"Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese" (S1/E7 & 8) Author: Chris Clow (Follow @CHRISCLOW)
Date: November 29, 2014
SYNOPSIS PART 1: Mr. Freeze seeks vengeance on Batman for his accident by stealing some diamonds. Freeze foils the Dynamic Duo with duplicates. Mr. Freeze attempts to steel the visiting Princess of Molino's diamonds only to be intercepted by Batman & Robin. Mr. Freeze freezes the Duo in their tracks as they try to apprehend him. PART 2: Batman & Robin are thawed out as Mr. Freeze has captured the Gotham City's star baseball pitcher. Freeze proposes a trade for Batman. Robin tracks them down to Freeze's warehouse. Mr. Freeze demonstrates his freezing system on the Dynamic Duo. Batman saves the day by knocking out Mr. Freeze & reverses the controls
“Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese” was written by Max Hodge and directed by Robert Butler. They were first broadcast on Wednesday, February 3, and Thursday, February 4, 1966, respectively, on the ABC television network.
Long before writer Paul Dini would reform the character of Mr. Freeze into the unmistakably tragic and formidable adversary of The Dark Knight, a somewhat campy character named “Mr. Zero” was introduced to the readers of the ongoing BATMAN comic book series in early 1959.
Mr. Zero, very distinguishable because of his spaceman-like refrigeration suit, was created by writer David Wood and artist Sheldon Moldoff. He was somewhat unremarkable outside of his gimmick, being little more than a stock enemy for Batman and Robin to face off against, and rested more in the category of villains like Killer Moth and Crazy Quilt than with the likes of heavier hitters like The Joker or The Penguin.
When William Dozier would develop the BATMAN television series in the mid-1960s, though, this definitely seemed like a character that was interesting enough on his own merits to make the transition to the campy and comedic world that he would establish for his series, but in the process of adaptation, a couple of things were changed: he was given a backstory that detailed his strange condition requiring the refrigeration suit was indirectly the fault of Batman, and his name morphed from the somewhat amorphous “Mr. Zero” into the far more specific variant we know even today…
"Mr. Zero" in BATMAN #121 (February 1959)
For the character’s first appearance on the Batman series, in the episodes “Instant Freeze” and “Rats Like Cheese,” Freeze was introduced as a madman on a mission. Although in the show we’d never seen his face-off with Batman, it’s described for us by the series’ trademark on-the-nose exposition, and it becomes clear to anyone watching that Freeze really, truly has it in for The Caped Crusader.
As a kid, even this iteration of Freeze was somewhat scary for me, because there is something that’s fundamentally off-putting about the notion of freezing to death. Add to that the energetic yet charming demeanor of Russian-born English actor George Sanders in the part of the villain himself, and you have a character that proves to be very interesting to watch, fitting like a glove within the Technicolor world of Dozier’s Gotham City.
Unlike some other recent episodes, particularly ones that introduced the show’s versions of The Joker and The Penguin, this two-parter with Mr. Freeze was not directly based on any previously existing comics story, likely due to the fact that Mr. Zero just wasn’t designed to amount to a whole lot at the time he was created. The interesting thing about that, though, is that his appearances on this series would leave an indelible imprint on the character as he would be imagined in the future, and indeed this was one of the first instances in the world of Batman where a live action adaptation would actually go on to impact the comics.
George Sanders as Mister Freeze in "Instant Freeze" (February 1966)
While Freeze would be portrayed by other actors in his subsequent appearances, Sanders’ overall approach to bringing this “chilling” character to life is likely the one I prefer the most, perhaps in all of the character’s live-action history (as I do with Burgess Meredith as The Penguin). Sanders, much like Adam West himself, totally surrenders himself to the tone of the show, and you genuinely believe that he is one of Batman’s most powerful adversaries within this world. Beyond that, his somewhat less-than-obvious choice to give Freeze German ancestry makes Freeze all the more interesting, and certainly made him one of the more unique villains that would be presented over the lifetime of this show.
While Freeze is far from the standout villain of the show overall, you can definitely see traces of DNA of this first appearance here as informing some of the more timeless Freeze stories we would get in other mediums decades later. For that alone, it’s fascinating to watch; and for what it is, it’s pretty fun too! - Chris Clow
ORIGINAL AIR DATES: February 2 & 3, 1966
SCREENWRITER: Max Hodge
DIRECTOR: Robert Butler
BAT-FIRSTS: 1st live-action appearance of Mr. Freeze
BAT-QUOTE: “Diamante is the idol of millions of impressionable young lads who look up to him. He must live to inspire the youth of today who will be the men of tomorrow!”