With all the attention being lavished upon the recent spate of DC Universe animated films – and rightly so as a number of them kick ass – I thought I'd circle back to an underrated favorite that's celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.
Plus, Halloween is right around the corner so the timing couldn't be better.
Spun off from the Saturday morning animated series THE BATMAN (2004-2008), the feature-length THE BATMAN VS. DRACULA finds The Caped Crusader not only matching wits with re-designed but familiar foes like The Penguin and The Joker, but the titular King of the Undead (voiced by Peter Stormare) as well.
Fresh off an escape from Arkham Asylum, Joker and Penguin head for a cache of loot supposedly buried in Gotham Cemetery. While Bats engages Joker, Penguin inadvertently stumbles upon and re-animates Dracula, whose coffin was plopped on a boat and ended up in Gotham after the events depicted in Stoker's novel.
Brought back to "life" by Penguin's blood, Dracula becomes intrigued by tales of The Batman and the influence his legacy has had on the vigilante. (I'm not sure how but Dracula even has cable and a big-screen tv in his crypt.) With eyewitness reports flowing in of a bat-like creature kidnapping citizens, The Batman falls under suspicion for the disappearances and must deal with the Gotham PD in addition to his undead foe, whom The World's Greatest Detective has deduced is Dracula by writing down the alias ALUCARD and looking at it in the mirror.
Debuting about a decade after the conclusion of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (1992-1995), I always feel like THE BATMAN series gets overlooked. While nowhere near as dark, influential or artsy as its predecessor, THE BATMAN gets points for exploring the early days of the character – he's 26 in the first episode – and for bringing foes and supporting characters to life with a redesign that employs sharp angles and a more vibrant palette, courtesy of the folks behind THE JACKIE CHAN ADVENTURES (which I may or may not have watched on a regular basis in the early part of this millennium).
Despite debuting on The Cartoon Network and sharing lineage with the Saturday morning show, the flick isn't for little kids. Animation screenwriting vet/JACKIE CHAN co-creator Duane Capizzi piles on the hoary old Dracula cliches (Vicki Vale resembles Drac's bride Carmilla for instance) but also tosses in shades of BATMAN: YEAR ONE and Tobe Hooper's LIFEFORCE to create a never dull mix of action and horror that keeps things moving at a nice clip. – Dan Taylor
Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet. For more reviews check out our website and be sure to follow ER on Facebook and Twitter.
THE BATMAN VS. DRACULA is available from Amazon.