By Joel Eisner
Producer William Dozier, “Otto I had known for a long time, and he called me from New York and said, ‘Bill, I must do a “Batman.” If I don’t do a “Batman,” my children won’t let me come home.’ He hadn’t acted in seventeen years, since ‘Watch on the Rhine’ on Broadway. He complained about the money but the guest villains all got the same amount of money: twenty-five hundred dollars. That’s what they got, period.” He complained because the Screen Actors Guild found out about this, and ordered that none of their members were to work for Preminger unless he paid the SAG dues for his appearance in Batman, and various other monies he owed them dating back to his acting career. As a result, Preminger ended up $7,600 out of pocket from his turn as Mr. Freeze.
Due to the cost of the red/blue opticial overlays used in the George Sanders episodes, and the problems with the dome helmet Sanders wore, It was changed to the now familari freeze collar, which kept him cool put did not have the drawbacks of the helmet, plus it enabled them to use Preminger's trademarked bald head to their advantage, complete with full white/blue makeup and colorful eyebrows.
Makeup Artist Bruce Hutchinson: “Preminger wanted bright red downy looking eyebrows on the character, which the producers approved of. Otto Preminger was very good, a very nice man. As an actor, he couldn’t have been more gracious. He was very cooperative and very enthused with what we were doing.”
He may have been the only one who thought Preminger was a nice man. Everyone else had their own opinions.
Alan Napier “I had worked before ‘Batman’ with Awful Otto Preminger on the film ‘Forever Amber’ as the English expert and dialogue director. Otto got me mad because, if anyone dried up on a close-up, he would say, ‘Why don’t you concentrate?’ Then he comes on the set of ‘Batman.’ Instead of looking six foot tall, as I thought, he looks five foot tall, because it is now my territory and he is playing Mr. Freeze. It happens that I was on the set while he was doing a series of close-ups. And in every one of them Otto dried up, and it was only because of the gentleman built into my nature that I didn’t say, ‘Otto, why don’t you concentrate?’
Adam West, “Mr. Freeze was out cold on the floor and Batman was supposed to run in and pick him up. In most cases an unconscious actor will help the person trying to pick him or her up. They’ll go with that person move the shoulders, bend at the waist, and do something. Not Otto. When I ran to pick him up, he stiffened like a sand bag and literally dug his nails into the floor. I couldn’t lift two hundred pounds of resisting weight. I dropped him down and we tried again. Same thing, on the next take my foot accidentally stepped on his hand. He yelled but he got the message and we were able to continue.”
Dialogue Coach Milton Stark: “When we ran over time, the director would decide what to cut. I told Preminger we have to cut some of his speeches. ‘You’re taking out my best lines’ he said. I started to laugh. He asked, ‘What are you laughing about?’ I said, ‘How many times have actors said that to you?’ He laughed and said, ‘By God, it’s true, you know.’”
Otto Preminger was part actor and part director. He spent most of his career in Hollywood playing villains and most of them were Nazis, which I am sure did not sit well with the Jewish Preminger. His most well known Nazi was the commander in the film Stalag 17 (which was the basis for the Hogan's Heroes tv series). He played Mr Freeze the same way, but not as subdued. Of the three Mr Freeze episodes, I have a special place for this one. Sanders was too subdued, more like an old James Bond villains. Eli Wallach which gave the character an almost cute nutty German professor, type that you found in old movie serials and three stooges films. Otto, in my opinion, gave a performance that copied if not resembled Bela Lugosi, in the film The Devil Bat. The voice, the laugh, the manical Wild, Batman, Wild! This was Lugosi reborn, and being a Lugosi fan, was like Lugosimania.
Besides the costume being redone, the freeze rifle was also done over, actually it was a redone version of a rifle used on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. Only know it was just a freeze gun, no more lasers. Either the optics were too expensive or it was considered a little too violent. or Both. Either way it was now just a fancy fire extinguisher in a gun. If you look closely in the photo you can see the batteries (just above the blue gun stock) that allowed the gun to light up when used.
Besides fighting with the cast, Otto the director had a fight with series director George WaGGner. Waggner (who only used the GG when he worked on Batman) went back a lot further than Preminger. He directed a number of classic films including the 1941 Lon Chaney film The Wolfman.
Director of Photography Howard Schwartz: “We had an old-time director by the name of George WaGGner, who used to remind everybody that you spelled his name with two capital Gs, and he was directing the show that Otto Preminger did. Otto was a pretty fair director in his own right. So, he and George discussed how he was going to play a scene, and he didn’t like the way George had decided to do it. So, he said, ‘George, I have been in the business so many years, and I have never seen it done like this.’ George turned to him and said, ‘Well, Otto, now you have.’ That stopped him and turned him right off.”
Other problems occured on the set according to Burt Ward "The special effects men didn’t take enough precautions with the explosions. I was hurt several times, and had to be taken to the hospital. On this Mr. Freeze episode, I sensed that a particular charge was going to be highly dangerous. I closed my eyes just in time for the cue for the explosion. It’s a good thing I did, because I was knocked down by the impact. Instead of going up, the explosion blew outwards. I had second and third degree burns on my face and arms. I was rushed to the hospital, and the doctor said that if my eyes had been open, I would have been blind”
“Afterwards, I naturally became cautious whenever there were any special effects explosions. I didn’t have the kind of cowl Adam had, to protect me from burns. I only wore a little mask, which meant I often had to be used in the close shots with the explosions because it was more difficult to double me with a stuntman. So, I asked questions about the explosions. I wanted to know where the charges were, and in which direction they would go off. I wasn’t trying to be a Prima Donna—I was concerned for my safety.”
The part of Miss Iceland was played by Dee Hartford, who had been working on Lost in Space as the android Verda. Hartford (whose real name was Donna Higgins) was the sister of Eden Hartford, the wife of Groucho Marx, she was also the ex-wife of producer Howard Hawks. Her acting career such as it was ended after a number of appearances on Irwin Allen shows (her first was in the Allen produced Groucho film A Girl in Every Port), She later opened an art gallery.
Of the two main henchman Kem Dibbs as Chill was a bit player who worked mostly in tv westerns. Nicky Blair was more famous for the number of Hollywood restaurants he had on Sunset Blvd, which catered to the Hollywood elite. Many times he played himself in many films including Rocky V and the Godfather pt 3. Marie Windsor often played in low budget films and tv shows playing a tough woman or schemer. She was the female villain in Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy.
In the last episode we had a number of game show hosts, in cameo roles. In this episode Charlie O'Donnell who appeared as the TV Newsman, spent the last 25 years of his life as the announcer on the Wheel of Fortune tv series.
Next the Joker returns for his first 2nd season adventure.