Review of Hellboy: Blood and Iron

Hows’ this for a pitch?  Hellboy Verus Elizabeth Bathory!

Don’t know who made it, but that proved indeed the story behind Hellboy: Blood and Iron.  This formed one of two animated features made in between the two live action films.  As it happened, this one featured most of the original cast as voice talent:  Ron Perlman as Hellboy, the cigar-smoking superhero who’d been summoned as a baby from Hell itself.  Selma Blair as Liz, the pyrokinetic in love with him.  John Hurt as the elderly scholar Professor “Broom,” Hellboy’s surrogate father and founder of the BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense–“There are things that go bump in the night; we bump back!”).  Doug Jones likewise played Abe Sapien, the strange aquatic humanoid of unknown origins.  Jones played the body of Abe in both live action films, but did the voice only in the second.  David Hyde Pierce’s distinctive tones acted the voice of Abe in the first Hellboy movie.  But he refused credit in honor of Jones’ physical performance.

For comic book fans out there, we might want to note the comic book continuity and the movies make up two different timelines.  One of the most obvious differences is that in the movies, under the pen of The Strain‘s Guillermo del Toro, Liz and Hellboy are a romantic item.

As those who’ve seen the films or read the comics, we should not expect what most would consider a “typical” version of Elizabeth Bathory.  Sure enough, that isn’t even her name.  Instead we learn of Erzsebet Ondrushko.  But she’s a Transylvian noblewoman who bathed in the blood of virgins to stay young (613 virgins to be exact) then came back to life (kinda/sorta) as a vampire.  So yeah, Elizabeth Bathory.  There’s even an iron maiden!

Back in 1939 a young Professor “Broom” (short for Bruttenholm) takes part in a plan to defeat the notorious Blood Countess.  He does so, but thing seems strangely unfinished.  Many decades later, he has a dream about her and believes this might mean something–especially after a quick vision of the vampire herself!  So he insists on joining a BPRD mission, seemingly a routine one for a friend of a Senator on the Budget Committee.  He, Liz, Hellboy and Abe go to a mansion in the Hamptons said to be haunted–or so says entrepreneur Oliver Trumbolt (get it?)  He’s hoping it is.  That’s part of the attraction for future guests!  Showing the team around, he eventually shows the dungeon he had brought over from Europe.  Every single piece was once used by none other than Erzsebet Ondrushko herself!  Including an actual iron maiden!

Is the place haunted?  Oh yes.  By Erzsebet’s victims.  The real danger is in a pair of short squat crones who plan on bringing Erzsebet back–as part of their worship of the Demon Goddess Hecate!

The animation doesn’t manage to achieve beauty.  Looks too much like a Saturday morning cartoon for that. Yet despite this some lovely details do creep in.  The mansion contains some sculpture, for example, including what looks like the abduction of a woman by a centaur.  Shadows and colors often convey some wonderful nuances–such as the eirie blue light given by candles within the Countess’ own castle.  The story doesn’t feel formulaic, but it does touch on the continued themes of the movies.  Hecate, when she shows up, thinks Hellboy a traitor.  She demands he accept his destiny, prompting a wonderful line:  “Destiny’s overrated.”

But mostly tis a the story of Broom, beloved father figure of the monster hunters.  They hover over him protectively, yet in the end he’s the one who figures it all out and tips the scales.  He is the one who most effectively “bumps back.”  The vampire herself seems a cunning and ruthless creature, but obsessed by her looks.  For a moment or two Broom seems to feel pity for her, because that vanity in the end cost this woman her soul.  Of course, the movie also keeps her from facing either Hellboy or Liz.  Well, they’d destroy her in no time!  Fire can kills a vampire, while Hellboy can trade blows with things out of H.P.Lovecraft’s nightmares and survive.  Honestly, her henchmen (or should that be hench-hags?) pack much more of a whallop.  What she does succeed at (albeit barely) is as a temptress, a mocking voice that promises pain and corruption.




By david

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.


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