A debunker steals millions during a magic show and frames a magician.
Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Dick Sebast & Dan Riba
Animation by Dong Yang
Music by Nerida Tyson-Chew & Peter Tomashek
Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Alfred
Julie Brown as Zatanna
Zale Kessler as Fauncewater
Vincent Schiavelli as Zatara
Bruce Timm as Red
Michael York as Kane
Orson Welles was a practiced magician (you can see him do his act in an I Love Lucy), and the villain here, Dr. Montague Kane, is plainly a caricature. Too bad they didn't give him some of the richness of Welles's personality to go with the visage (and too bad they didn't get Maurice LaMarche to do the voice). Welles was erudite, egotistical, and insufferable (qualities Montague Kane has in spades), but also charismatic, beguiling, and tickled at his own presumption. He did magic tricks because he liked to show off, and liked to show off showing off, and liked to laugh with us at the fat man doing all that showing off. And that's because Welles wasn't merely a personality, but a "character" in every sense of the wordan eccentric, an entertainer, and a man who relished self-revelation, particularly the ironic kind of self-revelation that comes from playing extravagent games of hide and seek.
Kane, however, is a humorless debunker of magic, and almost as humorless a thief. Welles, had he pulled off the same stunt, would have done it with magnificent chutzpah as a double bluff: Instead of that professional sneerer Kane, he'd have played Zatara the Great, and would have stolen the loot during the magic show, gambling that the sheer effrontery of the crime would cause the authorities (and Batman) to look elsewhere for the culprit. Misdirection within misdirection within misdirection; would a character like Welles have been content with stripping off only one disguise when there could have been two or three to discard? And would a genuine artist of the occult have settled for anything less?
And what dark magic there might have been too, as Batman struggled to see through a trick that he desperately doesn't want to disbelieve: that his friend and mentor has become a criminal of high talent and dexterity. What drama as father and (potential) lover struggle for the soul of ZatannaZatara's daughter and unwitting assistant. And what pleasure at the denoument to hear Zatara deliver a cheerfully amoral, self-justifying speech featuring the phrase "cuckoo clock."
The climactic fight takes place on a flying wing of striking design.
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