Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch, Batman! “Instant Freeze” / “Rats Like Cheese”

“Instant Freeze” / “Rats Like Cheese”
Written by Max Hodge
Directed by Robert Butler
Season 1, Episodes 7 & 8
Production code 8707
Original air dates: February 2 & 3, 1966

The Bat-signal: Mr. Freeze attacks an ice-skating rink in the midst of an event by melting the rink with a flamethrower. His getaway vehicle is an ice-cream truck. A cop pursues him on a motorcycle, but Mr. Freeze ices the road behind him, and the cop washes out. After expositioning to the audience about Mr. Freeze—that he can only exist in temperatures of 50 degrees below zero (or colder)—Gordon and O’Hara go to the Bat-phone.

Bruce and Dick are having lunch with three players for the local baseball team, the Gotham City Eagles, including their star pitcher, Paul Diamante. They beg off dessert, claiming a double date, and head to police HQ. Batman feels a certain amount of guilt—in their last tussle, Batman accidentally spilled one of Mr. Freeze’s instant-freeze experiments onto the man himself, forcing him to live in a suit that keeps his body at 50 below. That is an expensive proposition, so they can expect a crime wave. The Dynamic Duo head back to the Batcave to consult the anti-crime computer.

Mr. Freeze has a hideout in the mountains, where he’s able to keep the interior at the temperatures he needs to survive—but can also make parts of the room 76 degrees, which is handy for his henchmen.

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Batman tests his anti-freezing pill, but it’s not enough to keep him from freezing to death in Mr. Freeze’s native temperature. At best, it allows him to tolerate zero degrees, which still gives Mr. Freeze a 50-degree advantage.

Five fake Batmen and five fake Mr. Freezes have been hired to appear in public to confuse the police and Batman himself. O’Hara is dumbfounded by patrol reports that have Batman sighted all over town at the same time. Gordon calls Batman to let him know, and they map out the appearances, realizing that all the Batmen are converging on the diamond exchange.

Sure enough, Mr. Freeze is robbing the diamond exchange, including the Star of Kashmir, the most valuable diamond in the world—or, rather, the second, as the manager Mr. Perkins informs him.Batman-InstantFreeze04

 

A guard sets off the alarm, prompting Mr. Freeze to freeze him solid. Then the five fake Batmen, as well as the five fake Mr. Freezes, all enter, to the confusion of the customers. The real Batman arrives with Robin, and fisticuffs ensue. Mr. Freeze is the only who doesn’t participate in the fight, as he’s too busy icing the floor. Robin almost biffs the real Batman by mistake at one point. In the confusion, Mr. Freeze escapes with his henchmen, taking time to ice the Batmobile’s turbines before getting away.

Batman and Robin look up in the sky, and it’s not a bird, but it is a plane, which is skywriting: “STRIKE ONE FOR BATMAN.”

The anti-crime computer informs them that Mr. Freeze is likely to strike a jewelry shop next. He stole the Star of Kashmir, and left a fortune in loose diamonds on the floor of the exchange. He’s obviously after particularly valuable pieces. The computer gives several likely targets, but they hit on Ghiaclio Circolo (which Robin, who’s studying Italian, translates as “the Ice Circle”) as the most likely, as it’s the most valuable in the world. It’s owned by Princess Sandra of Molino, who’s flying into Gotham for a charity baseball game.

Batman-InstantFreeze12

Princess Sandra—who was born Sandra Carolson of Brooklyn—is in the royal suite at the Gotham City Hotel, wearing the Ghiaclio Circolo around her neck. Mr. Freeze enters her room inside a crate labelled as meat that must be kept frozen. One of her staff sounds the alarm, but Mr. Freeze freezes him—and when he falls down, he shatters (off camera), causing another staffer to faint.

Mr. Freeze takes the diamond from around the princess’s neck, just as Batman and Robin arrive. The scuffle is brief—Mr. Freeze tries to get away by setting the drapes alight, but they catch up to him and he’s forced to freeze them on the street, just as a plane skywrites strike two. He’d been hoping to toy with them more, but that’s the way the ice cube crumbles.

Luckily, Gotham City Hospital has a Mark 7 Super Hypertherm Deicifier, into which the Dynamic Duo are placed and saved.

Batman-InstantFreeze

Princess Sandra is throwing out the first ball in the charity game, which is between the Eagles and the Windy City Wildcats. She does so from Bruce Wayne’s private box, and then the ballgame starts. But Paul Diamante isn’t pitching, to everyone’s surprise. Just as that announcement is made, a plane skywrites, “THREE STRIKES, YOU’RE OUT, BATMAN.”

Saying he has to go to a board meeting, Bruce leaves the box. Even though he’s not on the board, Dick follows. They arrive at police HQ in costume to find that Diamante was kidnapped by Mr. Freeze—Diamante means “diamond,” and he pitches on a baseball diamond, thus keeping the theme going. Mr. Freeze calls the commissioner with his demands: he’ll give Diamante back in exchange for Batman. Batman, of course, agrees, as Diamante is the idol of millions of young boys who will grow up to be men, and he can’t let their idol die. (We’ll just dance past the implication that (a) girls don’t like baseball and (b) Batman has a different standard for famous people, as it sounds like that if he was Paul Diamante the bricklayer instead of Paul Diamante the famous pitcher, Batman would let him rot.)

Batman-InstantFreeze18

Robin, though, surreptitiously placed a tracker on Batman, which he explains to a surprised Alfred, who just brought him a strawberry sundae. (Extra energy wouldn’t hurt.) Batman’s in the middle of nowhere, where he meets a helicopter. Mr. Freeze’s thugs deposit a dazed Diamante on a park bench and club Batman on the head. Robin follows along, making sure Diamante’s okay, but not bothering to untie him (really?).

Batman wakes up in Mr. Freeze’s lair, a section that’s 76 degrees. Mr. Freeze has the utility belt in the cold half of the room—yet he doesn’t bother to unmask him. Twice Batman tries to attack Mr. Freeze on the cold side of the room and fails. Mr. Freeze leads him to the dining room, where Robin has been captured.

Mr. Freeze provides them with a last meal: roast beef, spinach, and baked Alaska (Batman turns down a cold sherry). Batman tries to appeal to him to give up so he can get the medical help he needs, but Mr. Freeze wants revenge for what Batman did to him. They once again try to attack, but the cold is too much for them.

Finally, Mr. Freeze narrows the warm field so only one person can fit. Batman lets Robin stay in, and Batman then dives in and punches Mr. Freeze in the nose. Turns out he was wearing thermal underwear that kept him warm, and was faking up until now. What he gained from faking all this time is unclear.

Batman-InstantFreeze10

He gives Robin the controller, and Robin makes the whole room 76 degrees. But after Mr. Freeze suffers a bit in normal temperatures, he makes a small area at 50 below for him.

Then the thugs show up, and fisticuffs ensue, with the Dynamic Duo victorious.

The next day, Diamante has a photo op with Gordon and Princess Sandra. Bruce and Dick, meanwhile, are deeply disappointed that Aunt Harriet had the cook make baked Alaska for dessert…

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! For the first time we get the “Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed,” “Get ready to move out” sequence with Batman and Robin as they start up the Batmobile. Batman tries to survive in the portable freeze chamber. The anti-crime computer has an interdigital Batsorter—which, apparently, interdigitally sorts bats?

Best of all, they mark the appearances of the fake Batmen on the giant lighted lucite map of Gotham City, which is handily labelled, “GIANT LIGHTED LUCITE MAP OF GOTHAM CITY.” One assumes there’s also the tiny lighted lucite map of Gotham City, the giant dark lucite map of Gotham City, the giant lighted marble map of Gotham City, and, of course, the giant lighted lucite map of Metropolis.

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Holy #@!%$, Batman! When realizing that Mr. Freeze will need to bankroll his chilly lifestyle, Robin declares, “Holy iceberg!” Alfred’s serving of iced tea after Batman tested the portable freeze chamber leads to Robin declaring, “Holy blizzard!” As they mark the appearances of the fake Batmen on the giant lighted lucite map of Gotham City, Robin mutters, “Holy schizophrenia.” Upon realizing the Batmobile’s turbines are frozen, he declares, “Holy iceballs!” Alfred’s interrupting Robin’s preparation to go after Batman is met with an on-the-nose, “Holy interruptions!” and he declares “Holy Sherlock Holmes” when explaining to Alfred why he put a tracker on the Caped Crusader.

Breaking the pattern, he, for reasons passing understanding, says, “Leaping lumbago!” when they realize the fake Batmen are targeting the diamond exchange.

Gotham City’s finest. Gordon says to O’Hara that those elected to protect the city must follow the due process of the law—which means that either the commissioner, the chief of police, or both is an elected post. The notion that a plurality of citizens in Gotham might have actually voted for one of these two for their job is a scary-ass proposition…

Robin calls the GCPD on his way to the mountain, but O’Hara and his people don’t make it to the mountain hideout until after the fight is over because they took a wrong turn on Route 49. I hate when that happens.

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Gordon at one point refers to Batman and Robin as two fine specimens of manhood. Wah-hey! Princess Sandra and Bruce Wayne apparently have some kind of past, though only Sandra makes mention of it.Batman-InstantFreeze17

Special Guest Villain. George Sanders makes his only appearance as Mr. Freeze. This is the first villain specifically created for the show (though he was based on the comics villain Mr. Zero, who first appeared in Batman #121 in 1959) and the first to inspire the comics, as Mr. Zero was changed to Mr. Freeze to match the TV villain in Detective Comics #373 in 1968. Mr. Freeze will return twice in season 2, played by Otto Preminger in “Green Ice” / “Deep Freeze” and by Eli Wallach in “Ice Spy” / “The Duo Defy.” He’s one of only two villains to be played by three different actors on the show, the other being Catwoman (Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt).

Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.

“Nothing. Not one single mark—er, I mean, red cent. No money! None!”

Mr. Freeze’s answer to the question of how much money he wants for Diamante’s release.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 4 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Andrew Leyland of the Hey, Kids, Comics! podcast.

Teri Garr makes a cameo at the top of “Instant Freeze” as one of the victims of Mr. Freeze’s skating rink meltdown, one of her first TV appearances.

Other guests in this episode include Shelby Grant, who would appear in Our Man Flint the same year, as the princess, longtime character actor Robert Hogan as Diamante, and Dan Terranova doing a hilarious parody of Ben Casey as the doctor who saves Batman and Robin.

When talking with Diamante, Dick compares him to Sandy Koufax, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher. This is the second reference to Koufax made by the character, having cried, “Holy Koufax!” in “The Joker is Wild.”

We’re back to “same time, same channel” without the Bat-prefix at the end of “Instant Freeze.”

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Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Have you ordered the airplane to go zoom-zoom-zoom?” This is a particularly enjoyable couple of episodes. One of the refreshing things about watching the show right now is that it started in medias res. These are not Batman’s first encounters with the villains in question, and in the case of Mr. Freeze we have the added bonus of a particular animus he has for Batman.

And it’s justified, too. Everyone else insists it was an accident and Batman isn’t responsible, but Batman himself evinces at least a little guilt at what happened: because of Batman, Dr. Schimmel, a.k.a. Mr. Freeze, can only survive in sub-Arctic temperatures. It’s a horrible thing to have to deal with.

It gives Mr. Freeze’s plots to ensnare Batman significantly more bite, because he’s not in it to challenge Batman or to play games with him; he has a very genuine desire for revenge. Some of that bite is lost by George Sanders playing the bad guy with a comedy German accent, but he’s having so much fun in the role, it’s hard to complain about that overmuch.

Of course, you have to wonder why Dr. Schimmel didn’t just put his device that can freeze parts of rooms and not freeze other parts on the market. He’d make a mint in selling to meat storage units alone!

The episode would get a higher rating but for the climax. It makes no sense, none, that Batman was faking it for all that time and then suddenly decided to reveal himself at the end. He could have taken Mr. Freeze down the minute he woke up in the room—what did he gain by pretending to be frozen in the room? Even Batman’s most ridiculous feats have some basis in reality, however miniscule, and however warped this particular reality is, but this has absolutely no sense to it whatsoever.

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In addition, why go to the trouble of establishing that Princess Sandra is actually from Brooklyn if you don’t do anything with it? And why did Mr. Freeze melt an ice rink, anyhow? What was the point? How’d he get the planes to skywrite so fast? And finally, why is the second episode called “Rats Like Cheese”? There are no rats and no cheese in the episode. It’s like it was the placeholder rhyme title and they never replaced it…

 

Bat-rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido is always talking about the weather but never does anything about it.

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