The Devil's Backbone


Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, $29.95

"Children in a Hollywood movie are immaculate objects, little smart-alecky bastards that have one-liners," bemoans Backbone director Guillermo del Toro, and given his big-budget, gotta-pay-the-rent assignments like Mimic and Blade II, he's no stranger to losing battles against Tinsel Town principles. Luckily, Backbone's switchblade-wielding, gutter-mouthed orphans abide by no such Cider House Rules. The bloody uprising at the end of this Spanish Civil War-era supernatural thriller was literally cutthroat enough to drum up impressive domestic buzz here in the States.

Released back on June 25 (oops!), the DVD is a no-frills job, but three substantial extras should sufficiently reward your curiosity. A storyboard comparison feature is hardly the haunting procession of complementary sketches you might envision; the cavernous orphanage and its resident specter, Santi, are depicted with all the menace of a Garfield birthday card. The subtitled making-of featurette is far less vacuous than an American counterpart would be, as del Toro describes assorted screenplay tweaks made to integrate his accomplished adult cast and extremely green child actors.

The shared commentary track, in which the chatty del Toro flat-out overwhelms cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, is priceless. Del Toro unpretentiously scrutinizes his frequent reconstruction of key shots, including an homage to the duality of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. As for Backbone's brutal second half, rife with explosions, impalings, and point-blank gunplay, he jokes, "As a Catholic fat boy, I like to make the characters learn through pain." We can only hope he doesn't follow Robert Rodriguez's unfortunate path to cute, painless Hollywood domesticity (e.g., Spy Kids 2).

Andrew Bonazelli

Can't get enough of Speed? On July 30, Fox is spitting out not only a bells-and-whistles "five star" edition of the '94 original (no Keanu commentary) but also the '97 cruise-ship fiasco sequel and both titles on a third, distinct set. You know those photos of naked people lying in Times Square? The documentary Naked States (July 30) profiles photographer Spencer Tunick and his other, similar staged nude-ins, including group poses at the Sturgis, S.D., biker rally (ick) and a Phish concert (double ick). Finally, July 30 also yields Costner in Dragonfly and Schwarzenegger in Collateral Damage (triple ick).


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