Monday, 17 September 2012

Cinema & TV: Batman, the Animated Series, Ep. 43: Moon of the Wolf (1992)

2012 is the year of the 20th anniversary of the Batman Animated Series and once again, our culture shows me that no television series can get by without... a werewolf episode! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is a full-fledged werewolf episode in the animated Batman TV series - its number is 43 and it comes in the second season of the series, from the year 1993. As it very often happens, I came across this episode by chance, but inevitably, as I had started watching the series from the beginning to relive the awesome from my childhood. After a bit of a break caused by an intense period at university, I thus come back with the intention of describing this episode to all of you who haven't seen it yet or saw it so long ago that you don't remember about it anymore. Of course, as this is not real material for The Lycanthropologist's Werewolf Movie Reviews there won't be any grades or detailed commentary, just a general synopsis of what happens. So if you're interested in what this is all about, read on and enjoy (and perhaps then decide to watch the episode for yourself?) :)
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Synopsis

We start out on a seemingly peaceful night in Gotham city as a man (an employee of the city's zoo judging by the labels on his cap and jacket) is walking his dog down an empty street. Shortly after, the  dog becomes restless and starts to snarl at the night air. A moment later, a large, burly grey werewolf (dressed in some ragged pants) leaps out of the nearby bushes to attack him. The werewolf grabs the dog and throws it away and after a short struggle knocks out the man himself, but as he leaps in for the kill, Batman appears and starts fighting the big creature. As a result of the struggle, the man ends up thrown into the river and Batman jumps in after him to save his skin. By the time he's done, however, the werewolf has already disappeared.

Down at the Police Department Batman informs Commissioner Gordon about the night's incident and asks whether he knows anything about a criminal running around in a werewolf mask (as, at this point, Batman does not take the attacker to be a genuine lycanthrope). While nothing related to werewolf masks comes up, he learns of the theft of two Alaskan timber wolves from the local zoo. Since the man who was attacked was an employee of that same zoo, they agree that it might have something to do with the villain. Leaving, Batman finds a few strands of hair tangled in his uniform and "a disturbing thought" passes through his mind as he considers the possibility that the man wasn't wearing a mask after all.

Meanwhile at the construction site of the Gotham Coliseum a man sits alone at a desk in a small wooden hut when, growling, the werewolf starts banging at the door, eventually breaking it down, and walks inside. This whole scene, though it didn't take place in winter, reminds me of the first chapter and Berni Wrightson's illustration to it of Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf. Whether it's an intended allusion to the short novel or whether I simply like the book too much and am seeing things where there isn't anything to see is up to the viewer to judge. If you're curious though, you can see the two scenes I'm talking about here and here. Unamused, the man waits for his pocket watch to strike ten. When that happens, the werewolf begins to howl and writhe in pain as he shapeshifts back into a human. Don't ask me how it works with the time and all since I'm not reviewing, only writing a synopsis! Anyway, the two men then talk about their failure to murder the zoo employee and come to a conclusion that the bump in the road they encountered in the form of Batman must be eliminated.

The next day at the gym, everyone is talking about how the former Olympic champion Anthony Romulus (nice touch indeed, since this is our werewolf guy) has pledged to double his charity donation of 1 million dollars provided that the cheque is received at his apartment by the Batman himself. Of course, this is all part of a scheme to eliminate the vigilante. Incidentally, Bruce Wayne happens to be working out at the same gym and has a talk about it with Anthony... who we see now has a monobrow. Okay, that was kind of low, guys. After that, I was expecting holy water and silver bullets to appear as well. But back to the topic...

Over at the Batcave that same evening, Batman is watching a documentary about Alaskan timber wolves and analyses the leftover hairs from his encounter with the wolf-man, trying to work out a connection between the stolen wolves and the incident of the night before. The hairs turn out to be genuine wolf hairs, but Batman is still reluctant to accept the idea that what he fought that night could have been a real werewolf. Having decided to take his mind off the matter for a while, he sets out to meet Romulus in his mansion.

Once there, instead of receiving a cheque, he falls into the trap set by Romulus and his accomplice and is subsequently captured by them. The two transport the Batman to the empty Coliseum and chain him to the ground outside of the small hut from before. While they wait for the Batman to regain consciousness, Milo (the doctor/scientist accomplice of Romulus) reminds the athlete that the latter is dependent on his will if he ever wants to be cured of werewolfism because he is the only one possessing the antidote which he keeps securely locked away in a safe. We also get the backstory of how Romulus came to be a werewolf in the first place and about what his involvement with Milo really is about.

It turns out that Romulus, already an athlete at the time, wasn't satisfied with only his training as preparation for the upcoming Autumn Olympics, so he asked Milo to come up with something that would be undetectable and would guarantee him a gold medal. As a result, Milo created a concoction made up of a mixture of steroids and timber wolf estrogen, which Romulus drank in spite of being warned that it still requires testing, his greed thus leading him into a trap carefully set by Milo. Indeed, the potion made him stronger and led to his victory during the Olympics, followed by a life of fame that a champion sportsman can expect. It was short-lived, however, as the test tube-brewed werewolfism can never turn out healthy in the long run. On the nearest full moon, Romulus began to change, but was not yet fully transformed. Suspecting it to be some kind of wicked scheme of Milo's, he called on the doctor and demanded an explanation as well as a cure to his condition. Milo informed him that what he was suffering from was an early form of lycanthropy and that as opposed to the "advanced form" of lycanthropy the former cannot be cured. Having learned of this, Romulus agreed to become a full-fledged werewolf and as such follow Milo's orders and take part in his schemes until the latter decided that the athlete had earned his right to the antidote. Now, as they are waiting for the full moon to rise, Milo wants to make use of Romulus in order to kill the Batman.

At the same time at the zoo, the guard that was attacked at the beginning of the episode is apprehended. It turns out that Milo paid him to release the wolves from their cages, probably so that he could further experiment with their hormones and devise an antidote. Later on, he sent Romulus after him to eliminate the only witness. After this subplot is explained, we go back to the Coliseum where Romulus eventually starts to transform. Not all goes according to Milo's plan, however, when the werewolf - instead of rushing out to take on the Batman - focuses his anger on Milo and in the end destroys the small hut altogether. Unfortunately, in the commotion, the flask with the antidote is destroyed and Milo is knocked out after being thrown off a small cliff.

The werewolf then turns to the Batman who has already woken up and is trying to free himself from the chains binding him. The two fight and as a loud and long howl is heard, a couple taking a stroll down the nearby street notices what's going on and decides to call the police. When they arrive, they find the Batman fighting the wolf-man on top of the roof of one of the buildings of the Coliseum. After a more or less even battle, the Batman manages to outsmart the werewolf and leaves him flying on a chain attached to a steel construction crane. Oddly enough, as there is a storm raging, the crane is struck by lightning which also electrocutes the werewolf that's holding onto its chain. Baffled, Romulus falls down into the river and disappears. The police then take in Milo, but their search for the lycanthrope is in vain. They decide to wait until the next full moon to make sure if he is really gone for good.

After all has calmed down, the mansion where Romulus used to live is now for sale. An estate agent is giving a tour of the mansion to a couple interested in purchasing it, explaining that the rumour has it that the champion athlete one day simply left town, but that in truth nobody knows what happened to him. The episode ends with a cliff-hanger ending in which we see the silhouette of a (were)wolf howling against the backdrop of a full moon, suggesting that Romulus survived the fall and is still out there somewhere.

Thus we've come to an end of the synopsis and our lovely meeting with the werewolf episode of the Batman TV series. Hope you enjoyed reading this post and of course I encourage you to watch this episode for yourself if you're interested. That would be all for now from me, so keep warm as the first signs of cold autumn weather have begun to appear over at where I am and see you another time!

P.S.

Now I really feel like watching Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf from the Scooby Doo series. Hmm... Why not indeed? Cya!

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