I haven’t done one of these in a while, because honestly, recommendations generally aren’t necessary, at least in extended blog format. The moment you see something you like, either you tweet it or mention it on Facebook, or you text the person you think would like it, or some other site writes a thing on it and all you have to do is share a link.
But guys, Dracula kicked the everliving crap out of Batman in a cartoon made for kids and I feel like not enough of you know that.
The direct-to-DVD movie in question, The Batman Vs. Dracula, was part of the The Batman series (AKA, “The Batman Strikes!“, a much better title used for the tie-in comic), generally considered the red-headed stepchild of Batman cartoons*.
I understand why. After the genuine classic Batman: The Animated Series, the next cartoon iteration aimed a little lower, aspiring to be nothing more than a pretty great action cartoon. So the character designs were more anime-fashioned, everyone could jump 10 feet in the air and kung-fu fight, and BtAS‘s noir morality plays were replaced with more kid-friendly plots, but without the subsequent Batman: The Brave & The Bold‘s sense of Silver-Age whimsy.
But again: This is the cartoon version of Batman where Dracula comes to Gotham City, creates an undead army, soundly beats the shit out of Batman, and then for good measure, turns the Joker into a ravenous blood-fiend. Outside of the very, very different (but still pretty neat) Batman: Red Rain comics, that’s a pretty rare feat.
Most fun is the story basically feels like the general Dracula plot, but with Batman characters swapped in: Penguin (did I mention Penguin’s voiced by Tom Kenney in this series, and it’s great?), accidentally awakening Dracula, becomes his Renfield; and Vicki Vale, the object of his obsession. Being that this is still a cartoon-movie aimed at kids, Dracula sticks to the feed-then-entrance version, so while the word “Kill” never shows up, the lord of the undead still piles up an impressive number of corpse-esque fanged henchmen.
And then the first Batman-Dracula fight shows up, and it is a hoot, because even though this show’s premise has been “Younger Batman still learning the ropes,” he’s nevertheless been mostly unstoppable. Batman gets stopped so completely by Dracula – I mean, we are talking Batman’s face gets planted straight into bricks so hard the bricks shatter – that you may end up wondering why HE’S not Batman’s greatest enemy, instead of some pasty-faced goofus.
Oh right, the pasty-faced goofus. I’ll preface this by saying that if Batman: The Animated Series‘ rendition of the Joker is as a Homicidal Bugs Bunny, The Batman‘s version has more in common with an unusually charming Tazmanian Devil. So, imagine what happens when he becomes a vampire.
That’s right: He goes Absolutely Bug-Nuts in a blood bank. And because it’s a Gotham City blood bank, this is what it looks like:
This grotesque florescent tint doesn’t just reinforce the antiseptic nature of the setting – it lets the movie get away with DRENCHING the Joker in blood, because it’s now dark enough to look like any old viscous fluid. That you’d find in a blood bank. That Crack-Fiending Vampire Joker would lap up with his tongue. Again: A movie made for kids.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter that you already know how Batman will prevail (hint: He’s Batman), it’s that there’s an 80-minute movie starring Batman, the Joker, the Penguin and Dracula out there and you may not have sat through it even though you’re thinking of watching Bela Lugosi drag his sorry morphine-addled ass to meet Abbott and Costello because that’s how starved you are for something Halloweeny you may not have watched yet.
Oh, and the score manages to blend the show’s spooky spy-guitar motif in with mournful violins, something I didn’t even realize I wanted.
You are welcome, Halloweeners!
*That is, until Cartoon Network’s recent decision to yank new episodes of Beware the Batman, rather than airing, say, a single fricking commercial or anything. This is the opening credits theme, performed by personal favorite, Dum Dum Girls. It is short, but it is rad: