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El Topo (1970)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
Genres:
Avant-Garde, Hybrid Western, Surrealist Film, Western
Director:
Alejandro Jodorowsky Alejandro Jodorowsky
Starring:
Alejandro Jodorowsky Alejandro Jodorowsky
Brontis Jodorowsky Brontis Jodorowsky
Josť Legarreta Josť Legarreta
Alfonso Arau Alfonso Arau
Josť Luis FernŠndez Josť Luis FernŠndez

7.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Christopher
Added: February 24, 2005
El Topo is a gunman traveling with his seven year old son, Miguel. On their way back to their village, El Topo informs his son that he is now a man and must bury his first toy and a portrait of his mother. When they reach their village, the majority of the villagers and the animals have been slaughtered. They get back on their horses and begin to travel to the nearest town. Three bandits get in their way until El Topo kills them all. Before the final bandit is killed, El Topo finds out that the Colonel is behind all of this. The Colonel and a small number of bandits have the nearby town as hostages, killing them as they please. While the Colonel and his men are distracted with a woman, El Topo breaks through the village doors and makes the men surrender.

The bandits quickly take El Topo's side as the Colonel tries to run away. The Colonel is held down to the ground as El Topo chops off his penis with a knife. The Colonel is in so much pain that the only way he can end it is by shooting himself in the head, which he does. El Topo shows no remorse for the bandits that took his side, he had them wrapped in sheets and executed with a machine gun. The woman that serving the Colonel convinced El Topo to take her with him. El Topo left his son behind with a group of priests so that he could take the girl with him. He later names her Marah. After traveling the desert for a long amount of time, she asks if he loves her. He does, but she doesn't. To win her love he must kill the four masters of the desert.

Master number one is a blind man that needs no sight to be able to defeat El Topo. He realizes this and has to think of a way to trick him. The day of the battle, the master and El Topo are walking towards each other when the master falls into a hole and gets shot in the head on his way down. El Topo tricked him by digging a hole and disguising it with some dirt. On their way to the next master, they are greeted by a mysterious woman dressed in black that will take them to the second master if she is allowed to tag along. He agrees. Marah and the woman dressed in black begin to form a relationship. She gives Marah a mirror that isn't put down once. El Topo eventually gets sick of her looking at herself non-stop and shoots the mirror. The pieces are picked up, then stored in his pocket.

Master number two is remarkably strong that has a very gentle touch. He displays his skills by showing him a small sphere made out of tiny sticks. Only being so strong is he able to not crush it. When he hands it to El Topo, the sphere crumbles in his hands. El Topo starts to be beaten by the master until he's thrown in front of his mother. Before he gets up, he lays down the broken shards of glass down from the mirror he destroyed earlier. The master gives El Topo a small plate made of brass before they start the final battle. When the master helps his mother up so she can watch, she steps on the glass and falls back into her chair. With the master pre-occupied, El Topo sneaks up behind him and shoots him in the back of the head. His mother is left alone and El Topo takes his leave.

Master number three had a musical talent that was able to tell him what El Topo was feeling and why he had come to him. The master also had a precise shot with a gun he had made some time ago that is only able to shoot one bullet at a time. Only because all he needs is one shot. To show his skills he sets up to crows. Both of the men fire at the same time. El Topo shoots his crow in the head. The master shoots his crow in the heart. The master obviously has much more accuracy. The duel begins. The master draws his gun first and shoots El Topo in the heart. El Topo drops to the ground as if he's dead. He quickly rises up and laughs at the master, then shoots him in the heart. El Topo pulls out the brass plate the second master gave him. That was what stopped the bullet.

Master number four, the final master. This man was an excellent fighter that had made a net that can reflect bullets. After the master brutalizes El Topo with his fists, El Topo takes out his gun and attempts to shoot the man. He of course dodges them with his net. The two then begin to talk about death. This master isn't afraid of death, to prove it he grabs El Topo's gun and shoots himself in the head, killing himself. El Topo manages to lose his mind after that and re-visits each of the masters places of death. After doing so, he is confronted by the woman in black. She starts shooting him, but the bullets have no effect. Marah is told to choose between him or her. She betrays him with a shot to the chest and taking off with the woman in black.

A group of deformed people find him and take care of him for several years. They all live in this cave that is near a town that won't help them in anyway due to their deformity from years of inbreeding. The deformed people are convinced that El Topo is a god and have come to free them from the cave. He is told about their situation from a dwarf female that accompanies him into a town that holds a very religiously demented town that is set with very strange ways of living. El Topo and the dwarf female beg in front of the towns people to gain money to help them dig the tunnel that will lead her deformed people to freedom. Little does he know that the priest of the town is the son he abandon so many years ago.

To start the film off, the father is parading around the desert on a horse while his son rides behind him completely naked, other than a cowboy hat. He continues to be naked until he is left with the priests. Most of the other main characters are shown nude through out the film as well. El Topo, Marah, the woman in black, the female dwarf, and a few others. So there's plenty of nudity for a nice range of viewers. Tons of action scenes as most everything El Topo comes across gets killed or destroyed. Every master he challenges start and end in a very unique way. As the master shows off his skill, he's certain that El Topo is no match for him. But El Topo tricks him and comes out on top every time. All the tricks he thinks up end up very surprising. The first one with the blind man was by far the best.

Although most of killings were done with a gun shot, the events leading up to the shot made up for it an extreme amount. Plus, eighty percent of the bullet wounds looked very real and some blood blasting out of them. With the very high number of people who were shot in the film, eighty percent is a lot. Most films normally have some of their larger characters get decent gun shots, the others just fall to the ground with no sign of damage. While on the subject of violence, El Topo's home village that was destroyed was amazing looking. Dead bodies laid all over the ground in a bloody mess, as did several animals. Streams of blood made a large puddle. The buildings were drenched in blood, inside and out. The church had tons of bodies hanging from the ceiling via nooses.

Only a select few parts of the film make little to no sense. When El Topo and Marah first start scouring the desert, El Topo loses it at one point and begins beating Marah. For a few seconds, Marah is shown in a large pond screaming, then it's back to her being beaten. Then she is back on the horse with El Topo and her savagely ripped clothes are back to normal. The only thing I could come up with was that it was a mirage Marah was going through. But the way the scene started made it seem like it was really happening. Another odd scene was when the second set of bandits are shown picking up large lizards and begin to ride them like horses. It was most likely just to show how insane they are. But the scene prior to that one had the men riding priests like horses and slapping their asses with metal plates until they began to bleed. Riding lizards didn't help the crazy appearance after seeing that.

All of the deformed people used were really disabled. I'm not familiar with many of the diseases, but each person had to have a different one. The director of the film (Alejandro Jodorowsky) and his son (Brontis Jodorowsky) casted themselves as El Topo and his son Miguel. Had Alejandro not played El Topo, I don't believe the film would have turned out as well as it did. He manages to bring something to the screen that very few actors have. One of the most interesting shots in the film is when El Topo and Marah are having sex under the sand and they slowly begin rising out of it. The way it's performed and mostly the way it was shot makes it easily the best sex scene in cinema history. The entire movie was perfect, nothing about it could be enhanced.

Final Conclusion: 10/10
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 01/03/2007, 02:40 PM
That's a very long review. I saw this movie about 4 months ago, and I loved it. It's one of the creepiest, weirdest movies I think I've ever seen. 10/10 for sure.
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