I know, it sounds truly ridiculous. And it is. But in a good way.

I’m a big fan of Joss Whedon. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel were top-notch television and Firefly was a notch above them, and a series that should never have been cancelled. It got us Serenity, but that’s not enough. Anyway, suffice to say that Whedon is something of a genius when it comes to writing sci-fi and fantasy based scripts. He always has this comedic edge to his writing, yet manages to deliver horror and shock along the way.

During the writer’s strike in the US last year he decided to use his time to engage in a purely personal project and put together a short film using actors he had worked with before and even getting his brothers in on the crew. The film he made is Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

For a few short hours the film was streamed for free from the website in three fifteen minute acts. It’s now available to download from iTunes for the very modest price of US$4. There is also going to be a DVD released, which will supposedly contain all kinds of delicious extras.

The story is about Dr Horrible, played by “Doogie Houser” Neil Patrick Harris (will he ever get past that casting?), and his efforts to take over the world and win the heart of Penny, played by Felicia Day. He is, however, rather too embarrassed to talk to Penny and is also concentrating on getting into the Evil League of Evil, headed by the bad horse, Bad Horse. So along comes Captain Hammer, Nathan Fillion, to save the day and steal the girl. Oh yeah, they totally did it.

It’s a truly bizarre short film, not least because it’s a musical. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will recall the episode from Season 6 called Once More, With Feeling, where a mysterious force made all the characters sing their dialogue. There is spoken dialogue as well as songs in Dr Horrible, but the Buffy episode was never far from my mind. Whedon is so good at putting together songs that are lyrically brilliant and utterly stupid at the same time. As I said before, he’s a genius.

Anyway, click on the banner above to have a look. You’ve missed the free stream now, but it’s certainly worth US$4 of your hard-earned to see this thing. And it’s a great experiment by Whedon and friends to use the power of the internet to pay his crew and have a successful film without producers and big company involvement. As an independent publisher I can certainly get with that program. There’s also a comic book of Captain Hammer that you can check out, written by Zack Whedon.

Hat-tip to Michael for putting me on to this.