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Hellboy Animated: Blood & Iron (2007)
Directors: Victor Cook and Tad Stones
review by Ian R. Faulkner
Having just reviewed the first instalment of the animated Hellboy series, I now find myself checking out part two, Hellboy Animated: Blood & Iron, which rumour has it may well be the last in the proposed and fledgling series. It seems the production company, Starz, are holding off on the planned third movie, 'Hellboy: The Phantom Claw', until they see the sales of this sequel.
A formal announcement is expected at this year's Comic-Con, although Tad Stones has stated on the Hellboy animated production diary website that, whilst the company had not completely ruled out a third movie, he thought the growth in numbers needed to secure a green light was a tall order given sequels usually don't sell more than the originals. This is, to borrow a phrase from the big red guy, 'crap', because Hellboy: Blood & Iron is so much better than Hellboy: Sword Of Storms, and, given this, it deserves to move twice the numbers.
The story begins with our hero in an underground labyrinth, wading waist deep through, as Hellboy so eloquently puts it, "a river of crap." Within moments both HB and Abe (voiced once more by the incomparable Ron Perlman and Doug Jones, Hellboy) are having the proverbial doo-doo kicked out of them by one mother of a Minotaur (animated with a really nice Mignola touch of a chain wielding, robotic arm) and a crazy robot skull monster.
Having seen both these beasties off, we next see a dreaming Professor Bruttenholm (voiced by John Hurt) who is, inexplicably, reliving his very first adventure with the B.P.R.D. In his dream we see Professor B as a young man (now voiced by James Arnold Taylor, who actually sounds like a young John Hurt) on a mission in Transylvania way back in 1939 and it's here that Hellboy: Blood And Iron really starts to kick ass, as we are soon introduced to Erzsebet Ondrushko (voiced superbly by Kath Soucie), a vampire and high priestess of the goddess Hecate, who has kidnapped a young bride-to-be from the local village. Erzsebet, loosely based on the notorious Elizabeth Bathory, has tortured and murdered hundreds of women in order to bathe in their blood and make herself more beautiful.
When the Prof awakes from his nightmare, having put pay to Erzsebet, he is strangely troubled and, unusually, decides to accompany the team on a field trip to investigate a haunted house in upstate New York. The haunting, the team soon discovers, is being caused by the magical re-embodiment of Erzsebet, and, as the body count climbs, all sorts of mayhem is soon let loose, including witchcraft, a werewolf, huge snakes, a couple of harpies and, last but not least, the goddess Hecate herself (voiced by Cree Summer). Wow!
From the get go, Hellboy: Blood And Iron is obviously a much darker and adult film (and I don't mean the occasional swear word, but the tone, nuance and subject matter). The animation benefits from the dark, almost gothic look it has been given and the use of colour to signify mood is used to good effect throughout. The script is tighter, grittier and far more intelligent in its use of subtlety, and the fact Professor B's first adventure is told in a Memento (2000) like reverse flashback is genius, as is the fact they are set in central Europe, which is both reminiscent of Hammer's old horrors and, more importantly, Mignola's original comic book stories and may be what Hellboy: Sword Of Storms lacked (for those of you who've read my review of the first animated Hellboy).
The special features are equally good. We have The Iron Shoes: The Animated Debut, which is a short animated Mignola tale of Hellboy; an audio commentary featuring Mike Mignola, Tad Stones and director Vic Cook; an exclusive e-comic from Mignola entitled, Pennangalan; the obligatory trailers; and two featurettes: Reversal Of Fortune: Professor Broom's Story, which is the flashbacks shown the right way round, and Tales From The Tomb: A Look Inside Blood & Iron.
In conclusion, this is the film the animated Hellboy series should be judged against and it's damn fine. Go out; buy it. I plan to. Maybe then we'll get to see 'Hellboy: The Phantom Claw'.
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