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.
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.”
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!
- Opening Titles
- Great Toad and Chameleon Battle
- Symbol of Christ/Two Halves/Love
- Ascending the Tower/The Magus
- The Tarot
- Venus (Vond)
- Mars (Esla)
- Jupiter (Clen)
- Saturn (Sal)
- Uranus (Berg)
- Neptune (Axon)
- Pluto (Lute)
- Holy Mountain Within
- Acts of Christ
- Across the Ocean
- Throw that Monster into the Water
- Pantheon Bar
- Climb to the Summit
- Face Your Fears/End Titles