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Van Helsing Ultimate Collector’s Edition (2004) – DVD Review

Van Helsing DVD cover art


Written and Directed by Stephen Sommers
Starring Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley, Elena Anaya, Will Kemp, Silvia Colloca, Josie Maran, Robbie Coltrane, and Stephen Fisher


  • Running audio commentary with writer/director Sommers and editor/producer Bob Ducsay
  • Running audio commentary with actors Roxburgh, Hensley and Kemp
  • Tour of Dracula’s Castle
  • Deleted Scenes
  • “You Are in the Movie!”
  • “The Legend of Van Helsing” featurette
  • Van Helsing XBox game preview
  • Tour of Frankenstein’s Lab
  • “Van Helsing: The Story, The Life, The Legend” featurette
  • Track the Adventure: Van Helsing’s Map
  • “The Music of Van Helsing” featurette
  • “Darkness Falls: Dracula’s Lair is Transformed” featurette
  • Three Classic Universal Feature Films: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Wolf Man (1941)

Released by: Universal Home Video
Rating: PG-13
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Own it…

[ad#longpost]Van Helsing (Jackman) is a badass destroyer of anything evil. He works for the Vatican’s special evil destroying secret service. His new assignment is to travel to Transylvania to destroy Dracula (Roxburgh) and protect Anna Valerious (Beckinsale) from destruction. So, he and his trusty sidekick, Carl (Wenham), make the journey and discover that there are more monsters awaiting them than just Dracula. There are werewolves about and a Monster (Hensley) created by a certain doctor named Frankenstein (Samuel West).

What a fun movie. People who are fans of the original classic horror films need to understand this right away: this is not a remake of any of those movies. It’s a modern action movie that is based around these three classic flicks and is nothing more than an homage. When you understand that one little fact, you can sit back and just enjoy the ride, and what a ride it is! This movie moves at an almost breakneck speed. It also sports a cast that is more than up to the task. Jackman is perfect as the hero in this movie. He is easy on the eyes and completely committed to his character. He’s got the James Bond one-liners down perfectly. Beckinsale is also an excellent choice for her role. She created a character so that you can believe that Van Helsing could fall in love with her yet she can also kick these monster’s asses as the same time. Plus, she gets even more points for doing the entire movie in a corset and nine-inch high heels. The rest of the cast is also right on the money. Roxburgh’s Dracula is creepy and cool all at the same time; Hensley creates an interesting and sympathetic performance of Frankenstein’s Monster; Wenham is the perfect sidekick.

As for features, disc one is where you get the two feature commentaries for the film. The first is with Sommers and Ducsay–and you’d think that this would be the dry one of the two. However, since Sommers is basically one of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, this track has almost the same frenetic energy as the movie. It just doesn’t ever stop, although he doesn’t lose sight of the fact that he’s recording a commentary track and keeps the information fresh and relevant. It’s nicely done. The other track has almost the same kind of energy, but it’s focused a bit differently. These are three actors sitting around talking about their experiences in making the movie. Roxburgh doesn’t seem to say too much, but the other two never seem to shut up…but in a good way. To continue with disc one, you get the first of the set tours. These are pretty cheesy, but they do have some hidden menus on them. I wouldn’t call them easter eggs because they don’t lead to anything more except…more of the tour, but on each screen of the tour (which you can control with your DVD remote) there is usually at least one of these menus.

Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman from Van Helsing you smell something?

Running down the list, you next come to one of the best gag reels I’ve seen in a long time. They seemed to have fun making the movie and had a great time putting this reel together. What’s nice is that none of the actors seem to care about making a fool of themselves in the process. There are two featurettes on this first page of the menu, both of which are pretty good. The first deals with the design and creation of the monsters and how the makeup and CGI departments had to be in total sync to pull these designs off for the movie, and the next is about the legend of the Van Helsing character. It starts with Bram Stoker’s character in the novel, then in the 1931 film, and how Sommers came up with the idea for his story. No fluff to be found in either of these featurettes.

The first item that could arguably be called fluff is found in the form of the “You Are in the Movie!” featurette. Basically, during the shoot, they hid some cameras around the set and didn’t tell the actors about them, then edited the shots together for this feature. What you get is a multi-angle view of a lot of the shots. It’s cool to watch once, but the oooooooh factor goes away pretty quickly. Oh yeah, after you get through it, it provides you with the option to turn on a “follow the White Rabbit” featurette that allows you to access these scenes as you watch the feature. The second menu of this first disc provides you with links to a couple of trailers, a reminder that if you put this disc in your computer, you can play an entire level of the Xbox game, and a separate reminder that there are more DVD-Rom features (other than the Xbox game).

Stephen Sommers from Van Helsing

On disc two, the first thing is that the idea behind the menu is cool. It basically looks like a blank map. However, when you use your remote, the menu items pop up out of nowhere and take you to the different “locations” on the DVD. There are two featurettes that deal more with the creation of the story and the character of Van Helsing. It’s the same type of material that we saw on the first disc, but it goes into a bit more detail. Moving around the map, there are two featurettes that takes us on a tour of the Vatican Armory, Transylvanian Village, Frankenstein’s Lab and Dracula’s Lair sets–all these done with the production designer and other members of the cast and crew. The featurettes are nicely done and avoid falling into the trap of being too fluffy. The final featurette also deals with a set, but the format changes slightly. There is more of a story told in this featurette. The set is the Burning Windmill and the story is the destruction of the model that they had spent months building and the stories the actors tell about standing on the set as it’s burning.

The final disc is a double-sided disc that features all three of the classic horror movies that inspired Van Helsing: Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. In my opinion, the addition of these three movies is what makes this set worth owning. Not only to you get the great action movie, but you also get these three icons of American cinema. I’m sure these movies have never looked better than they do on this DVD. It’s great to see the melodramatic style and the lighting they used to get the mood and tone of the movies across.

Go out and buy this set right now. The main feature is worth having and it’s coupled with three of the best horror movies in American history. You won’t regret it.

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