Search DVDBeaver

S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Devil's Backbone aka El Espinazo del diablo [Blu-ray]


(Guillermo del Toro, 2001)


Criterion's Blu-ray is also available in their Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro which includes Cronos, The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth:



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: El Deseo S.A.

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #666



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:47:50.505

Disc Size: 45,814,990,082 bytes

Feature Size: 27,467,102,208 bytes

Video Bitrate: 28.56 Mbps

Chapters: 28

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 29th, 2012



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio Spanish 3414 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3414 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps



English (SDH), none



• Audio commentary featuring Del Toro
Video introduction by Del Toro from 2010 (:48)
New and archival interviews with Del Toro about the creation of his film (13:47, 17:55 + 11:57)
¿Que es un fantasma?, a 2004 making-of documentary (27:18)
Interactive director’s notebook (9:05)
Four deleted scenes, with commentary by del Toro (3:36)
New interview with scholar Sebastiaan Faber about the film’s depiction of the Spanish Civil War (14:07)
Program comparing Del Toro’s thumbnail sketches and Carlos Giménez’s storyboards with the final film (12:03)
Selected on-screen presentation of Del Toro’s thumbnail sketches (Blu-ray edition only)
Trailer (2:06)
New English subtitle translation by del Toro
PLUS: An essay by critic Mark Kermode





Description: One of the most personal films by Guillermo del Toro, The Devil’s Backbone is also among his most frightening and emotionally layered. Set during the final week of the Spanish Civil War, it tells the tale of a twelve-year-old boy who, after his freedom-fighting father is killed, is sent to a haunted rural orphanage full of terrible secrets. Del Toro expertly combines gothic ghost story, murder mystery, and historical melodrama in a stylish mélange that, like his later Pan’s Labyrinth, reminds us the scariest monsters are often the human ones.



The Film:

Guillermo del Toro, who quickly became one of the most talked-about directors in contemporary horror films with his first two features, Chronos and Mimic, takes on a more subtle tale of terror with this psychological suspense piece. Casares (Federico Luppi) and Carmen (Marisa Paredes) operate a small home for orphans in a remote part of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Helping the couple mind the orphanage are Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), the groundskeeper, and Conchita (Irene Visedo), a teacher who is also involved with Jacinto. Casares and Carmen are aligned with the Republican loyalists, and are hiding a large cache of gold that's used to back the Republican treasury; perhaps not coincidentally, the orphanage has also been subject to attacks from Franco's troops, and an unexploded bomb waits to be defused in the home's courtyard. One day, a boy named Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives at the home, looking for a place to stay after being left behind by his parents. Casares and Carmen take him in, and the boy soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jaime (Inigo Garces), a boy with a reputation for tormenting other kids. But Carlos soon begins having visions of a mysterious apparition he can't identify, and hears strange stories about a child named Santi who went missing the day the bomb appeared near the orphanage.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

A classy Hispanic horror pic written and directed by the Mexican cinephile who made Cronos and Mimic. Like many Spanish movies about the Civil War, it filters that traumatic conflict through the partly comprehending eyes of a child. After his Republican father dies in battle, 10-year-old Carlos (Tielve) is left in a desert orphanage, where crippled widow Carmen (Paredes) and kindly Professor Casares (Luppi) hope to protect their charges from advancing Fascists. But danger exists inside the fragile sanctuary, too - not only does Carlos clash with older bully Jaime, but there's surly, self-serving janitor Jacinto (Noriega) to worry about, not to mention chilling rumours about a kid who went missing. If only for its technical aspects, this would rate as a pleasurably superior supernatural psychological thriller, with polished but subtle special effects, painterly, atmospheric cinematography and vivid performances from a top-notch cast. What lifts it, however, is an adept use of generic elements as a poetic/metaphorical gloss on political and historical realities. Hence a ghost mystery becomes a tale of opposing forces building to a deadly, explosive denouement in which concealed passions finally burst forth.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Devil's Backbone looks beautiful on Blu-ray from Criterion.  This is described as a 'new, restored 2K digital film transfer, supervised by director Guillermo del Toro and director of photography Guillermo Navarro...' and it looks just marvelous. Colors appear strong and tight - contrast is sublime.  This is dual-layered with a high bitrate and it appears to be a magnificent representation of the film with texture and depth. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and detail is impressive. They are frequent examples of depth. This Blu-ray has no discernable flaws and supplies a perfect 1080P presentation.















Audio :

There is a super atmospheric DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround track at 3414 kbps in original Spanish. It has both subtle and aggressive separations - the score by Javier Navarrete substantially benefits from the lossless rendering enhancing the spooky aura created by the visuals. The track has punchy depth and a crisp high-end. There are optional English subtitles, translation by del Toro, and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Criterion have included the 2004 director's commentary as found on the previous SE DVD of the film. Previous supplements as well are a short 2010 video introduction by Del Toro, the half-hour making-of documentary entitled ¿Que es un fantasma? (What is a Ghost?), from 2004, the selected on-screen presentation of Del Toro’s thumbnail sketches - an inspiration for the visual texture of certain sequences in the film. When this is selected del Toro's thumbnail sketches will appear in conjunction with their corresponding scenes as the film plays (subtitle default OFF when this is selected.) Repeating from previous digital edition are the four deleted scenes, with commentary by del Toro, the Javier Soto interactive gallery "Director's Notebook" from 2010 and the 12-minute program comparing Del Toro’s thumbnail sketches and Carlos Giménez’s storyboards with the final film. Criterion also add new material including about 3/4 of an hour's worth of 2 new and one archival interview with del Toro and a new 15-minute interview with scholar Sebastiaan Faber about the film’s depiction of the Spanish Civil War There is also a trailer and liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Mark Kermode.



Guillermo del Toro's films are so visually rich with much of the story and emotion told through the descriptive cinematography. His work is very memorable. The Devil's Backbone is no exception. This is a hauntingly beautiful, chilling movie and the Criterion Blu-ray package offers a fabulous a/v presentation with plenty of important extras. This has plenty of value and we strongly recommend! 

Gary Tooze

July 12th, 2013


Criterion's Blu-ray is also available in their Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro which includes Cronos, The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth:



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






Hit Counter












DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

 CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Thank You!