DirectorGuillermo del Toro
Release Date(s)1993 (December 7, 2010)
Studio(s)Fondo de Fomento Cinematográfico, etc (Criterion – Spine #551)
I’m really glad that Guillermo del Toro has achieved Criterion Director status – he deserves it. His movies are pure magic, and the fact that he’s one of those filmmakers who owns the “one of us” label and that the list of upcoming projects he’s attached to is so long it’s guaranteed he won’t get to half of them, pretty much assures that he’s got a long career ahead of him. It’s actually a shame that he won’t get a chance to do everything we’ve heard he wants to do, because all of it is something I’d want to see with his vision interpreting it. And the he came to the attention of most us was with his first theatrical film, Cronos. It was an eye-opener, and truly is a gem of a film. It deserves its entry into the pantheon of Criterion Spine numbers.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m digging into the ol’ Digital Bits vault, and because I really like Adam Jahnke’s summary review of the film in his original Bits review, so I’m going to crib from it really quick for the film portion of this review: “In grand old horror movie tradition, Cronos revolves around the desire to possess an ancient object with supernatural powers. Here, it’s the Cronos device, created by an alchemist hundreds of years ago and home to a parasitic insect that feeds off the device’s owner and gives him eternal life in exchange. The device falls into the hands of an elderly antiques dealer (Federico Luppi) who discovers its powers by accident. Luppi soon finds himself targeted by eccentric dying millionaire Claudio Brook and his thuggish son (played by the man who would be Hellboy, Ron Perlman). Essentially, Cronos is a vampire movie with a bit of a twist. It isn’t the best horror film of the past ten years but it is one of the most memorable horror debuts. Del Toro distinguishes himself from his peers with his attention to telling character traits and developing believable and true relationships, particularly between Luppi and his young, mostly silent granddaughter. Perlman and Brook make for a memorable pair of villains and the device itself is a beautifully designed McGuffin that belongs in a horror movie museum alongside Sam Raimi’s Necronomicon.” Short, sweet and exactly to the point. You can read the entirety of Doc’s original review of the 10th Anniversary DVD edition from Lions Gate here: it’s a great review, although many of the critiques don’t (thankfully) apply to this Blu-ray edition.
This Blu-ray is a real jump up in many ways and a straight-port in others. The jump up can be found in terms of video quality, Cronos looks incredible. As are most of Criterion’s transfers, this is a perfect blend of super clean and just the right amount of grain. Blacks are deep, and the Bava-esque color scheme is very well represented. Video is presented at 1.78:1, in 1080p resolution. Del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro should be very proud – and being as they both signed off on this transfer, they most likely are. Audio is given to us in a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track (original Spanish with English) that serves the film well. The subtitles are also personally approved by del Toro and are not the “hearing impaired” style that came with the Lions Gate DVD – so Jahnke should be happy with that upgrade.
Some of the supplements here are direct ports. First we get two audio commentaries. The first one, labeled as the Director’s track, features del Toro and is really fun and slightly frustrating in that he refers several times to deleted scenes in the film – yet, there is nothing on the disc to support that. No deleted scenes, no animatics, no script pages. Just legend from del Toro of what was cut and why. Grr. The other track, labeled Producer’s features Arthur H. Gorson, Bertha Navarro and co-producer Alejandro Springall which is partly in Spanish with subs and is less informative than del Toro’s as it drops into long lapses of silence – which is always a no-no in commentary production. Oh, well. Making up for that are two original creations: Geometria, which is a six or so minute previously unreleased short film made by del Toro in 1987 and finished in 2010. It’s actually a great little thing and reminds me greatly of Peter Jackson’s early work. It’s supported by a new video intro with del Toro. Welcome to Bleak House is a sturdy ten-minute tour given to us by del Toro himself, of his production office – housed in an actually house next door to his family home. All I have to say is, Javier... Bob – next time I’m in LA... I need to spend five hours in this please. Additionally, there are three nice new separate video interviews with del Toro, Guillermo Navarro and Ron Perlman where they all talk about the making of the film, its impact on their careers and working with each other. Ported over from the Lions Gate DVD is an EPK styled interview with actor Federico Luppi. Rounding it all out are archived photos from the production of Geometria and Cronos, a trailer and a forty-two page liner note book with an essay by film critic Maitland McDonagh and production notes from del Toro. It also worth pointing out that the cover art is greatly improved from the Lions Gate set – this one featuring beautiful chiaroscuro art from Mike Mignola.
Cronos is certainly not the best film from del Toro – but as a first film it’s utterly confident, full of auteurial style and an incredibly entertaining little horror film. This Criterion edition brings all the best parts of previous releases adding to it some nicely produced new extras and a spot-on presentation. Definitely do not miss adding this to your library.
- Todd Doogan