursday, January 27, 1966, respectively, on the ABC television network.
In our journey through the 1960s BATMAN TV series Blu-ray box set, we’ve already met two of The Caped Crusader’s most famous foes, The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and The Penguin (Burgess Meredith). Now, in the series fifth and sixth episodes, we finally come face to painted face with the undisputed champion of Gotham villainy, The Joker. As played by the mustached Cesar Romero, The Clown Prince of Crime proves himself to be the most proficient perpetrator of playful plunder the planet has ever known in “The Joker Is Wild” and “Batman Is Riled.”
BATMAN (Vol. 1) #73 (1952)
Based on the BATMAN #73 (1952) story, “The Joker’s Utility Belt,” the adventure begins with an incarcerated Joker using baseball (but really, softball) to literally spring himself from prison. The Joker is rightfully upset over being left out of the Comedians Hall of Fame at the local museum and seeks reconciliation by attempting to steal the precious jewels housed in the same building. Though he brought a small army of henchman named after famous comedians with him, The Joker is foiled by Batman and the latter’s utility belt. The Joker’s strategy from that point forward is to fight utility with utility via his own belt.
The plan works fairly well and sets up a few delightful Easter eggs. The Joker’s thwarted thievery of jewels was already a reference to BATMAN #1 and other early Joker stories in which the character was obsessed with stealing pretty gems, but writer Robert Dozier (son of the series’ executive producer, Bill Dozier) added an extra layer by having The Joker broadcast his crimes on television similar to his radio broadcasts in his first comic book appearance. When The Joker pops up in a performance of PAGLIACCI, you’ll notice a clown mask similar to the one you saw Heath Ledger wear in the opening bank heist scene of THE DARK KNIGHT. Yes, even Christopher Nolan took notice of and paid homage to the original BATMAN television series and its version of The Joker!
Cesar Romero as The Joker in "The Joker Is Wild" (1966), Heath Ledger as The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
History and homages aside, this episode delivers everything it ought to as The Joker’s first live-action appearance, and then some. More than the usual “Will Batman and Robin finally meet their maker,” cliffhanger, these two chapters actually show The Joker outwitting the Dynamic Duo and making Gotham doubt the prolific pair of perpetrator punchers. The Joker uses his utility belt to make a fool out of Batman at every turn, save for the last one in which The Caped Crusader always gets his man so that little Harold, just eight-years-old, can sleep easy at night after saying his prayers.
Cesar Romero as The Joker in BATMAN
Seeing The Joker in true high definition for the very first time immediately justifies the price tag of the box set for this follower of Gotham’s finest felon. Every hair on that makeup-matted mustache can be seen. The tallest of any live-action Joker, Romero made full use of his long frame to give The Joker big, broad movements to match the aesthetic found in four color panels.
Hopefully, seeing The Joker in this light will serve as a reminder that there have in fact been three live-action Jokers. Too often is the list cut short at Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson without proper tribute and acknowledgement being paid to Romero, who was every bit the version of The Joker that his Batman world needed as his two successors were for their respective Batman worlds.
Cesar Romero breathed life into Batman’s greatest adversary and was allowed to assert The Joker’s standing in this dastardly double debut! - Sean Gerber
BAT-FIRSTS: 1st live-action appearance of The Joker
BAT-QUOTE: "And now, people of Gotham City, the moment you have all been waiting for. The grand finale! The climax of my performance! The zenith of my career! The unmasking of Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder!"