When a Cannes journalist made the mistake of asking Jodorowsky during an announcement for Santa Sangre if he thought he might be "rusty" after not making a film since his 1980 failed children's elephant flick Tusk, his reply was reportedly razor-edged: "A rusty knife is twice as deadly because it can cut as well as poison (because of the rust). So don't get any ideas!" He didn't need to retort. Santa Sangre, when it came out a year later, clearly spoke for itself and featured plenty of its own knives. Jodorowsky was back, and his ability to shock and tantalize viewers with his ongoing Oedipal obsessions, circus sideshow fetishes, rabid religious iconography and real-life Mexican location shooting had not dulled with age. It had just been given an arthouse serial killer flick spin.
Santa Sangre was my original gateway into Jodorowsky. I saw it on VHS the summer before I packed off for film school, before discovering horrible bootleg dubs of El Topo and The Holy Mountain. Watching it again, I'm still astounded by many of its sequences (the circus elephant death and burial particularly) and still marvel at the "son becoming his amputee mother's arms" concept. How had no one gotten there before? It still seems fresh today.
If pressed for favorites, I'd still go with Holy Mountain and El Topo before Sangre, simply because those two are a little more freewheeling in their design, true products of their Age of Aquarius origins. Santa Sangre plays nicer with narrative (only slightly though). It's more of a cohesive but very cracked fable. Sometimes you can feel it straining at the edges of its budgetary limitations. Sometimes for better, sometimes worse.
Severin released a fantastically comprehensive Blu-ray package a few years ago, and I couldn't help but dig into a few extras again. It seems I really can't get enough of Jodorowsky supplementals. Here's a few more tidbits of note...
- At one point, Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston were considered for the roles of the knife-throwing father and the armless mother.
- Jodorowsky was able to judge a Miss Transvestite Mexico contest during his downtime from filming.
- Actress Blanca Guerra was directed to achieve her no-arms SFX by always pinning them behind her and beneath her costume. She also led Jodorowsky's son around by the testicles. Can't get much more Freudian than that.
- Jodorowsky originally wanted a dwarf to play the mother but was talked out of it by the producers. Imagine the logistics of the lead actor miming his mother's arms with an actress less than half his size.
- When an excess of Hollywood-imported tattoo ink nearly gave the Tattooed Lady a fatal case of skin poisoning, the make-up artist resorted to Bic pens and food coloring. A worse side effect than the near poisoning: She wasn't allowed to bathe for a full seven weeks.
- Alejandro wants his ashes NOT to be thrown into the ocean or spread in the mountains of Chile but given to his wife/lover to be consumed. That way, he can be there, spiritually at least, when she's having sex with her new lover.
- And, lastly, Jodorowsky loves, loves, loves Starship Troopers. No surprise there.