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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
El Topo (Blu-ray) (1970)

El Topo (Blu-ray) (1970)

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Released 18-Jan-2017

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Interviews-Crew-Alejandro Jodorowski (6:56)
Audio Commentary-Alejandro Jodorowski
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 124:39
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alejandro Jodorowsky
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Alejandro Jodorowsky
Brontis Jodorowsky
Mara Lorenzio
David Silva
Paula Romo
Jacqueline Luis
Robert John

Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Alejandro Jodorowsky

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Spanish DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0
Spanish Audio Commentary Linear PCM 48/16 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Portuguese Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     A gunfighter dressed all in black leather and his naked seven year old son bury the son’s teddy bear and a picture of his mother in the desert sand. “Now you are a man”, the gunfighter, El Topo (The Mole) (Alejandro Jodorowsky), says to his son (Brontis Jodorowsky) before the two ride off. They come to a village where bandits have massacred the population. Following their trail El Topo comes to a Franciscan monastery in the desert where the bandits, led by The Coronel (David Silva), are torturing the monks and the remaining villagers. El Topo intervenes; the bandits are killed and El Topo castrates the Coronel and frees his sex slave Mara (Mara Lorenzio). Then El Topo rides off with the woman, abandoning his son to the monks.

     In the desert, Mara demands that her man be the best, so she pushes him to challenge, one by one, four masters who live in the desert, all with different attributes and philosophies. El Topo and Mara are soon joined by a mysterious, black clad, female gunfighter (Paula Romo), the alter ego of El Topo and a rival for the affections of Mara. El Topo, using a combination of cunning and outright cheating, kills all four masters but in winning he realises that his life is barren and worthless, so he has lost. The two women then shoot El Topo and abandon him for dead.

     He is found by a group of deformed people who, shunned by the world, hide themselves in an inaccessible cave. When El Topo revives after about two decades of hibernation he has become their god, the deity they believe will lead them back into the world. Because of their deformities they cannot climb out of the cave so El Topo, now enlightened, undertakes to dig a tunnel through the mountain for them. But he needs money for tools and dynamite so with a dwarf woman (Jacqueline Luis) on his back he climbs out of the cave and they travel to a nearby town where they perform comedy mime for money and do other mental tasks. The town, and thus the world, however is a depraved den of slavers and murderers, where blacks and Hispanics can be killed on a whim and where a perverted form of Christianity is practiced. There El Topo also discovers his son (now played by Robert John) is alive and a monk. His son wants to kill El Topo but agrees to delay until El Topo finishes the tunnel and frees the cave dwellers. But when the tunnel is finished, and the deformed ones come to the town, tragedy strikes, and El Topo must for the last time examine his philosophy of life.

     El Topo, written and directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, was the underground film that was discovered and championed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, becoming a cult sensation and the parent of Midnight Movies. It is certainly different; a bizarre, bloody and violent, mystic, spiritual, religious, Zen western morality tale with extra themes of isolation, class warfare, power and depravity. The film is disjointed, with a number of story strands that are only loosely linked, but the ideas keep flowing, the film takes unexpected turns and the surreal imagery, captured by cinematographer Rafael Corkidi, is stunning in its beauty. A desert waterhole, red with blood against the yellow sand, a village strewn with human corpses and dead animals, a black clad horseman with a black umbrella riding across the desert or dead and dying rabbits within a desert enclosure, are only a few of the images which remain in the mind. The film is also replete with religious imagery, especially Buddhist and Christian; El Topo is a Moses figure, finding food and water in the desert, while at the end of his first life he has the stigmata on his hands and feet and later, in the cave, he is literally reborn. Hindu, Sufi, Taoist and Shamanic philosophies also get an airing

     El Topo is set up within the spaghetti western genre but cannot be categorised; it is just too bizarre and out there, full of ideas and images. Instead, it is a film to be experienced and so, while images such as a monk burning himself to death would resonate at the height of the Vietnam War when the film was made, such images are still deeply disturbing today. Although made in 1970, El Topo is timeless, remaining an exotic and unpredictable watch. If you want a change from formulaic superhero films, sequels and remakes, check out El Topo, a genuine original and a deserved cult classic.

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Transfer Quality


     El Topo is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with black bars each side of the picture, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code. The IMDb gives the original ratio as 1.33:1 / 1.37:1.

     The film looks fabulous. There are a number of small marks and at one place a vertical scratch but nothing distractive. Grain is not evident, resulting in a flatish looking picture. However, the colours are magnificent. The red blood, and there is lots of it, is deep and vibrant, the blue sky luminous and yellow desert sands stunning. Close up detail on faces is excellent, showing every whisker on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s face. Blacks and shadow detail are very good, brightness and contrast consistent, skin tones natural.

     Other than as mentioned above artefacts and marks were absent.

     English, Spanish, Portuguese and French subtitles are available for the feature. The same languages’ subtitles are available for the audio commentary, which is in Spanish.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The audio is a choice between Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish LPCM 2.0 stereo and English LPCM 2.0 stereo.

     I listened to the Spanish 5.1 and sampled the English 2.0. The film was originally released with mono audio and in reality the 5.1 Spanish is very front oriented with mostly only music and ambient sounds in the rears; exceptions include the cawing of crows in the village where the massacre occurred or crowd scenes. However, the effects such as gunshots, footsteps or hooves on the sand are quite crisp. The effects in the English dub were similar, the voice acting not too bad although the Spanish sounds more compelling. The sub-woofer is not really noticeable.

     The score by Alejandro Jodorowsky is varied and effective.

     As all the actors, including Jodorowsky himself, were dubbed there are some minor lip synchronisation issues, but nothing too noticeable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio Commentary Alejandro Jodorowski

     This is an excellent commentary, in Spanish, with subtitles available. Jodorowski is a candid, humorous and engaging speaker talking non-stop throughout the picture mentioning his intentions, John Lennon, his inspirations, where he found the cast of non-actors, his cinematic techniques and filmmaking philosophy. He also talks about the relationships between fathers and sons, composing the score, good and evil, dubbing all the actors and he provides some very critical comments about celebrity actors and theatre owners. Great stuff!

Alejandro Jodorowski Interview (6:56)

     Jodorowski speaks, in English, about being the father of midnight movies, the promotion of the film by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, his ideas and intentions. He is a lively and engaging speaker and his interview is backed by film footage.

Photo Gallery (3:51)

     Silent, a camera roves over annotated and marked script pages with film stills attached, plus a couple of reviews. Better than the usual photo gallery.

Theatrical Trailer (4:04)

     The film’s trailer, with numerous marks and scratches. They don’t make them like this anymore!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US Region A Blu-ray of El Topo is reported to be matted to 1.78:1 and does not include the Photo Gallery. Buy local.


     Some films that were cult sensations can quickly feel dated. Not so Alejandro Jodorowski’s El Topo which remains a classic; a bizarre, spiritual, bloody, Zen western morality tale that is a genuine original. If you have any interest in underground films and have not seen El Topo, you should. In any case, for fans of the movie or Jodorowski this Blu-ray is a perfect way to see and enjoy this cult classic film.

     The video is very good, the audio fine. The extras add value to the Blu-ray package, especially the excellent audio commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, March 03, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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