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Gordon S. Miller Written by Gordon S. Miller
Dec. 12, 2010
DVD of the Week





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CRONOS - The Criterion Collection

Cronos opens with a prologue, available in either English from its U.S. theatrical run or the original Spanish, revealing in 1536 alchemist Uberto Fulcanelli toiled away in Mexico striving for immortality.  He finally created a scarab-shaped device that allowed him to continue living for 400 more years. 

The device had been hidden in a statue that comes into the possession of antique dealer Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi).  Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook), a sick, wealthy older man, knows all about the device and has been searching for it.  When he learns Gris has found it, he sends his nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) to fetch it.  Gris sells the statue but keeps the device. 

While examining it, he unknowingly activates the device, causing it to grasp onto his hand and inject a metal stinger into his palm.  Like an addict, Gris is compelled to have the device sting him again.  The next morning he feels invigorated, with an air of youthfulness.  He also finds his shop ransacked.  Gris meets with Dieter and learns what lies inside the device, but not until its too late does he discover the costs for using it.  Dieter is willing to make the sacrifice if he can get it from Gris.

Del Toro and his team have created a visually engaging horror film and Gris’ journey is as thought provoking as it is chill inducing.  There is also a religious subtext that plays throughout.  For example, Gris’ hand receives a puncture wound resembling Christ’s, and the allusion continues throughout the story.  Cronos is a marvelous calling card that announced an intelligent, artistic filmmaker was now on the scene and the world of cinema became all the better for it

The Blu-ray has a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.  The picture looks good throughout with colors well rendered.  Reds, such as the blood in the bathroom scene is particularly notable for popping out.  Blacks are strong while allowing for good shadow delineation.  In the liner notes, it is stated they DNR was used “for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction” but grain remains and even increased due to low light during the night grain increases during the fight scene on the roof.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 contains both Spanish and English.  Dialogue is clear for the most part, but gets lost during the opening credits due to music being too loud. 

There are two commentary tracks recorded in 2002.  Del Toro is alone for one and the other is comprised of the film’s producers Arthur H. Gorson and Bertga Navarro and its coproducer Alejandro Springall on an English/Spanish track with English captions.  They all still have a great enthusiasm for the project.  Based on a short story by Fredric Brown and influenced by Italian director Mario Bava, “Geometria” (6 min) is an amusing horror short by del Toro, who discusses it in a 2010 video interview (7 min). 

“Welcome to Bleak House” (HD, 10 min) finds del Toro giving a tour of where his collection of toys, books, and props is housed.  Sure to make his fans and those with similar interests drool.  Interviews with del Toro (HD, 18 min), Perlman (HD, 7 min), Luppi (HD, 5 min) and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (HD, 13 min) find the four talking about the film and working on it.  There is also a Stills Gallery and a Trailer.

Even though it’s a low budget film, Guillermo del Toro’s debut feature Cronos reveals a talented director with a vivid imagination who provides a fresh take on a certain horror genre.  The Criterion Collection has released a splendid Blu-ray to showcase it.


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