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  • The Devil's Backbone (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] [Import]
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The Devil's Backbone (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] [Import]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Íñigo Garcés
  • Directors: Guillermo del Toro
  • Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Muñoz
  • Producers: Guillermo del Toro, Agustín Almodóvar, Bertha Navarro, Michel Ruben
  • Format: Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC, Import
  • Language: Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: July 30 2013
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

Product Description

The most personal film by Guillermo del Toro (Cronos) is also among his most frightening and emotionally layered. Set during the final week of the Spanish Civil War, The Devil�s Backbone tells the tale of a ten-year-old boy who, after his freedom-fighting father is killed, is sent to a haunted rural orphanage full of terrible secrets. Del Toro effectively combines gothic ghost story, murder mystery, and historical melodrama in a stylish concoction that reminds us�as would his later Pan�s Labyrinth�that the scariest monsters are often the human ones. DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES � New 2K digital film restoration, approved by director Guillermo del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition � Audio commentary featuring Del Toro � Video introduction by Del Toro from 2010 � New interviews with Del Toro about the process of creating the ghost Santi and the drawings and designs made in preparation for the film � �Que es un fantasma?, a 2004 making-of documentary � Spanish Gothic, a 2010 interview with Del Toro about the genre and its influence on his work � Interactive director�s notebook, with Del Toro�s drawings and handwritten notes, along with interviews with the filmmaker � Four deleted scenes, with optional commentary � New featurette about the Spanish Civil War as evoked in the film � Program comparing Del Toro�s thumbnail sketches and Carlos Gim�nez�s storyboards with the final film � Selected on-screen presentation of Del Toro�s thumbnail sketches alongside the sections of the final film they represent (Blu-ray edition only) � Trailer � New English subtitle translation � PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Mark Kermode

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By andsoitgoes on Oct. 22 2013
Format: Blu-ray
No, it's not a horror.

Yes, it has some supernatural elements, but its heart is a dark, sad coming of age story.

It does start off slow, but the story is worth every minute. Federico Luppi and Marisa Paredes are beyond brilliant.

Perfect? No, but a VERY worthy sibling to its sister project, Pan's Labyrinth.

A solid 4 stars.
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2 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Richard Charron on April 25 2013
Format: Blu-ray
I don't understand what the fuss is about this film. This not a horror movie and it's not even a good ghost movie. It's very predictable, sometimes boring and slowwwww[...] It should have been cut. I like Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth but not this one.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 33 reviews
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
What is a ghost? April 18 2013
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
Guillermo del Toro is currently known as the guy who made the Oscar-winning "Pan's Labyrinth," the "Hellboy" movies, and came close to directing "The Hobbit."

But way back in in 2001, del Toro made a movie that serves as a sport of ghost-story prequel to "Pan's Labyrinth." With its mysterious specter, innocent hero and a story set during a bloody civil war, "The Devil's Backbone" is a unique kind of horror movie -- it deftly sidesteps the cheap tricks and scares that most ghost stories employ.

Unaware that his father has been killed, Carlos (Fernando Tielve) thinks that he's being left at a remote orphanage only temporarily. Kindly Dr. Casares (Federico Luppi) sympathizes with the lonely new boy, but Carlos soon is distracted from his troubles. He keeps seeing shadows, footprints and falling pitchers -- and when he wanders down into the vaulted cellar, he catches a glimpse of a silent ghost with a bleeding head wound. Even worse, the ghost -- which was a boy named Santi -- informs him that many people there will die.

But the most dangerous one at the orphanage is the brutal former-orphan Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), who is searching for a cache of hidden gold. As Carlos tries to figure out how Santi died -- and what angry, miserable Jaime (Íñigo Garcés) has to do with it -- the orphanage is suddenly turned into an explosive war zone. As Dr. Casares tries to protect the remaining boys, Carlos discovers the reason Santi died -- and what he wants now.

"The Devil's Backbone" is a movie filled with death: the orphanage is a dying institution in a time of war, filled with orphans and surrounded by sun-burnt grass. It even has a defused torpedo stuck right in the middle of the courtyard. By the time the ghost shows up, it seems like almost a natural part of such a ruined, quietly sorrowful place.

Fortunately Guillermo del Toro avoids cheap scares -- the ghost doesn't make weird noises or leap out at Carlos for no reason. Instead he evokes the fear of a child in a dark, creaky old house who is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that there's something out there. Also some beautifully creepy visuals, such as blood floating in the air as if it were in water.

But the whole creepy-ghostly-factor is eclipsed about halfway through the movie. After a slow buildup of tension, everything suddenly erupts when Jacinto suddenly reveals his true self. Suddenly we've got explosions, blood, shattered glass, mangled bodies and an all-too human enemy who is slowly closing in. It makes the ghostly Santi seem suddenly very... nonthreatening.

And though the plot seems simple, del Toro spins a spiderweb of interconnected hints and plot threads -- comic books, slug collections, a wooden leg and blood-tinged water all come into play. There's loads of symbolism, and the beautiful scenes (Dr. Casares' final poetry recital to Carmen) are handled just as powerfully as the more gory, ghastly ones (the orphans' final assault).

It's kind of amazing that this was Tielve's movie debut, because he's simply incredible -- his character slides through fear, courage, sorrow and confusion, all with a kind of unshakable innocence. Garcés is equally good; at first he seems like a mere bully, but we gradually see how troubled and guilty he feels over what happened to Santi. Noriega is thoroughly nasty as a greedy, sociopathic thug who cares about nobody except himself (even his fiancee), while Luppi is a kindly, cultured old man who obviously loves the boys as if they were his own.

I can't think of a better movie to receive a Criterion release, and there's a decent showing of material in this new release -- new subtitle translations and film restoration; a booklet by Mark Kermode; audio commentary, video introduction and new interviews with del Toro himself; older interviews; a making-of documentary; storyboards and concept sketches compared to the final film; deleted scenes with commentary; del Toro's notes, and so on.

"The Devil's Backbone" is a haunting kind of ghost story, where the ghost is not the scariest thing you'll see. A powerful, striking movie.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Great film, great transfer Aug. 13 2013
By Stephen Lerch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
The Devil's Backbone is a del Toro masterpiece. The story is psychologically scary, contains some minor, light humor and tons of atmosphere.

The story goes that a giant unexploded bomb (supposedly defused) sits in the center of an all boy's orphanage. Each child seems to be there based on the fact that their parents have died in the Spanish Civil War. In the opening a young boy dies and the rumor persists that the boy's ghost haunts the orphanage.

Mix in some greed and you have a tale that will leave you thinking.

Region A locked Blu Ray.


The best this film has ever looked. The darkness is properly exposed and there are no compression issues to be spotted, especially in the darkness shrouded areas. In the age of Blu Ray, thankfully improperly mastered video is a true rarity.

Criterion have gone back and cleaned up 1000s of instances of dust, dirt and scratches, so there really isn't any place where any of that appears in the video.

MPEG-4 AVC encoded with high bit rates.


DTS-HD 5.1 Spanish language with optional English subtitles. Given this is the original language track, it's no surprise this is the only option on this release given Criterion's love of authenticity. Had someone else already created an English overdub, it would likely have been included, so I assume no such dub exists.

The Devil's Backbone is not an action heavy scare fest with lots of explosions. There are some scenes of explosive violence, but it's not the focus. Dialog is crisp and clean. Sound envelops you nicely with the surround options.


10 featurettes are included, along with a commentary and trailers. The featurettes, if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the film, are well worth watching. Some are 1080i and others are 1080p.

There is also a booklet that goes in depth on the film, but for me it was more of a take it or leave it kind of thing. It was OK to read, but nothing profound.


A great film, with a great presentation with some really deep psychological terror.

Highly recommended.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
An exceptional ghost story from film director Guillermo Del Toro in deluxe high def Criterion edition Aug. 10 2013
By Wayne Klein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
A mysterious ghost haunts a Spanish orphange and 10 year old Carlos is determined to find out who and why it is haunting the facility in Guillermo del Toro's exceptinal ghost story set during the Spanish Civil War. This exceptional film receives a deluxe Blu-ray treatment from Criterion. Unfortunately for those who want this edition, it is Region A locked. If you're in Europe, you'll need a region free player.

The transfer for "The Devil's Backbone" tooks absolutely stunning for this 2001 film. Detail is exceptional and there is no overuse of digital noise reduction. The film looks quite nice in its high def debute.

The lossless 5.1 audio also sounds terrific. This doesn't feature an English dubbed version but does feature English subtitles.

The special feaatures are a highlight on this set. We get an introduction by del Toro (in English), del Toro's 2004 commentary from the Sony release, deleted scenes, sketches, a 30 minute behind-the-scenes documentary (that is excellent)as well as a 15 minute interview with del Toro discussing the creation of one of the most memorable characters in the film. We also get an excellent featurette on the designs for the film featuring del Toro.

We also get "Director's Notebook" an interactive feature that allows us to dig in to the director's notes on the film. "Spanish Gothic" is an interview with del Toro, deleted scenes, a series of side-by-side comparisons of del Toro's thumbnail illustrations and the finished film. We also get a brief featurette with Spanish Civil War historian Sebastian Faber and the trailer for the film. As with all Criterion editions, this features a booklet with an essay on the making of the film.

An exceptional film from director del Toro, this edition of "The Devil's Backbone" is an improved on Sony's 2004 release and is recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Haunting and compelling July 28 2013
By Franklin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
Just an excellent movie. Hands down one of my favorite ghost stories, and I think one of the greatest ever filmed. As with much of Del Toro's work, it has an amazing visual style and a compelling story. I can't recommend this enough.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant ghost story May 8 2013
By L. J. Goldstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
Guillermo del Toro's 'El Espinazo del Diablo' "The Devil's Backbone" tells a story set during the Spanish civil war in the 30's where a new orphan Carlos arrives at an orphanage that holds dark secrets. A few years before a young boy named Santi was murdered and recently the other boys who call him "He Who Whispers" tell Carlos about him and when Carlos first sees Santi the ghost boy tells him that many others will die. Carlos makes fast friends with some of the other boys and they're all wary about a large unexploded bomb that has landed in their courtyard. Plus, there's also the mystery of some gold that is kept in a secret hiding place by Dr Caspares.
When del Toro makes films in his native language they're just brilliant and this one is a precursor to his even bigger hit the Oscar winning 'El Labarinto del Fauno" "Pan's Labyrinth". As you can tell, this reviewer prefers to name the films by their foreign titles. So for genuine chills in a frightening ghost story when 'El Espinazo del Diablo' comes to Criterion Blu Ray at the end of July, snag it it's worth any price. A great film with a top-notch cast the boys are naturals in this "Oliver Twist" ghost story from one of our most imaginative directors.