"There are things that go bump in the night. Make no mistake about
that. We are the ones who bump back."
On order to support (or cash in on, depending on your point of view)
the theatrical release of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Anchor
Bay in association with Starz Home Entertainment has re-released the two
Hellboy movies in one nice package accompanied by a very cool Hellboy figure.
While direct-to-video productions usually imply a poor film with low production
values that didn't merit a theatrical release, that's not the case with
these. Originally intended for DVDs (these did air on Cartoon Network
prior to their release though that was clearly not the motivating factor
for developing this property) both films, Sword of Shadows and
Blood & Iron, are good movies that feature other adventures with
Hellboy and his buddies at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.
As is told at the beginning of each cartoon, Hellboy was the result
of a Nazi experiment near the end of WWII. In a last ditch attempt
to win the war, German parapsychologists summoned a demon in the hopes
that he could turn the tide. What they summoned however was a young
child. A little red boy with horns, a tail, and a right forearm made
of stone. One of the Allied soldiers who helped to stop the Nazi
ritual, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, adopted the young creature and raised
him as his own son.
Cut to the present day. Bruttenholm and Hellboy for the core of
the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD for short), a government-funded
organization that fights occult threats where ever they may pop up.
Aided by the amphibian Abe Sapien and the pyrotechnic Liz Sherman, Hellboy
fights the creatures that hide under beds at night.
Sword of Shadows:
In this first animated adventure, Hellboy encounters a sword from Japan
that is cursed. Back in ancient times two demons were attacking a
kingdom. The ruler promised his daughter to the fiends if they would
leave his people alone. They agreed, but things didn't work out as
planned. A brave samurai was in love with the Emperor's daughter
and hid her in a monastery. He then went to the appointed meeting
place and fought the demons, destroying them both and capturing their souls
in his sword.
Though the Emperor should have been pleased he wasn't. He
had given his words to the demons and the samurai had caused him to break
it. There was no way he could ever save face, so he prayed
to the gods to punish the samurai.
In the present, the sword is causing problems. After finding an ancient
scroll describing the story, a scholar on ancient Japan is taken over and
tries to steal the sword from its current owner. He doesn't manage
to get it, but the BPRD are called in. When Hellboy picks up the
sword he's transported to another realm where he is presented with a problem:
He can get back home by breaking the sword, but doing so will release the
demons. Traveling through this strange land and occasionally aided
by a mysterious fox, Hellboy has to battle several creatures who all want
Blood & Iron:
In his second animated adventure Hellboy is asked to investigate a haunted
house. Now something like that is usually handed out to the rookies
or lesser members of BPRD, but Professor Bruttenholm has a hunch.
He not only sends his A team of Hellboy, Abe, and Liz, but he comes along
himself, something that he hasn't done for a dozen or more years.
While on the investigation, Bruttenholm keeps thinking back on an earlier
adventure: The first time he actually went out into the field and
encountered evil. This back story is told in reverse, the ultimate
battle and outcome is presented first, with the events leading up to the
fight being told later. It's a rather odd but very effective device
that gives viewers the most important information first, with the details
and implications filled in later.
Once at the house, the team discovers that it is indeed haunted, with
dozens and dozens of ghosts roaming the halls at night. The owner
of the house has procured a collection of artifacts that used to belong
to a vampire, and someone's trying to use them to resurrect that demon.
What is worse however is that someone or something from the underworld
is watching Hellboy, and they are determined to put a stop to his activities
one way or another.
Both of these are fun cartoons that are actually much better than I
expected them to be. The shows definitely capture the look and feel
of the comic (more so than the movies do) and that means they're good.
Hellboy (played by Ron Perlman who is reprising his role from the films)
is the same sarcastic loveable lug we've all grown to love, and he adds
a lot of light comic touches so that viewers know the cast and crew aren't
taking themselves too seriously. He's actually a very good voice
actor and brings the animated character to life.
The animation was also very good for a non-theatrical release.
The frame rate was reasonably high and the backgrounds were nicely detailed.
Though Hellboy and company were simplified to aide in the animation process,
the look the animator's chose was close to Mingola's comics and looks very
Of the two, the first one is a bit better production. The story
is more engaging and it's a bit more mysterious. While the second
feature is good also, the fight at the end goes on just a tad too long
and the plot in needlessly complicated by the addition of a demon at the
Once nice thing about these two is that you can jump right in and enjoy
the story, even if you haven't seen either of the Hellboy movies or read
the comics. There's a brief recap at the beginning of each one, and
there's not any continuity between the two episodes. The shows are
appealing to (and appropriate for) both children and adults.
If you already have the previous releases, there's no reason to upgrade
unless you really, REALLY want the cool Hellboy action figure that comes
packaged with this set. These are the same discs that were released
These two films are presented on two DVDs which are packaged with a
cool posable Hellboy figure.
These shows come with a DD 5.1 track, a stereo track, both in English,
as well as a Spanish stereo track. I screened these with the 5.1
tracks and spot checked the stereo, and they both delivered the goods,
though the multi-channel track was more impressive and enveloping.
In the battle scenes the audio really came to life with crashes and the
sounds of destruction coming from all corners. In the more sedate
sections the audio was also very good, with tight crisp dialog and a nice
amount of range.
Both DVDs feature an immaculate 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image.
The colors are strong, the blacks are nice and inky and there are no significant
digital defects. These are very nice looking discs.
Both of these discs have a great amount of bonus material that really
adds a lot to the package. Each movie includes an audio commentary
track with creator Mike Mignola, writer Tad Stones, the directors (Phil
Weinstein for the first film, and Victor Cook for the second.) Both
of these were fun and entertaining. I was sure the second one would drag,
with everything interesting having been said in the first one, but that
wasn't the case at all. The creators discuss the origins of
the stories and fokelore that they drew from, production difficulties,
and general information about the shows.
On Sword of Storms there is also "Follow the Fox" feature where viewers,
at certain points in the film, can select a fox icon and be taken to a
special feature that explains a bit about the scene that they were watching.
These features are also available in the "extras" section and jumping to
them in the middle of the movie is more than a little distracting so I'm
not a big fan of the feature.
To Hell and Back is a 10-minute look at the Hellboy comics and
their history with interviews with the creators, A New Breed
looks at how the character was redesigned for animation (5 minutes) and
Conquering Hellboy takes a peek at the recording sessions where
the actors recorded the audio track. A View From the Top is
a look at the flying head sequence, while Hellboy Goes East is a
four part look at some of the Japanese folklore incorporated into the film.
The extras on the first disc are rounded out by Keepers of Hellboy,
a recording of the creator's presentation at the San Diego Comic Con that
runs 43 minutes.
There are also extensive DVD-ROM features for those who want to pop
the disc into their computer. These include a script, the option
to watch the storyboards that were used, and links to the best fight scenes.
I'm not a fan of this type of thing generally, but I can see how some would
Blood and Iron also has a nice selection of bonus features, starting
with Reversal of Fortune: Professor Broom's Story which presents
the flashback scenes from the movie in chronological order. Like
the similar option on the Memento DVD, I thought this was kind of pointless.
Tales From the Tomb: A Look Inside Blood and Iron is a 13 minute
making-of featurette which is followed by the nice, but short (3 ½
minutes) Hellboy animated story Iron Shoes. The second disc
is rounded off by The Penanggalan a comic where the pages are presented
on the screen.
Each disc also comes with a small sized comic packed into the case with
another Hellboy adventure.
I really enjoyed these two shows. Both of them were enjoyable
and exciting and managed to reproduce the best aspects of the movie:
an imaginative sense of fun. These are the same discs that were released
earlier with the addition of a Hellboy figure so people who purchased these
originally don't need to upgrade but fans of the movies or comics that
missed them the first time around should seek these out. Highly