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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Van Helsing: The London Assignment (2004)

Carl: When the cardinal got your cable I told him I am not a field man!
Van Helsing: There's not much danger of you being mistaken as any man, Carl!

- David Wenham, Hugh Jackman

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: July 27, 2004

Stars: Hugh Jackman, robbie Coltrane, David Wenham
Director: Shaon Bridgeman

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for some scary images, violence
Run Time: 00h:29m:14s
Release Date: May 11, 2004
UPC: 025192451324
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- C-C+A- C+

DVD Review

While not making much of a splash in terms of commercial or critical acclaim upon its release in early May, Van Helsing did spawn one worthwhile product, an animated prequel titled Van Helsing: The London Assignment. Though the feature-length film was basically a bore, this tight and exciting 30-minute piece captures largely what the main film should have been.

Boasting the voice talent of Hugh Jackman, London Assignment offers up some action scenes that are infinitely better than those in the feature, as well as a much better screenplay. Though this prequel has little character development, what we get is still light years beyond the over two-hour film.

London Assignment tells the story of Van Helsing (Jackman), a Knight of the Holy Order whose headquarters is in the Vatican, and whose bosses are the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Van Helsing's assignment is to go to London and investigate a series of murders, as the bodies of more and more young women are turning up on the streets. While Van Helsing would like no more than to quickly dispatch and rid the world of this evil monster, his handlers would rather the perpetrator be kept alive, a tough task when it is considered that the murderer is none other than Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde (Coltrane), a scientist who is murdering the women to steal their life force.

As a standalone piece of entertainment, Van Helsing: The London Assignment is a fast-paced half hour that is beautifully drawn and is thrilling from start to finish. The most disappointing aspect is that it promises to help flesh out some of the story in the feature film; strangely, though, the only part that is relevant here is the monster that appears as Van Helsing's first conquest at the start of the feature film.

The animation is a mixture of hand drawn as well as CGI images and, at times, this mix comes off beautifully, especially in some of the more kinetic scenes, namely Van Helsing's first meeting. But there are moments where the animation looks out of place, largely during many of the sections influenced by Japanese anime.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: London Assignment is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio without the benefit of anamorphic enhancement though the results are still high quality. Colors are deep and rich with no bleeding evident. There is no edge enhancement or pixelation evident throughout.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix offered here is kinetic and is easily one of the best mixes I have heard in quite a long time. Surround use is constant throughout with ambient sounds as well as a multitude of directional effects, while the .1 LFE channel provides some serious room-shaking bass. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout; the left and right speakers provide some nice moments as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Animatics
  2. Interview with Hugh Jackman
Extras Review: The main extra feature is a 28-minute look at the making of the feature film, which also offers cast and crew interviews. This featurette does its job and sells the feature film well, with an array of clips and behind-the-scenes stories and wizardry. There is a also look at the making of the Van Helsing video game, which is a brief but interesting peek at what it takes to put a video game together.

Rounding out the extra features is an interview with star Hugh Jackman, as well as some animatics that display both the original drawings as well as the completed product in several scenes.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Though it is more entertaining than its feature-length companion, I found Van Helsing: The London Assignment to be an enjoyable but brief look at the fictional monster hunter. Though the lack of anamorphic enhancement hurts the transfer, this is a good disc and the low price point makes this an easy buy for fans of the film.


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