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April 24, 2011

Movie Review: The Holy Mountain (1973, Blu-ray, Anchor Bay)

Alejandro Jodorowsky's films have seen a very good life on numerous DVD releases. The most notable to date being Anchor Bay's The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky Box set. This included digitally remastered editions of El Topo Fando Y Lis, The Holy Mountain and a host of additional goodies. If you have that, hold onto it (just for the pretty box alone) but I also encourage you to grab a Blu-ray player because now you can see Holy Mountain in all its 1080p glory, courtesy of Anchor Bay and the folks at Abkco Films.

Buy The Holy Mountain on DVD or Blu-ray

Holy Mountain starts off with some of the most intense imagery ever to be put to celluloid - and rarely lets up with its bombardment jaw-dropping set-pieces. We open to a shot of a man called the "Thief"(Horacio Salinas) lying in the dirt, face covered with flies and pissing himself. His face is soon cleaned of the flies by an arm-less and leg-less peasant who reveals this filth covered man as almost a Jesus Christ doppelganger. Did Jodorowsky do this purposely? You bet! The next scene shows the gentlemen enjoying a joint. You know right then after seeing the these fellows partake in the "herbal essence" that this movie is not going to play it safe.

Essentially divided into two parts, with a heavy emphasis on the wonders of the Tarot, religion, war and sexuality, Holy Mountain gives a big indication of where the creator (Jodorowsky) stands on some of those biting subjects. Jodorowsky even infuses his presence into the feature by playing a titular character known as "The Alchemist". From my viewing it seems Jodorowsky has as much disdain towards religion (specifically Christianity) as he does respect it. This equates to a truly powerful experience.

The amount of scenes involving crosses and Jesus statues in surprisingly blasphemous positions are nothing like anything I've ever seen in a film. On the other side of the coin, within the grotesqueries of the exploding toads, one-eyed pedophiles, deformed city-goers he manages to make the feature absolutely breathtaking in scope. One scene in particular that always seems to fascinate me even after previous viewings is one of a group a people being shot to death. From their wounds we don't see blood, but birds, rising from each gaping hole. Other similar scenes are scattered throughout the film. What this means, I have no idea. I just continue to search for different metaphors hidden with the "Mountain".

The basic premise (if you get it upon first viewing, or tenth) is one of enlightenment and getting to that next level of spirituality. Whatever that next level maybe, be it Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Satanism - it doesn't really matter in the world of Jodorowsky.

If you have the box set released a few years back by Anchor Bay you'll be happy to know that the extras have been ported over. These are some of the best extra features I've had the pleasure to enjoy. There are some deleted scenes that include English subtitles (or without). These are a treat if you’re a fan of the film, even if all aren't winners. There's a little more footage of the pilgrimage that makes up the bulk of the last third of the film and even some bonus footage a monkey in a restaurant. We also get to see a restoration that shows the massive improvement on the film's original elements after the telecine. Some major work was put in terms of the quality of the color correction and digital cleanup. Also included is a one of Jodorowsky's short films that's titled Tarot.

The big extra is the commentary by director Alejandro Jodorowsky. Jodorowsky simply does not stop talking. The joy of it is though; it isn't the rambling nonsense that unfortunately litters so many DVDs with a "solo" commentary. Jodorowsky is a party by himself and manages to come off incredibly intelligent without a whiff of pretentiousness. The guy's hilarious too! A story that had me in awe was of how George Harrison was originally going to be the "Thief" character. Harrison loved the story...except for one scene that Jodorowsky refused to omit. There's a scene of the uber grubby Thief having his anus wiped in a bath - all in close-up. Let's just say this "Beatle" didn't want anyone touching his dung. Ohh, what could have been.

I didn't think it was possible for Anchor Bay improve the audio and video that much more on this Blu-ray edition. Amazingly, they do. The colors in several scenes appear richer in texture (most noticeably in the interior of The Alchemist’s tower) and the audio seems better with the English dub. No digital noise reduction anomalies to speak of here. The music sounds good as well. Right when you pop in the disc and hear the twang of the soundtrack on the menu screen and it gives you an early indication of the noticeable care put into the production of the Blu-ray.

Holy Mountain gets a first-rate release in all areas by the folks at Anchor Bay. If you're of a fan of Jodorowsky or similar sublime cult oddities this is a must for your collection!

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