Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Guy Stockwell, Blanca Guerra, Axel Jodorowsky
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Distributed by Severin Films
Alejandro Jodorowsky doesn’t make films for the layman, even if Santa Sangre happens to feature a sounder narrative structure than any other film in the director’s career. It’s been described as the world’s only arthouse slasher movie, and while it does feature scenes where our mentally unbalanced protagonist butchers any woman that happens to tickle his fancy, the pull of the film is something far more significant.
One of the most amazing things about holding Severin’s spectacular release in my hands is remembering the bizarre road I traveled to see this sucker for the first time. None of my local video stores were stocking this one when it hit VHS back in 1990 so it wasn’t until the early Internet age when I was able to track down a bootleg copy and indulge in the truly bizarre depths that Jodorowsky explores. There was a beautiful DVD release overseas a few years back (courtesy of Anchor Bay U.K.), but Severin’s fully loaded package brings this classic Stateside for the first time in twenty years.
First and foremost, Jodorowsky’s color palette is kaleidoscopic in such a way that virtually every frame is an assault on the senses. In the DVD edition colors pop with such veracity it places the viewer alongside the film’s wicked amalgamation of society’s “haves” and “have nots”. Upscaling this sucker to near 1080p resolution, I was also struck by how much detail was contained in the image. Backgrounds offer fairly rich textures, and even facial features reveal a breadth of detail. This is a gorgeous presentation of Santa Sangre, and if you haven’t taken the Blu-ray dive yet, rest assured, this is a technically sound DVD in every regard.
As for the image quality of the Blu-ray, something has gone a bit awry. Don’t get me wrong; it definitely looks great at the very least, but the image is at times dull with a sort of haze over it. As if the black levels and the contrast were raised just a bit too high. Still, it’s nothing too distracting, and the print of the film is so clean you probably won’t even notice.
The sound wasn’t pumped up in one of those overly verbose 5.1 mixes. When you’re dealing with genre filmmaking, such tracks aren’t always warranted and that’s the case here. The 2.0 mix seems to be a fair representation of original elements: dialogue is clean and always at the forefront while music/sound packs a punch without ever overpowering. For Spanish-audio, you’re stuck with a mono track that doesn’t appear to be any less clear than its English counterpart (although I only sampled it). The technical aspects of this release are exemplary and, in what appears to be the waning days of standard definition media, serve as a welcome reminder that DVD can walk the walk when properly utilized.
Santa Sangre’s technical prowess aside, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what makes this release so special. Wading through nearly six hours of bonus features, I was unable to find a lame duck in the bunch. In fact, aspects of this supplementary material only helped in enriching my appreciation of a film that I’d already grown quite fond of in the last fourteen or so years.
We can begin with an audio commentary by Jodorowsky and Alan Jones. It’s a thoughtful discussion that covers the duration of the film in a more definitive light than I would’ve liked. Not because it isn’t an excellent discussion, but because it’s a bit of a shame to hear Jodorowksy offer up answers to some of the film’s more ambiguous aspects. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad David Lynch will never spill the beans on the secrets of Mulholland Drive (or anything else, for that matter). There’s still a lot of mystique behind this particular film, but after this commentary there’s a little bit less. It’d still give it a recommended listen for anyone looking to glean a bit more from the proceedings, but do so with caution.
Next up is the all-new documentary Forget Everything You Have Ever Seen: The World of Santa Sangre. A 96-minute, seven-part look at the creation of this horror epic, it spans everything from the genesis of the film all the way through its creation before concluding with a satisfying look back. Throughout this piece virtually no stone is unturned, and the sheer amount of participants is simply staggering. A vast majority of the cast is on hand, along with Jodorowsky, composer Simon Boswell and even the film’s publicist(!). This is the type of documentary that should be commonplace on any milestone release, and I’d love to see more studios take note of the beautiful work that Severin did in putting this one together. It’s paced well and works as a perfect companion piece to the film – so much so that I can’t imagine not wanting to watch this as soon as the film is over.
Beyond that we have For One Week Only – Alejando Jodorowsky. It’s an archival documentary produced for British television running just north of thirty minutes and features interviews with the director, Dennis Hopper and New York critic Jim Hoberman. It’s a lot of fun to see some of the opinions of Jodorowsky that are thrown around here – even if this focuses too much on Santa Sangre and serves as a bit of a redundancy coming off the excellent 90+-minute documentary.
Much more to my linking was Goyo Cardenas – Spree Killer, a twenty-minute look at the real life inspiration behind the film. It’s one feature I would’ve enjoyed even more had it run longer. The facts behind the case are pretty chilling, and the still photographs displayed throughout will definitely stay with you. It was a good call on Severin’s part to include something like this as it complements sections of the feature-length documentary quite nicely.
Next up is a delightful Q & A with Jodorowksy from a London revival screening of the film in 2002. Considering the level of artistry in his films, it’s surprising to see such a good-natured man behind the scenes. This looked like a fun time, and it’s nice to see it included here. It segues nicely into a thirty-minute interview from 2003. Here the director recants a lot of information we’re already privy to (if you’ve been wading your way through these extras in the order I did) while talking about frustrations of working in Hollywood (something I can never tire of). Sadly, I wanted to hear (in great detail) every word about his ‘could’ve been’ adaptation of Dune in the 1970s. One day …
Winding down, we’ve got a handful of featurettes left. Jodorowsky is interviewed by composer Simon Boswell, and their chemistry is a lot of fun. A handful of deleted scenes can be viewed with optional Jodorowsky and Alan Jones commentary. “Echeck” is a short film from the director’s son. It runs less than four minutes and is one of two things on this disc I could’ve done without (pretentious nonsense), the second being a two-minute clip of Jodorowsky blinking his eyes over Simon Boswell’s music. Yep. There’s also a music video called
“Close Your Eyes”, which is a Santa Sangre clip set to Boswell’s score. Rounding out this collection are some film trailers and, finally, a group of Severin trailers.
We’re early in 2011, sure, but Severin’s two-disc set is going to be in the top five at the end of the year. No question. They’ve gone the extra mile in presenting one of the best genre films of the 1990s. It’s true that the film isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but Jodorowsky’s psychological horror story isn’t easily forgotten. Even if you’re a disbeliever. With superb A/V presentations and a trove of supplements, it’s a release that belongs in every cult aficionado’s film collection.
4 1/2 out of 5
5 out of 5
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