Van Helsing: The London Assignment (2004, Sharon Bridgeman)

Screenshot 2017-03-21 18.10.05

An occasional series where I write about works inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula…

These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: This 30-minute animated special was produced to promote the 2004 movie Van Helsing and dramatises the events immediately before that film’s main storyline. The DVD packaging says it’s set in 1889, a date that’s confirmed by Queen Victoria being 70 years old, even though the parent movie takes place in 1888. The locations are London and the Vatican City.

Faithful to the novel? It’s a new storyline. Dr Jekyll (Dwight Schultz) is the Queen’s personal physician, yet has been secretly turning into a monster called Hyde (Robbie Coltrane), killing women, and bottling their dying breaths. Vatican monster-hunter Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) and his sidekick Carl (David Wenham) are sent to combat him. Turns out, Dr J has been in love with Queen Victoria since she was a young woman and wants to return her to her former beauty and marry her.

Best performance: Give them their due, the producers convinced Hugh Jackman, David Wenham and Robbie Coltrane to reprise their movie roles.

Best bit: The film begins with a 1930s Universal logo. Nice touch.

Review: Various Victorian clichés have been thrown into the mix: as well as Van Helsing himself, we get fog-bound London streets, the chimes of Big Ben, a version of Jack the Ripper (though that name is never used), the Jekyll and Hyde story, the London Underground, beefeaters and Queen Vicky herself. The animation’s stylish, but the story’s slight.

Five proper-sized corsets out of 10

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