El Topo & The Holy Mountain boxed set

Discussion in 'Reader Reviews' started by Rainbowthief, Nov 28, 2004.

  1. Rainbowthief

    Rainbowthief Guest

    I usually don't write DVD reviews since there are plenty of forum members who write them a lot better than I can, but since I didn't see any reviews for this set and I'm a huge Jodorowsky fan, I figured I'd do it myself. Hope this doesn't suck too badly.

    The set is a Region 2 PAL edition from Raro Video, an Italian label.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    By now I suppose most people who know who Jodorowsky is are familiar with the plots of El Topo and The Holy Mountain, but in case some of you aren't, I'll give a brief rundown of both stories. El Topo, which appears to be heavily influenced by Buddhist literature (the plot is very similar to Kan Kikuchi's novel Beyond the Pale of Vengeance), is about a gunslinger who travels through the desert with a young boy (who may be his son, or just a protege) until a woman he rescues from a band of brigands convinces him to leave the boy behind and take her as his companion. She then talks him into finding and killing the four master gunfighters of the desert. Despite his considerable prowess with a gun, El Topo must resort to cheating to kill the first three. By the time he finds the fourth, his actions begin to weigh on his conscience, but the final master ends up taking his own life. The woman (with her lesbian lover) betrays him, shooting El Topo and leaving him to die in the desert. He awakens decades later deep in the heart of a mountain populated entirely by dwarfs and people deformed by "years of incest." To repay the mountain people for saving his life, El Topo pledges to dig a tunnel connecting the mountain to the town below to free them.

    The DVD for El Topo actually has a pretty good transfer. The colors look better than on any bootlegs I've seen from Japanese laserdiscs or the VHS import I bought in Puerto Rico 13 years ago and the amount of grain is acceptable for a low budget movie filmed in the early seventies. The movie is presented in 1.33:1 full screen, which is the aspect ratio I've always seen El Topo in (IMDB lists the OAR as 1.85:1, but I've yet to see the film in that ratio anywhere and when I saw it in a theater, I didn't notice any extra screen space). The two best things about this release are the Dolby 2.0 Spanish audio track with English subtitles, which compliments the film much more than the English dubbed edition that was released theatrically in the U.S., and the lack of digital fogging over genitalia in nude scenes, something present in every Japanese edition. The subtitles are accurate for the most part and the few mistakes are minor (when El Topo finishes digging the tunnel in the cave, he tells the dwarf woman not to tell the others because "They're not ready," but the subs read "I'm not ready"), so they shouldn't cause any confusion to viewers. The sound of the actors' real voices adds a lot to the movie, which seems darker and more serious without the cheesy dubbing. Some of the copies I've seen in the past had a truncated version of the opening credits, but they are intact in this edition, which is nice. The biggest problem I could see is that the image is a bit shakey. I don't know if I just got used to it or it was an intermittent problem, but there were portions of the movie where it looked fine and then I'd notice again that the movie seemed like it was shot with a hand held camera. I noticed this more the closer I was to the screen. On my television, I didn't see it, but when I watched it on my computer, I did.

    Overall, this is the best I've ever seen El Topo, and for people who've only seen it on Japanese sources, watching the movie fully uncut and with the original audio track will be a real treat.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The Holy Mountain is a religious allegory open to numerous interpretations, but the simplest synopsis I can give is that it's about a group of thieves who are recruited by a mystical guru, played by Jodorowsky, to climb a holy mountain and steal the secret of immortality. It's possibly the most surreal and inaccessible of Jodorowsky's films, but a favorite among his fans for containing some of the most shocking and beautiful images of any of his works. The first fifteen minutes or so have no dialogue, but the eye candy more than makes up for it. Highlights include a reenactment of the Spanish conquest of Mexico staged with frogs and chameleons, a parade of flayed lambs, an old man removing his glass eye and presenting it to a young prostitute as a gift and a flock of birds flying out of a chest wound on a boy gunned down by soldiers. You really can't have this movie "sold" to you, either you love it or you hate it--just don't worry too much about whether you "get it" or not.

    There's no point in beating around the bush, The Holy Mountain looks terrible. I've read online that this set is an unauthorized edition and as much as the quality of El Topo makes that hard to believe, the shoddy transfer of The Holy Mountain makes one wonder where they got their print from. The colors are washed out, the image looks distorted and the transfer looks a lot more like a bad VCD than a DVD. Also, the bigger you see it, the worst it looks, so viewers with big screen televisions will be horrified. As if that weren't bad enough, the movie, despite its widescreen presentation, appears to be framed incorrectly because the image looks like it's squeezed together (like when watching PAL DVDs on a player that doesn't transfer to NTSC correctly, but not as severe). The one saving grace of this edition is that, like El Topo, the film is presented completely uncut and uncensored. Because there is much more full frontal nudity in The Holy Mountain than in El Topo, this was a very important improvement over the Japanese versions. For most people (including me), this was the first time the castration scene could be viewed without digital censoring. The Holy Mountain is presented in English only, but that's because that was the language it was filmed in.

    Extras for both include interviews with Italian film critic Massimo Monteleone and a booklet in Italian and English with essays on the film, which is decent, but doesn't add any real value to the package. The average price online in U.S. dollars is around $55.00-$60.00, which is a bit steep considering how light the set is on extras, how cheap the DVD packaging is and how lousy The Holy Mountain looks, but for die hard Jodorowsky fans, it will be hard to pass on the only chance we've ever had to view these two early masterpieces uncut and uncensored.
     
  2. gorelover

    gorelover Guest

    Thanks for this excellent review, I've had these two movies on my wish list for years. If the transfer quality of 'The Holy Mountain' would be better I'd probably buy this edition but I guess I'll just have to wait for another one... ;)

    -gl
     
  3. wizzer

    wizzer get outta here ewe

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2003
    Messages:
    3,302
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Tucson, Arizona
    thanks for taking the time to do these nice reviews.

    however, i found the subtitles on el topo to be so far off (raro video) that i couldn't watch the movie. i understand a bit of spanish and i know enough to see that the subs were worse than terrible as far as being an acurate translation goes. i had to stop the movie. he was saying so much more than the subs were telling.

    but, i like your writting style and these reviews were nice and easy to get through.:) so while i couldn't make it through el topo the first time, i may try and re-visit thanks to this:)
     
  4. theskank

    theskank Guest

    I own these discs and the thing that doesn't have me watching El Topo every other night like I used to do my old VHS is the missing Enlish dub. It's a very good one and since the film is so visual reading subtitles takes away soooo much from the movie. GIMMIE THE DAMN DUB!
     
  5. dwatts

    dwatts Active Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2002
    Messages:
    16,580
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    Crashed
    Thanks for the review. Don't worry about how others write, I think your review was great.

    Sadly, I can't say the same for the movies, it looks like. I only have the R2 Santa Sangre, and frankly, seeing these highly stylized films in a poor transfer just isn't going to work for me at all. I think it would rob the films of most of their magic.

    So thanks for the advice (I project my films, so knowing they look terrible large is very important for me).

    It beggars belief that Criterion have never picked any of these titles up, to be honest. Hopefully someone, somewhere, will do the right thing and give these films the love, care, and attantion they so obviously deserve.
     
  6. John Gargo

    John Gargo Guest

    It's an outrage that these films haven't gotten a release here in the states, tied up in a silly meaningless legal battle. I've got both of these films on DVD-R, and while the quality on my HOLY MOUNTAIN isn't very good, it will do until the film's get a proper release. I need my Jodorowksy fix too often to hold out on these. :)
     
  7. Rainbowthief

    Rainbowthief Guest

    Wow, thanks for all the kind words.

    wizzer, Spanish is actually my first language, but maybe I went easy on the subs because I'm so used to inaccurate subs on foreign language movies (the Coffin Joe movies have subs that at times are way off what the actors are saying) that I've lowered my standards. I'd be very happy if indeed my review does prompt you to give the disc another spin, though. :)

    dwatts, I don't want to imagine how awful this Holy Mountain would look projected! As for Criterion, I've emailed them a few times a year for the past few years begging them to release Jodorowsky's movies on DVD (never received anything more than an automated reply, of course), but if you guys join the campaign, maybe they'll be forced to listen!

    Thanks again to all of you for your feedback.
     
  8. Damage

    Damage Mirror Mirror

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2004
    Messages:
    2,579
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Location:
    Take off to the Great White North, eh?
    Great reviews, Rainbowthief. I had never heard of these titles until now, but my interest is definitely piqued.
     
  9. Terrific on both reviews , i have never watched one of these movies before but i am very interested now .
     
  10. KR~!

    KR~! The Apocalyptic Kid

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2001
    Messages:
    5,466
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    In Hel's Womb
    I thought that the US rights were finally cleared up and that they will get proper releases here finally.
     
  11. ReelFear

    ReelFear New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2004
    Messages:
    879
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    USA
    Thanks for the reviews. I own this 2-disc set, but haven't gotten around to watching them. I own the Japanese laserdiscs of both titles too) I'm VERY happy to know that THE HOLY MOUNTAIN is presented uncensored, and will definitely be watching it soon. I also agree that while I always prefer to watch movies in the original language, I would have liked an optional English dub track on EL TOPO, which I have always found agreeable. So for now we all shall wait for the definitive versions on DVD . I have no doubt they will be released.
     
  12. Andrew

    Andrew Guest

    That's the last thing I heard as well. It would be great to hear that Allen Klein finally removed the stick from his ass. I'd love to see THE HOLY MOUNTAIN remastered; I wasn't as impressed by EL TOPO, but if it's priced reasonably or has some decent extras I'd snag it.
     

Share This Page