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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 NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Uncompressed PCM 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
German Uncompressed PCM 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 132 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 6/5/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro
• “Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Visual Effects How-To’s” Featurettes
• Makeup and Lighting Tests
• “A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics” with Scott McCloud
• Trailers


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Hellboy: Director's Cut [Blu-Ray] (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 17, 2014)

With 2002’s Blade II, director Guillermo del Toro showed a knack for lesser-known comic book personalities. A fairly obscure character 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 inspired an additional entry in the movie series.

Based on the Mike Mignola comics, Hellboy opens in 1944 off the coast of Scotland. As they near defeat 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, whom 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 satisfying comic book flick, as it takes advantage of the genre’s strengths without too many of its weaknesses.

Probably the biggest flaw 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 literal 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 more dynamic 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

This disc includes an extended “director’s cut” of Hellboy. It runs 10 minutes longer than the theatrical rendition, and apparently it includes about 13 minutes of new footage, which would mean some elements from the theatrical release had to be cut.

Whatever the case, don’t expect radical changes. Director del Toro calls this his favorite version of the film “by far”, but I don’t see a lot of difference between it and the theatrical rendition. It’s mostly little bits and pieces that add up to create the extend cut. We get some minor character moments and a smidgen more exposition.

Unlike something such as the extended Daredevil, however, the changes don’t stand out as obvious. I only saw Daredevil once and immediately recognized the majority of the alterations, whereas this was my third screening of Hellboy and I found it tough to detect the variations. It’s a perfectly fine version of the movie, and the new cut doesn’t harm the film in any way. However, I don’t think it improves it noticeably either.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus B+

Hellboy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A fairly early Blu-ray, this one held up pretty well.

For the most part, sharpness worked fine. Some wide shots could be a little soft, but those were outweighed by all the tight, accurate elements. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no distractions, and only slight signs of edge enhancement materialized. As for print flaws, they seemed virtually absent during this clean and fresh presentation.

The disc replicated the stylized palette of Hellboy 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. The light softness and edge haloes knocked my grade down to “B+” – and almost to “B” – but too much of the image looked great to penalize it severely.

Hellboy featured excellent Uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio. All five channels received almost constant use, whether for the 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.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2004 Director’s Cut DVD? Audio was a bit more dynamic, and visuals showed obvious improvements in accuracy and clarity. This made for a good step up in quality.

The Blu-ray reproduces some – but not nearly all – of the extras from the three-disc DVD. We find an audio commentary with director Guillermo del Toro, as he offers a running, screen-specific discussion that covers a mix of useful topics. Del Toro goes into influences, inspirations and references, comics background and development, casting and developing the story, reflections on the comic book genre and some history, changes made for the director’s cut, and many personal reflections on various issues.

From start to finish, del Toro proves literate and incisive. He doesn’t spend a lot of time with production-related material, largely because he already addressed those issues in the commentary for the film’s theatrical version. Instead, he delves into broader issues connected to the genre and subtext of the film.

The majority of his comments connect to personal domains, as we get a lot of background on the piece and the director’s inspirations and influences. The track broadens a bit as it progresses, though, and del Toro goes over some movie-specific topics toward the end. Those help flesh out various issues. As always, del Toro gives us a chatty and engaging discussion that offers a lot of illuminating information.

The next attraction stems from an extensive documentary called Hellboy: Seeds of Creation. It fills a whopping two hours, 23 minutes, and eight seconds with the usual mix of movie snippets, archival and behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from del Toro, creator Mike Mignola, 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 Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, 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 shoot.

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 30 seconds and two minutes, 33 seconds for a total of four minutes, 27 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.

Visual Effects How-To’s breaks into three featurettes. “Bellamie Hospital/BRPD Life Miniatures” goes for five minutes and 49 seconds as we hear from visual effects supervisors Ed Irastorza and Gene Warren Jr. plus model supervisor Gene Warren III and VFX director of photography. “Computer Generated Sets/Behemoth” fills four minutes, one second with remarks from Irastorza, animation supervisor Todd Labonte, lead character set-up Paul Thuriot, CG supervisor William Todd Stinson, lead lighter Steve Reding, and Tippett visual effects supervisor Blair Clark. “Liz’s Fire” takes two minutes, 54 seconds with statements from del Toro, visual effects producer Velvy Appleton, sequence supervisor Matt Hendershot, These featurettes provide nice coverage of their subjects and come across as helpful.

The Make-Up and Lighting Tests last seven minutes, 21 seconds and come with commentary from del Toro. Really, no makeup tests occur, as the focus is totally on methods used to light Hellboy. These are surprisingly interesting to see, as we discern how much difference the kinds of lighting make. As usual, del Toro provides concise and informative notes about the topic.

After this comes a A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud. How quick? 12 minutes and 19 seconds, to be precise. He goes through a short history of comic art and its origins as well as visual techniques and their representation in Mignola’s work. The piece offers some good insight but seems awfully dry.

Under Trailers we find “Coming to Blu-ray” and a preview for Ghost Rider. No trailer for Hellboy appears here.

As I mentioned earlier, the Blu-ray drops many extras from the 2004 DVD – way too many to list here. If you want to see the differences, click on the link I provided earlier. We still get plenty of good materials here, but the Blu-ray doesn’t approach the “exhaustive” level found on the 3-DVD set.

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 Blu-ray delivers pretty good visuals, excellent audio and an informative set of supplements. Fans will want to hold onto the DVD version of this release for the missing bonus features, but the Blu-ray presents the movie in a superior manner.

To rate this film, visit the 2004 Review of HELLBOY

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main