As any Batman ’66 fan knows, three different actors played the villain Mr. Freeze on the show: George Sanders, Otto Preminger, and Eli Wallach. Any discussion of Mr. Freeze on the show prompts the question: Which Freeze do you like best? And, which Freeze script do you like best? In this episode, we give our answers to those questions, as well as exploring how the show set the course for the character in the comics (at least until Paul Dini changed it in 1992), potential reasons for the lack of Mr. Freeze in season three, and more.
ALSO: A Bat-research lab looking at the recently-recovered Adam West Nick at Night pilot “Cartoon Lost and Found,” Jose Fajardo’s “Batman Boogaloo,” and your response to our Lego Batman episode!
-- The Joker, in a line cut from "The Joker's Epitaph"
Otto's episode is the most fun to watch despite all the "WILD"s and eyebrow rubbing. Besides False Face Green Ice is the closest the show came to horror with Freeze zapping Gordon and O'Hara. It's pretty disturbing between Freeze's surreal appearance in the vent and his victims's terror as they try and fail to escape. The effects are top-notch, from the chilling sound (reminding me of Lost in Space f/x) and the frozen doors and the way the ice slowly blocks them from sight. Both actors do a convincing job. Something just awful in the way Gordon struggles to speak.
I think it was a case of stupid Batman when he tells Dick "I think he tried to tell me something." Really?! You mean using a phone to communicate---you don't say! Still, there's more good moments than bad in this two-parter like the little touches of Batman sliding on the icy floor and Robin using his cape to wipe the ice off O'Hara. And classic GCPD...let's not get an axe and break the door down but rather assume they're both dead.
Nellie Majors was an interesting character. I like that she was just an opportunistic reporter and not one of Freeze's gang though certainly the actress could've returned in a different role as a villainess, she really chews up the scenery and has a nice, smug attitude that could've worked well as a rogue.
It's been awhile but I don't think she ever returns in Part 2 does she? If not, a mistake as having her admit she was wrong about the Dynamic Duo would've been a good pay-off.
The pool scene is quite good, from Dick's funny line about his cuff link, to the green color of lamps and water all of it setting an interesting mood. I forgot how they get out and was glad it was Alfred to save the day. Aunt Harriet has some good moments as well, really believable anger at Freeze and his gang, nice to see her get to stretch a bit.
Good observations about the fight, the stuntmen, the directing etc. the whole other level to the scene. Clever!
I really like the lay-out of Preminger's hide-out, it not only made for an interesting setting for the final bat-fight but is fun to look at, from the giant thermometer, the heater for the gang and the prison cell. NIcely designed!
Why does the opening narration in Deep Freeze say that Robin gets zapped by Freeze when it's both of them?
Supposedly Preminger let himself be dead weight for Adam and Burt to haul up at the end.
Overall, a fun episode though I'm sure I'm missing some points.
Sanders is the most menacing of the Freezes, and his lair is WILD, particularly the cool/hot paths. His acting is believable and for the most part this feels like one of the most serious eps in the whole series. "Bond villain" is apt. I guess I switch back and forth as to which episode I prefer, Preminger's flies by and is zany fun while this one is more serious but entertaining as well.
The only thing I like about Wallach's is the Bruce/Batman phone scene...WIL---I mean fantastic. And Emma Strunk in her ice skating outfit. Just never liked Wallach's over the top acting and the way he spits out some syllables.
Also, knowing what follows, the steep decline of Season Three casts a pall over these final Freezes, that even Leslie Parrish's beauty and Adam's stellar acting can't escape.
While Preminger's Freeze revels in destroying the Duo's rep and comes across as a total evil jerk, especially with his banannas plan to turn Miss Iceland into someone like him, Sanders seems sympathetic in a way, despite his more-or-less same goal of revenge. Perhaps it's down to his acting, and unlike every other Batman villain, he comes across as the closest to normal; he's certainly the finest and most generous host of the rogues gallery.
And what a clever idea, chilling his liquor with his hands; seems like Max Hodge really did his best to exploit the concept, little touches like this make the episodes special while also showing how much was lost as the series carried on.
I think the Sanders's eps are the only ones where we see Batman testing his stamina in the Bat-Freezing Booth or whatever it was called; neat! Too bad they couldn't fit in more scenes like that over the course of the series.
While there's some humor, particularly funny is O'Hara's explanation on why it took them so long to arrive, these are fairly serious a pair of episodes, more adventurous and less comedy. And though I mentioned it in my first post, I want to again say how great the heated path idea was and they really pulled it off, the contrast between dark red and chilly blue are pleasing to the eye.
Fair point about budget possibly being the reason there's no fourth Freeze in the third season, though if they'd really wanted to I'm sure they'd have found a way to incorporate him, have the Terrific Trio get zapped which seems like a relatively cheap effect, some type of air gun and instead of glowing just toss silivery dust over them to show they're frozen.
Maybe it's best they didn't though, as part of the appeal of Mr. Freeze's gimmick was seeing his chilly hide-out and the power of his freeze-gun.
Sanders and his story will always be my favorite: at that point in the series, villains still had a sense of menace, and Sanders' Freeze had that by the truckload. He was the only Bat villain who was the perfect blend of the fantastic and sophistication that one would find in a 60s-era James Bond (as Tim alluded to) film. His performance did not need to be over-the-top or something so silly that he would not be menacing to Rocky and Bullwinkle. His scenes with West (arguably at his best as Batman) were one of this series' best hero vs villain interactions; Sanders' Freeze walked the fine line between playing with Batman and Robin like a sadistic hunter toying with his prey, and a wonderfully calculating approach to his crimes. He was almost above the '66 series' pay-- or quality grade, so to speak.
Greenway not getting Sanders to return to the role was one of the series' worst failings, as Preminger was insufferably cartoonish and as Paul mentioned, his "Vild!" would-be catchphrase did play like an older man in the 1960s trying to appear cool to people young enough to be his grandkids. I'm not sure Preminger added that to his dialogue, or was it in the script, but for all of the years I've watched Batman, that "Vild" business always seemed out of place--like all things Preminger in that arc.
Regarding Wallach...sigh. Proof a talented actor was not always suited to dip his toes into fantasy. He was exactly that over-the-top performance mentioned earlier, and is just as silly as anything one would see from the broad, threatening-as-a-dandelion performances of Bernie Kopell's Siegfried (Get Smart) or Billie Hayes' Witchiepoo (H.R. Pufinstuf). Even the '66 series did not need to swim so far into that silly end of the pool.
It says much when the Mr. Freeze from 1968's The Adventures of Batman cartoon felt like a greater, legitimate threat to Batman and Robin than Preminger or Wallach. Just take a look at the cartoon's "The Cool, Cruel Mr. Freeze", and you'll see what I mean.
But I've got to admit, I still would prefer to sit down and watch the Otto arc than the Sanders arc. Sanders does come off as a good Bondian villain. But I want a '66 Batman villain when I watch Batman. And Otto delivers that. And as polarizing as it is, put me in the win column on 'Wild!'
In terms of scenery-chewing, no it's not nearly as good as Victor Buono's Tut, but it leans more in that direction for the viewer than Anne Baxter's tiresome take on Olga, which brought to mind Boris and Natasha on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Yes, Freeze's evil plan re Miss Iceland makes no sense, and if you watch The Time Tunnel episode "Revenge of the Gods," which aired on Oct. 21, 1966, 19 days before "Green Ice," you'd note that Dee Hartford's appearance as kidnapee Helen of Troy is eerily similar to her appearance as kidnapee Miss Iceland. She and kidnapper Paris (Paul Carr) trade very similar dialogue--he will make her love him, no she never will, etc.
I agree with robinboyblunderer that we needed to see more of Nellie Majors. As I've said before, Marie Windsor is awesome and shows glimpses of why she was a B-movie femme fatale a decade before. Heck, I know it would be heresy for you guys, and she wasn't a big enough name for Dozier anymore, but sign me up for her as Black Widow in 1966-67 any day. I was SHOCKED she wasn't part of Freeze's entourage.
As for Wallach's arc, you again (and I can't blame you) forgot to mention the creepiness of the implied offscreen 'scene' in which Glacia apparently seduced the formula out of Isaacson. That offscreen business symbolizes how underused she is and foreshadows how much of season 3 will be referenced and not shown in what is supposed to be a visual medium. (Not that I wanted to see Leslie Parrish making goo-goo eyes and more at Elisha Cook Jr., mind you!)
My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.
'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17
The gun posed a tricky problem for the show's writers: Batman and Robin had to thwart it in order to triumph in the Sanders episodes, so it wouldn't have made sense for them to be helpless against it the next time they encountered Mr. Freeze. The most satisfying way of addressing that for us fans would have been for Freeze to up his game with more powerful, or at least different, weapons in subsequent episodes. Instead, likely because of the effects budget as much as anything else, we got that same awesome gun rendered less powerful (no heat ray) and used in less potentially deadly ways with each iteration of the Freeze character: The frozen-pool gambit, while a very neat trick visually and in terms of the plot, didn't put any lives at risk. (Even when Preminger iced the police officer at Wayne Manor it felt much less grim than when Sanders zapped and shattered that security guard.) By the time Wallach donned the collar, the Freeze gun felt like an afterthought: Most of the time, he didn't even bother wearing the fire-extinguisher tanks that powered the gun, and when he finally pulled it out at the end of The Duo Defy, it was merely to show how ineffective the gun was against batskivvies.
There may be a case to be made that the original freeze gun, and the way Sanders-as-Freeze used it, were too much of a threat, and to the extent the bat-producers backed away from its lethality (and the F/X budget needed to sell its deadliness), Freeze became a less compelling villain.
It seems like the second season Freeze was an entirely different villain. Sanders lamented his condition with "Never again to know the warmth of a summer's breeze of or feel the heat of burning logs in wintertime. " Preminger and Wallach seemed to like it or at least not mind. Sanders was a gourmet who knew how long to hold various drinks to chill them perfectly. One of Preminger's henchmen talks about getting him frozen reindeer meat for a snack. It's like the original Freeze is gone and a new one took his place.
It's a metaphor for the show and the decline from a good mix of comedy and adventure to goofy "sitcom" to self-parody.
Funko Three Mr Freezes by Ian McLean, on Flickr
I was thrilled when Funko gave us two different Mr Freezes! (But I was determined to customise the most memorable.) Along with False Face, George Sanders' Mr Freeze episode felt quite scary in the 60s. The actor's performance was... chilling. The divided ice/heat lair effect was also really, er, cool, even though Aussies didn't get to see it in colour until 1975.
It seemed to me that physical attributes of Preminger and Wallach Mr Freezes were combined in "Return of the Caped Crusaders".
Batman 66 villains by Ian McLean, on Flickr
Therin of Andor
(aka Ian McLean, from Sydney, Australia)
I always preferred Sanders' Freeze for all the reasons that Batwinged Hornet listed.
But it must be conceded that Preminger's Freeze has the most iconic costume design, as High C already said.
Then again, Wallach was no slouch, either - as so eloquently expressed by Paul!
I guess they're all pretty good Freezes, when you get down to it...
But if I had to choose just one actor to be the ultimate Mr Freeze, I think I'd give it to Preminger. As much as I enjoy Sanders' portrayal (easily one of my favorite stories of the series) I can't see him working as well in the more comical 2nd Season stories. Part of it is his Bond-villain demeanor. But mostly I can't imagine him in blue makeup with orange eyebrows.
Swapping in Preminger for the other actors is an easier mental exercise for me. His portrayal is the most like Cesar's Joker or Meredith's Penguin - unique, instantly recognizable, most obviously a character from '66 Batman.
I like to think of all three as incarnations of Freeze's descent into madness.Dan E Kool wrote: ↑Sat Aug 21, 2021 11:33 am But if I had to choose just one actor to be the ultimate Mr Freeze, I think I'd give it to Preminger. As much as I enjoy Sanders' portrayal (easily one of my favorite stories of the series) I can't see him working as well in the more comical 2nd Season stories. Part of it is his Bond-villain demeanor. But mostly I can't imagine him in blue makeup with orange eyebrows.
Therin of Andor
(aka Ian McLean, from Sydney, Australia)
As a child growing up watching the series my favourite Freeze had always been Wallach. Nostalgia on this is still swaying me to say he is my favourite Freeze. Although the Preminger story is hands down my favourite story arc. The Sanders episodes stand out in terms of the production, having the heated floor in the ice room. But the Sanders portrayal for me was lacking charisma. 66 Batman as we all know is jolly/whacky/colourful but Sanders for me was ironically very stiff.
Great podcast as always!