A BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE to the late actor, who was born 116 years ago on July 3, 1906…
By JIM BEARD
For me, Mr. Freeze has long been an interesting choice for the Batman ’66 producers to have made when building their super-criminal rogues gallery—especially for the inaugural season of the show. In fact, he technically didn’t really exist at all before that, having only a “Mr. Zero” precedent in a 1959 comic book, but Holy Heck, Batman, the cold cut-up followed immediately on the heels of the Riddler, Penguin and Joker in the series — in Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese — even beating Catwoman to the screen!
I have always looked upon the amazing George Sanders as the very best of the three actors who chilled out in the role on Batman, and these following 13 points should coldly and logically explain why I believe so:
1. He can shoot from the back of a moving van. You try that, chum. And with an ice gun, Jawohl?
2. He elicits sympathy for his condition. It’s all Batman’s fault that Freeze is the way he is. I mean, yeah, guy was already a crook, but he didn’t ask for a 50-degree-below-zero metabolism. Geez.
3. He has the best hideout. Not only is it up in the mountains, but it also has hot-and-cold running paths he can turn on and off for his warm-blooded employees and guests. Snazzy.
4. He made decoys of both himself and Batman. Why? In Freeze’s words, “First I toy, then I destroy!” And that says it all, nein?
5. He has a sinister German accent. Back in 1966, a German accent on a crook still instantly said “Nazi,” so we knew instantly Freeze was really, really bad.
6. He’s super-picky about diamonds. In underworld parlance, diamonds are “ice,” and Freeze wants only the very best—like the Star of Kashmir and the Circle of Ice.
7. He makes chillingly good puns. He’s serious about his revenge on Batman, but still manages to crack himself up with “It’s cold cuts!” and “Das ist the vay the ice cube crumbles!”
8. He doesn’t mind offing innocent people. “Instant Freeze” illustrates one of the very rare actual deaths in the series when Freeze freezes Sandra’s manservant and the poor guy falls over to smash into pieces on the floor.
9. We know his real name. Another rarity in Batman—we know Freeze’s real name is Doctor Schieval (although to me it sounds like Batman says “Schimmel.”)
10. He freezes the Dynamic Duo. I mean, who does that? Mister Freeze, that’s who, even though he was loathe to do it. Which is kind of honorable in a crooked sort of way.
11. He kidnaps a guy just because of his name. Like Robin says, “Diamante” is Italian for “diamond.” He should know because he’s studying Italian.
12. He can be very, very charming. Especially at dinner. And he serves Baked Alaska, which is something he didn’t have to do, but does.
13. He can chill liquor with his bare hands. And champagne. Don’t forget that. Guy could be very popular at parties if he wasn’t a, you know, super-criminal.
— MR. FREEZE: The Fifth Beatle of Batman Villains. Click here.
— The BATMAN ’66 Top 13 Episode Countdown: #6 — Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese. Click here.
JIM BEARD has pounded out adventure fiction since he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. He’s gone on to write official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comics stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. His prose work includes his own creations, but also licensed properties such as Planet of the Apes, X-Files, Spider-Man, Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Action. In addition, Jim provided regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website, for 17 years.
Check out his latest releases: a Green Hornet novella How Sweet the Sting, his first epic fantasy novel The Nine Nations Book One: The Sliding World, Running Home to Shadows about Dark Shadows, and the most recent Batman ’66 books of essays he’s edited: Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season One, Biff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two and Oooff! Boff! Splatt! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season Three.
July 3, 2022
Princess Sandra mentions at the end of the episode that her manservant is OK. The freeze-gun victim who toppled and shattered was a security guard — and his case illustrates both Sanders’s/Freeze’s coldhearted cruelty AND a way in which his weaponry was superior to that of all other Mr. Freezes.
The villain flash-freezes the guard as he’s pulling an alarm cord that hangs from the ceiling. The cord remains in the victim’s icy grip, holding him upright. The guard doesn’t fall over until Mr. Freeze uses a heat ray built into his freeze gun to sever the cord. We don’t see him shatter, of course, but we see onlookers’ horrified reaction and hear a breaking-glass sound effect that’s truly chilling.
Even though every villain schemed to kill Batman and Robin, there were only a handful of deaths on the Batman show, and that guard was the only case of outright murder. The other deaths were accidental: a couple of hired guns in the Zelda the Great episodes mistakenly offed each other instead of our heroes, and Riddler’s moll Molly (Jill St. John) fell into the Batcave’s atomic pile in the pilot episode.
The heat-ray component of the freeze gun was never seen again after these episodes, and in my mind it’s yet another reason the George Sanders Mr. Freeze was so cool.
July 3, 2022
Sanders was indeed the best Dr. Freese and the only Bat-foe to be played by three actors, Presumably because like Sanders, Eli Wallach, and Otto Preminger were all in high demand. John Aston and Eartha Kitt didn’t replace other cast members till the third and final season. It was rumored that Sanders was so good at accents because he didn’t know his own nationality. According to his memoirs “Autobiography of a Cad” His British mother never told him who his father was just that he was very European. Terribly handy for a character actor. Allowing him to play everything from an American Drama Critic,(Oscar) Russian Nobility to a chilling German mad scientist. Another reason he was a natural was his comfort level at handling cold diamonds and cool blondes since being married to two Gabor sisters Zsa Zsa and Magda allowed him lots of first hand experience at both. Alarmingly charming and debonair personally his self penned bio refers a long career of paying cads, scoundrels and bounders. On a sad note his last major role was going down with the ship as the Captain of the Poseidon. He committed suicide leaving a note that simply said “I’m bored.”
July 3, 2022
John Astin replaced Gorshin as the Riddler in the 2nd season. Gorshin returned to play the Riddler one last tome in the 3rd season. Sanders also played good guy Simon Templar(The Saint) and Saint rip-off Gay(The Falcon)Lawrence.
July 5, 2022
I stand corrected. My recall of who was in season 3 usually stems from their interaction with Batgirl and her fa… I mean Commissioner Gordon. You’re so right about the body count being so low. But they made them count like that poor deluded girl, Jill St John. That one really stuck. I think it was on my Batman Viewmaster disc set. I always wondered if Batgirl unwittingly caused the demise of Louie the Lilac.
George Sanders as The Saint, I’d very much like to see that. Thank you for that information. You probably won’t even break a sweat on this Bat trivia but… Besides Otto P. what other prominent director was a Bat villain? Cheers.
July 5, 2022
Iga Lupino, Davis.
July 4, 2022
According to the original script, courtesy of the American Heritage Center at U of Wyoming, his name IS Schimmel.
July 6, 2022
In BLACKHAWK #117 the group battles a villain called Mr. Freeze.
It was in 1957, I believe that was two years before Mr. Zero made his 1st appearance in BATMAN #121.
George Sander is also my favorite Live-Action Mr. Freeze.
July 6, 2022
I’m partial to Otto Preminger and his frosty freezies. Wild.