Santa Sangre is a beast of a film. If El Topo gave Jodorowsky a name as a filmmaker and The Holy Mountain gave credence to that name, then Santa Sangre stands above the two and waves a flag that subtly states “Look what I can do, motherfucker”. In other words, this Jodorowsky’s masterpiece. This is the psycadelic mindfuck that Lynch and Bunuel would have bludgeoned their offspring to have created; it is the giallo film that Argento and Bava never had the balls – or imagination – to envision; and, most of all, it is unlike anything you have ever seen before.
Sadly, many people have never heard of Santa Sangre, let alone have actually seen it. It is nowhere near as notorious as El Topo or The Holy Mountain, which is a shame as it is vastly superior – in this writer’s opinion, anyway – to both of those films. Luckily for us, that is about to change.
Santa Sangre, like The Holy Mountain before it, was never given a legitimate U.S. release. Instead, it was booked in theaters that had a tendency to show El Topo and it played for a very select, albeit devoted, audience. What makes this hard to understand is how positive its initial critical reception was. It garnered a glowing review from Roger Ebert – which Severin quotes on the cover of their very new DVD and Blu-ray of the film – and it was featured in the Un Certain Regard section of the 1989 Cannes Film Festival. This was no mere genre effort, it was a critically acclaimed – and perhaps prestigious – film that happened to fall into obscurity.
Santa Sangre has a rather patchy home video history as well. There was a VHS released in the US in 1990 through Expanded Entertainment but it was extremely difficult to find and copies – at least in the late 90s when I was seeking it out – were obscenely expensive to purchase. In 2004, Anchor Bay issued a DVD of the film in the UK which made it easily available to English speaking viewers but the release soon went out of print and, as such, was difficult or far too expensive for most to obtain. There were other DVD releases in the world, most notably Germany and Japan, both of which were uncut though the latter features optical censorship for full frontal nudity.
And this brings us to now, 2011. The great folks over at Severin – who put out an incredible release for Richard Stanley’s Hardware a little while back – are giving the film the respect it deserves. Earlier this week they put out a new DVD and Blu-ray of the film, featuring an all new restored transfer, a feature length documentary and a commentary track with Jodorowsky himself, amongst other material. It’s is a veritable treasure trove of awesome sauce for Jodorowsky fans and for new comers alike.