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Guillermo del Toro
Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, Karel Roden, Jeffrey Tambor, Ladislav Beran, Corey Johnson, Biddy Hodson, Kevin Trainor, Doug Jones
Writing Credits:
Mike Mignola (comic books), Guillermo del Toro, Peter Briggs

Give Evil Hell.

From visionary writer/director Guillermo Del Toro comes a supernatural action adventure based on Mike Mignola's popular "Dark Horse" comic book series.

Box Office:
$66 million.
Opening Weekend
$23.172 million on 3028 screens.
Domestic Gross
$59.035 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $28.96
Release Date: 7/27/2004

Disc One
• Director’s Introduction
• Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro and Co-Executive Producer Mike Mignola
• Audio Commentary with Actors Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans
• DVD Comics
• “The Right Hand of Doom” Set Visits
• Storyboard Track
• “From the Den” - Hellboy Recommends…
• DVD-ROM Features
• Easter Eggs
Disc Two
• Video Introduction with Selma Blair
• “Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Multi-Angle Storyboard Comparisons
• Maquette 3D Character Sculptures Video Gallery
• Filmographies
• Trailers
• TV Spots
• Character Biographies
• Poster Explorations
• Final Ad Campaign


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Hellboy: Special Edition (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 8, 2004)

With 2002’s Blade II, director Guillermo del Toro showed a knack for lesser-known comic book characters. Pretty obscure before his big-screen debut, del Toro’s sequel helped make Blade a franchise. Though not a smash hit, 2004’s Hellboy performed fairly nicely and also seems likely to inspire additional entries in the movie series.

Based on the Mike Mignola comics, Hellboy opens in 1944 off the coast of Scotland. As they near defect in the war, the Nazis reach for desperate measures that include the supernatural. We meet Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm (Kevin Trainor), a special advisor to President Roosevelt who works with a US Army group to confront the Germans as they indulge in a mystical ceremony. They see Hitler’s top assassin, Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (Ladislav Beran) along with Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden) and his mistress Ilsa (Bridget Hodson). Grigori runs the show that will climax this night, as he hopes to reach across the dimensions and summon the Seven Gods of Chaos to destroy the Nazi enemies and allow them to prosper.

The soldiers disrupt the process, during which Grigori gets sucked into the portal. However, something makes it through, and they discover a little red imp. Broom helps save the critter, who they dub Hellboy.

From there the movie jumps to the present day in Moldavia, where Ilsa - previously imbued with eternal youth by Grigori - goes into a temple and raises Rasputin from beyond. The flick then skips to New York, where we meet up with an elderly Broom (John Hurt). He works with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, a group whose existence FBI Head of Special Operations Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) goes on TV to deny. Manning also works to mock sightings of Hellboy, who he claims doesn’t exist either.

Of course, he lies, as we see when we shift to Newark, New Jersey, and their headquarters. We meet new FBI agent John Myers (Rupert Evans), a recent transfer to the department. There Myers encounters Broom along with psychic fish-man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, voiced by David Hyde Pierce) and gets the scoop on his new gig as well as a history of the Bureau.

This visit culminates in a meeting with Hellboy himself (Ron Perlman), a feisty cigar-chomping beast. Myers gets the job as Hellboy’s new liaison, and they immediately leap into action when some monster gets loose in a library filled with artifacts. He learns it’s a demon called Sammael who proves difficult to slay. Eventually he does so, though since he’s a god of resurrection, it seems likely we’ll see him again. We also get a quick encounter between Hellboy and Grigori, who earlier enacted a ceremony by which Sammael came back and gets the power to multiply.

Hellboy gives Myers the slip and heads to Bellamie Psychiatric Hospital to visit Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), the woman he loves. She used to work with him at the Bureau due to her power to generate fire. This causes problems with her, though, as she often loses control of it. That’s why she went to the more subdued setting of the hospital, where she could rein in her episodes.

Unfortunately, Grigori pays her a visit that causes her to literally explode, which brings about massive damage to the building. Myers thinks he can help her, which leads to some romantic tension, as Hellboy feels the agent tries to horn in on his gal. The rest of the film follows that thread but mostly focuses on the attempts to halt Grigori and his pals, who plan to use Hellboy as their tool to bring about the end of the world.

While del Toro occasionally lost sight of the lead character’s charms in Blade II, he walks on firmer ground during Hellboy. Perhaps this comes from the additional freedom he obtains. With Blade II, he still needed to work within the universe set up in the first flick, but Hellboy allows him to make his own interpretation of the comic without constraints established by someone else.

With this opportunity at hand, del Toro makes good use of his chances. I never read the magazines, so I don’t know how well the flick conveys that experience. Nonetheless, Hellboy feels like a good comic book flick, as it takes advantage of the genre’s strengths without too many of its weaknesses.

Probably the biggest flaw seen in the film does seem typical of comic book pieces: its story. I’ve seen worse plots but I’ve also seen better. Although Hellboy presents a tale with enormous, end of the world ramifications, the stakes never seem very high. The story fails to become terribly engaging, as it operates to move along events and not much more.

It doesn’t help that two of the flick’s lead characters prove less than stellar. Admittedly, we’re supposed to see Myers as something of a blank cipher, but I would have liked at least a little more personality than put on display by Evans. In addition, Grigori comes across as a fairly drab villain. The actor gives him reasonable menace, but he just doesn’t get enough to do to chill us. He feels like a figurehead more than a real baddie.

At least the Kroenen character makes up for that deficit. One of the cooler movie villains I’ve seen in a while, he looks cool and horrifying all at the same time, and he provides a slick but ominous presence.

For the most part, the cast proves winning, with an emphasis on the talents of Perlman. The actor’s been in many a flick that submerged him beneath makeup and prosthetics, so he learned long ago how to project personality despite that handicap. Hellboy buries Perlman farther than usual, but he somehow manages to make this an asset, not a liability. He displays the character’s guts and rough charm along with heart and depth, and he almost single-handedly ensures that the movie works.

Add effortlessly integrated quirks like a grumpy skeletal guide plus a scene with romantic advice from a nine-year-old to a big red dude and you have something different but not self-consciously so. Hellboy falters at times, largely due to an excessively convoluted and fairly nonsensical story. Despite some glitches, however, most of it proves winning and exciting.

Note: if you sit through the first part of the end credits, you’ll find a fun treat

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A/ Bonus A+

Hellboy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Very little negative interfered with the flick, which gave us a terrific visual program.

Sharpness looked excellent. At all times, the movie remained crisp and distinct, and I noticed virtually no examples of softness or fuzziness. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no distractions, and only slight signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, they seemed totally absent during this clean and fresh presentation.

The DVD replicated the stylized palette of Hellboy terrifically well. The hues always appeared vivid and distinct, and the movie handled all the tones with aplomb, as the scenes remained tight and lacked any signs of bleeding or noise. Black levels looked deep and rich, while shadows appeared appropriately heavy but never became excessively dense. Chalk up this picture as a winner.

As was the case with Blade II, Hellboy featured absolutely excellent audio. The soundfield offered an exceedingly active environment. All five channels received almost constant use, whether for the very vivid action sequences or just to provide generally spooky music and ambience. The different elements seemed nicely delineated and placed within the spectrum, and they blended together smoothly and cleanly. The surrounds played a very substantial role in the process and provided a high level of discrete information. As a result, the soundfield consistently gave us a lively and engaging presence.

Audio quality also seemed terrific. Dialogue sounded natural and distinct, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music appeared bright and vivid, and the score and songs demonstrated solid dynamics; highs came across as crisp and clear, while low-end sounded deep and warm. Effects provided the highlights of the track, of course, as the myriad of elements kept the mix active. Those components sounded clean and accurate and they featured excellent low-end response. Bass consistently appeared loud but it remained tight and never became overwhelming; that spectrum accentuated the process and didn’t become a distraction. I found nothing about which I could complain as I listened to this superb mix.

Absolutely packed with extras, Hellboy starts on DVD One with a short 25-second introduction from director Guillermo del Toro. He simply gives us a couple of notes about what we’ll find on the set; it’s superfluous.

We get into the package’s meat when we delve into its two audio commentaries. The first comes from del Toro and co-executive producer/comic creator Mike Mignola. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. Del Toro gives good commentary, and the presence of Mignola helps make this one stronger.

From second one, the pair launch into a lot of compelling topics. We hear about visual takes for the film in general and characters in specific, differences between the film and the script, liberties taken with the original comic books, visual elements and effects, themes, and other areas. As usual, del Toro tosses out funny notes from the set, such as when he talks about the sherpa who couldn’t walk more than six feet. The pair indulge in too many remarks about all the elements they love, but this remains a fun and informative discussion.

For the second track, we hear from actors Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans. All four sit together for their running, screen-specific track. Since Blair was the main culprit in one of the worst commentaries I’ve heard, I feared the worst for this one. The actors track never falls to the level of Blair’s earlier atrocity, but it also fails to become something terribly useful.

Don’t expect much strong information here. General impressions dominate. We hear a lot about working with del Toro, though in glowing, non-specific terms. We also find many notes from the set, with an emphasis on uncomfortable periods such as those with extreme cold. The commentary manages to be moderately fun, but I don’t feel like it tells us much.

Blair-related footnote: toward the end, one participant jokes that they’re recording the worst commentary ever. She chimes in that she’s been involved in crummier ones. And she’s right!

DVD One offers a few alternate viewing options, most of which also can be examined separately. The only one that requires you to examine it while you watch the movie is the Storyboard Track. With this activated, drawings pop up sporadically in the lower right hand corner of the screen as you check out the flick. It’s an okay presentation, though it could become a distraction as you try to concentrate on the story. However, since they pop up surprisingly infrequently, it doesn’t become a problem.

The other two features present “branching” material. Written by del Toro and drawn by Mignola, the DVD Comics mostly consist of single screens with a little art, animation and text. Those tell us more background about subjects like Abe, Ragnarok, and the Samaritan. “Hellboy’s Belt: The Talismans” presents an interactive look at the items our hero carries with him. The only installment to tell a full story comes from “Pancakes”, which provides a little tale about Hellboy’s introduction to that food item and its long-term effects. The “DVD Comics” are a cute idea but not all that interesting in execution.

In addition, we get something called The Right Hand of Doom, which includes visits to the set. If watched during the movie, these eight short featurettes correspond to their respective scenes. Each runs between 94 seconds and three minutes, nine seconds for a total of 18 minutes, 21 seconds of footage. As one might expect based on the title, these offer raw video clips from the shoot. We see stunt rehearsals and scenes filmed during these quick and interesting pieces. I love this kind of material, and the shots seem fun.

For something a little different, we go to From the Den - Hellboy Recommends…. This includes four shorts Hellboy watched in the film: “Gerald McBoing Boing” (six minutes, 55 seconds), “Gerald McBoing! Boing! On Planet Moo” (7:10), “How Now Boing Boing” (7:20) and “The Tell-Tale Heart” (7:46). All are interesting to see and add a neat component to the package.

DVD One also tosses in some DVD-ROM materials. We get the original text screenplay and the script supervisor’s notebook. The latter presents Lori Wyant’s copy of the script, which comes accompanied by photos that relate to each scene. Lastly, we see excerpts from Guillermo del Toro’s director notebook. This consists of three separate pages with his drawings and notes. Much of the latter are in Spanish, but this is still a cool addition.

At least two Easter Eggs show up on DVD One. From the main menu, highlight “Introduction” and click up. This spotlights an icon, so press “enter” and you’ll find a 45-second video apology from del Toro in which he apologizes for sounding like an idiot in his introduction and blames it on the cue cards. (This also offers a preview of the extras for the upcoming director’s cut DVD I’ll mention later.) In addition, go to the “Special Features” menu, highlight “Main Menu” and click down. This will bring up an icon; press “enter” and let us see 42 different quirky quotes from del Toro.

If we stopped there, we’d still have a solid special edition release. However, Hellboy keeps the goodies coming as we move to DVD Two. A video introduction from Selma Blair sets the stage. As was the case on the first disc, this 30-clip appears pretty useless.

The prime attraction here stems from an extensive documentary called Hellboy: Seeds of Creation. It fills a whopping two hours, 22 minutes, and 42 seconds with the usual mix of movie snippets, archival and behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from del Toro, Mignola, Perlman, Blair, Evans, producers Mike Richardson and Lloyd Levin, mechanical technician/puppeteer Chad Waters, prosthetic makeup Matt Rose, creature/makeup effects supervisor Mike Elizalde, production designer Stephen Scott, stunt coordinator Monty Simons, director of photography Guillermo Navarro, animatronic supervisor Mark Setrakian, stunt double Jimmy Hart, visual effects producer Velvy Appleton, sequence supervisor Shadt Amassizadeh, special effects supervisor Nick Allder, makeup artist Jake Garber, computer graphics supervisor Kevin Raillie, creature supervisor Rudy Grossman, animation supervisor Mauricio Baiocchi, prosthetic makeup supervisors David Marti and Montse Ribe, special key makeup artist Xavier Bastida, visual effects supervisor Ed Irastorza, lead character setup Paul Thuriot, CG supervisor William Todd Stimson, lead CG modeler Sven Jensen, animation supervisor Todd Labonte, visual effects supervisor Blair Clark, costume designer Wendy Partridge, lead compositors Colin Epstein and Jim McVay, sequence supervisor Ryan Tudhope, sound designer Steve Boeddeker, and actors John Hurt and Doug Jones.

“Seeds” covers virtually all the appropriate topics. We get starts with the origins of the Hellboy character, his path to the screen and adaptation issues, character design and prosthetics, set, production and visual design, stunts, casting and characters, visual and practical effects, costumes, sound and music and post-production, cinematography, and the premiere. The program offers a heavy emphasis on details of the actual production. DVD One’s “Right Hand of Doom” gives us some glimpses of this stuff, but “Seeds” thrives on footage from the set and makes “Doom” feel like an appetizer. Once we get into production, those elements proceed in chronological order and dominate, and the show branches to hit upon relevant issues when appropriate. For example, during the shots from the Moscow cemetery scene, we see how they developed the animatronic skeleton. The program balances raw footage with interviews well and offers a consistently tight and informative look at the flick. It’s a complete and well-executed documentary.

Next we locate three deleted scenes. These run between 29 seconds and 1:23 two minutes, 32 seconds for a total of four minutes, 24 seconds. We’ve already heard about “Cab Ride” in the first commentary. The clips offer a little expansion of existing themes but nothing too valuable. We can view the segments with or without commentary from del Toro. He lets us know why the clips got the boot and also a few other notes such as a minor preview of the upcoming director’s cut. (His remarks imply that we don’t get much unused material on this set because he’ll include them in the next version.)

Though the alternate track on DVD One seems to make them superfluous, we find some storyboard to film comparisons. However, the disc presents them with material not found on the first platter. The “Scene Progression” looks at Ogdru Jahad and starts with a 36-second intro from del Toro who explains that his art begins with a doodle and then goes to storyboards. We then watch the 44-second sequence from those two perspectives.

”Animatics” includes another 32-second intro from the director before we check out four scenes: “Hellboy and Sammael (West Side Street)” (one minute, 57 seconds), “Hellboy and Sammael (Subway) (0:47), “Hellboy and Abe (Underwater Chamber) (2:59), and “Behemoth” (0:40). We can check these out either on their own or in a comparison with the final product.

After a 43-second intro from del Toro, “Board-a-Matics” gives us a look at five scenes: “BRPD Lift” (0:14), “Bellamie Hospital” (2:11), “The Bridge” (2:33), “Hellboy (Rooftop)” (1:43), and “Supported Beam Tunnel” (1:18). These also provide the two viewing options seen with “Animatics”. “Storyboard Comparisons” ends this domain with segments for “Ragnarok” (3:46), “Machen Library” (2:30), “Hellboy and Sammael (Subway Platform)” (2:51), and “The Corpse” (0:41). All together, these elements provide a fine examination of the various planning methods.

After this we see a Maquette 3D Character Sculpture Video Gallery. This gives us looks at Baby Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Sammael, Ogdru Jahad, the Corpse, and Behemoth. They let us see a spin-around for the full sculptures as well as some close-ups of the details. It’s a nice way to see the work put into the maquettes.

Filmographies appear for del Toro, Mignola, Perlman, Blair, Tambor, Evans, actors, John Hurt, Karel Roden, and Doug Jones, producers Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, and Mike Richardson, executive producer Patrick Palmer, composer Marco Beltrami, and director of photography Guillermo Navarro. These present simple and abbreviated listings of flicks with no other annotations. A fun touch, we also find Character Biographies for Hellboy, Liz, Professor Broom, Manning, Myers, and Rasputin. These provide both fairly simple cartoon ones as well as insanely detailed text versions written by del Toro. All seem cool and add a very fun and valuable component to the set.

Within the “Theatrical Marketing Campaign” area, we locate a mix of promotional elements. It features both the teaser and theatrical trailers as well as nine TV spots. Poster Explorations shows 68 ad ideas, while Final Campaign includes 13 promos they actually used.

When the DVD One opens, it presents an ad forThe Forgotten. No other trailers appear on that disc, but in the Previews area on DVD Two, we find promos for it as well as Seinfeld, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, 13 Going on 30, Secret Window, Seinfeld, Anacondas, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Kaena, White Chicks and Kingdom Hospital.

Based on my first glimpses of its trailer, I thought Hellboy would be a silly dud. However, the flick provided a pleasant surprise. A lively and well-executed comic book movie, it occasionally faltered but it offered many more positives than negatives. The DVD also prospered, as it presented very strong picture and sound along with a thorough roster of extras. Grab this sucker, as Hellboy comes with an unreserved recommendation.

Consumer footnote: an ad in the DVD’s booklet informs us of an upcoming Hellboy director’s cut. The text indicates this “will feature discs jam-packed with special features, an all-new cut of the movie with new commentary and an exclusive, limited edition ‘Excerpt from the Diary of Grigori Rasputin’ created by Mike Mignola.” Nothing mentions a release date for the director’s cut DVD, but since a rebate coupon expires November 30, 2004, it obviously should be on the shelves at least a month or two before then.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2 Stars Number of Votes: 40
4 3:
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