UHD / Blu-ray Review: Santa Sangre (1989)

May 15, 2021

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Ol’ Fenix (Axel Jodorowsky, director/co-writer Alejandro Jodorowsky’s son) spends his days siting buck-ass naked in a tree located within an insane asylum noshing only on raw fish. Look, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this may be the longest play for a plate of free sushi I have ever seen cats n’ creeps…
Seems our hero grew up in the circus world under the auspices of his knife-tossin’ daddy, Orgo (Guy Stockwell) and his high-flyin’ mother, Concha (Blanca Guerra)… though to be fair, Orga has been setting his eerie eyeballs on his assistant, the tattooed woman (Thelma Tixou).
Speaking of “eerie”, Concha just so happens to be the head honcho of a religious cult that has a perfectly insane patron saint in the form of the eponymous Santa Sangre; a little girl who was raped and unarmed… literally… by a duo of brothers… and after a series of unfortunate events under the big top, she ends up in the same state after calling Orgo on his adulterous adventures (and dumping acid on his junk). Of course young Fenix (Adan Jodorowsky, another of the director’s sons) bore witness to all of these sad sack shenanigans.
Back in the here and now, Fenix reunites with his mother who then… and get this; utilizes her son’s arms and hands to reek unholy revenge (think Venus De Milo as sculpted by The Boston Strangler) on all who have in some way pissed her off after he climbs out of a window in his cell. Let me tell ya, things go squirrelly after that!
If you are unfamiliar with the work of Jodorowsky, let me just say that it is often surreal and completely fuckin’ batshit, always in equal measure.
While not as off-the-rails of an El Topo or The Holy MountainSanta Sangre nevertheless provides plenty of off-beat flourishes (read: crazy shit like a blood barfing elephant which dies and is latter carried in a giant coffin to cliff, which it is then tossed over to be utilized for food by the local yokels, and a pimp getting a group of Down Syndrome patients high on coke… you know, for the kids) which results in a visual feast loaded with imagery that is as colorful and beautiful as it is bloodthirsty and fever-dream crazed.
Countering that however is a more straightforward narrative structure (provided by Jodorowsky, Roberto Leoni, and Claudio Argento, younger brother of Dario, who’s films he often produced) than you’d get in the aforementioned flicks. This is a nice slice of straight ahead Greek Tragedy, mother issues and all, and that helps get all comfortable by semi-familiarity before you are forced to go all aboard the crazy train to come!
The dichotomies continue on through the film’s cinematography and score, with the painterly beauty of  Daniele Nannuzzi’s cinematography being highlighted and accentuated by the delightfully unconventional score provided by the always inventive Simon Boswell (Phenomena, Demons 2, StageFright, and many, many more).
With all of the rampant symbolism and opium dream imagery floating around  Santa Sangre, you may feel the need for some enlightenment on what all of this hubbub is going on about. Well, you’re in luck hombre, as this UHD/Blu-ray release from Severin will blow your ass away with the amount of fucking bonus material present!
First up we get a commentary track featuring Jodorowsky (slightly reigned in and kept on course by film journalist Alan Jones in the moderator roll), followed by his comments on the film’s restoration. We also get a selection of deleted scenes (with  Jodorowsky commentary as well), and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Then comes disc two… okay, disc two is just disc one, but in Blu-ray format instead of 4K UHD… but fret not, because we have disc three!
Disc three contains an in-depth, feature length documentary detailing everything you could want to know about the film’s production and legacy, and is well worth the price of admission alone! Also included here are a large selection of interviews featuring Claudio Argento (who also produced the film as well), Nannuzzi, executive producer Angelo Jacono, editor Mauro Bonanni, Leoni, and Jodorowski; both in an archival piece from 2003, as well as in conversation with Boswell.
Speaking of Boswell, we also get a music video and a short film from the composer, along with a documentary on the real life inspirations for Santa Sangre, an on stage Q&A sesh with Jodorowsky, and a short film from Adan Jodorowsky with optional commentary.
Disc four features Boswell’s score for the film on CD, and just for shits my putrid pals at sinister Severin have chucked a series of lobby card reproductions into the fray as well!
To put a beastly bow on the whole affair; Santa Sangre is equal parts gorgeous and gruesome, but never anything less than fiercely unique and completely spellbinding. Lovers of psychotronic cinema will devour this one with wild abandon, and with the deluge of bonus content there’s plenty to chew on indeed!


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