The Batman ’66 Episode Guide 1×08: Rats Like Cheese
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, it's three strikes for the Caped Crusader... courtesy of Mr. Freeze!
Episode 1x08: Rats Like Cheese
Script: Max Hodge
Director: Robert Butler
Original Air Date: February 3, 1966
Special Guest Villain: George Sanders as Mr. Freeze
Before we get into the show itself, can we talk for a second about the episode titles? Ever since I was a kid, I've been a big fan of the convention of giving the two-part episodes rhyming titles to link them together. If nothing else, it makes it easy for trivia-obsessed nerds (ie: me) to remember them, at least until the third season, when they abandoned the cliffhanger formula about half the time.
Really though, if we can all be real with each other, there were more than a few titles that were reaching, and none of them were quite as much of an unforgivable stretch as "Rats Like Cheese." Was that honestly the best they could come up with to rhyme with the previous week's "Instant Freeze"? It has nothing to do with anything that happens in this episode! Even if we're charitable enough to assume that the rat in question is Mr. Freeze, he does not appear to have any special attachment to cheese. Could they really not think of anything about saying please, or a chilly breeze? Could Batman not ask Dr. Schimmel to take a swing on Deez? I mean really, people, get with the program.
Anyway, when we last left our heroes, they were in dire straits indeed, having been blasted by Mr. Freeze's cold gun and left on the street to die a frigid and oddly shiny death. Fortunately, once Freeze and his chilly cronies have made their getaway, Batman and Robin were rushed to what Desmond Doomsday tells us is the "Super-Hypotherm Deicifier Chamber, Mark 7, of the Gotham City Hospital," where Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD keep a grim vigil over their protectors.
As much as that might seem like a cop-out -- more so than usual, I mean -- I actually do like that the Gotham City Hospital is equipped with a weird room that seems to have been built for the express purpose of thawing out Mr. Freeze's victims, because it's the only sign that we've got so far that people in this city are actually learning from the things going on around them.Somebody -- and I have to imagine it was millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne -- looked around and decided that maybe they should set up plans to deal with all these thematic crimes that were going on. I just hope that they also thought to install a center for the treatment of riddle-induced stress, or a Pharaonic Head Trauma ward.
The Dynamic Duo have their temperatures brought up gradually, degree by degree, until they're well enough to stop glowing and get back to crimefighting with a hearty handshake, but their effectiveness as crimefighters has no doubt been cast into question, especially since Freeze never actually intended to kill them. He made off with the Ghiaccio Circleo and is setting up another step in his sinister tripartite game of cat-and-mouse. And as we learn when the scene cuts back to Freeze's frosty hideout, that plan is set to take place at a baseball game pitting the Gotham City Eagles against their rivals, the Windy City Wildcats.
Freeze now has the most valuable diamond in the world in his possession, and is planning on using it to bait a trap for the Caped Crusader that will take place at the game -- which, of course, is being attended by the diamond's previous owner, Princess Sandra, who throws out the first pitch from a private box belonging to none other than Bruce Wayne.
"Well I'm sure I can't pitch like your great Paul Diamante, but I do have a few curves!"
Interestingly enough, Princess Sandra is the first character to be portrayed as a love interest for Bruce Wayne. The dialogue in this scene hints that the two have a history together -- presumably from her days in Brooklyn before she ascended to the throne of Molino -- and I think you'll agree with me when I say that it must be difficult for even a man so dedicated to crime-fighting to resist eyeliner game that's this on point:
Sadly, there's no opportunity for romance when evil is afoot. In case you haven't seen it coming from a mile away by now, Paul Diamante, star of the baseball diamond, was Mr. Freeze's third target, and he's been kidnapped from the stadium right under Bruce Wayne's nose, complete with a sky-written message reading "THREE STRIKES, YOU'RE OUT BATMAN."
Somehow, the World's Greatest Detective never put all that together.
At Police Headquarters, Batman and Robin are present when Commissioner Gordon gets a phone call from Mr. Freeze announcing his demands: Rather than ransoming Diamante for "one single mark -- I mean, red cent," he's going to trade the Eagles' star pitcher for Batman. Gordon immediately attempts to forbid the exchange, citing Batman's status as the City's protector and the only thing keeping it from becoming a lawless wasteland of trick umbrellas and poisoned lilacs, but Batman is, of course, willing to put Diamante's safety above his own: "Diamante is the idol of millions of impressionable lads who look up to him. He must live! To inspire the youth of today who will become the men of tomorrow!"
I have a hard time imagining a world where the lads of Gotham City would look up to Diamante more than they'd look up to ACTUAL REAL LIVE BATMAN, but, you know, I'm a little biased on that front.
Batman accepts the terms and heads off to make the exchange alone, but over afternoon tea with Alfred, the Boy Wonder reveals that he planted a homing device on Batman so that he could track him back to Freeze's hideout.
And it's a good thing he did, too. Although Batman agreed to go along peacefully after Diamante was released, Freeze's thugs bashed him brutally about the head and shoulders, knocking him out for a helicopter ride back to Freeze's hideout. When he regains consciousness, it's in the "super-refrigerated hideout," stripped of his utility belt and imprisoned by Freeze's ingenious "hot path."
Outside of the red lights, Freeze's hideout is kept at a devastatingly cold -50˚, meaning that Batman can't so much as rush his foe without a quick and deadly case of hypothermia, with no Deicifying Chamber (Mark 7) around to help him recover.
Rather than finish him off, though, Freeze keeps Batman alive to toy with even more, telling him "you must not die too easy," and that makes for a pretty big change than the rest of the villains on the show. Not only is Freeze a cold-blooded murderer, but he doesn't want to commit crimes for the theatricality of it, or to prove that he's smarter than Batman. He straight up wants murderous revenge, and he wants it as slow and painful as possible.
Which is probably why, when Robin shows up, Freeze invites them to sit down for dinner and dessert so that he can prolong the torture even more.
Dessert is, of course, Baked Alaska. You will note that Baked Alaska is not a dish that involves cheese.
Freeze's deathtrap here is probably one of the more sinister on the show: The hot section begins to shrink, leaving only room for one. The idea is that Batman and Robin must decide who will die first, leaving the other to watch his partner die in a very painful fashion. Batman, of course, the model of nobility, offers the last remaining patch of warm air in the room to Robin, leaving it himself, seemingly giving Freeze his deadly triumph:
"Now tell me, Batman, how does it feel? How does it feel to freeze to death?"
Batman's response, surprisingly, is to punch Mr. Freeze right in the mouth.
It seems that Freeze's undoing was in underestimating the Caped Crusader: Batman was wearing his "Special Thermal V Long Underwear" beneath his costume, giving him the ability to resist the -50˚ temperatures, despite having half of his face exposed to the cold. Batman takes control of the Hot Path and lets Freeze sweat for a while -- an understandable but uncharacteristic bit of revenge for the era -- but shrinks the cold area to the size of a jail cell to keep Freeze confined, disarming the gun-toting thugs in a similar fashion before launching into a fight scene:
That "ZAM" sure doesn't get used a whole lot, does it?
It's a short fight scene, but an awesome one: At one point, Robin uses the giant stuffed polar bear as a weapon, and I have to imagine that was an influence on the similar scene in the climax of the Patrick Swayze classic, Road House (directed by Rowdy Herrington, who would've been in high school when this episode aired).
And that, as they say, is that. The police arrive, with O'Hara explaining that they're late because they "took a wrong turn offa Route 49," Freeze is carted off to a refrigerated cell at Gotham State Penitentiary, and the Ghiaccio Circleo is returned to Princess Sandra, who makes the one and only reference all episode to cheese when she refuses to say it when having her picture taken at a party, preferring instead to say "Mr. Freeze." The exchange happens at a party thrown in her honor by Bruce Wayne, in which Robin wishes Paul Diamante luck in the game tomorrow against the Motor City Wheels. Please note that this is not a good name for a baseball team.
Index of Episode 1x08:
Super-Hypotherm Deicifier Chamber, Mark 7
Special Thermal V Long Underwear