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A young man is confined in a mental hospital. Through a flashback we see that he was traumatized as a child, when he and his family were circus performers: he saw his father cut off the arms of his mother, a religious fanatic and leader of the heretical church of Santa Sangre ("Holy Blood"), and then commit suicide. Back in the present, he escapes and rejoins his surviving and armless mother. Against his will, he "becomes her arms" and the two undertake a grisly campaign of murder and revenge.
For more about Santa Sangre and the Santa Sangre Blu-ray release, see Santa Sangre Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 8, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra, Sabrina Dennison, Adan Jodorowsky, Guy Stockwell, Faviola Tapia
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
» See full cast & crew
Santa Sangre Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 8, 2012
Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky's "Santa Sangre" (1989) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Mr. Bongo Films. The supplemental features on the disc include a trailer for the film; audio commentary with Alejandro Jodorowsky and film journalist Alan Jones; deleted scenes with commentary; documentary film by French writer and director Louis Mouchet; video interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky; documentary film produced by Wild Side Films; and more. In English, without optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Santa Sangre truly is a bizarre film. It begins in a sanatorium of some sort where a doctor and his assistants attempt to convince an unshaved man (Axel Jodorowsky) to come down from a tree and have something to eat. The man looks at them but his mind is obviously somewhere else. A series of flashbacks then reveal who he is and why he was locked in the sanatorium.
The first flashback is about Santa Sangre, a sacred temple, and its leader Concha (Blanca Guerra, Motel, Mojado Power) who has called a large group of worshipers to defend it because the local authorities are planning to destroy it. Out of nowhere an emissary of the Catholic Church arrives in an expensive limousine and requests to see Santa Sagre. Concha gives him a tour of the place but the emissary is so disturbed by what he sees inside that he runs out screaming and urging the men in the bulldozers in front of it to run it into the ground.
In another flashback, Orgo (Guy Stockwell, Sword of Zorro, Beau Geste), Concha's husband, is seen spending time with a busty tattooed woman (Thelma Tixou). They both work for the same circus troupe. Concha observes them from afar, fuming and swearing. Her young son, Fenix (Adan Jodorowsky) observes her, trying to understand why his mother becomes a different person each time she sees Orgo next to another woman. When Fenix approaches Orgo, the old man ties him on a chair and carves a giant tattoo on his chest. Later on, Concha sees Orgo and the tattooed woman kissing and throws acid on them. Before he dies, Orgo cuts off her arms.
In the present, Fenix and a group of patients from the sanatorium visit a famous red lights district where he once again sees the tattooed woman and her deaf-mute daughter, Alma (Sabrini Dennson). Soon after, Fenix escapes the sanatorium and begins performing with his armless mother. From time to time beautiful women try to seduce him, but Concha immediately deals with them. Eventually, Alma melts Fenix's heart and he suddenly realizes that he has been living in a giant nightmare ruled by his mother.
Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre is a wild and unpredictable film that borrows heavily from the works of Federico Fellini and Luis Bunuel. But it has a style of its own and quite a bit of attitude as well.
The film is brutal but indescribably beautiful. It feels as if it was created at a time when Jodorowsky was in the middle of a serious spiritual crisis, one that he got out of by pouring everything that his mind and soul were struggling with in the film – scattered images, ideas, speculations, confessions. Making sense of them all is rather pointless, but experiencing them is indeed quite the ride.
The film has a period look, but interestingly enough it does not feel dated. On the contrary, the surreal imagery makes it look remarkably modern. Best of all, the tone of the film is very unapologetic, thus making even the indisputably kitschy sequences looking quite edgy.
The acting is largely improvised, but there are also sequences that must have required a tremendous amount of preparation. Concha and Fenix's dances and daily rituals, in particular, are quite amazing. The camerawork is somewhat uneven but it actually adds to the film's surrealist aura. The film was lensed by Italian cinematographer Daniele Nannuzzi (Tinto Brass' Senso '45, Enzo Monteleone's El Alamein - The Line of Fire).
Santa Sangre was produced by Claudio Argento, cult Italian director Dario Argento's brother.
Santa Sangre Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Alejandro Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Mr. Bongo Films.
The high-definition transfer appears to have been sourced from the new master French distributors Wild Side Films prepared for Santa Sangre. It looks very similar to the one Severin Films used for their release of the film in the U.S., but there are obvious differences. On the U.S. release brightness levels appear to have been elevated quite a lot, at times making the film look pale. Here the brightness levels are better balanced, and the variety of blacks, blues, grays, and reds looking a lot healthier and better saturated. There are no traces of excessive sharpening. Grain is visible, but some of it is also mixed with light noise. Occasionally, some light compression artifacts also pop up, especially where natural light is in abundance. There are no serious stability issues. Large debris, damage marks, stains, and big scratches are nowhere to be seen. All in all, though slightly uneven, this is a very good presentation of Alejandro Jodorowsky's cult film. I also prefer the overall look of this release over the U.S. release mentioned above. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Santa Sangre Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS 2.0. For the record, Mr. Bongo Films have not provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
It would have been nice to have the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track from the U.S. release on this release, but I ran some direct comparisons and the gap in quality between the two is actually fairly small. Depth is slightly better on the lossless track, but dynamic intensity is virtually the same. I also cannot say that fluidity suffers. The dialog is equally stable and easy to follow.
Santa Sangre Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Santa Sangre Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Overall, I think that Santa Sangre looks better on this Region-Free Blu-ray release from Mr. Bongo Films when compared to the U.S. release by Severin Films. However, I would suggest that fans of the film pick both releases -- and this should not be a problem considering the fact that both come with very attractive price tags -- to create an 'ultimate edition' of sorts as there are some very interesting unique supplemental features that are included on the two releases. RECOMMENDED.
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