A four year-old’s natural curiosity and confusion about what he’s watching was compounded by Robert Butler, the director of this story, making the same weird decision as he did with the very first story. He introduces the episode’s villain, Mr. Freeze, just absurdly casually. There’s just a guy in a white spacesuit rushing past the camera, and the police later inform us that was Mr. Freeze. When we next meet him, he’s wearing civilian clothes in his temperature-controlled home. Daniel asked me, partway through that scene, “But who is Mr. Freeze?” I told him that he’s that man right there. “But what does he look like?” He needed a more identifiable baddie costume to attach to the name.
George Sanders, who uses a German accent in his role as “Dr. Schimmel,” alias Mr. Freeze, has some absurd puns about “cool” and “ice” that would later inform Arnold Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of the character, but he does not cackle and giggle like the previous three Bat-villains. Nevertheless, he still alarmed Daniel with his freeze gun. It’s an odd device, which can alternately fire a laser beam or a blast of super-cold air, like a fire extinguisher. When it’s spraying the blast, Sanders seems to have trouble controlling it. When he froze a security guard, that really alarmed Daniel. A second guard, in a later scene, seems to meet a grisly fate. It’s heavily implied, through a sound effect, that he toppled over and shattered into fragments. Thank heaven they didn’t show that.
This story must have been filmed around December 1965 and marked the first time the character of Mr. Freeze got that name. He had previously made a single appearance in the comics, in 1959’s Batman # 121, where he was called Mr. Zero, and this story was actually reprinted in the December ’65 giant-sized issue of the comic, # 176. Bearing in mind that the issue date is actually a month or two ahead and is intended as the “off-sale” date, this issue could have been the one on newsstands when ABC gave the producers the order to make the show.
(And that answers my question about the previous adventure. Batman # 176 also contains a reprint of “The Joker’s Utility Belt,” the 1952 story that formed the basis of “The Joker is Wild”/”Batman is Riled,” and so that’s where the producers got the idea for that episode.)
The TV producers gave this villain the new name of Mr. Freeze, and when the character next appeared in the funnybooks, in 1968, DC Comics kept his new name. From what I can tell from Wikipedia and comics.org, it looks like these two comic stories were Mr. Freeze’s only comic appearances until the late 1970s. He was seen in this show, and in the Filmation Batman Saturday morning cartoons, much more than in comics.
Daniel didn’t like the freeze gun, and he didn’t like it when Mr. Freeze zapped the front of the Batmobile either. We explained that the show has bad guys in it, and Batman has to fight them, and asked what sort of Batman story he’d like to see. He hopes the next story is “Batman Fights Bad Octopus.”