While researching for my Van Helsing Mixes Monsters for Movie Magic post I found out that there was a cartoon short released in conjunction with the major motion picture. Van Helsing: The London Assignment tells the story of what Van Helsing is doing in the days leading up to the start of the film.
Van Helsing is on the trail of a vicious London-based murderer who not only kills his lovely female victims, but leaves their bodies twisted and mummified. But even after this string of heinous crimes, the order to which Van Helsing belongs demands that he try to capture the fiend and save his soul from damnation.
He soon meets the monster, none other than the giant Mr. Hyde who helps Hugh Jackman open the live-action movie. In an interesting twist, Dr. Jekyll is every bit as evil (or even eviler) than his alter ego, but he is doing all in the name of love.
Years earlier his eyes met those of the young and beautiful Queen Victoria and he believes to that day that she fell in love with him in the same instance. Jekyll uses a potion concocted of the souls of his victims to grant her a new lease on life and with the help of his hellish minions he absconds with her to his fiery layer deep below the city. How will Van Helsing (and Carl the monk, of course) rescue the queen and save the day?
I called this 30 minute short a “diamond in the rough” because a lot of the animation is jerky and reminiscent of Hanna Barbara cartoons (no offense Scooby Doo!) with intermittent flashes of brilliance. The action sequences clearly got more love (or maybe just a bigger budget) than other scenes, which is to be expected, but it was kind of distractingly lopsided. That being said, it is a fun story that made me alternatingly chuckle and say “whoa!” It really felt like a noir comic book come to life, which was cool to see.
There is a nice documentary in the special features about the making of the live-action movie which is really cool. I learned that both Kate Beckingsale and Hugh Jackman did most if not all of their own amazing stunts.
You can watch the full cartoon through youtube below!
Stephen Sommers, who brought us the special effects-laden reboot of The Mummy in 1999, also lent his imagination (as well as his pen) to create Van Helsing in 2004. Even though both films are almost a decade or more old they are some of my absolute favorites for their combination of action, visual effects and fun.
Gabriel Van Helsing (played by Hugh Jackman) is a monster hunter with a mysterious past. He is employed by the Catholic church to seek out and destroy evil, but remembers nothing before he was charged with his holy quest. As far as I can tell, the only thing this Van Helsing has in common with the Dutch doctor and do-gooder Abraham Van Helsing of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula is the name.
The film starts with an homage to classic black and white movies as an angry mob attacks castle Frankenstein in 1887. Sommers’ twist is that the good doctor’s financial backer is none other than Count Dracula. Van Helsing enters the movie with an epic confrontation between him and a truly monstrous Mr. Hyde (of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) on the rooftop of Notre Dame. Later, Van Helsing is charged with slaying Dracula in time to protect the souls of the Valerius family, who vowed they would never rest until the vampire met his demise. With the help of his techno-whiz sidekick, a friar named Carl, Van Helsing travels to Transylvania and to aid the last members of the tragic tribe before nine generations are shut out of heaven.
Sommers’ creates a plot that incorporates Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, as well as the Wolfman. He also gives a much larger role to Dracula’s three ‘brides’ (which by the way, are not identified as such in the novel) and they provide some wonderful action sequences as they terrorize the nearby village as flying monsters in order to hunt down Anna Valerius (played by Kate Beckinsale). Though the roots of this movie clearly come from a love of classic horror films, the time, literary characters and gadgets (like a gas-powered repeating crossbow) land it squarely in the Steampunk canon.
There is an animated prequel called Van Helsing: The London Assignment which you can read more about and watch here.
I also recently found out that there is another Van Helsing movie planned, but it is going to be a “reboot” starring Tom Cruise. Check out that story here.
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