The Batman 66 Episode Guide 1×07: Instant Freeze
The 1966 Batman television show was one of the most successful and influential adaptations of comic books to mass media of all time. Over the course of three seasons and 120 episodes, the series became a cultural force with its unique combination of tongue-in-cheek humor, thrilling superhero adventure and celebrity guest stars, and shaped the way the public would view the Caped Crusader for the next five decades. Now, in the midst of a well-deserved renaissance of the show, ComicsAlliance is proud to present The Batman '66 Episode Guide, an in-depth examination of every single adventure, arch-criminal and deathtrap cliffhanger of the series.
This week, a new villain holds Gotham City in the icy grip of fear: Mr. Freeze!
Episode 1x07: Instant Freeze
Script: Max Hodge
Director: Robert Butler
Original Air Date: February 2, 1966
Special Guest Villain: George Sanders as Mr. Freeze
Batman's first three adventures involved some of his most popular villains, so it seems a little odd at first glance that we got Mr. Freeze in the fourth. I mean, we haven't even seen Catwoman yet, and until he was revitalized by Batman: the Animated Series, Freeze was never really in the top tier of villains. Even at the time, he was just one of the gimmicky crooks who cycled in and out, and one of the more obscure ones at that. Like I said, it seems odd -- until you remember where William Dozier and company were looking for source material.
This episode was inspired by Dave Wood and Sheldon Moldoff's "The Ice Crimes of Mr. Zero," which originally ran in 1959, but had recently been reprinted in 1965's giant-sized Batman #176 -- the same comic that included "The Joker's Utility Belt," on which their last episode was based. The producers of the show changed the villain's name (for whatever reason), and the rest is Bat-History, old chums.
For the record, Batman #176 also included a Penguin story that looks awfully familiar, a Calendar Man story that would've made a pretty great episode, and a story where Batman fights a caveman who was actually an actor who got bonked on the head by a woolly mammoth's tusk. In retrospect, it seems a bit odd that he didn't wake up thinking he was a criminal pharaoh, but either way, a lot of the groundwork for the show is laid out in those eighty pages.
Our story this week opens on a sunny July day at the Gotham City Ice Rink, where the tranquility is shattered by the screams of skaters. The reason: Mr. Freeze has melted the ice with a flamethrower before making his escape into an ice cream truck:
The ice rink crime is actually pretty pointless -- it's not in the original comic story, although the element that you might think was added for the sake of campiness, the ice cream truck, is -- but it does lead to a pretty interesting sequence. A motorcycle cop shows up, and after the skaters point him in the direction of the fleeing truck, we get an actual car chase through the Dutch-angled streets of Gotham City:
And that's something that we almost never see. Despite the Barris Batmobile being arguably the most prominent and lasting visual signifier of the show, we never really see any chase scenes. There's even an entire episode later on where Shame, the Criminal Cowboy, creates a car meant to outrun the Caped Crusader's vehicle of choice, and I don't think we even see an actual chase in that one.
Here, though, the ice cream truck speeds around a corner with the cop in hot pursuit, only for Mr. Freeze to pop out of the back and spray down the road with ice from his cold gun, wrecking the cop.
At this point, you can probably guess what happens next. Gordon and O'Hara are notified of the super-crime -- with an amazing "Oh no" from O'Hara when Gordon realizes it's the work of "that diabolical snowman who can only exist in temperatures of 50 degrees below zero or more" -- and decide to call in Batman, interrupting a baseball lesson for Dick Grayson from the Gotham City Eagles' ace pitcher, "The Great" Paul Diamante. He will be important later.
One quick opening title sequence and a 14-mile drive to Gotham City later, we get some background, and interestingly enough, Mr. Freeze's condition is shown to be the result of a prior confrontation with Batman. According to Robin, the Caped Crusader "didn't mean to knock that beaker of instant freeze on him during that fight in his laboratory!" Gordon goes on to say that Freeze was the culprit, but then adds that he was experimenting with the "instant freeze" compounds "for some criminal purpose, undoubtedly."
The show has always had its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, but looking back on it, I wonder how much they meant for this to be a quick little origin that gave Freeze his motivation for revenge and made Batman seem like a stand-up square for feeling bad about it, and how much they meant for it to sound like Freeze was an innocent victim of Batman's overzealous crime-fighting, with dialogue that makes me think that Batman was just walking by, saw some German dude messing around with chemicals, and decided that was enough of a reason to thoroughly beat someone's ass.
Either way, Freeze is now decidedly on the side of crime, doomed to live in a super-chilled environment, complete with a hazy filter over the camera and a stuffed polar bear.
Freeze's hideout is kept at a cool 50 degrees below zero, with special "hot paths" to keep his henchmen from freezing to death. In the comic, he uses a gas-heated steel sofa that looks like a medieval torture device, so I can understand why they changed it, although even as a kid, I thought the "hot path" was silly -- even for Batman.
Incidentally, Mr. Freeze was one of two characters on the show to be played by three different actors. The other, and far more well-known character is, of course, Catwoman (Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Merriwether), but Freeze was also portrayed by Eli Wallach and director Otto Preminger, both of whom followed George Sanders in giving Mr. Freeze a thick German accent -- although I suppose Preminger didn't really have much of a choice in the matter.
Freeze announces a sinister scheme involving multiple Batmen and Misters Freeze, planning to "toy with him like cat and mouse," but as the decoys are released, we cut back to the Batcave, "far below stately Wayne Manor," to see the Dynamic Duo's preparations for dealing with this sub-zero scoundrel:
Sadly, as the experiment in the Portable Freezing Chamber reveals, the new anti-freeze capsule is only effective down to zero, not below. After a conversation with Alfred over hot tea, they receive a harrowing phone call from City Hall: There have been sightings of Batman at six locations throughout Gotham City, not including the Batcave, and according to O'Hara, each policeman calling in a report is nervous and "wants to know what's the trouble? What's Batman doin' in my territory?"
Gordon susses out that they're fakes almost immediately, and Batman and Robin plot out the sightings on their Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City, realizing that they're all converging on one spot: The Diamond Exchange! Because diamonds, of course, are referred to "in the vernacular of the underworld" as "ice." The target is obvious: The Star of Kashmir, the biggest chunk of "ice" in the world! Or rather, as Mr. Perkins, an intimidated employee of the diamond exchange points out, the second-biggest.
Before that bit of information can be dealt with, however, a guard pushes the alarm, only to be dealt with by a blast from Freeze's cold gun and frozen solid.
And like all frozen things, he is glowing. I don't know about you, but I can barely sleep some nights from all the glowing ice in my bedtime glass of water.
In an earlier installment of the episode guide, I mentioned that Molly's trip into the Atomic Pile is the show's only on-screen death, but it's never made clear in this episode whether the frozen guard survives or not. If not, it's certainly a little dark for the show's usual tone, especially given that Freeze commanded his henchmen to not shoot the guard with their (regular, non-icy) handguns.
But that question will have to wait, for at this moment, Batman arrives, followed quickly by Batman, Batman, Batman, Batman and Batman, as well as Misters Freeze, Freeze, Freeze, Freeze, Freeze and Freeze!
Not a one of them is the genuine article, but when the real deal does show up a few seconds later, he finds himself confronted by an army of duplicates of both himself and his quarry, which prompts both Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder to drop into a pair of identical and amazing fighting stances:
Check out Boy Wonder's intensity.
At this point, the true genius of Freeze's plan is revealed, as we launch into the most confusing fight scene of the entire series. Thus, we turn now to the Bat-Sound Effect Onomatopoeia Matrix:
Incidentally, this is the first time that the familiar and stereotypical "Biff!" and "Pow!" have been used together in that order.
The fight scene is fun, with Batman and Robin getting confused as to who's who. You'd think the easy solution would just be for the real Batman to hang back and Robin to just wade in and swing on anything that moved, but alas, the show was not that violent. Instead, the fight goes on long enough for Freeze to make his getaway, disabling the Batmobile by spraying it down with ice that both freezes the turbines and makes it look like a kitty cat:
The Dynamic Duo has been stymied, and just to rub it in, there's a plane above them skywriting "STRIKE ONE ON BATMAN." This will be the first instance of skywriting on the show, but I assure you it will not be the last. Eventually, it's going to be the primary method of villainous communication, used mainly by sociopaths who want to taunt their enemies, like the Riddler or Shia LaBeouf.
Back at the Batcave, Batman and Robin channel their frustrations to detective work, using the Anti-Crime Computer to determine Mr. Freeze's next target. Since he went after the Star of Kashmir, it only stands to reason that he'll be targeting the largest diamond in the world next, and that is the Ghiaccio Circleo (According to Robin, that's Italian for "Circle of Ice") (he's half-right), owned by the Princess Sandra of the Principality of Molino, who just happens to be flying to Gotham City for a charity baseball game!
No sooner have we learned that she is the target than the plan of that frosty felon springs into action: A crate of meat seemingly shipped from Molino is brought into Princess Sandra's hotel room, and when she questions aloud what kind of meat it is, Mr. Freeze bursts from it, claiming that was...
Mr. Freeze zaps one of Princess Sandra's guards with his cold gun, and any debate about its lethality is put to rest when the guard falls over with a sound effect of shattering, much to the sadistic glee of his henchmen, prompting Sandra's assistant to faint.
Fortunately, Batman and Robin arrive on the scene shortly after, and decide to enter through the window. Rather than the traditional sideways Bat-Climb, however, they actually scale the façade of the building, climbing up to the balcony parkour-style.
Unfortunately, the element of surprise is not enough for good to triumph on this day. After Princess Sandra is relieved of her diamond, Batman enters -- referring to Mr. Freeze as "Dr. Schimmel," as he'd yet to get the "Victor Fries" name -- prompting the arch-criminal to beat feet. Batman and Robin pursue via the window, and in one of the show's more sinister moments, Freeze begs them to stop so that he can continue his game of cat-and-mouse, rather than just murdering them on the spot. They don't, so he does -- they're zapped with the cold ray and frozen solid on the streets of Gotham City.
Have our heroes and our episode guide come to a frosty finish?! Find out next week, dear reader -- The worst is yet to come!
Episode 1x07 Index:
Portable Freezing Chamber
Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City
Interdigital Batsorter / Anti-Crime Computer
Mr. Freeze's Freeze Ray