It’s been a while since we’ve had a good Theme Week here on the ISB, so as Spooktoberfest creeps along on the scarifying drive to Halloween, I’m declaring this to be Dracula Week! Seven days of posts revolving around the Lord of the Vampires, and like so many things in my life, it all starts with Batman:
Released direct to DVD in 2005, The Batman vs. Dracula was a Halloween tie-in to the then-current animated series, The Batman.
Of all of Batman’s TV franchises, The Batman was the one that I’ve never really gotten into. It’s not that I have anything against it really, but it always seemed to air at an inconvenient time and what little of it I have seen didn’t really inspire me to make the effort to catch it, though in fairness, that’s probably more of a product of my affection for Batman: The Animated Series than anything else.
I will admit, though, that the character designs aren’t quite to my taste. The show’s animation is actually very well done–I’ll get to that in a minute once Batman starts beating up the elderly–but between the title character’s marked resemblance to a young Judge Dredd…
…and Rastafarian Joker (about whom the less said, the better), it just looks way more off-putting to me thanBruce Timm’s Fleisher-inspired designs or The Brave and the Bold‘s retro-’66 style.
Still, when you get right down to it, anything called The Batman vs. Dracula should be totally awesome. In practice, though, it falls a little short. It’s still good, but a setup with as much potential as we have here ought to outstrip “good” by the time it leaves the opening credits.
The whole thing gets started when the Penguin breaks out of Arkham and sets about looking for some loot (eventually revealed to be a Scrooge McDuck-esque pile of gold coins) that’s been stashed in a cemetery, which leads to him inadvertently resurrecting Dracula because, well, it’s Gotham City and that sort of thing tends to happen a lot there. It turns out the terrified populace of Transylvania eventually got tired of being snack food and, in the absence of a reliable Belmont, shipped Big D off to Gotham and had him interred in their cemetery, figuring that vanquishing evil with the morning sun and pawning off their problems on the New World were basically the same thing anyway.
Dracula makes short work of Renfieldizing the Penguin and before long, he and his ill sideburns are heading out to high society parties…
…where he patiently explains that no, he is not Ra’s al-Ghul, and yes, he gets that all the time.
He also introduces himself as (brace yourself) “Dr. Alucard,” and as far as pseudonyms go, that’s only about half a step above “Dr. Acula.” And the sad part is, it takes the World’s Greatest Detective at least ten minutes to figure this out, even with the help of visual aids.
Further complicating matters is the presence of foxy reporter and Bat-love interest Vicky Vale, who is introduced–no joke–with a lingering shot of her rack:
Vicky’s been spending a lot of time with Bruce Wayne lately as she’s been covering the latest development from WayneTech, a machine that collects and stores sunlight to be released at one’s leisure, which we’ll find out later is an exceptionally handy thing to have laying around when you’re going to go fight Dracula.
From there, the story procedes about like you’d expect: Dracula makes a bunch of Gothamites into vampires, which gives Batman the opportunity to wail on normal people in some beautifully animated fight scenes that, unfortunately, cut before he actually goes through with judo-throwing a nine year-old girl; eyewitnesses describe a bat-like creature preying on citizens, which leads to Batman being framed for Dracula’s crimes; Batman and Dracula have a scuffle that involves Drac uttering the immortal phrase “try as you might, you can’t out-bat me!”; and then the Joker gets turned into a vampire.
Yeah, you heard me: Vampire Joker.
Fortunately for the Joker–and therefore unfortunately for everyone else–Batman has seen Blade II and sets about synthesizing a cure for vampirism out of pure SCIENCE!, which he does just in time for Vicky to–surprise!–get kidnapped by Dracula so that he can use her life-force to resurrect one of his brides, and they fight until Batman cures everyone with his fists and then uses his amazing technicolor sunlight machine to take the Count out, keeping his no-killing rule intact thanks to a previous mention of sunlight being an “almost permanent” death for vampires.
Plotwise, that’s pretty paint-by-numbers, but like I said, it’s got some beautiful animation–the first Batman/Dracula fight sees Dracula fighting like a vampiric M. Bison, which is something I didn’t even know I wanted to see until today–and some very fun moments, like the revelation that Thomas Wayne used to go hunting with a crossbow, which would make him the Ted Nugent of Gotham City. Even though there are stretches where it feels like it’s been padded out to fit a Cartoon Network movie slot, it’s still highly entertaining.
Plus, it ends with Batman punching Dracula so hard that he explodes, and that alone makes it better than Red Rain.