Review: Santa Sangre DVD

Santa Sangre DVD box border=STUDIO: Severin/MPI | DIRECTOR: Alejandro Jodorowsky | CAST: Axel  Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra, Guy Stockwell, Adan Jodorowsky
RELEASE DATE: 1/25/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $34.98
BONUSES: commentary, feature-length documentary, featurettes, interviews, more
SPECS: NR | 122 min. | Cult drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 2.0 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Santa Sangre movie scene

It's a circus life for Guy Stockwell and Thelma Tixou in Santa Sangre.

Santa Sangre, the 1989 cult film from Chilean-born surrealist Alejando Jodorowsky, a guy who’s work was a staple of the midnight movie circuit in the Seventies (when there were midnight movies), finally sees its U.S. digital debut in an outstanding edition from Severin Films.

Santa Sangre’s story bizarre and violent: A boy named Fenix (played at different ages by Jodorowsky’s sons Axel and Adan) is committed to a mental hospital after witnessing his circus performer father (Guy Stockwell) cut off the arms of his religious heretic mother (Blanca Guerra), just before killing himself. Years later, the deeply, disturbed, grown boy escapes to rejoin his armless mother and act as her hands and arms as the pair sets out on a grisly path of vengeance, murder, and, for some, redemption.

One of the founders of the early Sixties’ Panic Movement, the international surrealistic collective that also included Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor, Jodorwosky is firing on all cylinders in Santa Sangre, an outrageous but deeply felt work. It’s startling tale, inspired by real-life Mexican serial killer Goyo Cárdenas, is saturated with eye-popping characters (circus clowns, dwarves, transvestites, tattooed contortionists, mute mimes) and startling images (an elephant funeral, limbless nightclub performances, Downs Syndrome patients doing cocaine), all wrapped in a spirituality that is at once earnest and sacrilegious.  Some of it is striking, some silly, but there’s no denying that Jodorosky’s vision is inimitably flamboyant and effective—the genuine article from the tail end of an era where one had to find a funky arthouse to see the really weird stuff.

Jodorowsky himself is  all over Santa Sangre’s outstanding supplemental package, the best that Severin has ever produced and certainly one that rivals those found on Anchor Bay’s Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky box set, which includes most of his best known movies, including El Topo and The Holy Mountain.

He can be seen and heard in several Q&A sessions and interviews conducted over the past decade, as well as the commentary track, which is moderated by journalist Alan Jones.  In these pieces, one senses that Jodorowsky, speaking in English and not his native Chilean tongue, can’t fully articulate his points as he struggles for the right words.

But he’s right-on while speaking in his own native [subtitled] language in the new feature-length documentary Forget Everything You Have Ever Seen: The World of Santa Sangre. Directed by David Gregory, it covers every aspect of the film’s genesis and production as well as Jodorowsky’s strange 40-year career which has yielded only six feature films. An elegant-looking man at 82, the avant-garde artist seen in the documentary is articulate and clever in that classic surrealistic sense. “I can be cruel, I could kill the actors,” he snickers at one point. “It’s  a vicious hatred.”

You’ve got to love it.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.