PLOT SUMMARY: When a dwarf with no hands or feet and some little kids try to stone a naked dude they found passed out, pissing himself with his face covered in flies, the naked dude and the little guy smoke a joint, hug and become fast friends. So they go into town, where tourists laugh and take pictures of the troops executing school children, and they watch the frogs and chameleons re-enact the conquest of Mexico in a model city. Also the naked dude looks like Jesus and these guys drug him and make a cast of him and he wakes up surrounded by hundreds of duplicates of himself so he screams and smashes them but takes one and carries it around for a while and later he eats its face off and ties it to a bunch of helium balloons and sets it free. He hangs out with 12 hookers in matching see-through black outfits. One of them is an old lady, one is a little girl and they also have a chimpanzee. Some people might call it 13 hookers I guess, but I’m old fashioned so I’m gonna assume the chimpanzee is just an associate and not a professional.
But when the Jesus guy puts a knife in his g-string and rides a hook up into a giant orange tower to try to assasasinate the Alchemist (Alejandro Jodorowsky) it could change the course of his life forever. A deadly game of cat and mouse could happen maybe, or a suspenseful who knows what. Explosive revelations about the past could hold the key to the future. I don’t know. You really can’t turn HOLY MOUNTAIN into a tagline but the point is, Jodorowsky asks the guy if he wants gold, he says yes, then he makes him shit in a bowl. Then he burns the shit and the guy sits in a big glass case and breathes in the fumes of the burning shit and his sweat drips into a tube and they pour it through some other tubes and eventually it crystallizes and then turns into gold. And Jodo hands him a chunk of gold that used to be his shit and you just know the guy is thinking I shoulda had a bigger breakfast.
But that’s only the beginning. Believe it or not this movie actually has a clear plot and structure. It really is the craziest movie I’ve ever seen. This could be the Adult Pleasures movie you pay 15 bucks for when you stay at the Interzone Best Western. But it’s not just a bunch of random psychedelic bullshit. I’m not gonna lie and claim I can make heads or tails of, say, the part where an old dude has boobies and then they turn into tiger heads and spray milk all over a dude’s face. (I think it has something to do with society. Or relationships, maybe.) But for the most part I think this movie is on my wavelength, I get what is going on here.
Once the naked Jesus dude (who unfortunately is called “The Thief” in the credits instead of “naked Jesus dude” – this may be the one concession Jodorowsky made to the mainstream) gets inside the Alchemist’s orange tower (not a penis, by the way, just a tower) it turns into some kind of occult ritual with these beautiful stylized sets that are shot from a bird’s-eye-view and rotate around. The place is pretty stripped down but I’d still say the Alchemist is living large since he has this beautiful naked tatooed black lady bodyguard working for him, and he has a throne made out of two stuffed mountain goats and a bathtub with a live baby hippo in it. I mean, this would be a fuckin spectacular episode of Cribs. Anyway he brings the thief onto a giant turntable that spins around and points at 7 different life-sized naked wax sculptures of the other people who he’s going to take on a journey to the Holy Mountain. But there’s also a pelican walking around on the turntable. Okay so Ice-T has a shark tank, that might top the pelican, but not alot of people have a pelican and a baby hippo. I think he might have a buzzard or something too. But it figures I guess – you turn enough shit into gold you’re gonna buy some exotic animals. It can be a very profitable vocation, alchemy.
This is basically the second section of the movie, where each of the characters represented by the wax sculptures introduce themselves and their planet (“My name is Sel, my planet is Mars.”) I’ve never been sure if they are literally supposed to be from that planet, or if it’s some zodiac thing. The Alchemist says that they are “thieves, like you” but they don’t turn out to be the kind of thieves that steal little pieces of gold. They are corporate thieves – a guy who makes beauty products (including artificial faces and asses) an arms dealer, an architect with a very unique approach to low income housing (coffins), a manufacturer of toy guns and GI Joes, a government financial adviser, etc.
Seeing this movie at the Grand Illusion theater here in Seattle, this was the part where the audience finally loosened up and realized it was okay to laugh. This is an extension of that town at the end of El Topo, where the rich old ladies had slaves and their husbands had whores shipped in in crates. I love this type of surrealist approach to satire – we see so much weak satire these days where it’s too damn obvious (this guy represents Bush, this lady represents Ann Coulter) or it just isn’t accurate. Jodorowsky’s satire is outrageous, nightmarish broad strokes in a fantasy world that have a clear truth to them. So you nod your head at the arms maker creating psychedelic designs on guns to appeal to hippies or the toy lady training kids from birth to hate Peruvians in case there’s a war against them in the future.
Once everybody’s introduced themselves, the Alchemist leads them on a quest to climb the summit of the Holy Mountain to kill the 9 Immortals and steal their secrets. Obviously, killing the 9 immortals is the kind of thing we can all relate to, we know exactly what this means. If not, just think of CITY SLICKERS II: THE LEGEND OF CURLY’S GOLD. Those assholes go ride horses or whatever and it teaches them the value of, you know, to savor it or, you know, learning the wisdom and what not, etc. etc. Is it about actually finding the legend of Curly’s gold? No, it’s about looking for the gold. In the end, they throw the gold in the river and then self-immolate (just guessing, I haven’t seen that movie.) Anyway same exact thing here except instead of Curly’s gold you have the 9 immortals, instead of Billy Crystal you have a dude with a mowhawk who cuts people’s balls off with scissors and collects them in jars. And then instead of riding horses they hump a mountain. The details are different but the substance is the same. Every rock has a soul.
[TANGENT: This brings up something somebody asked me about, and it occurred to me too watching it this time. If you’ve seen it maybe you can give your opinion. The Chief of Police says that 999 officers have already had their balls cut off, but then he says it’s a Sanctuary of 1,000 Testacles. But the question is, shouldn’t it be 2,000 Testacles? Well, there are alot of possibilities. Maybe for the first 500 ballsacs he didn’t think to use formaldehyde so they went bad and he had to throw them out, but he still wanted to honor their sacrifices by mentioning their numbers. Or maybe he only cut off one ball, it’s not really clear until we get a remastered DVD and can pause and zoom. Also a possibility: all the officers have one ball, like Lance Armstrong. Or maybe it is a mistranslation or script error, but those seem far-fetched. Anyway, enough about ball counting.]
I think the Alchemist knows from the beginning that it’s all about the journey, just the experience is gonna enlighten the hell out of these pricks just like Billy Crystal before them. Think about it. This is the Alchemist, this is the guy who turns shit into gold. And he’s taking these corporate vampires and enlightening them. Same thing. Shit into gold.
Also one of the prostitutes (a really gorgeous one, not the old lady or the little girl) and the chimpanzee follow the thief because they love him. So any time it’s getting too deep into alchemy and tarot symbols don’t worry, there will be a funny shot of a monkey wearing clothes at some point.
I love this movie. It’s honestly one of my favorite movies. It’s the DIE HARD of surrealist alchemy comedies. This is the first time I’ve seen it projected on a screen. This print was still dubbed and did not appear miraculously alchemically remastered. It didn’t have all the pubic hair blurred out like on the Japanese release though. But it was fucking great. I couldn’t stop smiling while I was sitting there, wondering if these other people in the theater hated it. I heard one dude sighing impatiently several times, but maybe he just has a breathing problem.
My buddies Moriarty and Scott Swan wrote a Masters of Horror episode where everybody’s trying to find a print of a movie that has only screened once and when it did it drove everybody crazy and they all killed each other or themselves or something. That was what I always figured a public screening of HOLY MOUNTAIN would be like, but somehow this was a normal moviegoing experience. I would’ve liked if somebody had released ants or baboons in the theater, but no dice. Nobody even got up and left in frustration. I think people liked it.
As I was leaving the movie I heard some young people comparing the movie to Matthew Barney’s, agreeing it was more fun to watch and had more of a story. It would’ve been funnier if they were crying and all they had to compare it to was “Little Miss Sunshine” or something, but still. It was nice to know that the kids dig Jodorowsky.
There is no other movie like HOLY MOUNTAIN and there probaly never will be. It is some crazy shit you can’t believe is really on film, but at the same time it’s watchable and enjoyable. Listen to the youth of America, they have spoken and they prefer Jodorowsky to Barney. If we could have one of those shows where kids pay money to text message a vote for a meaningless contest of some kind, the kids would totally vote for HOLY MOUNTAIN. And all the profits would go to buying tiger heads to replace old men’s boobs.
If you are a Sandra Bullock/Meryl Streep type of individual who sometimes doesn’t like a movie because it’s “too weird,” this will probaly cause your eyes to bleed and you will lose all feeling in your extremities and when they find you you’ll be naked in a fountain downtown munching on fistfuls of caterpillars. Who knows where the fuck you got em, you were just in the mood for caterpillars. So check it out. It finally comes out on region 1 DVD May 1st, 2007. If you are rich I suggest you pre-order 100 copies and give them to all your relatives, your pastor, members of the city council, etc.
It’s weird, this has always been an elusive, mysterious movie that most people never heard of and you have to go to an underground freemason lodge and use a password to rent it. But starting on May Day 2007 a new era is upon us. with the help of Anchor Bay, we might be seeing this shit in Wal-Mart, or at least Best Buy. This is a dream come true for me, I have always thought this whole fucking nightmare that is American pop culture 2007 might pop like a balloon if we could just print up a couple hundred thousand copies of HOLY MOUNTAIN (Excrement Into Gold Edition) and start re-molding everybody’s minds.
The secret will be out. It won’t have that mystique anymore, but it’ll be cool to finally share this with everybody. Before long HOLY MOUNTAIN will be as mainstream as NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. Guaranteed to be in stock at Blockbuster Video, or you get a coupon for free jalapeno twizzlers from Pizza Hut. There’s gonna be Holy Mountain ringtones, Holy Mountain valentines card, Holy Mountain Home Alchemy Kits, Holy Mountain Slurpee with a hologram of the Jesus dude getting his ass washed, limited edition prop replica of the crucified flayed lamb, t-shirts and lunch boxes and talking key chains with all the quotable lines like “Your excrement… you can turn yourself into gold” and “Rub your clitoris against the mountain” and of course my favorite “Your sacrifice completes my Sanctuary of 1,000 Testacles.” People are gonna be quoting this movie so much you’ll get sick of it, like Austin Powers. Some of those pricks who do the SCARY MOVIE type parody “movies” will get some has-been dressed up dorf style to play the limbless dwarf in the WWII helmet kicking the Jesus dummy in the alley, there is a lot of spoofability there. Saturday Night Live will get more traction though with their reoccurring “Alchemist” character. Dressed up in Jodorowsky’s duds and with a Peter Lorre accent, he goes around asking people if they have any extra poo anywhere they can give him. I don’t know man it’s hard to explain, you just gotta see it to understand how hilarious it is, I’m sure it’s on youtube.
Ladies and gentleman, 2007 will be the year of HOLY MOUNTAIN and Jodorowskymania. Mark my words. (or just bookmark this page I guess.) You heard it here first.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.