Santa Sangre (Ltd Edition 4 Disc Box Set - Santa Sangre [Severin - 2021]
Over the last few years, Severin have cemented their position as one of my favourite producers of fine quality DVD and Bluray releases. So you can imagine my excitement when they announced this new 4k release of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s masterpiece, Santa Sangre. Not only do we get one of the most visually beautiful movies ever created on a new 4k UHD disc, but we get the standard Blu ray version, as well as a third disc that is absolutely crammed with bonus materials, and to top it all off we get the movie’s original soundtrack on a fourth disc. The whole thing is beautifully packaged in a rather fabulous and eye-catching digipak with a selection of postcards depicting images from the movie. Overall, this is a pretty wonderful set from an aesthetic point of view, but let’s get to the meat of the production, the content of these discs.
Santa Sangre is one of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s finest movies, alongside the extraordinary El Topo and the utterly remarkable Holy Mountain it is an absolute masterclass in surrealism. It tells the story of a young man named Fenix, perfectly played by Jodorowsky’s son, Axel. The movie begins with Fenix interred in an asylum, he sits naked, perched atop a tree in his cell and comes down when the nurses bring him fish to eat. We know this is Fenix from the tattoo emblazoned across his chest of the mythical bird of the same name (slightly different spelling of course). In a flashback to his childhood we see Fenix and his parents working in a circus, his Father Orgo (Guy Stockwell, The War Lord and Beau Geste) performs a knife-throwing act and his mother Concha (Blanca Guerra, The Realm of Fortune and Clear and Present Danger) is a trapeze artist, and the leader of a religious cult. The patron saint of the cult is a young girl who was raped and had both arms cut off by her assailants. Concha discovers that the owner of the land on which her cult’s temple is built is about to demolish the temple and so leads the rest of the cult in an attempt to stop the demolition. The demolition is begun with the cult members still inside, Fenix, who has followed his mother enters the temple and leads her to safety and back to the circus. Upon arriving back at the circus, Concha discovers that Orgo is having an affair with the tattooed lady (Thelma Tixou, Salomé), however Orgo puts her in a trance and rapes her, however it is not long before she catches him cheating again and pours acid over his genitals. As an act of revenge, Orgo cuts off both of Concha’s arms and then slits his own throat. Fenix see’s this take place from his locked caravan, followed by the tattooed lady and her daughter, Alma (Sabrina Dennison, whose only other screen appearance was in a short called Insomniac), who Fenix is in love with, fleeing the scene.
This takes us back to the modern-day, and after Fenix escapes during a cinema trip from the asylum, he manages to hook up again with his mother, the pair striking up an act where Fenix is his mother’s arms. This becomes quite literal when Fenix begins to commit murder on his mother’s behalf. He eventually meets up again with Alma, who has had a rough time herself, being prostituted out by her mother, who meets a grisly end that allows the two to run away together. The rest of the films follows Fenix and Alma as they battle to free themselves of their past and start a new life together.
As well as the narrative story, there are a lot of moments throughout the film that ask questions of the viewer. As with all of Jodorowsky’s movies, Santa Sangre is a genuine work of art, that you could spend hours in discussion about, religion, spirituality, relationships, psychology, they all come under scrutiny during the two-plus hours of this genre-defying masterpiece. If only he’d been able to fully realise his vision for Dune?
Anyway, the new 4k restoration is stunning and the film whilst never looking anything less than good, now looks astonishing. The images are clear and crisp, and the colours are vivid without any bleed. The first disc as well as featuring the movie, contains an audio commentary with Jodorowsky himself and Alan Jones as well as a documentary about the movie’s restoration. Disc two repeats the formula only in standard Bluray format, whereas disc three features a host of interviews and documentaries all topped off with the feature-length documentary, Forget Everything You Have Ever Seen, which delves deep into the film’s meaning, as well as looking at its production. This is clearly disc three’s crowning achievement and one of the finest movie docs I have ever seen. The final disc presents Simon Boswell’s beautiful score in its entirety, Boswell had prior to Santa Sangre worked on the Demons movies for Lamberto Bava, Hardware for Richard Stanley and Phenomena for Dario Argento among his credits. Santa Sangre is perfectly scored, every note seems to fit beautifully and it also works as a stand-alone listen.
Overall, this is an outstanding set that gives one of the most beautiful, violent, intelligent movies of all time the platform it deserves. As definitive releases go, this one will take some beating. Darren Charles