A relic of the Ages of Aquarius and Altamont, Alejandro Jodorowsky embodied the era’s artistic excesses. But it’s been hard to judge whether the Chilean director was a prophet, a poet or simply a peyote-damaged enfant terrible, thanks to a decades-long legal feud with producer Allen Klein that’s kept most of his work out of circulation. Luckily, the two finally kissed and made up, allowing Anchor Bay to release this box set of the filmmaker’s early offerings—including the Holy Grail of cult Western-cum-Christ parables, El Topo (1970). Viewers can now confirm what they’ve always suspected: This snake-oil salesman’s attempts at profundity failed, but in terms of visual audacity, he could blow your mind.
You probably won’t find enlightenment in El Topo’s desert journeys, or in the green and yellow blood splatterings of his follow-up, The Holy Mountain (1973). Seen now, both movies play as half-baked philosophy lessons for fully baked noggins; Jodorowsky’s pseudoreligious symbology, antiauthoritarian baiting and slapstick social satire say more about the countercultural zeitgeist than a dozen Haight-Ashbury documentaries. And stoned or not, you’ll find that the flawless transfers complement Jodorowsky’s hallucinatory use of color.
In addition to those midnight-movie staples, the set also includes Jodorowsky’s long-lost “La Cravate” (1957), a surreal pantomime from the filmmaker’s apprenticeship with Marcel Marceau; his Buuelian black-and-white debut feature, Fando y Lis (1968); a doc on his career; two soundtracks; and revealing, giggly commentaries from the man himself that make this archeological endeavor worth its weight in tarnished gold. — David Fear