The documentary Psychomagic, A Healing Art may not be the film will be remembered for, but as an excuse to remaster and re-release his trilogy of hippie-era cult masterpieces from 1968-1973, it’s a huge hit. It’s also a great bonus disc to accompany this box of miracles.

If you’re just a young ‘un, or you’ve lived your life under a rock and have never been exposed to the esoteric movies of Alejandro Jodorowsky, here’s a brief primer, confining itself to their history (since, as The Holy Mountain‘s trailer warns, nothing in your experience or education can prepare you for the actual films). The Chilean expatriate director made a splash in 1970 with El Topo, a surreal spaghetti western about a mystical gunfighter, which was championed by John Lennon and made history as the first midnight movie. The success of El Topo allowed Jodorowsky to fund the even more extravagant The Holy Mountain in 1973, a film about a quest for immortality that contains such memorable and trippy scenes as a Christ figure eating a life-sized statue of Christ, and a slaughter of innocents where victims bleed paint and doves fly out of gaping bullet wounds. Before these two hits, Jodorowsky had made Fando y Lis (1968) in Mexico. It’s a seldom-seen road movie about a man and a paraplegic woman seeking the mythical city of Tar. Fando y Lis was even stranger and more irrational than the midnight movies that succeeded it, closer to the director’s roots in classic surrealism (Jodorowsky was one of the youngest and last members of Andre Breton’s Surrealist circle, although he broke with Breton to form his own offshoot, the Panic Movement).

El Topo and The Holy Mountain were huge counterculture hits, but Jodorowsky’s career stalled after he was sacked from a planned adaptation of Frank Hebert’s Dune , and he did not resume filmmaking until the late 80s. Even worse, Jodorowsky quarreled with distributor Allen Klein, who spitefully locked the director’s two big midnight hits into ABCKO’s vaults, keeping them out of sight (except for the bootleg copies that kept their legends alive). The pair made up in 2007, when El Topo and The Holy Mountain were released on DVD and recirculated in cinemas for the first time.

Jodorowsky 4K Restoration Blu-ray box setThe current box set, which brings Fando y Lis, El Topo, and The Holy Mountain together with Psychomagic, is not the first Jodorowsky collection from ABCKO. These three films had been released previously on DVD as “The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky,” and many of the extra features here are duplicated on the earlier set. It’s understandable that some fans who bought the previous collection may wonder whether double-dipping is worth it. So to begin, here’s what’s recycled from the older set:

  • Jodorowsky’s commentary tracks for Fando y Lis, El Topo and The Holy Mountain
  • La Cravate, Jodorowsky’s 1957 debut film, a 20-minute mime/surrealist short about severed heads, based on a Thomas Mann story
  • The soundtrack CDs for El Topo and The Holy Mountain
  • Deleted scenes from The Holy Mountain, with select commentary by Jodorowsky
  • The Tarot, a short providing Jodorowsky’s own interpretation of the symbolism of the Tarot deck
  • La Constellation Jodorowsky (1994), a feature-length documentary which includes an early mention of psychomagic
  • “The Father of Midnight Movies,” a 2007 interview with Jodorowsky
  • Various trailers for the three main films
  • Image galleries of production stills, press materials and posters, screenshots of original reviews (including Pauline Kael’s infamous savaging of El Topo), script pages from El Topo and The Holy Mountain, and other odds and ends (a section of images called “set panels” looks like Jodorowsky’s Tarot card deck). I can’t guarantee that all of this material is recycled; some could be new.

Besides Psychomagic (whose disc contains no extras except its own trailer), here’s what’s new in this set:

  • The brilliant 4K restorations, obviously, which are doubtlessly the best these films have ever looked. Of special note is the fact that El Topo appears in 1.85:1 widescreen for the first time on any disc.
  • New “Jodorowsky Remembers” introductions for each film in the trilogy from the 91-year old director, each about 15 minutes long
  • Introductions to each film in the trilogy from Columbia film studies professor Richard Peña, each about 10 minutes long, all informative and supplying great context for the films and their times
  • “A Conversation with the Son of El Topo,” an interview with
  • “Pablo Leder: Jodorowsky’s Right Hand Man,” an interview with Jodorowsky’s personal assistant during the period covered in the set
  • “The A to Z of The Holy Mountain,” a video appreciation by Ben Cobb, which is a work of critical art on its own merits
  • The packaging: the set contains six collectible postcards (reverse images from El Topo and The Holy Mountain), a reversible fold-out poster (an Italian poster for El Topo and a French poster for Holy Mountain), and a 78-page illustrated booklet with intellectual essays from Virgine Sélavy, Michael Atkinson, Bilge Ebiri, and Mark Pilkington. This booklet is definitely Criterion Collection quality in terms of content, but my copy, at least, had a problem with flimsy binding. Several pages fell out upon first opening. This could be an isolated case, but I advise handling it with extra care if you want to keep your copy pristine.

You could easily get lost for hours in the extra features. Watching all of them should earn you at least a Masters Degree in Jodorowsky Studies. It’s impossible to imagine a more complete compilation of video materials for Jodorwosky’s first three feature films; this will go down as the ultimate set. It’s like finding the lost city of Tar, defeating the Fourth Gunfighter, and scaling the Holy Mountain all at once.


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