Wednesday, 3 November 2010

El Topo (The Mole)

Hi there folks!

Sorry it has taken me so long to write another blog, I've had a few things going on in the past week. Meeting old friends and the like and getting pretty drunk haha!

Well, I gave you the choice to pick between crazy western El Topo or The Omen 2 and i'm pleased to say that El Topo was the winner (as I only got two people to choose lol!)

El Topo is a 1970 film directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky and is a cult western with a healthy dollop of Christian symbology mixed with Eastern philosophy. The film runs in two parts. The first part of the film begins with the black clad gunslinger El Topo riding into a town with his naked son behind him. He finds that all the townspeople have been slaughtered so he tracks down and kills the outlaws and their leader.

He leaves his son to be looked after by monks at the settlement where he killed the outlaws but takes a young woman he has just saved and calls her Mara. She challenges El Topo to defeat the four zen masters of gunfighting to prove that he is the greatest gunslinger in the land.

El Topo agrees to the challenge and goes on his quest. The meet an unnamed woman in the desert who offers to help defeat the masters. He takes on the four masters and defeats them, but only with luck and trickery and never with true skill.

Afterwards, his guilt is unbearable and he returns to the locations he defeated the masters after destroying his gun. The unnamed woman and Mara then betray him by shooting him and leaving him for dead.

The second half of the film is set years after when El Topo wakes to find he has been rescued by deformed outcasts who live in a cave. He begins to meditate until he is eventually "born again", then begins his mission to help the outcasts get out of the cave by helping them dig a passageway. He falls in love with a dwarf and they both go into the nearby town to raise money for dynamite to make their passageway.

While in town he comes across a monk, who just so happens to be El Topo's deserted son. He tells El Topo he is going to kill him, but not until he has helped the outcasts. He finally manages to help the outcasts out of the cave, only for them to run down into the town. Once in town, the townspeople massacre them due to their deformities. Enraged, El Topo kills all the townspeople and then sets himself on fire. The only people to survive are his son, his dwarf lover and her baby and they ride out of town on horseback.

If you're like me, you'll think the description of El Topo sounds absolutely demented. But I like demented films so that was one of the reasons I bought this movie. Before buying this film though, I had recently bought another Jodorowsky film called "Holy Mountain" which was absolute insanity. It was like no other film I have or probably ever will see. "El Topo" has a lot of good moments and some stunning imagery but can also be completely baffling. In order to think this movie is normal you would have to be on acid!

The history of the film though, is slightly more interesting. Jodorowsky came into the New York scene in 1970 trying to promote the film. Every studio said no to the film, not because they hated it, but they just didn't know how they would market it.

The films first screening was in the Museum of Modern Art. A man called Ben Barenholtz, who owned a 600 seat cinema called The Elgin, loved the movie and tried to get the rights for US distribution. The man who owned the distribution rights was called Alan Douglas (who once managed Jimi Hendrix music fans). Douglas refused to sell the rights but Barenholtz persuaded him to let "El Topo" have weekday minight screenings at The Elgin.

Barenholtz decided the best way to promote the film would be by word of mouth. To keep the film mysterious by using minimal advertising so it felt like a discovery to the select movers and shakers who went to see the film. After time more and more people went to the movie until it was selected to be shown at an avante-garde movie night at The Elgin. In attendance at this movie night was John Lennon and Yoko Ono who, after showing a short movie they had made, stood up and said to everyone in the cinema to stay and watch "El Topo" as they loved the movie.

After that, evey critic and cinema lover went to see the film at The Elgin. The movie ran for a year until John Lennon's manager bought the film and that ended it's cinema showings.

It's quite hard to recommend to people to watch this film. If a violent insane western that is almost incomprehensible and has art-house credibility sounds like your kind of thing, watch it. If not, don't!

Well that's it for now, but stay tuned for some more soon. Please leave comments if you have a few things on your mind or have anything you'd like me to talk about next.

Take care!

Mick :)


  1. Must say it sounds utterly mad.
    I like that you put about the history of the film, a lot of reviews tell you only about the movie and not the history so enjoying the read.

  2. Thank you!

    Yeah the film is nuts but it's not terrible by all means. I like films that make you want to check out the story behind them.

    Also I'm trying to talk about stuff that a few people haven't seen. A bit more interesting! :)