The Holy Mountain (1974)

R | 114 or 126 mins | Experimental, Fantasy | 1974

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HISTORY

       A 6 Oct 2006 article in Screen International noted that John Lennon was a major fan of director Alejandro Jodorowsky's previous film, the midnight movie hit El Topo. That enthusiasm would end up convincing Beatles business manager Allen Klein to distribute El Topo (1970) internationally and to finance and produce Jodorowsky's follow-up, The Holy Mountain.
       Through that connection with Klein, Jodorowsky met with Beatles member George Harrison, who was interested in starring as the Thief in The Holy Mountain, according to the director's DVD commentary. However, when Harrison balked at having to perform naked from behind, Jodorowsky instead cast unknown actor Horacio Salinas in the role.
       Jodorowsky claimed that he received several death threats from the Mexican government while filming in that country. First, he was warned by the Minister of the Interior not to have any of the characters in the film wear uniforms or there might be "trouble," which Jodorowsky inferred was a threat against his life. Then, the Minister of Defense threatened to kill him while a paramilitary group called "The Hawks" went to his house and yelled that they were going to murder him. The next day, Jodorowsky packed up all the footage he had shot and traveled to New York City where he worked on the film's post production.
       Also in his DVD commentary, Jodorowsky noted two cameos in the film, one being David Kapralik, agent for Sly and the Family Stone, who appeared as an American tourist. The other is an unnamed man appearing as a government official who the director claims was one of the film's producers and who vanished mid-production ... More Less

       A 6 Oct 2006 article in Screen International noted that John Lennon was a major fan of director Alejandro Jodorowsky's previous film, the midnight movie hit El Topo. That enthusiasm would end up convincing Beatles business manager Allen Klein to distribute El Topo (1970) internationally and to finance and produce Jodorowsky's follow-up, The Holy Mountain.
       Through that connection with Klein, Jodorowsky met with Beatles member George Harrison, who was interested in starring as the Thief in The Holy Mountain, according to the director's DVD commentary. However, when Harrison balked at having to perform naked from behind, Jodorowsky instead cast unknown actor Horacio Salinas in the role.
       Jodorowsky claimed that he received several death threats from the Mexican government while filming in that country. First, he was warned by the Minister of the Interior not to have any of the characters in the film wear uniforms or there might be "trouble," which Jodorowsky inferred was a threat against his life. Then, the Minister of Defense threatened to kill him while a paramilitary group called "The Hawks" went to his house and yelled that they were going to murder him. The next day, Jodorowsky packed up all the footage he had shot and traveled to New York City where he worked on the film's post production.
       Also in his DVD commentary, Jodorowsky noted two cameos in the film, one being David Kapralik, agent for Sly and the Family Stone, who appeared as an American tourist. The other is an unnamed man appearing as a government official who the director claims was one of the film's producers and who vanished mid-production with $300,000. The production was then halted for six weeks until Jodorowsky received replacement funds from executive producer Robert Taicher's father, a U.S. footwear retailer.
       The film was invited to screen at the Cannes International Film Festival out of competition, according to a notice in the 30 Apr 1973 Box. A 30 May 1973 Var review of that screening praised the director's visual flair. However, when the film screened in Los Angeles, CA in 1979, critic Peter Rainer in the 2 Mar 1979 LAHExam excoriated Jodorowsky's apparent inflated ego and the film's violent excesses. Rainer's review also claimed the film was mostly in Spanish with subtitles, even though in his DVD commentary, Jodorowsky said he made the entire film in English so that Klein could show the film in the U.S. and make his money back.
       However, Klein and Jodorowsky soon had a falling out. Klein wanted the filmmaker to next adapt the erotic novel The Story of O, according to a 1 Aug 1973 Var article. However, as he recalled in his DVD commentary, Jodorowsky just ran off with the $200,000 Klein gave him after he decided he didn't want to direct an erotic movie. In retaliation, Klein severely limited public screenings of both El Topo and The Holy Mountain for thirty years. The two men eventually reconciled thanks to efforts by Klein's son Jody. With their disagreement behind them, the 6 Oct 2006 Screen International article reported that Jodorowsky and Klein worked on a nearly year-long restoration of the two films that resulted in screenings at the New York Film Festival and the London Film Festival and a DVD box set release in 2007 by Starz/Anchor Bay.
      The end credits contain the following statement: "Filmed in Mexico by Estudios America, Seccion 49 Del Stic."
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Apr 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1974
p. 3, 14.
LAHExam
2 Mar 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Mar 1979
Section IV, p. 26.
Screen International
6 Oct 2006.
---
Variety
30 May 1973
p. 62.
Variety
1 Aug 1973.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Alexandro Jodorowsky's
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Filmed in Techniscope by
FILM EDITORS
Post prod mgr
SET DECORATORS
Set conception and des
Paintings and sculptures
Paintings and sculptures
Paintings and sculptures
Paintings and sculptures
Wax sculptures
Set const
Set const
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus rec eng
Mus adv
Mus rec by
SOUND
Sd supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
PRODUCTION MISC
Post prod mgr
Translation
Voice supv
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
La Montaña Sagrada
Release Date:
1974
Premiere Information:
Cannes Film Festival screening: 18 May 1973
Filmex screening: 30 March 1974
Production Date:
February--August 1972
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Techniscope by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
114 or 126
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Mexico, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

A man dressed entirely in black, known as the Alchemist, performs a ritualistic ceremony. He is accompanied by two women wearing silver dresses. First, he washes off their makeup with a washcloth, then peels off their painted fingernails, then rips off their dresses and shaves their heads bald. Elsewhere, in an abandoned Mexican village, a bedraggled drunk, known as the Thief, lies unconscious on the dusty ground. A man with no legs attempts to wake the Thief, but a gang of naked boys runs into the village and carries the unconscious man away above their heads. Outside the village, the boys tie the Thief to a crucifix and throw rocks at him. Awakened, the Thief easily removes his bonds and jumps down, chasing the boys away. The Thief also tries to scare off the no-legged man, but the two share a marijuana cigarette and become instant friends. Later, the Thief and the no-legged man enter a city where masked policemen execute students via firing squad. A group of tourists take home movies and still photographs of the massacre. Also, one of the tourists pays the Thief a dollar to take pictures of his wife being happily defiled by one of the policemen. Further down the street, the Thief and the no-legged man take part in a performance by the Great Toad and Chameleon Circus. The performance consists of real chameleons dressed as Aztec warriors lounging on a huge diorama of the Mexican pyramids. Giant toads, arriving by toy boats, start eating the docile lizards. After the pyramids erupt in fountains of blood, the Thief hops around the diorama making loud croaking noises to the assembled street audience. Later, a ... +


A man dressed entirely in black, known as the Alchemist, performs a ritualistic ceremony. He is accompanied by two women wearing silver dresses. First, he washes off their makeup with a washcloth, then peels off their painted fingernails, then rips off their dresses and shaves their heads bald. Elsewhere, in an abandoned Mexican village, a bedraggled drunk, known as the Thief, lies unconscious on the dusty ground. A man with no legs attempts to wake the Thief, but a gang of naked boys runs into the village and carries the unconscious man away above their heads. Outside the village, the boys tie the Thief to a crucifix and throw rocks at him. Awakened, the Thief easily removes his bonds and jumps down, chasing the boys away. The Thief also tries to scare off the no-legged man, but the two share a marijuana cigarette and become instant friends. Later, the Thief and the no-legged man enter a city where masked policemen execute students via firing squad. A group of tourists take home movies and still photographs of the massacre. Also, one of the tourists pays the Thief a dollar to take pictures of his wife being happily defiled by one of the policemen. Further down the street, the Thief and the no-legged man take part in a performance by the Great Toad and Chameleon Circus. The performance consists of real chameleons dressed as Aztec warriors lounging on a huge diorama of the Mexican pyramids. Giant toads, arriving by toy boats, start eating the docile lizards. After the pyramids erupt in fountains of blood, the Thief hops around the diorama making loud croaking noises to the assembled street audience. Later, a trio of obese Roman soldiers give the Thief a large cross to carry down the street. After the Thief makes his way down the road with the cross, he doubles back to share a drink with the fat Romans. When the Thief passes out, the Romans drag him into a potato warehouse where they lay his body out to mimic Jesus on the cross and make a plaster mold of his entire body. Hours later, the Thief wakes up to find out he his surrounded by thousands of paper maché Jesus statues. The Thief smashes all of the statues, except for one that he carries out of the warehouse with him. Outside, a gang of prostitutes laughs at the Thief. However, one kind harlot wipes down the Jesus statue with a towel. Trying to dump the statue in a seemingly abandoned church, the Thief is instead chased away by a bishop who has his own Jesus statue. At last tiring of hauling his statue around, the Thief eats its paper maché face, then ties it to a bunch of balloons, sending the statue soaring up into the sky. Unburdened, the Thief comes upon a giant orange tower with no doors and only one window way up at the top. A hook is lowered to the ground from the high window, so the Thief jumps on it and is pulled up. The kind prostitute watches him rise. Cautiously entering the tower through the window, the Thief sees the Alchemist sitting upon a throne, flanked by the Written Woman, whose skin is painted with Hebrew lettering. Frightened, the Thief pulls out a knife to defend himself, but when the Alchemist descends from his throne, he subdues the Thief with martial arts. Taking possession of the Thief's knife, the Alchemist gives it to the Written Woman, who cuts open a large tumor growing out of the back of the Thief's neck. As the tumor oozes blue goo, the Written Woman pulls a squid from it. The Alchemist then encourages the Thief to make a bowel movement into a glass bowl. After relieving himself, the Thief enters a steamy glass sauna. The Thief's sweat and bodily poisons are collected from the sauna and poured into the smaller glass bowl where his feces are transformed into a block of gold. Feeling clear-headed, the Thief agrees to become the Alchemist's disciple, only to discover that he will be just one of several men and women who have accepted this role. The other disciples are also thieves, but the Alchemist describes them as captains of industry, business and politics operating on a much larger scale than the Thief. The other disciples are: Fon, who runs a clothing factory and has multiple wives; Isla, a weapons manufacturer; Klen, the owner of an art factory that produces obscene sculptures; Sel, who prepares children for war by making toy weapons and propaganda; Berg, a financial advisor who lives a decadent life with an older, sex-obsessed woman; Axion, a sadistic police chief who castrates criminals; and Luc, an architect who has designed coffin-shaped habitats for the poor. The disciples all arrive in a helicopter at the tower. The Alchemist says he will lead them up the holy mountain where they will first purify their souls then defeat and take the place of a race of immortals. After burning all their money, the disciples and the Alchemist leave the tower and come upon an old healer. Klen is repulsed by the old man's body odor, so the Alchemist breaks all the bones in his disciple's body so that the old man can properly heal him. Afterward, the disciples remove almost all their clothes, run through a field and have their bodies cut open by a medicine man, which heightens their senses so that the sounds of a bug are deafening. Soon, the disciples have lost all concept of their individuality and the Alchemist buries a bowl that represents their former selves. Now that the disciples are of one mind, the Alchemist leads them to the end of a dock. There, the Thief is tempted to perform Christ-like miracles by the gang of naked boys who previously had tied him to a cross. After the Alchemist shows the Thief the futility of performing miracles, they and the other disciples get into a boat that sails into the ocean. On the boat, the Alchemist has the disciples purge the last remnant of the Thief's previous life from his body. As the disciples pack themselves tightly around a prostrate Thief, they remove the no-legged man from his body. The Thief is thrilled to see his old friend, but the Alchemist encourages him to throw the deformed man into the ocean. While the Thief is reluctant to drown his old friend, he ultimately realizes that his former companion is just an illusion of his self and he sadly hurls the man overboard. Eventually, the boat reaches land on the other side of the ocean where they are greeted by a man wearing lederhosen. The man takes the disciples and the Alchemist to a graveyard where a wild party is going on. Attendees are happily dancing, gorging themselves and taking drugs. However, the disciples are not tempted by the debauchery, nor by the false prophets who promise them their own personal holy mountains. Instead, they continue their trek up the mountain unabated. After an arduous climb up a sheer rock wall, the disciples cross a snowy terrain. The Alchemist then binds the disciples in chains and leads them through a field where they witness their worst fears and anxieties, which include devouring the flesh of live horses, dog fighting, castration and other horrifying visions. At last, the Alchemist encourages his disciples to attack the race of immortals who are seated around a large round table at the mountain's peak. However, he lets the Thief go back down the mountain with the kind prostitute who has been following them on their journey. He wants the Thief to spread the Alchemist's message and change the world. When the disciples reach the round table, they discover that the immortals are nothing but mannequins covered in robes, except for one who is in fact the Alchemist himself. The Alchemist laughs along with his disciples who are all amused by the prank. Finally, the Alchemist reveals his greatest secret to his disciples: They are all just characters in a film. The Alchemist orders the camera to move back, which reveals the cast to be sitting at an outdoor movie set filled with crewmembers and lighting equipment. The Alchemist says goodbye to the holy mountain and leads his disciples off the set. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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