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“The Devil’s Backbone”
Reviewed by: Wayne A. Klein
Genre: Thriller
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen anamorphic high definition transfer
Audio: Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Languages Spanish
Subtitles English
Length 106 minutes
Rating R
Release Date 7/27/04
Studio Columbia Tristar Home Video
Commentary: Director Guillermo Del Toro
Documentaries: “The Making of The Devil’s Backbone”
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Previews
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: Deleted scenes with optional commentary
Music Video: None
Other: Storyboard to film comparisons, Director’s thumbnail sketches, conceptual art gallery, thumbnail sketches, excerpts from Del Toro’s Director’s Notebook
Cast and Crew: Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Inigo Garces, Irene Visedo, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Francisco Maestre, Junio Valverde
Written By: Guillermo Del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Munoz
Produced By: Guillermo Del Toro, Pedro Almodovar, Rosa Bosch
Directed By: Guillermo Del Toro
Music: Javier Navarrete
The Review:

Set after the Spanish Civil War in 1939, the creepy thriller “The Devil’s Backbone” relates the story of 10 year old Carlos (Tielve) the son of a war hero who is abandoned by his tutor at an isolated orphanage. Run by Doctor Casares and the kindly headmistress (Parades), Carlos discovers that there’s something amiss at the orphanage right away. The place is haunted by the ghost of a boy who we discover is named Santi. Santi latches onto Carlos constantly appearing to him and predicting that they’re all going to die. Whether that’s tied to the unexploded bomb left over from the Civil War in the orphanage courtyard or to something that else that might yet happen to the residents is left unexplained by Santi. Santi won’t rest until Carlos uncovers who murdered the other boy. ***

Del Toro’s stylish, intelligent thriller has many things in common with “The Others” and “The Sixth Sense” (movies which came out after this film. Del Toro’s film was written nearly originally written over twenty years ago as his thesis for film school but remained unproduced due to some issues del Toro had with the script), it’s actually a superior to both those films. Be warned that the film is in Spanish with English subtitles so if you’re not a fan of foreign films and hate reading subtitles, I’d recommend watching something else. If you hate the frequently bad dubs of foreign films with poorly done English soundtracks, you’ll be happy with the fact that the film is kept intact. ---

Image and Sound: Boasting a wonderful new high definition transfer, the rich vivid colors of Del Toro’s film have never looked better on DVD. Del Toro’s meticulous attention to the visual details of his film and the beautiful cinematography of Guillermo Navarro comes to life in this finely detailed DVD. The rich, spooky score by Navarrette sounds marvelous here. Clearly great care was taken in bringing the modern day classic film to DVD. ---
The Extras:

Haunted by the ghosts of other deluxe DVD’s, “The Devil’s Backbone” delivers a number of great new features on this edition. We get a great storyboard to film comparison that also includes some of Del Toro’s thumbnail sketches as well compared side-by-side. The 27 minute documentary on the making of the film covers everything from conception through the post-production of the film. It can be viewed either all at once or in segments. We also get deleted scenes with optional commentary. We also get a conceptual art gallery. The “Director’s Thumbnail Sketchbook” unfortunately doesn’t live up to its potential. The images are small and when you click on them to make them larger, they’re blurry. Also, since their written in Spanish and there’s no translation, it might be a bit of a problem for fans of the film who don’t read the language. ---

Commentary: Del Toro’s commentary track is both entertaining and informative providing fascinating tidbits about the making of the film. He also relates some very entertaining stories about the conception, production and reception of the film.
Final Words: A beautifully done movie that has been enhanced by a great, new high definition transfer, “The Devil’s Backbone” remains a compelling film full of fascinating, rich images and strong performances. One of Del Toro’s best films, “The Devil’s Backbone” has plenty of new great features making this worthwhile for fans of this offbeat and original ghost story.


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