El Topo (1970)

el topo poster 1970 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 10/10

Amazing looking, bizarre story and characters

Acting is so-so in a movie more about the visuals

Movie Info

Movie Name:  El Topo

Studio:  ABKCO Records

Genre(s):  Western

Release Date(s):  December 18, 1970

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

el topo alejandro jodorowsky son brontis

Remember when you were little and your dad made you walk around the desert naked and filmed it?

El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky) is an outlaw gunfighter traveling young son (Brontis Jodorowsky).  After freeing a town from bandits, El Topo sets off with a woman he calls Mara (Mara Lorenzio) to become the best by taking on four skilled warriors.  Though El Topo wins, he wins by deceit and finds himself betrayed and left for dead.  Saved by a group of outcasts with deformities forced to live trapped in a mountainous cave, El Topo finds the enlightenment he seeks…but can he defeat his past to free his saviors and deliver a town from evil?

Written, by directed and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, El Topo became known as the first “midnight movie” which owed much of its popularity due to endorsement by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  Following Fando y Lis in 1968, the movie (along with its director) gained a cult following.

el topo first gunfighter hector martinez

Seriously “Master”…you can’t do this yourself

El Topo is one of those movies you can watch over and over again and never get, but the wonder of the movie is the movie itself and not the story.  I’ve seen the movie a couple times now and feel that I am no closer to understanding it than the first time.  It is the type of movie that critics sit around and debate the merit of and one may hail it as the greatest film while another will hate it.  It is one of those films that it doesn’t matter…just sit back and enjoy the strange wonder of the film.

The story is loaded with symbolism, religious undertones, and social commentary.  It however is also one of those films that almost feels like a trick by trying to force viewers to read into it more.  The movie is essentially a redemption tale and you could argue that it is a failed redemption tale.  Though El Topo does save himself and atones for his past, he is unable to save those he sought to help.  El Topo translates to “The Mole” and the parable of the mole that is blinded when he reaches the surface is relayed in the film…this does translate into the story’s interpretation and is worth remembering while watching.

el topo alejandro jodorowsky third gunfighter victor fosado rabbits

I hate rabbits!!!

I will say that the acting in El Topo isn’t the best, but it does have the strangest casts.  Alejandro Jodorowsky holds his own as the lead and his son actually played his young naked son in the opening scene (Alejandro supposedly felt guilty about this later in life).  What is odd about the cast is that Jodorowsky cast actual people with deformities for many of the roles…leading to an odd and creepy real life horror (and tragedy) for many of the scenes.

The movie is really all about the visuals.  It is hard to watch this film which often is violent and dark (they actually have a kid shoot himself in the head).  You could argue that the movie is exploitive and very blatant art house (you get men with no arms strapped to men with no legs and function as one person).  Some of the stuff feels like first year film student bragging, but as a whole, the film becomes this weird hypnotic vision.

el topo handicapped actors

This isn’t going to end well…

El Topo is one of those movies that has to be seen to be believed.  Alejandro Jodorowsky has a real vision, and it will be one of those love it or hate it movies.  I love it for its strangeness and challenging subject, but I don’t know that there are really any answers to some of the visions Jodorowsky presents.  The movie went on to influence things from music, films, and even video games and is often listed by directors and critics as a monumental film.  For years, there have been plans to make a sequel to El Topo, but the plans continuously fall through.  Alejandro Jodorowsky followed El Topo with Holy Mountain in 1973.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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