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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

El Topo [Blu-ray]

 

(Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Producciones Panicas

Video: Anchor Bay Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:04:39.513

Disc Size: 45,083,829,325 bytes

Feature Size: 40,540,170,240 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.82 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 26th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Spanish 3779 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3779 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio Spanish 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• Audio commentary from Alejandro Jodorowsky (in Spanish with English subtitles)

'Alejandro Jodorowsky Interview (7-minutes)

• Original Theatrical Trailer

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: The gunfighter El Topo ("The Mole") and his young son ride through a desert to a village, whose inhabitants have been massacred. Bandits are nearby, torturing and killing the survivors. El Topo rescues a woman (Mara), who leads him on a mission to find and defeat the four master gunmen of the desert. Leaving his son with a group of monks, El Topo and Mara complete the mission, accompanied by a mysterious woman in black. The women leave El Topo wounded in the desert, where he is found by a clan of deformed people who take him to the remote cavern where they live. Awakening years later, he goes with a dwarf woman to a nearby town, promising to dig a tunnel through which the cave-dwellers can escape. They find the town run by a vicious sheriff and home to a bizarre religious cult. El Topo's son, now a man, is a monk in the town. The completion of the tunnel leads El Topo, the townspeople, and the cave-dwellers to a bloody and tragic end.

***

A bizarre, ultra-violent, allegorical Western, "El Topo" is set in two halves that have widely been compared to the... Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In the first half, Jodorowsky plays a violent, black-clad gunfighter who, accompanied by his naked son, sets off on a murderous mission to challenge four Zen masters of gunfighting, and learns from each of them a Great Lesson before they die. In the second half, El Topo sets out to find personal redemption, secluding himself in a subterranean community to learn the ways of peace, but unfortunately death is never far away. First released as an underground film, it was thanks to John Lennon that the film was acquired by Allen Klein of ABKCO, who bought the rights to "El Topo" and then financed Alejandro Jodorowsky’s next film "The Holy Mountain."

 

 

The Film:

During its months of mid-night screenings at the Elgin, Alexandro Jodorowsky's "El Topo" became a secret rite of some importance in New York City. It won what not even the most fashionable success at the East Side art houses has won, genuine followers who depended not on advertising and not, God knows, on influential critical opinion, but on their own needs and their own unaided enthusiasms. Those followers—I'm not sure I'd want to call them just an audience—have also earned a modicum of fame. And some of them, the kids in capes and wide-brimmed hats, the "El Topo" freaks, re-materialized the other night for a sneak preview at the Forum where, yesterday, their movie began its long-awaited full-scale commercial run.

Excerpt from Roger Greenspun at the NY Times located HERE

Accordingly, El Topo opens with a passage that could be an existential journey for one's soul or a spoof of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western: The bearded, leather-clad gunfighter El Topo (Jodorowsky himself) and his young son (Brontis Jodorowsky) ride through the desert and into a hamlet of bloodily decimated people and animals. From then on, it's a winding, spiraling road of evil bandits, mystical foes, and whip-cracking dykes, spiked with indelible, inexplicable imagery.

Excerpt from Fernando Croce at Slant Magazine located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

El Topo appears quite strong on Blu-ray from Anchor Bay. I don't discount some digital noise reduction but overall it is quite an improvement. This is most notable in the colors which return to much more natural hues - especially in regards to skin tones. This is dual-layered with a bitrate over 30 Mbps - the 2 hour feature taking up over 40 Gig of space. As detail is brought up by the higher resolution - so are a few minimal scratches. It is a little smoother than I would have expected but there is depth is a few scenes. Any digital manipulation was not applied ham-fisted-ly and much of the film-like qualities remain. I wouldn't say this transfer is impressive for the format but in comparison to the DVD visuals - with more noise - this should be considered a definite move in the right direction for El Topo and home theater enjoyment. There is probably only so much you could do with the 1080P image and Anchor Bay may have max'ed out that potential.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Raro - Region 0 - PAL TOP

2) Anchor Bay - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Anchor Bay - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Raro - Region 0 - PAL TOP

2) Anchor Bay - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Anchor Bay - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Raro - Region 0 - PAL TOP

2) Anchor Bay - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Anchor Bay - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio is very capably transferred via a DTS-HD 5.1 at Spanish 3779 kbps. There are some surprisingly deft separations that I have never experienced previously. Also available is a choice for linear 2.0 channel in original Spanish. It has some impressive depth and may be the choice for some to view the film. An English DUB exists but may only have a nostalgic advantage for some. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Extras are the same as the existing DVD with the excellent audio commentary from Alejandro Jodorowsky (in Spanish with English subtitles) and a brief Alejandro Jodorowsky interview lasting a mere 7-minutes and the original theatrical trailer. The photo gallery found on The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky SD box are not present. Those who haven't indulged in the commentary are missing quite a lot of the value of the film, IMO. It was essential that it was re-included and adds to the Blu-ray's value.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Great film experience to revisit. As opposed to bringing out the magnifying glass on the image I was content just to enjoy the improved colors and higher detail via the superior resolution. It has its transfer imperfections but is the best way to see El Topo at present in the comfort of your Midnight-madness home theater display. We look forward to Holy Mountain via Blu-ray soon (now reviewed HERE). I doubt Jodorowsky fans will want to pass this up. 

Gary Tooze

April 15th, 2011

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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