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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: December 31st, 1969 Movie Release Year: 2001

The Devil's Backbone - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (Sony Pictures Classics Collection)

Overview -

Guillermo Del Toro’s poignant but damned scary ghost story The Devil’s Backbone creeps its way onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony as part of the 11-film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection. Coming off an already great Criterion Blu-ray, this new Dolby Vision transfer is stunning and a key reason to spring for the full set. With great audio and a fine selection of bonus features, this is an easy disc to call Highly Recommended

His father killed in the brutal fighting of the Spanish Civil War, ten-year-old Carlos is sent to live at the desolate Santa Lucia School, now a makeshift shelter for war orphans. Soon after his arrival, Carlos has a series of seemingly supernatural encounters: strange shadows, voices and, most frightening of all, the apparition of a brutalized young boy. Turns out that Carlos is not alone in seeing these strange phenomena, many other children have experienced the "One Who Sighs," as the entity has come to be called.

THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE 4K UHD Disc Breakdown

·         Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision

·         Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

·         Special Features:

o   Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro

o   Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro and Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro

o   Guillermo del Toro Introduction

o   Director’s Thumbnails Track

o   Director's Notebook

o   Que es un fantasma? Featurette

o   4 Deleted Scenes with Director Commentary

o   Sketch, Storyboard, Screen – 6 Scenes

o   Making-Of Featurette

o   Summoning Spirits Featurette

o   Theatrical Trailer

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
Dolby Vision HDR / HDR10
Length:
108
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
Spanish: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English, English SDH
Release Date:
December 31st, 1969

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

As our man E. already did a terrific review for the Criterion Collection release, I’ll refer you to his review, but for my own two cents, I love this film. It’s a character-driven horror film that’s steeped in ominous and creepy visuals but never loses focus of the plot or character arcs for a cheap jump scare. The terror steadily builds and builds throughout the film and serves as another fine example of Del Torro exploring the definition of “monster.” Of his earliest efforts, this is easily Del Torro’s best film and I even put it up there as a rival to Pan's Labyrinth and The Shape of Water for the best film of his entire catalog. 

Here’s M. Enois Duarte’s 2013 The Devil’s Back Bone Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review

Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
For its first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release, Sony curses Devil's Backbone to eternal damnation exclusive to the 11-film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection - or at least until a solo release comes around. Pressed on a BD-100 disc, the disc is housed in a standard case with slipcover art. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options and the bonus features panel along the right side of the screen.

Video Review

Ranking:

In 2013 the Criterion Collection dropped an immaculate Blu-ray release. Nine years later, Sony gives the film a fitting and quite simply astoundingly beautiful 2160p Dolby Vision HDR transfer. The film’s rich cinematic qualities instantly come to vivid life in this transfer. Facial features, clothing textures, and the bleak but still oddly pretty locations all get amazing care and attention. Close-ups, middle shots, and the eerie dark spaces of the orphanage simply look fantastic. Grain structure is intact and well-resolved without appearing too noisy nor does it look smearily scrubbed or wiped.

Dolby Vision HDR really works some wonders here as the film favors golden amber tones with bright blue skies and deep dark creepy shadows. The careful HDR grading properly enhances all of these qualities without blowing out primaries. Black spaces and shadows are cleanly cared for with deep inky spaces and lovely light gradience giving the image a fantastic sense of three-dimensional depth. White sheets and shirts are crisp and strong without blooming with some strong spectral highlights.

Audio Review

Ranking:

On the audio front, we’re given what sounds like the same impressive Spanish with English Subtitles DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix we heard on the Criterion Collection edition. Which, I’m not going to complain about at all - it’s a practically perfect audio mix. When this set was announced I was hoping this would pick up an Atmos mix for all of the spooky creepy audio effects peppered throughout the film, but even still I’m more than happy with this track. It hits all of the right notes with clean dialog, great music, and the surround channels always feel engaged. Even when things are at their quietest there’s something moving around those channels. The DTS Neural:X function on my receiver offered up a little more spacing and dimension but not enough to say it was a fundamentally necessary way to experience the film.

Special Features

Ranking:

While we may not be getting all of the bonus features from Criterion’s 2013 Blu-ray, we’re getting most of the bunch and it’s a great selection of extras that are well worth digging into if you haven’t gone through them already. But to prop up this release there is an excellent new audio commentary with Guillermo del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro that is filled with interesting and informative tidbits. Also worth noting - the “Director’s Notebook” feature was listed in the press release and on the artwork but apparently wasn’t included when it came time to pressing the disc.

  • NEW Audio Commentary featuring Guillermo del Toro and Guillermo Navarro
  • Audio Commentary featuring Guillermo del Toro
  • Original EPK
  • Que es un Fantasma” - The Making of The Devil’s Backbone
  • Summoning Spirits
  • Director’s Thumbnail Track
  • Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Commentary
  • Sketch, Storyboard, Screen
  • Trailer

The Devil’s Backbone was one of my all-time favorite Blind Buy experiences. I missed my chance to see it in theaters and my local rental shops weren’t carrying it so I dutifully ordered it at my local (now defunct) Media Play and never regretted it. An instant favorite it’s always had an honorable place on my home video shelf and I’m very happy to add this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. I was skeptical that Sony could punch out a 4K that would vastly improve on Criterion’s disc, but this new Dolby Vision transfer is simply spectacular with the same excellent audio mix and a fine assortment of new and archival bonus features to match. Now, with Sony showing no signs of issuing a solo release, this is definitely a highlight title for the Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary collection. Highly Recommended