In the course of his surprisingly smooth transition from Spanish horror to mainstream comic book fare—with present and future projects suggesting he’s not completed with either genre—maverick writer/director Guillermo del Toro has garnered a sturdy vital and commercial following throughout the final 20+ years. The Criterion Collection pays tribute to his singular function with the release of Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro, collecting three of his best films (the already-released Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone, as effectively as Pan’s Labyrinth) in a handsomely-developed boxed set.
Cronos (1993) is del Toro’s 1st function-length film, a visually fashionable vampire horror story that he also wrote. Our protagonist of sorts is Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi, who appears in both other films in this collection), an antiques dealer who accidentally discovers eternal youth by way of a 400 year-old golden scarab entombed in a statue. The catch is that Gris now has a taste for human blood, and it does not take long for him to quench his thirst. The other catch is that an individual else knows of the scarab’s location and energy: Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook), a dying businessman who sends his nephew Angel (Ron Perlman, Hellboy) to retrieve it. Deliberately paced, visually inventive, occasionally disturbing, and efficiently edited—components that would turn into hallmarks in a lot of of del Toro’s future films, such as the other two in this collection—there’s a lot to admire about Cronos, both as a wholly original horror fable and a stepping stone for the director’s bigger achievements further down the road.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001), set in sun-drenched Spain of 1939—just ahead of the country’s Civil War came to a close—follows young Carlos (Fernando Tielve) as he’s unexpectedly left at an orphanage. He doesn’t recognize that his father has been killed in action, but it does not actually matter: with the nearest town much more than a day’s walk away, Carlos won’t be leaving any time soon. The orphanage director (Marisa Paredes) is distant but fair, the physician (Federico Luppi) requires an interest in him, and his fellow orphans at some point accept Carlos as one of their own. Less welcoming are Jaime (Inigo Garces), a bully interested in comic book art, and Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), a greedy caretaker who plans to break into a safe hidden inside the orphanage. Besides for their surroundings, however, everyone has one issue in frequent: they’ve all heard of “Santi”, the ghost of a young boy who supposedly haunts the region at evening. It is not really lengthy ahead of Carlos sees the ghost, but curiosity ultimately overcomes worry.
The lesson, of course, is that real-life danger is often more frightening that anything our imaginations can dream up. To compensate, The Devil’s Backbone always keeps one particular foot in reality: it seldom feels headed in the path of your typical “jump scare” horror film, even when early scenes recommend otherwise. This violent, dramatic tale of loneliness and superstition is laced with political undertones, but its true weight is carried by the excellent performances, terrific music, and engaging visuals. Del Toro’s knack for strong compositions and symbolism is complete show right here, with eye-catching imagery that lingers in the brain for days afterward. While its third act and ending feel more predictable than poetic, The Devil’s Backbone is still a memorable film virtually each step of the way.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), set in Spain following the final gasps of its Civil War, follows young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her penchant for fairy tales. After the death of her father, Ofelia and her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) travel to the house of Captain Vidal (Sergi López), their new stepfather and husband. This proves to be a less-than-ideal living environment, fueling Ofelia’s wish to escape into the great world around her: led by an insect-like creature to a labyrinth on the Captain’s land, Ofelia encounters a faun who believes her to be the reincarnation of a princess. She’s given 3 quests to prove herself, each one involving fantastic (and, in some cases, horrifying) creatures or challenging moral challenges. These diversions, even though occasionally violent and hideous in their own appropriate, stand in contrast with the film’s striking true-world backdrop of civil war and the violence in its wake.
These two worlds are blended seamlessly, both in a technical sense and a spiritual 1. Del Toro frequently employs careful vertical wipes—produced to resemble the turning of pages, according to the director’s 2007 commentary also included in this set—to make subtle connections among Vidal’s homestead and the mystical labyrinth. His deliberate use of color is one more telling giveaway, contrasting the increasingly cold reality of Ofelia’s life with the surreal warmth of her fantasy globe. The intricate production style also anchors Pan’s Labyrinth nicely, from detailed and meticulously-framed sets to beautiful practical effects and costume designs. It is a accurate feast for the senses, but has plenty of substance to back up the style. Nominated for six Academy Awards and winner of 3 (Very best Art Path, Very best Cinematography, and Very best Makeup), Pan’s Labyrinth remains del Toro’s final Spanish film soon after establishing a sturdy connection with comic book fans via Blade II and Hellboy earlier in the decade.
Video & Audio High quality
Since the discs for Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone are identical to Criterion’s prior Blu-ray editions (save for the artwork), any and all comments with regards to A/V high quality only pertain to Pan’s Labyrinth.
Authorized by director Guillermo del Toro, this newly colour-graded 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer of Pan’s Labyrinth was designed from a 2K master and looks very very good (specially in comparison with New Line’s 2007 Blu-ray, which suffered from excessive noise reduction). As far as “newly colour-graded”, the differences right here are not precisely drastic: far more often than not, the film has a slightly more gold-and-green hue that’s noticeable in just about every daytime shot. There’s plenty of darkness right here and this Blu-ray handles shadow detail very effectively contrast levels seem more all-natural than boosted this time around, although textures and fine image detail are all powerful—or at least evident—from commence to finish. No obvious digital problems, from compression artifacts to edge enhancement (and, of course, excessive noise reduction) could be spotted along the way. It really is a satisfying work that feels completely suited for such a visually gorgeous production, and in my opinion a long-overdue upgrade that prior DVD and Blu-ray owners will appreciate.
DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this assessment are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray’s native 1080p image resolution.
Surprisingly, we get two audio possibilities right here: the standard DTS-HD five.1 Master Audio track and a new 7.1 remix, each in the original Spanish with optional English subtitles. Pan’s Labyrinth is also no slouch in the audio department, serving up a great deal of tension via the effectively-mixed original score, strong channel separation, and no shortage of cautious surround effects that sound robust and dynamic without fighting for consideration. The 7.1 mix adds a few modest touches right here and there…and even though it does not create an totally new and different expertise, I’d think about that any person with the further two speakers will almost certainly want to take advantage of its occasional benefits. General, this is an impressive presentation that, short of a complete-blown Atmos track, can not sound any much better than it does right here.
Menu Design and style, Presentation, & Packaging As usual, Criterion’s interface is smooth and easy to navigate. Every single film is given separate menu alternatives for chapter selection, setup, bonus attributes and much more, with fairly swift loading time and a handy “Resume” function. But the packaging is the real standout right here: seen above, this 3-disc set is housed in a deluxe fold-out case with envelopes and summaries for the films on every single flap, as properly as eye-catching new artwork on the inner and outer case by illustrator Vania Zouravliov. Also tucked inside is a small but impressive 100-web page Hardcover Book featuring an introduction by author Neil Gaiman and three essays by critics Michael Atkinson, Mark Kermode, and Maitland McDonagh, along with production notes and sketches by del Toro and illustrators Carlos Giménez and Raúl Monge. Bonus Characteristics Since the discs for Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone are identical to Criterion’s earlier Blu-ray editions (save for the artwork), any and all comments with regards to bonus functions only pertain to Pan’s Labyrinth.
New to this Blu-ray of Pan’s Labyrinth is “The Spirit of Fairy Tales”, an interview with director Guillermo del Toro & Cornelia Funke (39 minutes) for the duration of this lengthy conversation, the director and novelist share their thoughts about fairy tales, childhood, and how these influences have shaped their books and films. “Beauty in the Beasts” is an entertaining interview with actor Doug Jones (28 minutes), who portrayed “The Faun / Pale Man”. Jones shares information about his earlier function as a fill-in on Mimic and as Abe Sapien on both Hellboys, as effectively as the special challenges he faced throughout the production of Pan’s Labyrinth (including layers of makeup and prosthetics, standing on stilts, and being the only native English speaker in a Spanish production). A clip from Ivana Baquero’s Audition (three minutes) is also incorporated, maybe the only vintage additional that wasn’t included on earlier discs. Speaking of which…
Carried more than from New Line’s 2007 Blu-ray and DVD are lots of terrific extras including a brief Introduction and complete-length Audio Commentary with del Toro, the interactive “Director’s Notebook” with no shortage of drawings and sketches, 4 brief to mid-length Featurettes (“The Energy of Myth”, “Pan and the Fairies”, “The Colour and the Shape”, and “The Melody Echoes the Fairy Tale”), four Prequel Comics (“The Giant Toad”, “The Fairies”, “The Faun”, and “The Pale Man”), a handful of pre-production Video Comparisons, and almost a dozen Trailers & Tv Spots.
Missing in action is an episode of The Charlie Rose Show featuring del Toro with fellow directors Alfonso Cuarón (Youngsters of Males) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams), as properly as a poster gallery incorporated in the marketing and advertising campaign section. Not specifically significant losses, but disappointing for an otherwise properly-stocked Blu-ray.
Thanks to the director’s infectious enthusiasm, eye for detail, and an obvious love of bonus attributes, die-challenging fans of Guillermo del Toro’s work have been treated to no shortage of completely-loaded, complete residence video releases during the last decade or so. Criterion’s handsomely-created Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro, which collects three of his finest films (the currently-released Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone, as nicely as Pan’s Labyrinth), might just be the ideal to date. Serving up a trio of amazing A/V presentations, lots of terrific supplements, and stylish packaging that even contains a 100-page hardcover book, this boxed set is an absolute no-brainer for any individual even halfway interested in del Toro’s Spanish-language output. Unless you already personal Cronos and/or The Devil’s Backbone, there is completely no cause not to pick this boxed set up instantly (or at least put it on your want list). Extremely Advised.
Randy Miller III is an affable workplace monkey by day and film reviewer by evening. He also does freelance design and style function, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third individual.