THE OTHER SANTA

It’s no fun being a Dario Argento or Alejandro Jodorowsky fan. Take Dario as an example—when the Italian film industry was in full swing and when Fox stumped up some cash, he produced stunning visuals. You don’t watch an Argento film for the acting or plot. Without the financial support you get budget dreck like ‘Mother of Tears’ and ‘Giallo.’ Watching ‘Inferno’ in Blu-ray drove that point home.

While the Argento fan has to traverse various cuts and versions of their favourite films for full satisfaction, they’re spoon-fed compared to Jodorowsky’s disciples. Another master stylist, Alejandro’s films—past and future—have been mired in nonsense. This is a filmmaker who offers tantalising visions but then lets the fans down (rarely intentionally) with the regularity of a deadbeat dad. The argument with Allen Klein (over a proposed remake of ‘The Story of O’) left ‘El Topo’ and ‘The Holy Mountain’ in bootleg purgatory until their official release in 2007.

While ‘El Topo’ remains readily available, the Tartan edition of ‘The Holy Mountain’ has been deleted, fetching unholy prices on eBay and Amazon, as is the box set from the same year. Then the cheap but excellent Anchor Bay DVD of 1989’s ‘Santa Sangre’ was pulled around a year later. We fans weren’t mad though, because while ‘The Sons of El Topo’ never got beyond pitch and pre-production stage in 1996, he had a gangster film called ‘King Shot,’ co-produced by David Lynch set for a 2010 release…until Jodorowsky revealed that it was shitcanned due to funding issues in late 2009. Like I said, it’s no fun being a Jodorowsky fan, yet we all know that despite the infrequency of his films—often down to his lack of compromise—there’s a potential classic locked in sketchpads and notebooks.

I’ve never been a fan of 1990’s ‘the Rainbow Thief,’ but it’s still more interesting than many subsequent films and Tarsem’s ‘The Fall’ may have been Jodorowsky-lite, but had it been more commercially successful, it could have jump-started new Jodorowsky projects. The great man’s actually a prolific Twitterer (albeit in Spanish) and he’s claiming that ‘CainAbel’ —a film using elements of the ‘Sons of El Topo’ screenplay—is going to happen. I’ll believe it when I see a trailer.

I’m all about this forced tattoo design, with shades of Dipset from ‘Santa Sangre’

Something more set in stone is that ‘Santa Sangre’ comes to DVD again and debuts on Blu-ray this month. Just in case you’ve never seen it, this is the best Jodorowsky film. Accept no arguments to the contrary. The screenplay by Alejandro, Roberto Leoni and Dario’s brother Claudio Argento adds some meat to the gristle and screeching bloodshed of the film. It’s visually flawless, innovative and utterly unsettling. I was captivated by a 1990 review in the long-defunct ‘Fear’ magazine which dwelled on the style and violence throughout, and it’s a frequently imitated work that’s willfully peculiar yet still retains a linear narrative to complement the set pieces forcefully tattooed on my psyche.

On Blu-ray it should be the definitive presentation of the film, and the promise of a 1990 British documentary on the director, a brand-new 90 minute documentary on the film’s production and a feature on Cárdenas Hernández—a serial killer and big influence on the film, after Alejandro apparently bumped into him back in the day—is tantalising.

There’s plenty of unofficial and official releases from over the year and given the film’s hard-to-classify content, I’ve lost a few to lending, solely because a verbalised synposis might put me into an asylum, so this release is a New Year’s blessing…over the years its been interesting to see how distributors (both legal and illegal) depicted the mania within on disc and tape artwork. The latest gives the bare minimum away—taking  it back to the original US VHS cover, but other examples have dwelled on the lunacy. Track this film down.