Alejandro Jodorowsky: The Holy Mountain

[photo of Alejandro Jodorowsky]Alejandro Jodorowsky is a fascinating character: he’s a mime who studied under Marcel Marceau, an expert on the Tarot, a writer of comics (the wonderful L’Incal and Metabarons among them), and a psychotherapist/shaman — but he’ll always be known for his films, the most famous of which are El Topo and The Holy Mountain from the early seventies.

[screen capture from “The Holy Mountain”]El Topo is his most highly regarded film, depicting a guru-gunslinger in a highly symbolic spiritual quest. The idea of the quest is repeated in The Holy Mountain, but the scope of the film is much larger, with elaborate sets, a large cast, and jaw-dropping scenes like frogs reenacting the Spanish conquest of Mexico and religious symbols made into weapons. Its filming was no less bizarre: Jodorowsky made the cast train for months under a human-potential guru he’d hired, insisted that the female members of the cast sleep with him (“No men. Only the women,” he laughs), and he was nearly killed in Mexico after being suspected of performing a Black Mass. All very hippy-dippy Carlos Castaneda Sixties, but Jodorowsky’s commitment to change people through art is intense: “Now I think is a fantastic moment for all of us because now we are fighting for our world, our life. Now is the moment to be awake or to die.” For Jodorowsky, Hollywood is “a child’s industry – for me, a good picture changes your life.”

[painting of H.R. Giger's sandworm]After The Holy Mountain Jodorowsky attempted to film Frank Herbert’s Dune, which if completed would have floored cult-cinema junkies worldwide. Artists recruited included H.R. Giger and Moebius, both of whom would go on to work on Alien along with screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. Pink Floyd was to score the film, and the cast was an absurdist parade: David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Alain Delon, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dalí­ (who demanded $100,000 for an hour’s shoot). Nothing this strange — and colossally expensive, and 14 hours long — could live, and the film adaptation of Dune would have to wait for David Lynch to come along a decade later.

After the collapse of the Dune project three more films were made, none of which approached the madness and extravagance of his previous work. Plans were made for a sequel to El Topo starring Marilyn Manson (the two are close friends — Jodorowsky officiated Manson’s wedding), but nothing came of it, partially because the rights to both El Topo and The Holy Mountain were in the hands of Beatles manager Allen Klein who refused to release them. Existing DVDs (there have been legitimate relases in Italy and Japan) were of poor quality due to the lack of access to film elements.

Nothing was heard for decades but the news has arrived that both El Topo and The Holy Mountain are indeed being digitally remastered and released. Happy news, made happier by the thought that one day another Jodorowsky film will be made.

Featured here is the soundtrack to The Holy Mountain, credited to free jazz god Don Cherry and Archies keyboardist Ron Frangipane along with Jodorowsky. The quality could be better (it’s directly from the film so all the dialogue is present), but enjoy.

Update: thanks to Nick Scholl for sending the missing 17th track!

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Great Toad and Chameleon Battle
  3. Symbol of Christ/Two Halves/Love
  4. Ascending the Tower/The Magus
  5. The Tarot
  6. Venus (Vond)
  7. Mars (Esla)
  8. Jupiter (Clen)
  9. Saturn (Sal)
  10. Uranus (Berg)
  11. Neptune (Axon)
  12. Pluto (Lute)
  13. Holy Mountain Within
  14. Acts of Christ
  15. Across the Ocean
  16. Throw that Monster into the Water
  17. Pantheon Bar
  18. Climb to the Summit
  19. Face Your Fears/End Titles

Author: Colin

Colin lives in Seattle where he likes long walks on the beach and listening to obscure music, sometimes simultaneously. Formerly a DJ at WCBN-FM in Ann Arbor, Michigan, posting to this blog is his pathetic way of recapturing that lost glory.

12 thoughts on “Alejandro Jodorowsky: The Holy Mountain”

  1. Allen Klein is something of a villain; his greed has caused all kinds of trouble. He owns the rights to all the ABKO label recordings—many classic recordings have never been reissued because he wants insanely high royalties (? and the Mysterians’ stuff was finally reissued for the first time last year, and Bob Seger’s early stuff never has), and he double-crossed the Verve regarding the sample clearance in “Bittersweet Symphony”.

  2. wow, dude!
    thank you so much for posting this! so is there an actual release of the soundtrack? i assume if the film is going to be finally released properly the soundtrack could? can’t wait to see decent transfer of el topo. i’ve been putting off seeing it forever in hopes of seeing on film… maybe they’ll do screenings of both out here in LA… i’m getting giddy. anyway, thanks.

    oh, did you see that jodorowsky documentary that came out a few years ago? pretty bizarre/interesting. there’s a whole section of the film with him and moebius doing this weird psychological workshop with this group of people. i don’t remember exactly what it was all about but i just remember thinking first “ok, this is some hokey new age crap” to thinking “wow, this is actually pretty intense.” plus there’s interviews with his son.


  3. The doc of which you speak is on the Fando y Lis DVD. I have seen it, it’s a trip. I would have mentioned it but I was getting a little lengthy.

    There’s been no leaked information yet on specs for the reissues; Jodo has been doing the cult-film-con circuit for a few years now showing off new prints. I forget where showings have been, I think Canada.

    I don’t believe Holy Mountain ever got an LP issue; the LP of El Topo came out on Apple. There was also a ‘book of the film’ as well.

  4. My, uh, source was missing 17, which is a drag. If anyone sends me the track I’ll put it up.

  5. There was an official soundtrack for The Holy Mountain. I have forgotten which label but I did some research a few years ago and called the label (was a label in the US I still remember) but it was offcourse long out of print and they didn’t have any copies laying around anymore and suggested I’d try the second hand markets.
    If anybody ever stumbles across the original LP pleeeeaaase let me know! Hey even if you can only get the tracklisting let me know :) So far the only things I know is that it’s Don Cherry, Ron Frangipane, Tibettan music, and a version of Valse Triste from Sibelius.

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