One day during the ‘70s, director Alejandro Jodorowsky was sitting in a bar in Mexico City when he was approached by a big-bellied, bespectacled man. “May I have a coffee with you? I love your page Fabulas Panicas,” said the man, referring to a weekly comic strip Jodorowsky wrote for the newspaper El Heraldo de Mexico. After Jodorowsky agreed to have a drink with the stranger, the man introduced himself as Goyo Cárdenas. The name rang a bell with the Chile-born filmmaker, as it would have done with pretty much everyone in Mexico. Cárdenas was an infamous serial killer who had been sentenced to life in prison after murdering three prostitutes and a female chemistry student. “He was a big killer,” says Jodorowsky, 81, over the phone from his home in France. “But he was free. He was cured, he said. He married, had children. I take a coffee with him and that was the beginning. Ten years later I make the picture.”

That picture was 1989’s Santa Sangre, an unforgettably bizarre tale of death and dismemberment that is being released on DVD in the U.S. for the first time tomorrow by Severin Films, with a raft of bonus features including a lengthy making-of documentary. Actually, by Jodorowsky’s standards, the film isn’t that bizarre — after all, this is the man who made his name with that ultimate cinematic freak-out, 1970’s El Topo. But those who found 127 Hours a bit much should probably be aware that the film hinges around a troubled young man called Fenix who stands behind his mother and performs tasks for her — be that playing the piano or killing people — after his father slices off her arms. “I influence the cinema!” laughs the Jodorowsky, when the subject of Danny Boyle’s Oscar-tipped film is raised. “Always! Always! Because I am very original.”

Jodorowsky explains that another inspiration for the movie’s central serial killer(s) was the period in the ‘50s he spent working with world famous mime Marcel Marceau. “In the mime we make some jokes — you put your arms in your back and another person, he moves the arms when you speak,” says the director. “It was a comic thing. I think a woman who is using the arms of her son can be comic, but can be terrible, can be tragic. The root of tragedy is comedy.”

Image Credit: Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett CollectionJack Nicholson expressed an interest in appearing in the film alongside his then partner Anjelica Huston. However, the production was unable to afford them, to Jodorowsky’s relief. “He knew me, he always say he like my pictures,” recalls the director of Nicholson. “It was a possibility. But my producer, Claudio Argento [who also co-wrote the screenplay], have no money to pay these stars. I was happy, not because I don’t like them as actors. But I prefer to make my picture without stars. When you introduce stars, they change the picture. You have to be at the service at them and then inevitably you can’t do what you really want.”

Instead of Nicholson and Huston, Jodorowsky cast Mexican actress Blanco Guerra as Fenix’s mother and Guy Stockwell (brother of Blue Velvet star Dean) as the circus strongman who dismembers her after she pours acid on his genitals. (Did we mention this film is not for the squeamish?) Jodorowsky seems to have few fond memories of Stockwell, who passed away in 2002. “I hated the actor who played the father,” says the director, bluntly. “He hated me also, because I make him be naked in the street. I treated him very cruelly. [But] you can make a very good picture with actor who hate you.”

Jodorowsky cast his son Axel to play the adult Fenix and recruited another of his children, Adan, to essay the young version of the movie’s central character. “He was a professional,” the director says of the latter. “I wanted to make him cry, with all his face in the screen, a close-up, a big close-up. I say to him you can imitate that or you can scream real. In order to scream real, I need to make you scream. I will pinch your legs, no? And then it will be painful during the scream. You need to choose, what do you want? He say, ‘I want to scream really.’ He did it.”

The director received some of the best reviews of his career for Santa Sangre, which remains one of his favorite movies. “I was older,” he says. “I work with feelings. In the first pictures I work with symbols and intellectual things. But I didn’t explore human feelings, psychological problems.”

Jodorowsky swiftly followed Santa Sangre with 1990’s Christopher Lee-starring The Rainbow Thief but hasn’t made a film since. Instead, he has continued to write comics and, for a period, read the “good news” segment on a Spanish TV show. He has also become a keen tweeter. “Every day I write poems, I write philosophical things,” he says. “Very short, no? I have a big amount of public in the Spanish language. That is my new experience.”

Jodorowsky says he would like to make at least one more film, based on his autobiography, The Dance of Reality. “I have a very interesting childhood in the north of Chile and I want to shoot there,” he says. “But the goal is to to lose money.” Lose money? You really are crazy. “That is the revolution,” Jodorowsky insists. “Because all the pictures now are being done in order to make a big amount of money. I want to be free of money. I want to make a picture and to give it free. That is what I am trying to do.”

Fans of Jodorowsky and Santa Sangre will need no further encouragement to grab this new edition of the film, which is also being released on Blu-ray. Everyone else should feel free to check out the trailer, which gives some idea of the movie’s surreal, and adult-themed, nature.

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