Halloween Endurance Test: Santa Sangre (1989)

If Creature from the Haunted Sea is this year’s “most desired” film, then Santa Sangre is the “most revealing.”  If you ever need a cinematic compiling of all the long-running topics from my blog this year, this movie is for you. It had been a good six years since I last watched Santa Sangre, and I had never realized what an effect it had on me.  Seriously folks, some of my favorite running gags turn up here.

  Which won’t be all that shocking if you take a look at the film’s plot.  It’s about a boy confined to a madhouse after watching his carny father slice his mother’s arms off.  The mother had caught her husband mid-coitus with the circus’ resident tattooed woman.  She then chose to pore acid acid on their philandering genitals rather than push for a divorce.

  Left with his genitals dripping down his legs, the father decides to enact his own revenge on top of his wife’s revenge.  He thus takes his throwing knives and amputates the mother’s arms with a picture perfect dual-stroke.

  The boy is left crying in the streets as his father slits his own throat.


  We’re not even twenty minutes into the film and already it has skewered familial relationships, advocated age-inappropriate tattooing,and given, for the ladies in the audience, a buffalo shot of writer/director/star Alejandro Jodorowsky.  Clearly all the bases are being covered.

  (In an act of brilliant casting, Alejandro Jodorowsky plays the troubled man while his son, Adan Jodorowsky, plays the troubled child. A brilliant use of resources!)

  The traumatic background(ing) scene is really what woke me up.  I was already in love with the film containing as it does: circuses,knife-throwers, horribly ending sex acts.  Yet it’s as the (now)armless mother falls to the ground while her son sobs that the magic starts. 

  First, you hear some plaintive orchestration softly playing.  Nothing unusual there, that’s pretty standard Hollywood fare.  Then, out of the background side streets, out comes an actual orchestra of midgets,playing the soundtrack for the grieving son!  Even writing about this scene excites me almost as much as watching it.  It’s that awe-inspiring.  Ever wonder where your favorite movie’s score gets piped in from?  Jodorowsky did, and decided to do something about it!

It turns out I’m not the only person in the Western hemisphere that loves, and recognizes the importance of roving bands, consisting of mariachi men, or even clowns!

  It’s little details like this, having a band of circus clowns roaming around the grounds playing sad music as a child’s heart breaks, that really makes Santa Sangre special.

  Special due to their consistency.  Every time there’s a musical cue you’ll see the clown band fiddling around somewhere in the background.  Or perhaps walking across the street just in time.  It’s this consistency that causes this aspect to overtake my own running love of circuses. 

mazingly enough, there’s no mention of the midget band in Jack Hunter’s otherwise great Inside Teradome: An Illustrated History of Freak Film.  A book that uses a Santa Sangre still to grace its cover.

Needless to say, the boy grows up to be a wreck.  Hence his residence in the psych ward.  A residency going fine until his (still) armless mother returns for him.  She longs to return to her passion, church organ playing.  He’ll act as her surrogates arms and hands.

  All the while poor Jodorowsky is longing for love.  Some little mime girl he knew at the circus or something.  Who has time to pay attention to love plots when there’s tattooed fornicating going on?  Unfortunately the boy can’t consummate any of his relationships.  Each time he comes close, his mother, filling in for Jason Voorhees, appears sand demands his girlfriend’s death.  Deaths he has to facilitate due to his mother’s handicap. 

  They say that any boy born to a single mother is married twice.  Once to his mother, and then to whichever unlucky woman who gets stuck trying to come between them.  This film illustrates this maxim perfectly.

  The girls’ deaths are also incredibly inspired.  The mother, sans arms, stands there as her son walks behind her and puts his arms in her vacant sleeves.  Then the knives start a-flying!

  All leading to a epic battle with a female wrestler.  (That’s right folks, not only does the film include a clown rag-time band, but also luchadores!  Like I said, everything is there!)  Epic if only for the fight’s preceding scene where the man explains to his wrestling beau that she’ll have to be quiet, ‘cuz his mother’s asleep.  The glare she gives him, the “you live with your mom?” glare, is priceless!

  Being a wrestler, the woman can’t be subdued as easily as his other(albeit failed) conquests.  Not even the knives will work.  So they have a sword fight instead!  Like I said earlier, this movie doesn’t stop.  Wouldn’t stop, even if if knew how.

  Eventually Jodorowsky reunites with his mime girlfriend from his circus past.  It ends up that the tattooed woman’s genitalia ended up being too acid damaged to turn tricks.  So she whored out the juvenile mime instead.  To what appears to be a (literal) giant (easily topping seven feet tall) French Foreign Legionnaire.  A peadophilic legionnaire who’s tongue gets chewed off in short order.

  The mime then lives on the streets until she meets Jodorowsky again. His mother immediately starts screaming about murder again.  This being some kind of mythologized childhood crush makes the bond stronger, so when the fight erupts, it’s between son and mother.  We soon learn that the mother didn’t exist at all; existing only as leftover trauma from a horrendous childhood, yada yada yada. 

  What we really learn, though, is that the asylums in Mexico apparently don’t have glass in their windows.  ‘Cuz Jodorowsky’s escape in the beginning consists of him just climbing out of his cell’swindow.  No pane or anything.  Just think of how many murders could’ve been easily avoided if some basic safety precautions had been undertaken.

  It’s been fun.  Exhausting, but fun.
  Fun in the “I often wanted to stab my eyes out” kind of way.  [Cue the Angry Samoans’ “Light’s Out.”]

  Every year I do this, and inevitably I start to burn out mid-test.  This year the point began breaking at the Cavern and was broken by the Substitute 3: Winner Takes All. The resulting reduction in enthusiasm can be traced to the decline in film quality.  Just as inevitably, though, the movies will start to improve in the home stretch.  I guess I can only take so much crap in so short a time.

  To think, there’s only nine (short) months until it all starts again.

  For all you anal, fact-checkers out there, I’m no longer even certain that I’ve covered all the movies I watched.  So you don’t need to proclaim “bullshit!”  A bout of cleaning, as unfortunate as it was unplanned, moved all the movies back to their resting spots.  Which has left me wondering which ones I still need to comment upon.  It’s easy to lose track.


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