If you’re the kind of person who always wants the air conditioning colder, you will enjoy hanging out with the charismatic Batman villain Mr. Freeze!
This criminal mastermind requires sub-zero temperatures to survive as a result of a gruesome industrial accident, for which he blames Batman. Armed with his Freeze Gun and an arsenal of groan-inducing puns, Mr. Freeze fought Batman on three occasions throughout the run of the [1960s] series. Each incident involved a different incarnation of Mr. Freeze, played by three different actors, each with a slightly different backstory.
The earliest portrayal was played by British actor George Sanders, perhaps best known for his Oscar winning performance in All About Eve. In this version, the supervillain originated as a mad scientist named Dr. Schivel (no first name given), who came in contact with an instant freeze solution during a fight with Batman. As a consequence of this exposure, he was left unable to survive at temperatures above -50 degrees and dependent on his cryogenic suit. Blaming Batman, Mr. Freeze seeks revenge, first by stealing diamonds (or ‘ice’ in criminal parlance), then by kidnapping baseball player Paul Diamante. Mr. Freeze then arranged to trade his hostage for Batman so he could have his revenge on the Caped Crusader. His nefarious plans were thwarted, however, by both Robin and some special Bat-thermal underwear.
Mr. Freeze appears later in the episodes “Green Ice“/”Deep Freeze“. Sanders was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts, so the part was played by Otto Preminger, better known for directing movies like Carmen Jones than for his acting roles. In this pair of episodes, the archvillain wears a freeze collar in place of the spaceman-type cryogenic helmet sported by Sanders’s version of the character. He also has blue skin and seriously disturbing eyebrows. This time, he plots to get even with Batman by kidnapping Miss Iceland and turning her into “a being of pure cold” like himself. Of course Freeze is thwarted by the Dynamic Duo and ends up incarcerated again.
Preminger was, by all accounts, the most unpleasant guest star ever to appear on the show. He was replaced by Eli Wallach in Mr. Freeze’s final appearance (“Ice Spy“/”The Duo Defy“). In this incarnation, Freeze’s backstory was fleshed out and slightly altered; in the fight that caused the instant freeze spill and resulted in his transformation, Batman had actually tried to save him. Freeze never forgave Batman for failing to save him from life at fifty below, and he attempts to exact revenge via a convoluted plot involving a world-renowned scientist, a glamorous ice skating accomplice, a deadly ice ray, and, of course, his not-so-trusty Freeze Gun. It is left unexplained how the previously bald supervillain now sports a full head of hair, in the same silvery blue shade as his skin. After once again being thwarted by some high-tech thermal underwear, Mr. Freeze makes no further appearances in the series.
The King of Cold would go on to garner a more sympathetic backstory involving his terminally ill spouse when portrayed on the big screen by Arnold Schwarzenegger [in Batman Forever]. Strangely, this performance lacked the charisma of the three versions of the character featured in the television series. Despite his cryogenic exoskeleton, Schwarzenegger’s version of Mr. Freeze was anything but cool.
Who was your favorite Mr. Freeze?