Wasn't this just in the theaters? Oh, never mind. I'm glad it's in my house now.
Based on Mike Mignola's cult hit comic book of the same name, Hellboy is the story of a demon summoned by occult-weilding Nazis back in 1944 to end the world. The plot was foiled by Roosevelt's newly-formed Bureau of Paranormal Defense, and the young demon was raised by that department's head, Prof. Broom (John Hurt). In the present day, the Nazis are back, and they want the mature Hellboy (Ron Perlman) to finish the apocalyptic job they started sixty years previous.
Director Guillermo del Toro, previously known for his eerily effective horror movies, had shown himself to have a gifted eye for comic book escapades in the hyperbolic Blade II. Hellboy had been a pet project of his for some time, and the spectacular results bear ample evidence of a labor of love. It's startling how effectively Mignola's characters and graphic style have been translated into three dimensions, made flesh (and latex) by the drive of one googly-eyed Mexican madman. This is marvelous stuff for comic fans, action aficionados, and even Lovecraft buffs, who will find much to love here.
A flawless transfer allows the viewer to truly appreciate the astounding production design (you could count the number of books in Broom's cluttered occult library) and the replication of Mignola's unorthodox color palette. The audio is equally pleasing. There's rather too much video culled from the movie in the interactive menus, making navigation of the plentiful extras somewhat tedious - certainly not the first time I've made that complaint.
First you should know that Disc One starts with a trailer for the upcoming Julianne Moore picture The Forgotten, but it's skippable. There's also a video introduction by del Toro, which is also, unfortunately, quite skippable. Although. If after watching the intro, when the menu returns, if you press "up" on your remote, you'll highlight three bullet holes. Press enter and you'll see a clip of del Toro mocking the cue cards he had to use.
The two audio commentary tracks, however, are quite rewarding. The first, by del Toro and Mignola, demonstrates the easy rapport between the two. And although I've never been a fan of tracks that put a bunch of actors in the same room, this track by Perlman, Selma Blair (Liz the pyrokinetic), Jeffrey Tambor (FBI supervisor Manning) and Rupert Evans (FBI agent and audience surrogate Myers) is an exception. They're a mannered bunch, and full of interesting information about the making of the movie.
It's possible to access sub-features during the running of the movie; activating "DVD Comics" provides an icon of a Hellboy comic book cover onscreen at the appropriate times; clicking on it takes you to a page or two of Mignola-created art and info with some minimal animation. Similarly, "The Right Hand of Doom" provides an icon of Hellboy's stone right hand - clicking on that takes you to video footage shot on the set during that particular sequence. These are also accessable from the "Special Features" menu.
There is a "Storyboard Track" that presents the movie's storyboards in a corner of the screen as the action unfolds. "From the Den" takes you to four Columbia UPA cartoons (apparently Hellboy is a big Gerald McBoing Boing fan). These are Gerald McBoing Boing, Gerald McBoing! Boing! on Planet Moo (in anamorphic Cinemascope!) , How Now Boing Boing, and an intriguing, moody version of Poe's The Telltale Heart, read by James Mason. This last one is sadly in worse shape than the pristine McBoing Boing cartoons, and seems to be missing some information on the sides, but it does serve, along with the Ub Iwerks Skeleton Frolic included in the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra DVD, to make one wonder what else Columbia has languishing in its vaults.
DVD-ROM users can also access a printable version of the original screenplay, the Script Supervisor's notebook, and a few pages of del Toro's Director Notebook, which appropriately enough, looks like the sketchbook of a madman.
One more: Access the first Special Features menu, highlight "Main Menu", then press down. Bullet holes to the left of the crown perched atop "Special Features" will highlight. Press enter to see a collection of humorous quotes from del Toro. And, oh yeah, if you highlight the crown and hit enter, you get the DVD credits.
And that's just Disc One.
Disc Two opens with a video intro by Selma Blair, which is more essential as somebody got a case of the raging cutes in naming the various sections of extras. Like the extended Lord of the Rings movies, the pack-in booklet also has a flowchart of the extras so you don't get lost.
Egg Chamber has the directly movie-related material, starting with three Deleted Scenes, which can be viewed with del Toro commentary; Seeds of Creation, a two and a half hour, very thorough making-of documentary (also broken down into 28 bite-sized pieces); sketchy filmographies for the creative personnel, and character biographies, presented either as the remarkably detailed text bios del Toro gave to the cast, or in comic strip form by Rick Geary.
Kroenen's Lair has all the storyboard material, featuring side-by-side comparisons, board-a-matics (animated storyboards) and animatics (rough computer animation). A few easter eggs lurk in these selections. The cursor will outline those normally invisible bulletholes, and these will net you board-a-matics for the original opening scene, a wireframe view of the apocalypse scene, or an angle-button driven version of the first section, the storyboard/finished film version of the awakening of the Ogdru Jahad, the Lovecraftian banished gods of the story.
The Maquette Video Gallery presents rotating views of the sculptures made for the CGI characters, with selectable close-ups of head details.
Bellamie Hospital houses the advertising campaign, 11 trailers and spots, 68 poster variations, and the (appropriately enough) 13 final print ads.
And surely if you enjoyed Hellboy, you'd also like to see previews for Seinfeld, 13 Going On 30, or White Chicks! Or, more to the demographic, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man the New Animated Series, Stephen King presents Kingdom Hospital, Anacondas, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Kaena and, hey, there's The Forgotten again!
Caveat emptor: Columbia/Tri-Star, this coming October, will be releasing a three-disc version of Hellboy, featuring an extended director's cut and more features, so you might want to hold on to that cash for a while. Your call.
Dr. Freex, 8/12/2004