The Criterion Collection
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Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) made an auspicious, audacious feature debut with CRONOS, a highly unorthodox tale about the seductiveness of the idea of immortality. Kindly antiques dealer Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) happens upon an ancient golden device in the shape of a scarab, and soon finds himself possessor and victim of its sinister, addictive powers, as well as the target of a mysterious, crude American named Angel (a delightfully deranged Ron Perlman [Hellboy]). Featuring marvelous special makeup effects and the unforgettably haunting imagery for which del Toro has become world-renowned, CRONOS is a visually rich and emotionally captivating dark fantasy.
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The film which one numerous awards is quite good with excellent attention paid to details. The supporting cast includes Claudio Brooks as a dying industrialist and Ron Perlman as his henchman nephew Angel.
The film is filled with cinematic in jokes and also contains quite a bit of Mexican and religious symbology. In his first film del Toro tackles many of the subjects that run throughout his later more mature works. While not as powerful as his efforts in Pan's Labyrinth this is a film that is well worth seeing even if it is somewhat expensive and difficult to find.
I viewed the Lions Gate 10th Aniversary Edition which features a director's commentary and a producer's commentary in addition to several making of featurettes and an interview with del Toro. The special features are excellent across the board.
Seek it out you will be glad you did.
Antique dealer Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) is handling an angel statue when he finds an insectile metal object in the bottom. And it bites him, injecting him with a strange fluid. Soon Jesús finds himself addicted to the device, and he finds that it's slowly restoring his youth and strength. And during a party, he also finds that it's giving him a hunger for blood.
Unfortunately, a wealthy but dying businessman is determined to find the device, and he sends out his brutal nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) to find it -- and Angel even kills Jesús when the old man doesn't tell him what he wants to know. Jesús rises again as an undead creature who is still determined to get the device back, but now his young granddaughter is in danger as well.
"Cronos" was the very first movie that Guillermo ever directed, and it's not surprising that it feels a little rough compared to his later work. But expect lots of del Toro trademarks -- mysterious golden items, insects, weird and grotesque vampirism, religious symbolism, and favored actors Luppi and Perlman.
The entire movie is beautifully directed, and del Toro paints every scene with shadows, gold and blood. And rather than going for over-the-top spookery, del Toro mingles vampiric horror (Jesus staring hungrily at his granddaughter) with more visceral psychological horror (Jesús returns to life with his mouth stitched shut). Even the gross-outs are subtle, like when we see that even Jesús' flesh is turning white and larvalike.
Federico Luppi is absolutely brilliant as Jesús -- he starts off as a genial, kindly old man with a love of antiques, but slowly he's eaten away by his lust for blood and addiction to the device. By the end of the movie, you only see a tiny flicker of what he was. Perlman gives a similarly awesome performance as a devious thug, and Claudio Brook is great as the dying businessman.
It took a long time, but this movie is FINALLY coming out in the Criterion catalog -- it will have a restored high-def digital transfer; del Toro's early short film "Geometria"; a tour of de Toro's house; audio commentaries by del Toro and the producers; video interviews with del Toro, Luppi, Navarro and Perlman, a stills gallery; trailer; new English subtitles; and a booklet with not only a Maitland McDonagh essay but del Toro's notes.
"Cronos" is a little more toned-down than Guillermo del Toro's later work, but it's still a powerful, haunting horror movie. An absolute must-see!