Written by General Jabbo
Double features are all the rage again with the release of two classic Batman animated features on one DVD. Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero (1997) and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) give fans a double dose of the caped crusader.
Based on the excellent Batman – The Animated Series TV show, both movies feature the voice talents of Kevin Conroy as Batman. Phantasm ups the ante with a number of celebrity voices, including: Dana Delaney as Andrea Beaumont, Mark Hamill as The Joker, and Abe Vigoda as Salvatore “Sal the Wheezer” Valestra.
In Subzero, Mr. Freeze (played by Michael Ansara) scrambles to find a cure to save his dying wife. She needs an organ donor with the right blood type and would not survive long enough to be put on a waiting list. Desperate, Freeze enlists the help of Dr. Gregory Belson (played by George Dzundza) who, after doing a search, discovers that Barbara Gordon – Batgirl (played by Mary Kay Bergman) – is a perfect match.
Freeze kidnaps Gordon, who said she’d help if he released her. Not trusting Gordon, Freeze resists releasing her and Batman and Robin (played by Loren Lester) come to her rescue. In the ensuing battle, Freeze is presumed dead of drowning after falling off an oilrig into the water. Meanwhile, Gordon saves Freeze’s wife through an organ transplant and the world mourns the fact that while considered a villain, Freeze cared deeply for his wife and didn’t live long enough to see that his cryogenic chamber kept her alive long enough to find a cure. The movie ends with Freeze, who survived the fall, back home in the Arctic Circle watching a news report of his wife being saved. Freeze is portrayed in a sympathetic light in this excellent movie as a distraught man willing to do anything to save his spouse.
When the mysterious Phantasm – a masked villain with an appearance similar to Batman – kills a group of mobsters, our hero gets framed for murder in Mask of the Phantasm. As Batman attempts to solve these murders and clear his name, an old flame, Andrea Beaumont reappears. We learn through a series of excellent flashbacks that Bruce Wayne was once engaged to Beaumont. She had to leave Gotham City for Europe with her father to flee from the mafia, who were out to collect a debt he owed. Wayne is torn between finding happiness with Beaumont and upholding his promise to his parents to fight crime.
One of the shady characters associated with Beaumont’s father was The Joker, who, upon learning of the Phantasm’s plans, begins fearing for his own life. The Joker confronts the Phantasm and we learn the Phantasm’s identity in a surprising twist. The Joker then attempts to blow up Batman and the Phantasm in the film’s climactic final battle.
Bonus features for Subzero include “The Hunt for Mr. Freeze Game,” “Get the Picture: How to Draw Batman,” a music montage, cast and crew information, and trailers, including the theatrical version for Phantasm. Both movies adapt the comic books very well – better than some of the live-action Batman films – and this double feature is a must-own in any Batman fan’s collection.