Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 15th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: Spain / Mexico / France / Argentina, 2001
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Muñoz
Cast: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Íñigo Garcés, Irene Visedo, José Manuel Lorenzo, Francisco Maestre, Junio Valverde
BluRay released: July 5th, 2017
Approximate running time: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: M 15+ (Australia)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Spanish
BluRay Release: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.99
The Devil’s Backbone was co-written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, whose other notable films include, Cronos, Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth. The cinematographer on The Devil’s Backbone was Guillermo Navarro, whose other notable films include, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Jackie Brown.
Reality and fantasy collide in The Devil’s Backbone, a film sets a childhood allegory during the Spanish Civil War (which took place from 1936 to 1939). The film’s narrative centers around a protagonist named Carlos and his life at an orphanage that is run by a couple who assists the Left-wing Republican rebels who are at war with General Franco’s Right-wing Nationalists.
And though the ongoing war plays a role in the story at hand. For the bulk of the film it almost becomes secondary, as the focus of the narrative shifts towards lives of those who live in the orphanage. Also, the orphanage provides a temporary sanctuary for the protagonist. That is ultimately shattered by the film’s final act.
This film’s also features a supernatural subplot about an orphan who was murdered by someone that was supposed to protect him. And this boy’s ghost is caught in a purgatory due to unresolved issues pertaining to his death. And his chance to resolve said issues, lays in the hands of the protagonist who through a chance encounter discovers this malevolent spirit.
The characters are well defined and the cast are all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance being Fernando Tielve in the role of Carlos. His performance perfectly balances childlike announce and the reality of the adult world that is closing in on him. Other notable performances include, Federico Luppi in the role of Dr. Casares and Marisa Paredes (Dark Habits, The Flower of My Secret) in the role of Carmen, the couple in charge of orphanage and Eduardo Noriega (Open Your Eyes) in the role of Jacinto, a young man with a dark secret who helps take care of the orphans.
From a production standpoint, there is not an area where this film does not excel. The narrative is meticulously constructed and key moments are given an ample amount of time to resonate. And not to be overlooked are the film’s visuals which do a remarkable job setting and maintaining the foreboding mood. Standout moments visually include, the scene where Carlos first encounters the ghost of the dead boy and the film’s cathartic finale which provides a very satisfying conclusion.
The Devil’s Backbone comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Colors look accurate, black levels remain strong throughout, details look crisp and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio mix, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Spanish and included with this release are removable English subtitles. This audio mix does a superb job when it comes to the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack and range wise this audio mix sounds robust when needs too. Dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.
Extras for this release include, a reversible cover art, a video introduction by director Guillermo Del Toro (48 seconds), a trailer for the film (2 minutes 5 seconds, in Spanish with English subtitles), Director’s Notebook (9 minutes 5 seconds – total running time), four deleted scenes, with optional audio commentary by Guillermo Del Toro (51 seconds, 1 minute 11 seconds, 1 minute 2 seconds, 30 seconds, in Spanish with English subtitles), Storyboard Comparison (61 minutes 42 seconds), Spanish Gothic featurette (17 minutes 53 seconds), Spanish language featurette (12 minutes 48 seconds, in Spanish with English subtitles), a featurette titled Que Es Un Fantasma: The Making of Devil’s Backbone (27 minutes 16 seconds, in Spanish with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Guillermo Del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro.
Topics discussed in the extras include, the origins of the film, what Guillermo Del Toro was trying to achieve with this film and how it ties into other films that he has directed, cinema influences, how this film compares to other films he directed, key moments, audience reaction to the film, their thoughts about the film and other production related topics.
Overall The Devil’s Backbone gets an excellent release from Umbrella Entertainment, highly recommended.
Note: Umbrella Entertainment are also releasing this film on DVD.