"The Curse of Tut/The Pharoah’s In a Rut" (S1/E27 & 28) Author: Robert Reineke
Date: August 10, 2015
SYNOPSIS PART 1: A new villain, King Tut, prepares to claim Gotham City as his new Thebes.
PART 2: Batman sets a trap for King Tut, but is captured along with Tut's faithless Queen Nefertiti.
“The Curse of Tut/The Pharoah’s In a Rut” was written by Robert C. Dennis & Earl Barret and directed by Charles R. Rondeau. They were first broadcast, respectively, on April 13 & 14, 1966 on the ABC television network.
Two-Face never made an appearance in the Adam West series, to the disappointment of long-time fans. But, the series did have its own sympathetic villain turned evil perhaps against his own nature in Victor Buono’s King Tut. And, King Tut would turn out to be one of the more popular villains of the series returning four more times.
Given the great demand for guest appearances once the series became a hit, I suppose it was unsurprising that the series would be asked to create its own villains. Obviously, there was a shortage of female villains at the time so it’s unsurprising that Catwoman would be joined by more original female cohorts, with Zelda the Great being more of a gender switch than a wholly new character. It was less obvious on the male side, but the show already had a variety of Egyptian themed props, sarcophagi that appeared in the Zelda the Great story and cat statues from the first Catwoman story, so creating an Egyptian themed villain must have been visually appealing and cost effective all at the same time.
Casting Victor Buono as Professor William McElroy, who suffers from the delusion that he’s the reincarnation of the Egyptian boy king when struck on the head, must have seemed like something mutually beneficial for both sides at the time considering he had recently come off a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and his casting added credibility to the show and boosted his credentials as a star.
More importantly, Victor Buono is a lot of fun as King Tut. Resembling the boy king in no shape or form, Buono is clearly having a blast pompously hamming it up and proclaiming himself King of Gotham. He has a fun dynamic with Ziva Rodann as Nefertiti who with her crude accent and penchant for hot dogs, bears more resemblance to the future Harley Quinn than any former Queen of the Nile. No bit of scenery is unchewed when Victor Buono is on screen.
It’s a good thing too, because even by the standards of the television show the plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The opening is belabored and it takes Batman and Robin nearly half the episode to get to the Sphinx in the park where Tut, through the voice of Nefertiti, is proclaiming his threats to Gotham. There’s a quick fight with Tut’s henchmen and instead of pursuing them, Batman says it’s a distraction and heads off to the Egyptian exhibit at the Gotham Museum proclaiming he has a surprise for Tut. Unless the surprise is falling into a kidnapping scheme through the fake resurrection of a mummy, it’s hard to say what Batman had in mind other than behaving like an imbecile.
The review continues after the jump!
It does lead to one of the better cliffhangers of the show though, as Bruce Wayne ends up strapped to a stretcher that hurdles out of control towards a cliff in a case of escaping from the frying pan into the fire. There’s nothing particularly comedic about the scene, other than the irony that this is something of a death trap of Bruce Wayne’s own creation, and without a utility belt or other deus ex machina in sight, it actually creates some suspense. The escape makes plenty of sense, with Bruce Wayne escaping from his bonds and grabbing on to a guard rail seconds before the gurney goes over a cliff, but it’s perhaps too quick an escape to truly register. The new restoration also clearly reveals the cable guiding the gurney, which is perhaps an unfortunate side effect of the restoration.
The second part of the episode doesn’t make a whole lot more sense, but a lot more happens. King Tut doesn’t just give up on kidnapping Bruce Wayne but keeps on with his plan. Batman, after announcing on television that he’s headed to Egypt for further research, sets a trap for Tut using a lifelike dummy of Bruce Wayne as bait, with Batman himself substituting for his alter ego. Things go wrong as Tut is on to Batman’s tricks and Batman ends up in an elaborate pebble torture with the rebellious Nefrititi while Robin figures out where Tut is hiding by “extrapolating” previously known coordinates. Or they could just have looked at last year’s Egyptian exhibit.
Victor Bruno as "King Tut"
None of that is particularly involving, but it’s fun which seems to be the theme of this story. Never mind the explanation, let’s just cut loose. It reaches its height when the tortured and now presumably insane Batman is made to dance for Tut’s pleasure, to a mighty catchy jazzy version of the Batman theme song. Of course, it’s a ruse by Batman who stayed sane by reciting the multiplication table backwards. Naturally. Which leads to the fairly standard Batman and Robin fighting against henchmen, although it’s given a nice bit of updating by “biff” and “bam” being replaced by “touche” as sword-fighting is involved.
The real climax finds Tut escaping in the Batmobile and using Batman and Robin’s own weapons against them. Ultimately climaxing with Tut getting ejected out of the Batmobile through remote control and a little luck. Of all the ideas of this episode, it’s the one that really captures the sense of fun that they’re clearly trying to have, but only intermittently achieving.
The story ends with an apparent miracle as Professor William McElroy wakes up where King Tut was knocked unconscious. This is actually a fairly clever hedge by the writers. If King Tut proved to be popular, surely another blow to his head would be enough to bring him back. If not, then the story is wrapped up complete.
Obviously, King Tut did prove to be popular and I think it’s obvious that it’s mostly due to Victor Buono’s performance and charisma. It’s certainly not through any clever plotting or any particularly inspired gags, albeit Batman admitting there are a “few things” even he doesn’t know was a big bullseye as far as I’m concerned. Still, King Tut had a definite visual flair, a premise that allowed for a couple of variations, and a fun, charismatic star to bring him to life with plenty of pomposity to be skewered for comedic effect. If the story isn’t particularly inspired, it still made a solid contribution to the show. The show could and would do a lot worse. - Robert Reineke
ORIGINAL AIR DATES: April 13, 1966 & April 14, 1966
SCREENWRITER: Robert C. Dennis & Earl Barret
DIRECTOR: Charles R. Rondeau
BAT-FIRSTS: First Totally Original TV Batman Villain, King Tut
BEST BAT-GADGET: Bat-Ejector Seat
BEST BAT-LINE: “Gosh Batman, is there anything you don’t know?” “Oh yes, Robin. Several things in fact."
LAST BAT-TIME: "The Joker Trumps an Ace/Batman Sets the Pace"
NEXT BAT-TIME: "The Bookworn Turns/While Gotham City Burns"