What’s The Story?

This story is loosely based on The Ice Crimes of Mr Zero by Dave Wood and Sheldon Moldoff, from 1959′s Batman #121. In both stories, Mr. Freeze (in the TV series)/Mr. Zero (in the comic) is a criminal who has to live below room temperature after an accident involving freezing chemicals, and he uses a gun which can either freeze or superheat things to commit robberies. Mr. Freeze is committing crimes in which he steals diamonds — “ice” — and attempts to steal a diamond belonging to a visiting princess.

In the TV story, Freeze also kidnaps baseball player Paul Diamante, because Diamante is Spanish for “diamond” and baseball players play on a baseball diamond, and arranges to swap his kidnap victim for Batman, who he wants to kill, but otherwise the basic plot is similar.

The Goodies
Batman

Feels guilty about Mr. Freeze, because it was he who knocked the “beaker of instant freeze” on him during a fight in his laboratory. Believes “It is my duty not only to catch him but, with all the medical know-how at our command, to help that sorry creature back to a normal way of life.”

Bruce Wayne has a private box at the Gotham City Eagles’ baseball stadium, to which he invites Princess Sandra of Molino (clearly the Grace Kelly of the world in which Batman is set).

Instantly agrees to the hostage-swap, substituting himself for Diamante, even though he knows he’ll be killed, as Diamante “must live, to inspire the youth of today who’ll be the men of tomorrow”.

Tells Robin, after Robin fails to save him, “You tried, that’s the true measure of a man, whether you win or lose, to try!”

Robin
Robin is studying Italian. He’s an admirer of Paul Diamante, who he compares to Sandy Koufax. He has no hesitation in disobeying Batman’s orders, and planting a bug on him, when he thinks it necessary to save Batman’s life.
Epithets used — “Holy iceberg”, “Holy blizzard”, “Holy schizophrenia!”, “Leaping lumbago!”, “Holy interruptions!”

Alfred
Alfred gets his biggest part in the series to date, possibly having more lines here than in all previous episodes combined. He still doesn’t do much, but gets very involved in conversations with Batman and Robin, being a willing questioner so they can infodump at him. He also manages to deduce, from newspaper headlines, that Mr. Freeze is on the loose and that this is why Batman is experimenting with extreme cold.

For the first time we also see his sense of humour — when Batman gets out of the cold chamber in which he is testing his resistance to cold, he offers him ice tea, before admitting he has normal, warm, tea for him.

Commissioner Gordon
Continues to be more sceptical of the possibility of rehabilitating or redeeming criminals than Batman, attributing their crimes to their fundamental nature. However, he still believes in the rule of law above all, telling Chief O’Hara, when the latter says he wishes he could get his hands on Freeze, “No public official elected by the people can allow his emotions to overrule his dedication to duty and carrying out the due process of law.”

Chief O’Hara
Is even more incompetent than usual here, not managing to rescue Batman as planned because he takes a wrong turning.

The Baddies
Mister Freeze

“That diabolical snowman, who can only exist in temperatures fifty degrees below zero or lower; the heart of ice and the cold, calculating brain of the master criminal.”

Mr. Freeze is based on Mr. Zero, a character who had only appeared in one comic, seven years previously. The name change isn’t the most important thing about the changes to the character, though — in this version, the accident that made him unable to survive at temperatures greater than fifty below zero happened during a fight with Batman, who he holds personally responsible (the first we’ve seen of the villain whose origin is tied up with the hero — it won’t be the last). Freeze’s crimes therefore have two motives — to fund the expensive equipment he needs to stay alive, and to get revenge on Batman.

Batman, on the other hand, feels sorry for him — “the poor devil, forced to live in an air-conditioned suit that keeps his body down to fifty degrees below zero. No wonder his mind is warped.”

As a result, we have the first truly sympathetic villain in screen Batman, helped by George Sanders playing him in sleek, Bond-villain, mode — he’s hamming it up, but in a very different way from the outrageous scenery-chewing we’ve seen recently, having instead an air of menace and even desperation, and an air of Continental sophistication from his German accent. This is Blofeld, Goldfinger, or Lecter, rather than the capering clowns Batman normally fights, and this difference is reinforced by him being the only villain who can’t confront Batman physically — Batman can’t survive in Freeze’s low temperatures, and Freeze can’t survive in normal ones, and so there is almost no physical interaction between them.

Freeze’s lair is kept at below minus fifty, but in order to allow his goons and servants to move around, he can create warm paths through it — this is done with a genuinely rather impressive effect for the time, showing some areas of the screen in blue and others in red.

Mister Freeze’s Goons
Freeze has three generic goons — Chill, Nippy, and Moe — but also has five doubles of himself, and five of Batman, who are introduced to cause the maximum confusion in a robbery, allowing him to get away.

The Gadgets
Another gadget-lite story. In this one, Batman only uses an anti-freeze capsule which, taken internally, allows people to withstand extreme cold (although not at the levels Freeze uses), the computer in the Batcave (labelled “Interdigital Batsorter — Anti-Crime Computer”), and a set of “special super-thermal B long underwear for extreme cold”.

Mr. Freeze steals the utility belt, which contains “batrope, batarangs, explosives, gas pellets and other things”. Freeze himself has a gun which can shoot out what look like laser beams to heat things up, as well as freezing gas. Freeze also has a spacesuit-like suit, which he uses outside to keep himself at a low enough temperature.

Gotham City Hospital has a “super-hypotherm deicifier chamber mark 7”, used to defrost Batman and Robin after they’ve been frozen.

Robin plants a tracking device on Batman.

Gotham City

Gotham’s baseball team are the Gotham City Eagles, who play against such teams as the Windy City Wildcats and the Motor City Wheels. Gotham City baseball crowds and teams are apparently made of stock footage. The Eagles have a new stadium.

Gotham also has a diamond exchange, is near snow-covered mountains, and has a road called Route 49 going through it. From previous evidence this is probably not the famous Route 49 in California, or US Route 49, but New York State Route 49 or New Jersey Route 49.

What’s New?
Mr. Freeze is given that name here for the first time — the character of Mr. Zero, on which he was based, reappears soon after in the comics under that new name. It’s also the first time we’ve ever seen the villain who has been created by a mistake made by the hero — something we will be seeing a lot in future.

Review
This is a curiously dark, serious, story for this series. While the story still contains plenty of camp, it all comes from the deadpan delivery of a few over-earnest lines, and very little here is truly played for laughs. In its first series, Batman managed a delicate balance between sitcom and adventure series, and here it’s about as far towards the adventure series side as it would ever go — oddly, given that this is one of the stories with the least physical confrontations. Some of the dialogue between Freeze and Batman is genuinely (no pun intended) chilling.

This may have something to do with the writing process — apparently this story was originally given to Leonard Stadd, a writer for The Time Tunnel and The Man From UNCLE, to write, but he turned in an unfilmable script and Max Hodge had to rewrite it from scratch, quickly.

It’s also true that there is one scene in this that is definitely meant to be pure parody — the scene in the hospital — but this is parodying the US TV show Ben Casey, which most viewers now will never have seen, and so no longer really comes off.

But it’s definitely also the case that between Sanders’ menace and a general dialling-back of the camper elements of the show (the end reverts to “Same Time, Same Channel” rather than “Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel”, for example), this is probably the closest the series ever actually got to being the adventure series the small children watching thought it was.

Personnel
Cast

Adam West: Batman
Burt Ward: Robin
George Sanders: Mister Freeze
Alan Napier: Alfred
Neil Hamilton: Commissioner Gordon
William Dozier: Narrator

Crew

William Dozier: Executive Producer/Creator
Max Hodge: Writer
Robert Butler: Director

[These are being published several weeks in advance on my Patreon, where I've just posted the seventh Batman 66 TV series post, which will not appear here until late February. If you want to find out what I think about the Mad Hatter's hat-based antics, sign up to support my writing at $1 per month or whatever you can afford. If you can't afford anything or don't like the idea of me having money, they'll all turn up here for free eventually anyway.]

One Response to “Batman ’66: Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese”

  1. Matthew Craig Says:

    Poor oul’ Chief O’Hara. Always bejaysus, never bedad.

    Original Star Trek has an odd attitude to the Irish, as well – odder still for its otherwise inclusive and positive worldview.

    I remember the heat/cold effect, even though I don’t remember the episode proper. I bet it looks bostin in its remastered state.

    I like the morality on display in this story, simple though it might sound. Batman’s even-handed compassion is a pretty groovy default emotional state.

    //\Oo/\\

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