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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Comedy > Surrealism > Counterculture > Independent > Shorts > Symbolism > Religion > Character Stu > Alejandro Jodorowsky: Fando Y Lis, El Topo and Holy Mountain remasters (1968 - 1973/ABKCO Blu-ray Box Set*)/The Ascent (1977/Criterion Blu-ray)/Cold Light Of Day (1989/MVD Blu-ray/*both Arrow)/The Int

Alejandro Jodorowsky: Fando Y Lis, El Topo and Holy Mountain remasters (1968 - 1973/ABKCO Blu-ray Box Set*)/The Ascent (1977/Criterion Blu-ray)/Cold Light Of Day (1989/MVD Blu-ray/*both Arrow)/The Interrogation (2016**)/The Last Vermeer (2019/Sony DVD)/Let Him Go (2020/Universal Blu-ray)/Little England (2014/**both Corinth DVDs)

Picture: B/B/B+/C/C+/B+/C+ Sound: B-/B-/B/C+/C+/B+/C+ Extras: B+/B/B/D/C-/D/C- Films: B-/B-/B/B-/C+/C+/C+

Next up are a large mix of dramatic and challenging films...

We start with the massive new Blu-ray box set Alejandro Jodorowsky: Fando Y Lis, El Topo and Holy Mountain remasters (1968 - 1973) including 4K scanned upgrades of the three films, looking and sounding better than we could have imagined in our previous coverage of the trilogy. You can read our previous thoughts and analysis of the films at these links of their prior release on..



and their first, earlier Blu-ray release


I admit I am not as big a fan of these three films as my fellow writers, but they are important distinctive, challenging counterculture films that were a key part of the era, created what used to be known as the midnight movie (too racy and shocking for normal theatrical screening hours) and actually were moneymaking hits. John Lennon actually recommended them to the founder of ABKCO Records and the rest is history.

Immediately, Luis Bunuel and Federico Fellini are the two filmmakers Jodorowsky has his work compared to and that has validity, the surrealism is there and so are the images of nudity, religion and a writerly personal vision that just makes Jodorowsky an auteur. I would add that he was just as much in the league of Andy Warhol and Pier Paolo Pasolini for daring, alternative ideas and having something to say and show by taking things further. Certainly, he is as deep in examining religion (especially Catholicism and Christianity) as Pasolini and has no problems with any sexuality. As a matter of fact, sometimes, the nude images cease being sexual and become something else.

At first, like the other filmmakers, the images might seem random and not add up to much, but Jodorowsky is being honest, showing things he feels and sharing things to all that he could have easily kept to himself. It was no easy task to bring these images to life, especially in a pre-digital era, yet it is because they are organic, real, exist in the physical world and cannot be cleaned of mortality, dirty or blood that they add up and make all the more sense. They have aged well as a result.

So how much better can they look and sound now? On top of all the hard restoration work that was done in the past for previous theatrical and home video re-release, additional work has been done and then scanned for 4K. Jodorowsky supervised it all and the results even top the previous Blu-ray set. As we now have Ultra High Definition, my rating might seem the same or lower than the previous writers' coverage, but these do outdo the previous editions.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Fando is a little warmer, Video Black a little darker (even inky at times) and generally more convincing than the previous transfers, which were not bad for their time, but do not have as convincing a Grey Scale as we get here. I do not know if this was shot on Kodak, DuPont, Ferrania, Agfa or Ansco film, but I like the look and was pleasantly surprised by the upgrade.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on El Topo also is immediately warmer, with better color range, flesh tones and clarity that makes it more convincing and you also get more detail and depth. This is a solid example of how good old narrow-vision 'Academy Aperture' framing can look and Jodorowsky could have cared less about any widescreen considerations. There might be a few minor issues where the color is not as rich, but the film is in amazing shape considering it was not preserved by a major studio with a ton of money to spend.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Holy Mountain was shot in the 2-perforation Techniscope format, but not issued ion any kind of dye-transfer Technicolor prints we could find out about despite the company's Italian division inventing the format. At the time, some would shoot this way, then issue the film as being shot in 'Chromoscope' or with another name to indicate it was being printed in Eastmancolor or another film color stock that was not as advanced as Technicolor. We can see the same improvements and slight flaws as El Topo, but this is still one of the few films in Techniscope to make it to Blu-ray to this day!

Some films in the format (The Ipcress File, American Graffiti, THX-1138, The Man With No Name Trilogy) have not quite looked correct on Blu-ray, while others (Slaughterhouse Five, Once Upon A Time In The West, the two Cushing Dr. Who films, Robinson Crusoe On Mars) fared much better and look how well they should. The smaller negatives give you more grain, but the filmmakers who knew better did not let that get in the way and even used it to their advantage, as is the case here, which succeeds like the few latter examples that look visually correct in their mastering. This is as good as any of them to date, making it as impressive as it is accurate, so it feels more palpable and naturalistic as a result and the color is impressive.

All three offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless sound and both El Topo and Holy Mountain also have DTS-MA 5.1 upgrades and I preferred those upgrade sin those cases, especially since the mono sound on Topo sounds too boxy for me, while the mono-only Fando is fine for its age and time. I am glad they did not try to do a 7.1 or 11.1 upgrade, because that would have been really pushing it. These are films that use their sound sparingly too, so 5.1 is about as far as one would want to go here. I do not think these will ever sound better, which is confirmed by how good they sound as compared to their CD soundtrack counterparts, which also sound fine.

As for the extras (pictured in the image accompanying this review), they are massive and save for a restoration featurette, everything released on the previous sets are here, then much, much more is added, as the press release explains so well:


  • New 4K restorations of Fando y Lis, El Topo and The Holy Mountain approved by Alejandro Jodorowsky

  • Blu-ray premiere of Jodorowsky's new film Psychomagic

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations

  • Original 1.0 mono audio and optional 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio

  • Newly translated English, Spanish and French subtitles

  • Six collector's postcards

  • Double-sided fold-out poster

  • Limited edition 80-page hardbound book featuring new writing on the films by Virginie Selavy, Michael Atkinson, Bilge Ebiri, Mark Pilkington and archival articles

  • Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly designed artwork by Matt Griffin


  • Audio commentary by Alejandro Jodorowsky

  • Jodorowsky Remembers Fando y Lis, new interview

  • Newly filmed introduction with Richard Pena, Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University

  • La Cravate, Jodorowsky's compellingly surreal 1957 adaptation of Thomas Mann's The Transposed Heads

  • La Constellation Jodorowsky, Louis Mouchet's feature-length documentary featuring interviews with Jean Mobieus Giraud and Peter Gabriel


  • Film presentation in both 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 original theatrical aspect ratios for the first time

  • Audio commentary by Alejandro Jodorowsky

  • Jodorowsky Remembers El Topo, new interview

  • New introduction with Richard Pena

  • A Conversation with The Son of El Topo, a newly filmed, extensive interview with Brontis Jodorowsky

  • The Father of Midnight Movies, an archival interview filmed in 2007

  • El Topo Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD


  • Audio commentary by Alejandro Jodorowsky

  • Jodorowsky Remembers The Holy Mountain, new interview

  • New introduction with Richard Pena

  • Pablo Leder: Jodorowsky's Right Hand Man, Jodorowsky s personal assistant remembers his time spent with the director

  • The A to Z of The Holy Mountain, a new video essay by writer Ben Cobb

  • Deleted scenes with director's commentary

  • The Tarot, a short film in which Jodorowsky explains the secrets of the cards

  • The Holy Mountain original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD


  • Blu-ray premiere of Jodorowsky's new film

  • and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

That's one of the most impressive sets of any kind we have seen lately and will impress the most hardened film fan. I thought Psychomagic was interesting, but not in the league of the other films and is more of a special interest project. We have also covered Santa Sangre before on this site, but will wait for the actual 4K disc to say more, but since the last release of this trilogy, a great documentary was issued on the director's sadly failed attempt to film the Frank Herbert book Dune. You can read more about that at this link:


Lauris Shepitko's The Ascent (1977) is one of our first releases here on WWII and the Nazis, starting with two partisans in Nazi-occupied Belorussia (Boris Plotnikov, Vladimir Gostyukhin) looking for food in the terrible winter snow when they encounter some Nazis who try immediately to capture and kill them. They try to escape, but run into some trouble as they get away, which leads them to a family's house.

From there, it is a matter of if they can survive, who they can avoid and what will they do as things get slowly worse and worse. The final film of an underrated (and female!!!!) Soviet filmmaker, Shepitko was trying to deal with moral ambiguity and what kind of choices one faces in a gutted world, a theme as relevant as ever.

Though we have seen this often since, it was still newer and fresher then as world cinema was still just getting a grip on how bad the Nazis and Axis powers had ruined the world and how so much of the damage was permanent for so many. It took longer for highly-censored Soviet Cinema to deal with it and this is one of the key films that did so. Good thing it was a critical success and is now back in this restored edition.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer rarely shows the age of the materials used and was shot on Svema 35mm monochrome film, presented here in a 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative. This is maybe the best example of this film stock you can now see and it has some nice depth and detail. It also makes for an interesting comparison to black and white digital HD shooting today, as well as more common black & white films form Kodak, Ansco, Ferrania, Fuji and Agfa, the latter of which may have influenced this stock.

The PCM Mono sound comes from the original optical soundmaster and sounds pretty good for its age, but mono sound was still very common and the original Star Wars had only opened the year of this film. Sound effects and music are well implemented and impressive.

Extras give us a fine portrait of the director and include a paper pullout on the film including an essay by poet Fanny Howe, while the disc adds a new selected-scene commentary featuring film scholar Daniel Bird, New video introduction by Anton Kliimov, son of director Larisa Shepitko and filmmaker Elem Klimov, New interview with actor Lyudmila Polyakova, The Homeland of Electricity, a 1967 short film by Shepitko, Larisa, a 1980 short film tribute to his late wife by Klimov, Two documentaries from 2012 about Shepitko's life, work, and relationship with Klimov and a program from 1999 featuring an interview with Shepitko.

From writer-director Fhiona-Louise, the quite interesting award winning serial killer thriller Cold Light of Day (1989) gets a quite nice restoration on Blu-ray disc courtesy of Arrow Films. The widely unseen British film tells the complicated life of serial killer Dennis Nilsen (based on a true story) who was active in early 1980s and liked to clog his drains with the remains of his human victims... the film isn't without its shocking moments and is more effective than other films of the like I've seen.

The film stars Bob Flag, Claire King, Keith Hamilton Cobb, and Steve Munroe to name a few.

Cold Light of Day is presented in 1080p high definition Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC codec and a full frame aspect ratio of 1.33 X 1 with a lossless English LPCM 2.0 Mono mix. This is a new 2K restoration of the film from the original 16mm camera negative approved by the Director and looks quite nice here in this release. Some parts of the film feel like a TV movie and while others feel a bit darker. Still, this is definitely the best this film has ever looked.

Special Features:

Brand new audio commentary with writer/director Fhiona-Louise

Brand new audio commentary with film historians/writers Dean Brandum and Andrew Nette

Newly-filmed interview with actor Martin Byrne-Quinn

Newly-filmed interview with actor Steve Munroe

Original Cold Light of Day promo film made to raise financing for the feature

Re-Release Trailer

Two short films starring Cold Light of Day director Fhiona-Louise and photographed by Star Wars DP David Tattersall, newly restored in HD: Metropolis Apocalypse (1988, 11 mins) and Sleepwalker (1993, 2 mins)

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Limited Edition Die-cut O-card

and Limited Edition collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jo Botting and a look at how the press reported Dennis Nilsen's real-life crimes by Jeff Billington

This is a pretty good serial killer film that's recommendable particularly in this nice release from Arrow Video.

Erez Pery's The Interrogation (2016) is a dark film about the 1946 capture of one of the worst of all Nazis, Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoss. He ran the infamous, horrific Auschwitz concentration camp. The captured Nazi is then questioned and requestioned with the goal of finding out anything that will help the investigation and capture of other Nazis, but especially to get a confession to add to the proof that the murders and very Holocaust happened, which is vital as they knew then there would be Holocaust deniers and they were more correct than they would have ever dreamed of.

The film itself wants to add to the record, authenticate that the probing happened, how it happened and how vital it was. That it is a film from Israel completes what feels like a long journey for the truth about this genocide and names one of the worst men in history, a name that should be as well-known as Hitler and is not, yet. I was glad this film was made and adds a key undertold story about the many horrors of WWII.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image can be a little soft, though at least some of this is due to style, while the multi-lingual PCM 2.0 Stereo sounds fine for a dialogue-based, talk-intensive film.

There are no extras.

Dan Friedkin's The Last Vermeer (2019) is a post-WWII tale of valuable paintings by the artist Johannes Vermeer, apparently liberated from Nazi looting, but some people are not so sure. Han van Meegeren (Guy Pierce) is happy to sell them and back their authenticity, but still lands up needing a lawyer (Claes Bang) to defend him when some people think they are fakes. This is even when some experts think otherwise.

Of course, we have seen plenty of films about Nazi loot, including paintings and it even comes up in passing in some films (the Nazis plan out loud what they will steal at the mansion in Ivory's Remains Of the Day, rightly assuming their British hosts do not understand the German language. The results of this film are not bad, but not great at 118 minutes with its single mystery: are the paintings real or not. Ridley Scott produced the decent film that has its ups and downs, but is not bad, but they could have done more in the time they had here. The actors help make it worth look for those interested.

Also issued on Blu-ray in an edition we hope to see soon, this DVD is in an anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image that looks as good as it can for the format, especially one dealing with artworks and complex uses of color, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is as good as it can be for the old codec, but it sounds like we are not hearing the full range of the soundmaster.

Trailers are the only extras.

Let Him Go (2020) is a nicely made drama starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, who live a quiet life in the mountains with their adult son and his wife and baby boy. But when their son dies in a tragic horse related accident, and years later pass. Their son's widowed wife gets remarried and their son is a few years older, however, the man she marries is a complete scumbag. Now it's up to Costner and Lane to get their grandchild back into safe hands at any cost.

The film also stars Jeffrey Donovan, Booboo Stewart, Lesley Manville, and Will Brittain with direction by Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone).

Let Him Go is presented in 1080p high definition with an MPEG-4 AVC codec and a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and lossless English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) mix, both of which are up to par for the format. Though it would definitely look better on 4K UHD disc, the presentation here is crisp and pushes the boundaries of what Blu-ray can offer. The film is shot beautifully and has a sweeping score that helps give it that big budget feel.

No extras.

Let Him Go is a decent drama with some strong performances that's worth checking out if you're a fan of either star. The film itself isn't horrible and feels at some times forced and a bit like Oscar bait.

Finally, we have Pantelis Voulgaris' Little England (2014) about a young woman who fall in love with a man who works on the title ship before WWII starts up. Set on the Greek island of Andros, it is a fine-looking melodrama that may offer some things we have seen before (the mother is married to such a man and objects to the relationship out of fear it will not work out) and the film is a little long at 132 minutes, but enough here was interesting and the locales and Greek culture portrayed is something you usually see in lite ways when Greeks and Greece come up on film that I was happy to see this despite obvious items and a little predictability.

Greece is turing out interesting films, but we are simply not seeing enough of them imported.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image looks good, something I have noticed many Greek productions offering, while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also well recorded and mixed enough to enjoy, though this is subtitled.

Trailers are the only extras.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Day, Him)



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