A young man named Fenix sits in a tree on the grounds of a mental hospital and remembers his childhood in a ramshackle Mexican family circus–specifically, the gruesome murder-suicide that left his knife-thrower father dead and his trapeze-artist mother minus both of her arms. This is the beginning of Santa Sangre, the mind-blowing surrealist epic by the one-and-only writer-director-mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose psychedelic westerns El Topo and The Holy Mountain helped to spark the midnight-movie tradition in the 1970s. Making his return to filmmaking after a decade-long absence, Jodorowsky here tells the story of how the adult Fenix (played by Jodorowsky’s own son, Axel) comes to play the role of his mother’s missing limbs both in a macabre stage show and off-stage too, where he soon discovers that “mom’s” hands have a murderous mind of their own. Filled with such signature Jodorowsky images as a deaf-mute mime, an elephant’s funeral and a cult of heretical women who worship an armless saint maimed by rapists, Santa Sangre is shocking, disturbing, brilliant…and definitely not for the faint of heart! Print courtesy of Academy Film Archive.

“****. This is a movie like none I have seen before, a wild kaleidoscope of images and outrages, a collision between Freud and Fellini. It contains blood and glory, saints and circuses, and unspeakable secrets of the night. And it is all wrapped up in a flamboyant parade of bold, odd, striking imagery, with Alejandro Jodorowsky as the ringmaster.”
–Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times