Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Film Year: 2004
U.S. Rating: PG-13
Canadian Rating: 14A
Rated for: Sci-Fi Action Violence and frightening images.
Film Length: 122 minutes
DVD Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 anamorphic
Audio: English & French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English & French
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $28.96
Release Date: July 27, 2004
Film Rating: /
Starring: Ron Perlman (Hellboy), John Hurt (Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Rupert Evans (John Meyers), Karel Roden (Grigori), Jeffrey Tambor (Tom Manning), Doug Jones (Abe Sapien), Ladislav Beran (Kroenen), Corey Johnson (Agent Clay)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Comic Books – Mike Mignola
Screen story – Guillermo del Toro
“Give Evil Hell”
In 1938, the Ragnarok Project was developed by a group of Nazis that would enable them to build a weapon to ensure victory in the upcoming war upon its neighbors. It was also their intention to achieve world domination. At the head of the project was Grigory Rasputin, a man who’s twisted science led to his own death and also his resurrection. His new vision in his new life was to be the right hand of doom and free one of the Ogdru Jahad - the seven gods of chaos. They are trapped in a crystal prism in space waiting to reclaim the earth and burn the heavens. With the combination of science, black magic, and desperation to win the war, Rasputin managed to build a machine to access a portal to release the prisoner. It was during a private engagement in Scotland in 1944, the group of Nazis released the scarlet beast to the earth. Intercepted by Americans, the infant beast fell into their hands instead.
Hellboy was his given name. Instead of living to create chaos on Earth, he was raised by Dr. Broom – a paranormal advisor who ran a secret Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. In the present day, he created Hellboy into a hero to protect a society he is hidden from. He doesn’t look like every other man – he’s all red and stands taller than most, has a very large build, has horns on his head and wags a large tail. Society knows him only as a myth really, catching him briefly during his moments of crime busting and creature killing with his big gun and an oversized stone right hand. He also works with other intelligent freaks of nature – a merman named Abe and the pyrokinetic Liz, who Hellboy is fond of. Together with a team of FBI agents, they have to battle the evil madman Rasputin who wants to reclaim and convert Hellboy to evil and finish his plan of world domination and destruction. He’s got plenty of help for his plan: Kroenen, a man once pure in appearance and at heart, became obsessed with merging machine and man it distorted his appearance and forced him to use a tight-fitted metal mask. His body is unstoppable. In the even tougher side is the Sammael, dark creatures who Hellboy’s always trying to kill – but for every one that dies two come back.
The film is full of kick-ass action as the Dark Horse comic book would be. I actually have a Hellboy promo comic in my collection that came out before issue #1. I wonder if it’s worth anything? The beginning of the film runs a little slow despite the action taking place. I had a difficult time grasping all aspects of the story because we really are thrown into it all. It wasn’t until I watched the special features that I really understood what actually was happening and how the story went. There is some history about the characters that isn’t told in the film and I’m hoping the director’s cut with flesh out these characters a little more. It didn’t prevent me from enjoying the film; I just needed a little clarity in some parts.
The rest of the movie just works despite how silly the concept is. It's a superhero world and we've got a bad devil doing nothing but good and wanting a little love from the girl he likes. The special effects are awesome for the most part, although sometimes his tail screams CGI and the moments Hellboy gets tossed against a wall from a Sammael look a little slow moving (with one shot truly looking like it was sourced from video). Some great cinematography and music can be credited as the two fit together to create that comic book mood. The dialogue is great and there are some funny moments between the characters as well. The entire cast is excellent and there is some great chemistry between those who worked closely together. I can’t imagine a better cast for this film than what is presented here.
VIDEO QUALITY /
This is a very impressive transfer for this widescreen enhanced film. Matted for an intended ratio of 1.85:1, there is so little at fault in the image. Aside from a little bit of MPEG noise in scenes with mist (which is expected due to the nature of the compression technology), the image is solid with no other distracting artifacts.
I would say this is a reference DVD in regards to image quality. This is a dark film, and many scenes happen at night or in low light so controlling lighting in your theatre is critical to get the best dynamic range. Hellboy’s black level is deep and shadow detail is excellent. The opening scene of the film of the portal being opened for the first time shows this excellent contrast of silver-whites and deep blacks.
Colour fidelity is also excellent as flesh tones are always neutral and never exaggerated. At times the film is stylized visually offering a different palette from the norm. It never looks thick or plugged up. Resolution is always excellent throughout the film.
AUDIO QUALITY /
There is so much channel activity during most scenes in this film it will surely put your system through hell and back! There is thunderous bass throughout, and its deep and powerful in both front and surround channels, especially the LFE channel. Your subwoofer will get a kick out of this soundtrack. The rest of the sound is characterized as having a very wide soundstage where both front and surround channels work seamlessly to create a 360-degree sound field. The soundtrack effectively puts you in the middle of every bit of action on screen. I found dialogue to be just a touch too forward, but it was forgiving because there was just so much more to take in. The surrounds were effective to justify full range speakers back there because of the heavy amount of off-stage activity. Resolution in fine, that is one area more difficult to judge based on how fake movie soundtracks are, but the carnival/comic style music is clear and dynamic enough to carry the film’s emotion and mood. You may find there are one or two scenes you can use for your next home theater demo disc. Have fun with it!
SPECIAL FEATURES /
This Hellboy release is loaded with special features. I find it difficult to imagine what else can be included on the upcoming Director’s Cut edition which will feature even more all-new features that what is in included with this release. A mentioned earlier, this is a two-disc release and the special features are spread out between the two discs. There is also a comprehensive insert guiding you through all of the special features on both discs, as well as a $5 mail in rebate for the upcoming Director’s Cut or the Hellboy DVD Gift set. Oddly enough, chapter stop listings are absent in this great little insert.
The special features on disc one begin with a twenty-five second intro from director Guillermo del Toro, and if you are lucky you might find an Easter egg on a relative subject. Most of the special features on disc one are to be viewed along with the film. Two commentaries are included. One is a creator’s commentary featuring Guillermo del Toro (director) and Mike Mignola (Co-Executive Producer). This commentary is very interesting as the two of them, amongst other things, talk about their ideas in pre-production to what actually ended up on film. The second commentary is a cast commentary featuring Ron Pearlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans. Recorded at Passover, this is a very exciting commentary between the group of actors that Hellboy fans will love.
A DVD Comics Index is next on the list, a “never been done on DVD before” feature that contains an on-screen look at Hellboy comic books. When watching the film (or you can access each independently), a comic icon will appear on the screen, and when activated it features eight new stories drawn by Mike Mignola and written by del Toro. The animations cover such subjects like Ragnarok: The Gate of the Dragon, Abe Sapian, The Samaritan, and Kroenen. Another feature that must be watched with the film to be appreciated is the Storyboard Track. It’s a picture-in-picture-like synchronization of artist Simon Wilkins’s artwork to the film, although I wasn’t able to successfully activate this function (or else the drawings were so far apart I didn’t see them – I would assume the drawings are supposed to be showed throughout the whole film).
Preparing you for what you will find on disc two is a mini documentary titled The Right Hand of Doom. It’s a compilation of a total of eight different set visits lasting for just over eighteen minutes and features no commentary, just showing what is happening on screen. You can access each index of this feature independently, as a ‘play all’ function, or play the movie with the set visits dispersed throughout. This feature is also enhanced for widescreen displays.
Lastly, a very interesting feature is called ”From the Den” – Hellboy Recommends…. It includes four UPA/Columbia theatrical animated shorts from the early fifties that were designed as an artistic expression of animation in almost a revolt-like message to Disney (who were creating cartoons with ultra-realism imagery) that cartoons can be limited animation without a life-like portrayal of people and still be successful. Three of the four shorts are of Gerald McBoing Boing and feature the Academy Award Winning short of the same name in 1951, based on a story by Dr. Seuss. How Now McBoing Boing of 1954 and the Academy Award Nominee Gerald McBoing Boing on the Planet Moo from 1956. The latter is widescreen enhanced at what looks like to be close to a 2.55:1 aspect ratio. It also abandoned the Seuss rhyming-narration of the first three. What’s missing from this list is that second short Gerald McBoing Boing’s Symphony of 1953. Also, Academy Award nominee The Tell-Tale Heart from Edgar Allen Poe (1953), a short also developed by UPA/Columbia (originally in 3-D) is included last. All of these films have been preserved in the United States National Film Registry, and they all appear to be in excellent quality given how good they look on this DVD release. Why these films are on this disc, I’m not exactly sure – maybe I missed it in the film, they could have been playing on a TV in Hellboy’s room for all I know. In any case they are a welcomed addition to this DVD release and I enjoyed them thoroughly.
Still, more is packed onto this disc with the help of your DVD-ROM drive. Included is a printable Original Screenplay, a script supervisor’s notebook, and excerpts from del Toro’s director notebook. All of these features are enough to justify a high special features score already. But wait! There’s more…
Disc two features a video introduction from Selma Blair. She doesn’t seem too excited doing it and it’s very scripted. Thankfully, this introduction does not set the tone for what is on the disc. This disc is far more happening then Selma is, so in this regard, we shall move on.
Proving that a good documentary can be made for the first of two releases (and a lengthy one too), Hellboy: Seeds of Creation sets that high standard. Again, as in the first few features on the other disc, you can access each of these features separately or as a whole. Running these features as whole totals the running time of the documentary to almost two and a half hours. I’m not going to go in depth about each feature here – I’ll save all of that for you to explore yourself. But I will list all of the different features that fall into this documentary. So here we go: Pre-production: From Graphic Novel to Film, Clay Monsters/Comic-Con ’02, Creating Conditions and Atmosphere: The Look and Stunts of Hellboy, Principal Photography: John Hurt, Hellboy’s Pop, Resurrecting the Dead, Reconstructing Liz, Power Over Grace: Wire Stunt Work, Westside Highway: Digital Effects, Machen Library: Practical Effects on Display, “Ron is Hellboy:” Prosthetic Make-Up Effects, Constructing the Mecha-Glove, Screaming Nazi Skull: Digital Effects, Translating Conceptual Art to Film, Abraham Sapien: Prosthetic Make-Up Effects, Piecing Kroenen Together: Prosthetic Effects, The Right Hand of Doom, Sammael – The Desolate One: Creature Effects, Digital Fish Man: Character Animation Part 1, Clothes Make the Boy: Costume Design, Monster Brawl: Subway Platform stunts, Giving the Devil His Due: The Cinematography of Hellboy, Digital Hellhound: Character Animation Part 2, Sketching Out the Bridge Sequence with Del Toro, “Something Big:” Digital Effects, Digital Demon: Character Animation Part 3, Post Production: Sound Design, ADR and Scoring, and lastly, The Theatrical Movie Premiere. Phew…
Given the fact that a director’s cut will be released before year’s end, del Toro has decided to add three scenes into the deleted scenes (16:9, 2.0) section on this disc. Two of these will be included in the next release but will be tightened up, as these presented here are assembly edits. These scenes help flesh out character and story a little more that was slightly compromised with the theatrical release.
Proving the disc can go deeper into hell for more special features, a feature called Kroenen’s Lair – Storyboard to Film Comparisons has four submenus relating to the title. Such storyboard coverage is about animatics, board-a-matics, storyboard comparisons, and scene progression. Each of these submenus have introductions from the director an also have another submenu dealing with particular scenes in the film and showing examples of each.
At last, as this title approaches the end of its special features, we get to view the Theatrical Marketing Campaign that contains theatrical teaser, theatrical trailer, TV Spots, previews, poster explorations, and the final campaign. Filmographies of director, producers and cast are included as well as comical Character Biographies. If you’d like to see the characters of the film as sculpted figures, Spectral Motion’s sculptures can be viewed in the Maquette 3D Character Sculptures Video Gallery. You can click to see them in a variety of angles. Don’t forget to check out the weblink to Hellboy Merchandise too. Is there anything I missed? Yes there is actually, and it will all be included on the next special edition due this fall.
This (quality) special-features packed two-disc special edition is a great release and is definitely worth picking up. For those who have never seen the film before, it is a great action flick that deserves to be seen. Based on some questions I have that are left unanswered about the film, I can’t wait to see the longer cut that is supposed to fill in the very few holes in the story. The theatrical cut is still entertaining nevertheless. The picture and sound quality will exercise your home theater and make you enjoy this little hobby we’ve got ourselves into. Hellboy is fun, so grab a copy and run off with it! Recommended.