Guillermo Del Toro will forever be one of the heroes of comic book fans everywhere due to his bringing Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic book franchise from the printed page to the silver screen. He first brought the Big Red Guy with the 2004 film adaptation of the same name. The film was a modest success and brought the titular character to a whole new group of fans. In 2008, Del Toro came out with the bigger and more epic sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. What some fans of the character sometimes forget or didn’t even realize was that in-between these two films were two direct-to-dvd releases of the animated variety. The first to come out was Hellboy: Sword of Storms in 2006. While I enjoyed that animated film it would be the follow-up dvd release, Hellboy: Blood and Iron which truly captured the essence of the comic books even moreso than the two live-action films.
Hellboy: Blood and Iron would combine parallel storylines about Hellboy and his surrogate father’s, Trevor Bruttenholm, encounter with one Erzsebet Ondrushko also known in occult circles as Elizabeth Bathory the Blood Countess. According to the film, Erzsebet would bathe in the blood of innocent, young girls. The film also makes Erzsebet a follower and disciple of the Mediterranean goddess of witchcraft and sorcery, Hecate.
One storyline would play out in reverse chronological order and take place in 1939 as a much younger Trevor Bruttenholm travels to Eastern Europe to investigate a series of murders that locals have attributed to the return of the Blood Countess. The other storyline moves to the present as Hellboy and his teammates from the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) investigate the supposed hauntings of the estate of a wealthy businessman. This would be an estate that would be the center piece of a sort of haunted amusement park with the Blood Countess and the legends surrounding her as the main attraction.
Hellboy: Blood and Iron does a great job of mixing action, horror and the occult without one or the other overshadowing the rest. The film takes some of it’s ideas from Mike Mignola’s (creator of the Hellboy franchise) Hellboy graphic novel, Wake the Devil, and screenwriter Kevin Hopps does a good job of taking those ideas and creating something new yet similar as well. The film also benefited from the return of the cast of the live-action Hellboy films to voice their respective characters in this animated film. There’s Ron Perlman in his gruff and sardonic best as the title character. Selma Blair returns to voice Hellboy’s closest friend in the redheaded pyrokine Liz Sherman with Doug Jones and John Hurt rounding it out as Abe Sapien and Trevor Bruttenholm.
The animation is not the highest level but for a direct-to-dvd affair it more than holds up and really captures the look and feel of the comic books it was based on. Yet, while an animated film this one wouldn’t be appropriate for little kids to watch. For a “cartoon” it’s quite violent with themes of witchcraft, vampirism and blood sacrifice prevalent from beginning to end. It’s actually quite scary in certain sections especially whenever the resurrected Erzsebet appeared. I don’t think most animated films ever involved a sequence of a tub full of fresh, hot blood waiting to be used as bathwater.
For those willing to learn more and understand the appeal of the Hellboy comic books to legions of fans this animated film was a good example. Hellboy: Blood and Iron was great from beginning to end especially how it interwove not just the vampiric and pagan legends surrounding Erzebet Ondrushko, but also little tidbits of information and character development which added to the backstory of not just Hellboy but those closest to him. Plus, this animated film had two character’s whose names were variants of the name Lisa.