Friday, December 7, 2012

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) - The Caped Crusader in Love

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm - Even Dana Delany's Voice is Hot

Soundtrack cover for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
"Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (1993).
"Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (1993) is a Warner Bros. Animation film under the overall direction of Eric Radomski and Bruce W. Timm that follows the character Batman (Kevin Conroy) as he romances Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany), fights an impersonator who is killing off crime bosses and putting him on the wrong side of the law, and clear his name once and for all. It was released theatrically but did not do well there. A spin-off of "Batman: The Animated Series" (1992) on the Fox Network, it is considered a cult hit and a must for the collections of serious Batman fans.

Andrea Beaumont in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
Dana Delany played both Batman's and Superman's girlfriends, not bad.
A gangster, Chuckie Sol (Dick Miller), is killed shortly after Batman bursts into a meeting he was attending in Gotham City. Councilman Arthur Reeves (Hart Bochner), a friend of Bruce Wayne, claims that Batman killed the man and that he needs to be stopped.
Joker gritting his teeth in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
Mark Hamill stars as the Joker.
Meanwhile, we see a flashback of Bruce Wayne meeting Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany), and eventually, he proposes marriage. She seems receptive, but then abruptly leaves town with her father Carl, ending her engagement. In despair at losing his love, Wayne decides to dedicate his life to fighting crime.

The Joker grinning in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
The Joker comes alive in "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm."
The mysterious Batman impersonator kills another crook, Buzz Bronski (John P. Ryan). Wayne finds out that Beaumont has returned to Gotham City, but is disturbed to find out that her father may be involved with organized crime. The impersonator tries to kill another mob boss, Salvatore Valestra (Abe Vigoda), but The Joker (Mark Hamill) beats him to the man, who is found dead. The police want to arrest Batman, but Andrea picks him up in her car and they spend the night at Wayne's mansion.

Bruce Wayne hugging Andrea in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
Andrea is very cute - and hiding a big secret.
Andrea says she and her dad were hiding out from the mob, which is why she left so abruptly. Reeves, it turns out, was on the mob payroll and told the crime syndicate where Beaumont's father was hiding.

Batman crying in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
Batman has a lot to cry about in this film.
The mysterious Batman impersonator finds the Joker at his hideout and removes the costume - it turns out to be Andrea, who turned into the Phantasm to avenge her father's death: the Joker was a hitman for Valestra who killed Carl Beaumont. Batman arrives, and a struggle ensues. Andrea then grabs the Joker and vanishes with him.

Phantasm pointing in Batman Mask of the Phantasm
The Phantasm appears at the oddest moments.
This is one of the few Batman films to explore Bruce Wayne's past. Rather than having an easy ride to becoming the playboy of Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne suffered through great sorrow with Andrea. He is revealed to have deep emotional scars from his younger life that drove him to fight crime.

Mark Hamill Joker Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
Mark Hamill has a lot of fun playing the Joker.
Many fans think that the 1992 animated Batman series (also starring Conroy) was the best Batman treatment ever. This film carries on that tradition. Andrea is drawn to be very attractive, and the turmoil between her and Batman is a lot truer to real life than many comic book romances. Dana Delany does a great job making her seem seductive but conflicted. Batman's interactions with her and the others (such as Alfred, voiced by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) turn him into a real character and not just a stereotypical character who happens to be a crime-fighter.

Joker struggling with Batman in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
The Joker holding on for dear life.
Of the five Batman movies, this is the best. The animation is superb, dark and mysterious, with very direct lines and sharp, jagged edges. There almost is a film noir feel to many of the scenes, many of which come across as very heartfelt and dramatically satisfying. Shirley Walker's soundtrack is appropriately spooky. If the film has any problem, it is that it is too short at 76 minutes. We don't get a good idea what the other gangsters that the Phantasm was killing had to do with Carl's death. When you have something this good, you naturally want more and more.

Joker fighting Batman in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
In the climactic struggle, Batman has some difficulty.
As you would expect, the actors voicing the villains have a lot of fun. Mark Hamill really hams it up as the Joker, and the extremely violent climactic struggle at the end of the film is worthy of a feature film.

Joker pressing a button in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993
The Joker is a worthy adversary.
Out of all the animated Batman productions, this is the best and most rewarding. You won't forget this one after you see it, and will probably want to watch it again. Below are the main titles by Shirley Walker with their gothic overtones.


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