"The Devil's Backbone"

Junio Valverde as Santi in "The Devil's Backbone." (Photo Courtesy of the Criterion / August 15, 2013)

For his entire career, Mexican writer/director Guillermo del Toro — currently in theaters with a modest little film named "Pacific Rim" — has moved back and forth between commercial Hollywood productions ("Hellboy", "Blade 2") and more personal Spanish-language films ("Cronos," "Pan's Labyrinth"). "The Devil's Backbone" (2001), the middle film in the latter group, has just been issued on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion.

"The Devil's Backbone" is not so much a horror film as a remarkable mutation of the genre. It's easy to find elements — like visual style — common throughout Del Toro's work, but his "foreign" films, all from his own screenplays, have an additional quality; they juxtapose the fantastic and the realistic in a way that is identifiably his own. (It must be added that "The Devil's Backbone" shares so many story elements with "Pan's Labyrinth" that it sometimes feels like a dry run for that subsequent masterpiece.)

Del Toro's visuals are mostly gorgeous, and the new Blu-ray presents them perfectly. The disc keeps all (or close to all) of the supplements from earlier DVD editions, as well as Del Toro's commentary track. It adds about 45 minutes of new stuff, much of it featuring the director.

"The Devil's Backbone" (Criterion, Blu-ray, $39.95; DVD, two discs, $29.95)

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ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).